Content Marketing Formula - Rules for Success
Creating great content is not enough. If you are going to spend the time to create content, be strategic, have a plan, and do it right.
CONTENT MARKETINGMARKETING PLAN
Lots of companies commit significant resources in the effort to create content that will attract and compel visitors to investigate their products and services. It is often apparent that there is no overarching content strategy, just random attempts to produce something because someone taught them that this is necessary.
Poorly executed content will not benefit your marketing and sales efforts. If you are going to spend the time to create content, be strategic, have a plan, and do it right.
In part one of this series, we discussed the importance of creating content that is relevant to the intended audience, that it needs to be distributed where they go for information, and it needs to be focused on each stage of the buyers’ journey. You can read more about this in our blog, “How to Create Great Content.”
Today, we are going to focus on the content marketing formula. How you should think about the format and type of content you are creating.
Disclaimer – When you conduct your buyer persona interviews, you should learn much about the preferences each persona has with respect to the format and type of content. You should factor those findings into this equation. However, every individual is unique, and although a good guideline, the personal findings do not speak for everyone in your target audience, and you need to produce other forms of content. The content marketing formula is designed to address this reality and ensure that your target audience will find content that is compelling to them.
The first step in creating great content is the commitment from senior management and those who are charged with doing it. No matter how great the content, it will take time to generate results. It will require dedication to both frequency and quality to produce meaningful results.
Senior Management - The C-suite must dedicate the time and resources that will allow this to unfold over time. We tell clients that if you produce high-quality content over a four-to-six-month period you will start seeing your organic traffic grow and high-quality leads being produced. The longer you engage the program, the more the traffic and leads will grow.
The reason for the range is strictly due to the type and frequency of the content. What will it take to reduce the time to four months? It will take significant effort. We utilized the following frequency rate to push that window down to four months.
Fifteen long-form blogs using the pillar/cluster blog concept
One eBook (over 50 pages),
One eBook (over 15 pages),
Ten Videos (not commercial quality)
Eight pieces of unique collateral a month (e.g., 2–4-page guide, infographic, one-pager)
Eight-phase nurturing campaign
Distributing the content through all social channels
There is a direct correlation between the amount and quality of the content produced and the results. If you are willing to pay the price, you can get significant organic traffic in four months.
Content Production Team – The Content Production Team must deliver high-quality content for this to work in any timeframe. Your target audience will judge you based on the first piece of content they view. If it is poor quality, or a fluff-piece, they are unlikely to engage with any more content you produce. Each piece must be representative of your company’s quality and commitment.
This requires strict adherence to following best practices. If you are writing about a topic, do your research. Interview thought leaders in that area, and share their views. We instruct our content team to use the bathtub approach. Eighty percent of the time you take to write any content should be used to research and understand the problem. Unless you are the de facto expert in an area, don’t simply rely upon what you think, learn what you don’t know. We tell them that for each topic fill the bathtub with the knowledge that the true experts believe. You don’t need to accept what they say as gospel, but you cannot begin to offer your views until you understand what they know.
When you complete the project, you drain the bathtub of all the knowledge you accumulated and start all over on the next one.
Is this a painstaking process? Yes, but do you want it right?
Remember, quality content means that the content is fresh, relevant, and shared where targeted buyer personas go for information and third-party verification. Every piece of content needs to address a pain point, interest, or concern of a buyer persona. When creating content, you need to make sure there is the right type of content in various media formats (blogs, eBooks, videos, Infographics, etc.) for each buyer persona and at each stage of the buyers’ journey.
Never create content for content’s sake. It must always have a purpose that can be defined and that will help promote the buyer to the next stage of their journey.
Content Quality Analysis
It is important to create content the way most individuals interact with internet content. Very few individuals simply start reading an article. A Microsoft study reported that the attention span of the average internet user is now just eight seconds. That is shorter than the attention span of the average goldfish. So adhere to the following rules to make sure that your content gets the attention it deserves.
Compelling Headline - This means to capture their attention the subject matter must be compelling. Spend time creating the most important line in your article. We tell clients that it should be so compelling that the viewer is forced to check it out.
The subject matter must be consistent with the headline that forced them to look. If you are simply using clickbait, they will bounce immediately and most likely never click on another piece of content written by you or your company.
Scannable – Before any content is read, it must appear relevant and useful to the reader. To ascertain this, they will first scan the content to see if it is worth further investigation.
This means making the key points of the article readily apparent. Use bold type and a bold color to denote key topics that are covered. Use bullet points to showcase lists, so the reader can quickly see if this might be a worthwhile article to read. Long sentences can decrease the scannability of your content. Try and keep long sentences to less than 5% of the content. This will help make the article more scannable.
Readability – The only person who will be impressed by you using pretentious words is your mother (see, you were not impressed). Readability is one of the most important aspects of the content you create. Readable text affects how users process the information in the content. Poor readability scares readers away from the content. On the other hand, done correctly, readability allows users to efficiently read and take in the information in the text. You want users to be able to read your content and absorb it easily.
Active Voice - Active voice is best for all content. The use of a passive voice should only be used to front-load important keywords in headings, blurbs, and lead sentences. This enhances scannability and, thus, SEO effectiveness. The use of the passive voice should not exceed 4% of the overall content.
Grade Level - Content should always be written so a person does not have to open a dictionary to understand its meaning and context. You should try and write to an eighth-grade level even when writing to professionals. Use industry jargon only when it is necessary to establish credibility or communicate an idea.
There are a number of online tools that will test your content for each of these quality items. The one that Prevail Marketing uses is Readable.
Type of Content
You must create enough content that every time a person initiates a search query for a topic related to a benefit your brand offers, you have a chance of being found. In the beginning, it is unlikely you will be found on the search engine results page, but you have to start somewhere. The resource section needs to be intuitive and cover information that would be valuable to a person at each stage of the buyers’ journey.
Best practices dictate that you create your content in a variety of formats (e.g. eBooks, infographics, research reports, webinars, podcasts, videos, and case studies). You gate the resources that are deemed of high value to the prospective customer, so you can capture and nurture the leads (e.g. eBooks and research reports). You freely provide any resource that is deemed to be more valuable to get into the hands of the prospective client (e.g. case studies and reviews/testimonials)
Content needs to provide a diverse mixture of both topics and formats to appeal to individual reader’s tastes. The following should be used as a guide until data is obtained to suggest a different mix would be better.
Long Form Articles 60% - This will include long-form blogs, eBooks, and guides. Each piece must have robust and meaningful content.
Videos 30% - This will be a combination of video shorts (e.g. explainer videos, TikTok, Reels, etc.) and longer blogs typically created for YouTube. ALL the videos must reside on your website and have transcriptions to allow Google to properly index them.
Infographics 10% - Having pictorial content is important. It can summarize complex data and be a quick reference that helps ratify an opinion.
Topics of Content
When you are creating content that will appeal to your targeted personas, you need to have a variety that will catch them where they exist on their buyers’ journey. Just because they are not currently looking at your solution, it does not mean that they are not near the bottom of the funnel with your competitor. So, don’t be shy in creating content that would appeal to someone well past the awareness stage.
The same type of content that will engage one person might fall flat with another. This is why Prevail Marketing recommends using the 70/20/10 rule that was first introduced by Eric Schmidt of Google back in 2005. While it was not meant to apply to marketing content, we found that the principle works quite well.
Proven content 70% - Seventy percent of the content you create should be addressing the pain points, interests, and concerns of your targeted personas at the awareness and consideration stages. The content should have the sole purpose of educating the reader.
Product Content 20% -Twenty percent of the content should be focused on the bottom of the funnel, showcasing the benefits of your solution, competitive comparisons, and financial cost and benefits.
Experimental Content 10% -Ten percent of the content should be for experimenting with out-of-the-box content. Have fun and don’t be afraid of failure. The purpose is to test ideas, explore new opportunities, and learn what new ideas may need to become mainstream.
Content marketing must abide by best practices if it is to get traction. Best practices in content marketing ensure that the content created is not only valuable but also effectively reaches the intended audience. By following these practices, content marketers can optimize their strategies and increase their chances of success.
Additionally, following best practices ensures that content is optimized for search engines, making it more likely to be discovered by potential customers. Overall, by abiding by best practices, content marketing can become a powerful tool for businesses to connect with their target audience and achieve their marketing goals.