Ads fail for most companies. Sales fails for many of the rest. It's really good content that acts as an alternative. It can propel underdogs to market leaders.
Content is the most effective way to educate customers on why they should buy your product. Ads and landing pages can only do so much in the space they have.
Content is also your opportunity to build a relationship with audiences. It helps them respect your competency, invest in your journey, and join your tribe.
Even if you fail to acquire new customers via content, content still helps improve retention among existing customers: great content that educates and entertains increases engagement and loyalty.
We generate content in order to:
The first rule of content marketing is to write for extremely high quality. Until you've established quality in the reader's mind, they don't read closely. Instead:
The antidote is to not shy away from great, in-depth content.
The truth is that people don't actually have short attention spans for content: They finish three hour Joe Rogan episodes and they binge fourteen hour Netflix shows. What they have is short consideration spans: they must be hooked quickly. To do so, ensure your first minute is incredible.
Extreme quality stems from four factors:
Writing for quality is not only important for retention, it's also critical for ranking on Google. Google used to be all about backlinks—but not anymore.
When someone finds your page through a Google search, Google measures your post's quality in part by whether someone bounces from it to read another site instead. To keep readers from bouncing, you have to hook them immediately, cover everything they're looking for, and do so concisely.
Search-driven (SEO) content should fulfill these criteria:
Sharing-driven (social) content should fulfill these criteria:
Generate content in both categories to see which break out.
Here are four tactics for generating content ideas:
Sign up to receive notifications from every blog, newsletter, and Twitter influencer. (If you sign up for these alerts using Throttle, it'll aggregate all this spam into periodic email summaries.)
Whenever a topic trends throughout these digests, consider writing a roundup: Summarize what's happening in a concise, easy-to-reference post.
Related, use Google Trends to find the breakout keywords in your industry. Is anything exploding in popularity? Write about it.
Find the news aggregators (e.g. Reddit, ProductHunt) that are influential in your space. Monitor them for content that flies under the radar—perhaps due to an unenticing title, boring intro paragraph, or poor writing. Then remix that content into something more engaging. Always credit your sources.
Run your competitors' blogs through Buzzsumo. It’ll show which of their posts were shared the most on social channels. This is a proxy for determining which type of content most successfully appeals to your mutual audiences.
Consider writing about these topics, but add something unique to warrant your entry into the conversation.
Ask your sales and customer support teams what customers are frequently asking for help with. Turn these questions into content.
With your content ideas in hand, narrow down to those that are useful and novel. My framework for identifying novelty is to collect ideas that cause you to react in one of these four ways:
When readers encounter a novel idea that triggers these reactions, they get a dopamine hit. This keeps them reading and makes them more likely to share.
If you're struggling to attract an engaged audience, you can start by catering to a small niche of very passionate people: write thoughtful, quality content that no one else is giving them.
They’ll be ecstatic that someone is finally talking about their interests, and they’ll engage deeply and shout your work from the rooftops.
Once you’ve saturated this beginning niche, repeat the process while incrementally expanding: If, for example, you began by targeting Canadian bicycling enthusiasts, next expand to Canadian and American bikers. Then to hikers and runners, and eventually to all outdoor enthusiasts.
Content must not only attract readers but also convert them—into subscribers, purchasers, or some other meaningful status.
To understand reader conversion, first review the blog consumption funnel:
This is one of many paths a reader can take through your content. To continually usher readers forward, focus on four goals:
To prevent people from bouncing, make reading frictionless:
To build affinity with readers so they convince themselves to buy your product, expose them to as much great content as you can.
For instance, the blog post a visitor lands on from a Google search may be most related to their search query, but it might not be the best post for converting readers into customers. Therefore, every blog post should cross-link to your best-converting posts.
And don't bury these links at the bottom of the page where no one reads them. Inject them naturally into the content.
Your goal is to continually feed readers quality until they encounter a post that finally strikes the chord needed to get them to convert.
Next, introduce your pitch without turning them off. When pitching, consider three principles:
When pitching a newsletter subscription in particular, overcome people's concerns of inbox spam by visualizing its value and putting readers in control:
Consider making some of your content only accessible to readers who enter their email. Getting an email is how you convert an anonymous visitor into a newsletter subscriber. Now you have an ongoing dialogue.
There are a two strong ways to "email gate:"
Give readers enough non-gated material to first see how great your content is.
If you blog and no one reads it, you didn't blog. You wrote in your diary.
Content marketing = content creation + distribution.
Content distribution happens via internal and external channels.
Internal channels are the channels you own:
Try all of them.
These are the distribution channels you don't own:
Try all of these channels.
Not all content channels are equally good at acquiring users. Only some are optimized for attracting new eyeballs. Namely Twitter, YouTube, and SEO.
Other channels are better optimized for keeping those eyeballs engaged—until they eventually purchase. Podcasts and Newsletters are biased toward this.
This bifurcation exists because some channels do a great job automatically distributing content for you (Twitter, YouTube, SEO) while others have weak discovery mechanisms (Podcasts and Newsletters).
As a result, there's a proven funnel for building an audience through content:
Let's break that down:
Sometimes users generate share-worthy content for you. If they do, that's vastly preferable to creating content on your own—because now you have a scalable and viral content engine.
User-generated content (UGC) can be a silver bullet that catapults a startup, but unfortunately it's not realistic for most businesses. Here's the litmus test: If your product's core purpose is to help people create and distribute content—if that's why users are signing up—then UGC is viable.
You use those products for the purpose of creating or sharing content. Therefore, they have UGC potential.
As with every growth asset, UGC exists within a funnel. Optimize every step of it: