Content marketing is en vogue, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. These days, almost every business has a blog and a social media presence. For better or for worse, brands are the new publishers. While traditional newspaper and magazine journalism has succumbed to cheap clickbait headlines and low quality content, some of today’s most thoughtful articles and analyses are created by brands. Even local plumbing and HVAC businesses maintain blogs that get updated regularly with fresh new content.
But there’s a big difference between merely having content, and creating content that really makes a difference for your business. When done right, content marketing can work incredibly well as a long-term strategy to cultivate brand awareness and establish your business as an authority within your industry. But boring, derivative content isn’t going to succeed at building an engaged, interested audience of potential customers.
If you’re going to write content, it probably goes without saying that you need to write something that your audience will actually want to read. But what do they want? What piques their interest? What questions are they trying to find an answer to, and what knowledge and expertise can your brand offer them? You need content that creates real value for your readers, and to do that, you need to gain insights into what they’re actually looking for.
Bland & Generic Doesn’t Cut It: You Need to Stand Out from the Crowd
A lot of companies are taking a very wrong approach to content marketing. They scrape up a little cash and pay a team of content mill article writers a few dollars to throw something together for them. What they end up with is a generic rehash of things that have already been said again, and again, and again.
A bunch of generic, forgettable 500 word blog posts might work if their main purpose is simply to be a vehicle for SEO keywords. But bland, generic “me too” content isn’t going to keep your audience coming back for more. In most cases, they could find the same topic covered elsewhere, in more detail, in an article written by someone more qualified.
You and your team have genuine knowledge, experience, and expertise. Share it with your audience. Unique content like case studies and in-depth analyses from experts are often far more valuable to your readers than yet another 500 words of regurgitated, unsourced drivel.
Figure Out What Your Audience is Looking For
A lot of branded content answers a question or poses a solution to a problem. What questions is your audience asking? What are their pain points? There are a few ways that you can gain some insight into what your audience might actually be interested in reading about.
- Competitors’ content. Look at your competition, or at similar business that aren’t competing with your directly. What are they writing about?
- Forums aren’t some dead relic of the ancient Web 1.0 days. There are still forums that are quite active, including Reddit’s multitude of niche-specific subreddits. Take a look at what kind of questions people are asking, and what kind of discussions people are having. When you’re Googling for an answer, one of the most frustrating situations is when the only things that come up are forum posts that may or may not have an answer. For your brand, this is a massive opportunity. You’ve found a question that no one else has answered.
- Keyword research. Keyword research can also give you useful insights into what your audience is actively looking for. For example, if you’re selling pet supplies, you might come across search terms like “how to get rid of fleas” or “is kibble bad for pets” that could seed some great blog post ideas in your mind.
- Why not ask your audience what topics they want you to cover? This option works better if you already have a reader base, of course. For best results, you can offer an incentive in exchange for filling out your questionnaire.
Figure Out What Performs Well in Your Niche
One of the best ways to optimize your content and tailor it to your audience’s preferences is to look at data. What performs well in your industry? Resources like BuzzSumo allow you to explore content related to your industry that’s gained some popularity, as measured by social media shares. Your competitors’ backlinks can also offer some insight into what’s considered good enough to share with other people.
Depending on what your company actually does, you might find that certain kinds of content tend to perform better than others. For many B2C brands, entertaining and easily digestible listicles might end up being top performers. Some industries are more visually oriented than others. Articles about content marketing usually have some kind of clip art or stock image, but for architecture and interior decor, beautiful photography is often front and center.
You might be surprised at what you find out through research and experimentation. Maybe your audience responds really well to listicles, or maybe they tend to prefer infographics embedded into blog posts. Perhaps a certain headline structure tends to do really well. The content that performs best, might surprise you. When you start measuring performance, you can continue to optimize your future content marketing efforts to better appeal to your target audience.
Experiment with Your Content Strategy
Sometimes you need to try a few different things before you figure out what works. Your content strategy is no exception. A combination of careful research, informed experimentation, and meticulous measurement can help you find the formula for success. Content marketing is useless if you’re writing something that no one wants to read. By gaining insights into your audience, you can craft compelling, engaging content that brings real results.