Secrets of Content Marketing That Experts Don't Want You to Know

Secrets of Content Marketing That Experts Don’t Want You to Know

With more than 60% of businesses already using content marketing for their inbound marketing techniques, you can’t deny that it’s critical in establishing a brand’s online reputation. Today people aren’t impressed with traditional marketing techniques; they want more customized, genuine and focused information.

But wait … content marketing isn’t just good for impressing customers. Google loves it too. It’s one of the most popular marketing techniques for getting organic traffic and generating conversions.

I’m sure you’re already aware that the success of a good content marketing strategy depends upon the quality and quantity of your posts. Tons of blog repeat this mantra over and over. I promise you, that is NOT what we’re going to be focusing on in this article. Rather, I’ll try to give you some practical tips that you can use to seriously compete against your industry experts.

I won’t be discussing the common traits of a solid, informative article, because I believe writing informative articles isn’t a problem, as we can easily find this information with a quick Google search. Instead, I’ll be introducing you to certain, lesser-known techniques and tools that will help you dominate your competition and make your content stand out.

We’ve been told that we should write long articles, add images to them, and maybe spice them up with infographics, but is that really different? Isn’t everyone doing the same thing? The reality is, they are. So what do you do to make your content rise to the top?

I propose that we continue to do exactly the same thing … but we do it smarter and better. I have spent many hours researching different techniques for producing awesome content, and I found a lot of interesting ideas. So let’s get right down to it.

Exactly What is Content Marketing?

Before we start talking about optimizing content marketing, I think it’s important to understand what content marketing really is, and what it isn’t. Believe it or not, a lot of people have huge misconceptions regarding this.

Content marketing is great for promoting your business, but it’s not something that promises instant results. You have to invest time and effort into your content, and then be patient. It isn’t only about bringing a person to your website and instantly converting him or her to a customer.

Content marketing is about cultivating customer relationships, and nourishing them over time. It’s about bringing people back to your website again and again. It’s about building a relationship of trust with your fans and followers. Once they start trusting you, trust for your product will automatically follow, and your sales will increase.

Most people think that it’s nearly impossible to be original while publishing content online, because about a dozen different articles will already exist on your topic. But they’re wrong. So let’s see what you need to do to produce the kind of content that will make you stand out.

How to Write Awesome, High-Quality Content

The best growth hack for maximizing traffic from content marketing is to deliver great value to your consumers via quality content. Creating quality content isn’t as hard as people perceive it to be. In fact it’s quite easy. As I said earlier, you just need to work smarter, not harder 😉

Research, Research, Research . . . !

Before you sit down to write your next article, spend some time researching your target audience. What are they talking about on forums and in social media? Look at your own subscribers and your competitors’ subscribers. Notice if there is some recurring problem that they seem to be talking about. Pay attention to the challenges they’re facing in their day-to-day routines, and understand the terminology they use while conversing with each other.

By studying your target market, you’ll be able to create socially-inspired content that will focus more on your customers than your products. You’ll be able to understand what challenges, problems and questions they are facing. Moreover, you’ll be able to connect with them better as you’ll be able to see things from their perspective.

Research not just your customers, but your competitors too. If you want to rise to the top, you have to understand both your customers mindset as well as that of your competitors. For now, we’ll focus on the customers… but we’ll get to the competition later.

Write for the Customer, not for Your Product

When you write, focus on your fans and followers, and not on the benefits or features of your product. People won’t come to your page to read about your product, they’ll come looking for answers to their questions. If you give them what they’re looking for then they’ll keep coming back, and eventually they’ll become buyers. So again I go back to the previous point, research what your customer wants before you sit down to write.

If you can collect personalized data from people by conducting a survey, then do so. Even if you can’t, you should be able to get decent data simply by researching on social media. Present the data that you collect both graphically and in text. People love reading unique content, survey results, and they definitely enjoy infographics. Give them all of these, and help them feel connected to the data. They’ll love it!

Generating Ideas to Write About

Most people struggle to find good topics, and then they struggle even more to find good information for the topic.  But If you know your customers inside and out, coming up with good article ideas won’t be an issue.  Here are a couple of ideas that you may find useful for sourcing ideas from your customers.

Ask Customers Why They Signed Up

When your customers sign up on your website, consider asking them why they signed up in your welcome email. Some of them will actually reply you, and you’ll be surprised to see how many creative ideas you can get from those emails.

For example, suppose your company writes a social media management blog. Somebody says they signed up for your newsletter, because they want to learn how to reduce the time they spend on social media… without losing revenue.

So you have a customer who is interested to learn about reducing their social media management time. You now have a topic.  So you can do a bit of research to see if this problem is common, or if it’s specific only to that particular customer.

If you find that this problem is substantial enough for you to write about it, then enter your topic in Google and see the top ten results. Study each of those results. Do they answer the question well, or are they missing something? Can you do it better? If the answer is yes, then start working. Study your competitors and see how you can improve on whatever content they offer.

Monitor Blog Comments

Check out comments that people make on your blog, and also your top competitor’s blogs, and see if there’s something that people are regularly asking about. You can come up with some great article ideas by doing this.

In your own blog, encourage people to leave comments by asking them an engaging question. Don’t leave boring statements like “what do you think?” Instead, ask them something interesting. For example, if you’re writing about social media time-management… you can ask, “what do you do to reduce your time spent on social media”?

People may shed light on points that you never would have thought of. Comments are a great way to understand your consumers, as well as pick out new topics for your blog.

Learn From Your Competitors

Once you know what your customers want, your next goal is to see what your competitors are doing to meet the demand of the customers. As I said earlier, even before you publish your article, a dozen articles will already exist on that subject, so you need to make sure you’re not repeating the facts that have already been stated before. For this to work you need to monitor your competitors closely.

Monitoring your competitors means that you study all their top posts, all their keywords, and even their social media pages. I know this sound like a lot of work, but you’re in luck… I’ve got some tools that will save you A LOT of time 🙂

Ahrefs – For Monitoring Competitor’s Content

Ahrefs is an excellent tool for monitoring your competitor’s content. It won’t simply show the content, it will practically dissect it for you.

To start, head to the Ahrefs site, and enter the URL of a competitor, then click “Top Content” on the page that appears.

For my example, I’m looking at Hootsuite.  Here’s how my results looked:

ahref-Hootsuite

You can see a list of all their posts. Now here’s where it gets really cool…Ahrefs also shows you the number of times each post has been shared on the different social channels.  This makes it super-easy to see which posts are the most popular.

Backlinks

If you want to get a closer look at the backlinks, then click on the button-backlinks button on the right. You can see the different backlinks for this post.

ahref-Hootsuite-backlinks
Referring Domains

If you click on the button-referring button you’ll get detailed stats about the referring domains of a particular post. This includes the domain’s Alexa Rank, Domain Rank, DoFollow backlinks, and total backlinks.

ahref-hootsuite-referring domains

Anchor Text

To view the stats of different anchor texts used in the backlinks, click on the button-anchors button. You’ll see each anchor text, its DoFollow referring domains, and much more.

ahref-achor text

Pretty neat huh! you can also export your desired data to an excel by clicking on the export button just above your results.

SEMRush – For Spying on Their Top Keywords

The second tool I want to introduce you to is SEMRush.

SEMRush gives you a detailed account of your competitors’ activities online. It’s an excellent tool for understanding your competitor’s keyword strategies. Once you know their strategy, you can come up with a better one of your own.

For this example, I searched AngelList (angel.co) in SEMRush’s keyword research tool. I’ve broken down the results into different sections.

SEMRush- Keyword Research Stats

In the first section, you can see how much traffic they’re getting both from organic and paid search. You can also see the number of keywords they’re using, and how much it costs them. This will give you a good idea of what you’re up against. You will need this information both when you’re creating content, and when you’re promoting it.

SEMRush-Keyword and Traffic Detail

The second section shows you the ratio of their organic and paid keywords for different geographic locations. You can also see a graph of the traffic they’ve generated from both their paid and organic promotional activities over time.

SEMRush - Top Keywords and Keyword Distribution

The third section shows you the names of the top organic keywords that are bringing most traffic to their website. You can also see the keyword distribution based on the top 20 results returned by Google.

SEMRush-Competitor Detail

In the fourth section, you can see the details of their competitors’ organic keywords.  This helps you see if they are the top dog in their niche, or if other companies are.

SEMRush - Top promotional Keywords

The fifth section details the top paid keywords, and what positions their ads are in.

As you can see, on a single page you have a wealth of information. By examining both the keyword strategy and content marketing strategy of your competitors, you can get a very good idea of what you’re up against.

Now you’re in a position to create content that stands a chance against the market leaders out there. Good content alone won’t get you anywhere if you can’t get people to read it. This is where SEO and content marketing comes in. You really can’t mess up with all that information at your disposal.

If you aren’t impressed already, we aren’t done with SEMRush yet. There’s one more tool I want you to know about: the Domain vs Domain tool.

The Domain vs. Domain tool makes it very easy to compare your company’s keywords to your competitors. It displays the results both graphically and in a list. This is a good way to find keywords that your competitors are beating you at, so you can fight back. Optimize your content better than your competitors, and promote that content to more places…so that you can dominate them in Google rankings.

Here’s how the comparison of angel.co and crunchbase.com looks:

SEMRush-DomainvDomain

Long Tail Opportunities

“Long-Tail Opportunity” was a term first coined by Chris Anderson in a Wired Article. In layman’s terms, it’s a way to describe the niche market and the way it works on the internet. It describes companies like Amazon and Ebay that sell large varieties of products in small quantities over long periods of time. Under this concept the most popular opportunities are coined as head, and the remaining ones as “long tails”.

It looks like this:  Long Tail Curve

The left section shows the head part of the curve, and the yellow section shows the long-tail side of the curve.

How do Long-Tail Opportunities apply to Content Marketing?

Long-tail opportunities are important for their SEO benefits. In content marketing, long tail strategy means to optimize your website for hundreds or thousands of different long-tail keywords. For example “Social Media Management for Business Managers” is a long-tail keyword phrase based on “Social Media Management” (which is likely a very competitive keyword to target by itself).

Long tail keywords drive a lower volume of traffic than primary/head keywords, but as you can see in the above graph, the total portion of traffic from the long tail keywords is significant.

Besides, the leads generated from long-tail keywords convert better because people are looking for something very specific.

Google is also becoming more and more favorable in supporting specific results as opposed to general ones… thus encouraging companies to provide more specific content to meet the demands of their customers.

Another thing that the long tail opportunity recommends is to post a lot of content on many different topics. There is a reason that websites having huge amounts of blogs on many different topics are widely popular…and loved by Google.

Balance Trending and Evergreen Topics

Trending topic are tempting because they promise high traffic, but they are short lived. On the other hand, evergreen topics are more in-depth and they last forever… but they won’t get you featured on the first page of Google easily.

Make sure that your content marketing strategy is based on a balanced ratio of both trending and evergreen content.  Many brands make the mistake of focusing on one side of the spectrum, and so they end up losing a lot of quality traffic.

People should come to your page whether they want to learn about some basic core concepts or some new fad. Make sure you are equipped to cater to both situations.

That is all you need to know about building quality content… but creating quality alone is not enough. You need to be able to deliver it to people… and this is where promotion comes in.

Promoting your Content

So… after researching and following all the points mentioned above, you have written a kickass article, now what’s next?

Now it’s time to get some eyeballs on that article. Your article may be awesome, but its not going to benefit you much if people don’t know about it. So you need to start promoting your content.

Optimizing Your Social Media Campaigns

Start by promoting your content on popular social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. I would even recommend that you boost your posts on Facebook and promote your Tweets on Twitter so that they get attention from the right people. Sure, it costs money, but there’s plenty of case studies where people experienced a huge ROI on a small investment.

Social shares will start coming with time once you establish yourself as an expert, but before you get to that stage keep promoting your posts through paid ads. Make sure you monitor all your posts, and see how well they are performing. Eventually you’ll start getting more organic traffic than paid.

While many people are under the misconception that social media activity is not linked to SEO, I disagree. If you have optimized your social media well, then the number of social shares you get will increase, thus translating into more links to your website… which helps with SEO.

Pro tip:  having an active company page on Google+ can really help with organic rankings in Google.

Networking

Networking with other bloggers and editorial publishers is an important part of a successful content marketing strategy. You need to have a good digital PR if you want your content to get noticed. This means building solid relationship with the digital community.

Pay Attention to Referrals

If you see a high inflow of traffic from a particular website, then it could lead to a bigger opportunity. Contact the owner of the website that is sending the traffic, and see how both of you can work together so both of you get even more exposure.

The same is true for social shares. If you’re getting a lot of shares from a particular page or group, reach out to them, and see how you can mutually help each other out.

Give Back to the Community

If you’re taking facts, images, or reports from a particular website, then link back to them. This will give you more credibility, and it will also create reciprocity. People may also link back to you to return the favor. Moreover, Google loves good authoritative sources, so it can help with your Google rankings by referring to others in your articles

Use Microdata

Microdata is an HTML specification that allows you to add extra tags to your web page content that search engines, browsers, and social media sites can read (but isn’t directly visible to humans).  This helps the search engines and social sites provide a better and more relevant experience to their users.

One great example of the power of microdata is a search of “squash soup recipe”.  For the top Food Network result, notice:

  • the 5 stars
  • 171 reviews
  • image
  • 1 hour estimated cook time
microdata-squash-soup-recipe
From: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/223074

All this information was provided to Google from the Food Network, with the usage of structured data.  Without this extra data, the search result would look like the boring old listings you’re used to seeing.

How much more likely are you to click this search result now?

Here’s the most important markup to add to your site:


Hopefully you agree that none of the above mentioned points are rocket science, but most of them are not really mainstream knowledge. Try them out, and let me know how they work for you.

If I missed anything… are there any techniques you would like to add to the discussion?  Let me know 🙂

Memuna Umber

Memuna is an MBA student who loves learning about business, entrepreneurship, and society. She brings a lot of business and finance experience to the StarterPad team.