I went to theater school before business school. Acting, directing and producing are not really that different from marketing and product management, trust me! When content marketing became a thing back in 2015, it was a natural fit for me. Choosing the script, tailoring to the audience you knew you were best for, polishing your offering… and then getting their butts in seats… yeah, done that.
To keep my marketing thinking fresh, I follow a few thought leaders. Neil Patel is definitely my new business school. (He’s much cheaper than my alma mater, sorry Kellogg. But Go Wildcats!) I can attest that his video on what’s new in Content Marketing ‘19 is right. Here are his highlights with my comments. (Note: These are best practices around execution. It assumes you have done the research and decided that content strategy is something your organization is committed to!)
1. It’s Gotta Be Fresh.
I was first trained in Content Marketing by Northwestern, my alma mater, albeit via Coursera. (Again, big bargain!) The basics haven’t changed — personas, buyer’s journey, content map, and editorial plan. But the ability to rely on being first making you the most authoritative — sorry, no longer a thing. Changes in SEO algorithms mean your content needs not only to have the right keyword with links to it and growing traffic, it also has to have recent relevance.
And that’s good news if you are working for a new player in an established industry. In my case, I’m working for Golden Bear Solar that has a new strategy in an established market. By determining most popular keywords and content format types (see #3), we’ve been able to look just as good online (if not better) than the more established competitor.
2. No Cheap and Easy Updates.
My other alma mater, Hubspot, used to have a sweet hack for the above situation — take your most popular posts and content landing pages and repost with “update” in the headline. Unfortunately, many content marketers would make cursory updates and repost “12 Tips To Gain New Followers” with 11 of the same tips. Again, based on algorithm updates, the search engines know when content is truly new vs. just re-posted and re-promoted.
3. Formats Have Changed.
Due to content marketers’ love of keywords, there is still a heavy preponderance of written vs. video or audio content. There’s a perception that video and audio are harder and more expensive to produce. It can be true.
In my current project, we’re competing against well-established, well-funded and staffed companies that put out slick, expensive videos. But when we interviewed potential customers about when they watch or listen to, they are spending far more of their disposable time in podcasts (cheap!) and watching video brought to them via social channels (mostly casually but cleverly produced). See above photo and their Facebook Live event.
4. Use Social Correctly.
Once you’ve produced something, it’s fairly standard to share via your social channels. Dashboards like Buffer (or other marketing automation) make it easy to customize. However, one failing that many content teams fall prey to is only doing uploads in a primary channel and then using link sharing from other channels. (Neil explains in this great video.)
You can read my recent observations on which channels to focus on and why. In a nutshell, focus on the channels where a) your ideal customers spend time/get information and b) where you are a “native” of this channel.
5. The 80/20 of Writing vs. Promoting.
If you’re the content marketer for your organization, odds are your job is 80% of the time producing the content and 20% promoting it. According to Neil, (who sees a LOT from his perch as the world’s leading digital marketer) good content is being woefully under promoted. His two suggestions for promotion, while not new, will certainly be impactful for my startup.
The first is to utilize ahrefs to reach out to people interested in and linking to content like yours. In his view (and because of #1), others will be receptive to sharing your content and boosting the profile of your content. Knew this, but rarely do it. (Guilty…)
The second was to ensure your content is being shared correctly over social media… building on #4 above. He has a whole video on it, but again, here’s the nutshell version. Once content is posted, as you used ahrefs above to get links, go into BuzzSumo and reach out to influencers who have shared competitors’ info and let them know you’d like to be a resource to them.
Content Nerds Unite
If you are not a content nerd, I probably lost you in the first paragraph. But if you are, I’d love to invite you to join me for a get together at EM Marketing in the next quarter to swap war stories and best practices. Comment below for dates and times!