Sometimes you create a piece of content that seems to have everything going for it… until you publish it and hear nothing but crickets. Other times you publish a piece that you feel just-okay about, only to see it take off like wildfire. As much as we appreciate the creative side of content marketing — and yes, creative will always be vitally important — we need to look first and foremost at performance.
Publishing content that delivers solid results for your brand is part art, part science. There’s an art to creating blog posts, white papers, e-books, and other assets that attract traffic, engagement, and conversions … and there are also proven tactics that can amp up the performance of almost any content marketing asset. Here are seven keys to high-performance content that belong in every marketer’s bag of tricks.
1. Focus on Your Audience
Part of the reason for the wave of bad content flooding the web is the number of brands approaching their owned media with the question “What do we want to talk about today?”
Ready for a shock? Here it comes: Your audience couldn’t care less about what you want to talk about. They click over to your content because they want something — information, education, insight, or expert advice. If you don’t give it to them, they’ll be on to the next search result.
This is one area where intent signal data can give you a significant competitive edge. Your intent monitoring platform offers insights into what your audience is thinking, based on their actual online activity. Spin those insights into topics for your blog posts, emails, and other platforms, and you can start creating content that your audience will look forward to reading.
2. Research Wisely
Your audience comes to you for good information, and not just information based on your own expertise. By backing up your insights with quality research, you add credibility to your content and reaffirm your thought leadership.
When doing research on the web, be careful in selecting the information you share, and keep these best practices in mind:
- Share statistics only from reputable sources, preferably industry publications or studies by respected research firms.
- Always link to the original source of the information, not another blog post that references it.
- If you can’t locate the original source for a certain piece of research data, don’t use it.
- Always give proper attribution and link to your sources.
To elevate your thought leadership even further, you may also want to experiment with original research. Free tools like SurveyMonkey allow you to create simple online surveys that you can send via email and post on social media. If you want to broaden your reach (and you don’t mind spending some money), Google Surveys offers a pay-as-you-go tool that posts your survey across a network of sites and invites people answer your questions in exchange for access to premium content.
3. Use Your Own Voice
Before you publish a single word of content, think about your brand personality and what it sounds like. Casual and humorous? Gentle and reassuring? Edgy and irreverent? Straightforward and authoritative? By infusing your own unique voice in every piece of content you publish, you’ll make a lasting impression that will stick in your audience’s minds … and make them more likely to come back.
People may discover you because of the information you share, but they’ll remember you because of your voice. Think about the best public speakers you’ve ever seen. Was it the information they delivered that made them memorable, or the style with which they delivered it? Chances are it was the latter. The same principle holds true in content marketing.
4. Invite Participation
Good content marketing teams publish excellent content. Great content marketing teams use their content to build communities.
If the people in your audience feel like they’re part of your community, they’ll keep coming back to you again and again. One proven way to do this is by publishing interactive content such as
- Polls and surveys
- Quizzes or evaluations (like this clever “What Is Your Content Marketing Superpower?” infographic from HubSpot)
- Calculators and assessments
- Crowdsourced content (such as inviting your audience to submit their best tips around a certain topic and compiling their responses into a blog post)
5. Include a Strategic Call to Action (CTA)
If a visitor makes it all the way to the end of your content, don’t let them just wander off — offer a call to action that guides them to a logical next step.
A well-thought-out call to action will keep your audience engaged by offering an additional valuable resource. Remember to be specific; overly general CTAs like “check out our other blog posts” or “sign up for our newsletter” rarely earn clicks. Consider the topic and knowledge level (beginner, intermediate, or expert) of the piece your visitors just read and think carefully about the best asset to offer those who want more. Invite them to download a white paper, sign up for a webinar, or take another step that lets them continue their learning while also guiding them to the next stage of your funnel.
6. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
A single typo or misplaced word may not break your reputation, but it absolutely affects how your audience sees you. Before you click the “Publish” button, make sure your content is 100 percent error free by borrowing some “tricks of the trade” from ace proofreaders:
- Don’t stop with a spell check. These tools are great, but they can miss a lot of mistakes.
- Familiarity can breed sloppiness. If possible, have a “fresh pair of eyes” — a trusted colleague who has never seen the piece you’re working on — do your final proofreading before you publish.
- If you can’t find a fresh pair of eyes, at least take a break from the content before you do the final proofreading.
- When you read silently, your eye may miss some small errors. Reading your content out loud forces you to notice your spelling and the wording of each sentence.
7. Let Analytics Be Your Guide
Did you know you already have the keys to publishing killer content for your audience? You’ll find them right there in your analytics.
One of the biggest mistakes marketers can make is to ignore their analytics platform, but it’s a treasure trove of insights into what works best with your audience. Start by looking at your best-performing content. What do those pieces have in common in terms of topic? Headline? SEO keywords? Timing? By uncovering these common denominators, you can build your own list of best practices to guide future content decisions.
Don’t forget to look at the bottom of the list as well — your content that went nowhere. Notice any common denominators? Not only can your worst performers give you important clues around what not to do, but you can also rehabilitate them — spin the content into new assets that align with the characteristics of your superstar performers.
In today’s hyper-competitive environment, it’s not enough to publish content that simply “sounds good” or that covers your CEO’s favorite topics. You need to put out content that performs, and by following proven best practices for earning traffic, engagement, and conversion, you can turn your content marketing program into a business-building machine.