By Neil Patel published July 22, 2015

5 Obvious Content Marketing Strategies Most Companies Overlook

content-marketing-strategies-cover

When you spend a lot of time in the content marketing space, you start to see a lot of trends – as companies implement various techniques and initiatives. Sometimes that stuff just isn’t working. And sometimes, it’s because the companies are overlooking some painfully obvious content marketing strategies.

This article took me a couple hours to write. From a broader perspective, it took me a few years to write. The information that I’ve collected and shared in this post is a result of spending a long time looking at a lot of content marketing efforts from a lot of companies.

Most companies today are “doing content marketing” – 86% of B2Bs and 77% of B2Cs. Those statistics reflect companies who, according to CMI’s definition, use “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Often, however, their strategy erodes under the daily pressures of deadlines, turnover, crises, interruptions, and life. It’s understandable (and a bit unfortunate) that many companies are overlooking some of the obvious features that lie at the core of a content marketing strategy.

Let me share five of those ignored attributes:

1. Tap into the vitality of great visuals

Let me show you the content marketing approach of a typical company. I’ve blurred out the content to protect the identity of the guilty party.

fail-leverage-shareability-image 1

Even though you can’t assess the quality of the content, you can see the image. Good, right? I mean, shouldn’t you be “using visual content to increase blog engagement?” Isn’t that a “best practice?”

Why am I calling out this one? Just adding an image to an article doesn’t mean that the content will have higher engagement. An image in an article does not mean “visual content.” The picture with a dollar sign and “save customers money” text is, unfortunately, bland and generic. It doesn’t add value to the article and warrants little more than a passing glance because of its cliché nature.

Let me share a few points of visual content that do enhance engagement:

Infographics

Infographics aren’t as powerful as they used to be, but they still can take a blog from bland to awesome. Plus, you can easily double your traffic with infographics.

Charts, graphs, and relevant images

Throwing a stock image at the top of a blog doesn’t cut it. You should add relevant images throughout the article. Try to keep the user’s engagement high through the whole piece of content, not just the introduction.

ConversionXL and the Buffer blog do a great job at this. Here’s an excerpt from an article at ConversionXL:

conversionxl-example-image 2

If budget is an issue, you can use any of these free image/graphic resources.

SlideShare

Visual content isn’t merely the stuff you incorporate in your blog. It also includes content on places like YouTube, Instagram, and SlideShare.

I point specifically to SlideShare because it is one of the pre-eminent visual-sharing platforms. And, you guessed it, it’s woefully underutilized by companies.

If you have any familiarity with making slides in PowerPoint, then you’re ready to use SlideShare. Prepare to be visual.

2. Create content that is readable, shareable, hilarious — you know, really well-written

Want to know why some articles go viral? BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million articles and came up with some of the attributes of articles that go viral:

  • Longer length – 3,000 to 10,000 words
  • Includes images
  • Appeals to emotions
  • Is a how-to article, a list, or infographic
  • Perceived as trustworthy
  • Shared by at least one influencer
  • Promoted several days, weeks, and months after it was originally written

When I compare this list with typical corporate B2C blogs, I have to shake my head in disbelief. It’s as if they are deliberately breaking all the rules of viral-prone articles.

Content like this simply won’t get a lot of traction – even in a niche community that would normally be interested in a topic like vibration-control noise:

vibration-control-example-image 3

Compare the above blog with the content marketing approach of HubSpot:

hubspot-blog-example-image 4

Night-and-day difference, right?

A few easy takeaways will kick your content out of the boring rut really fast:

  • Stop using third-person corporate gibberish. Which is more interesting?
    • “CorpCorp has recently been selected by AmericCorp’s best practice board to be the recipient of an annual merit award.”
    • “Woot! Guess what, guys! Get this: We just won a prize – a big one!”

You don’t have to sound like a cubicle automaton. You can write like a human.

  • Write long stuff. Long is not boring. Long is trustworthy, shareable, engaging, and valuable. If you’ve never written a 2,000-word article, I challenge you to give it a try.
  • Send your article to the industry’s leading influencer and ask him or her for feedback. If it’s good enough, maybe she’ll even share it on her social network.

3. Find that audience — and engage

I worked with one business that was producing content for the longest time and getting zilch engagement. I poked around its niche and starting asking some rather obvious questions:

“Where do people in your niche spend time online?” The response was a blank and uncomprehending stare.

“Where are people connecting online?” More unblinking, disbelieving gazes.

As it turns out, this company was simply putting content on its blog, without comprehending where its audience was interacting.

As it turns out, a thriving beehive of people buzzing around LinkedIn matched the customer profile perfectly. The audience loved LinkedIn, formed groups on LinkedIn, argued on LinkedIn, connected on LinkedIn, bought on LinkedIn, sold on LinkedIn, and did business on LinkedIn.

Once the company grasped that simple concept – where its customers were hanging out – it changed everything. It still maintains a blog, but it also has a thriving and active lead generation and content marketing strategy on LinkedIn.

It’s not so novel. If you want to meet skateboarders, go to a skate park. If you want to meet swimmers, go to a pool. If you want to meet New Yorkers, go to New York. Go where your audience is.

Many times, it’s going to be organic search, in which a blog is an appropriate strategy. Other times, it’s going to be something else entirely. Figure it out, and aim your content marketing strategy in that direction.

Recommended for you: Building Your Audience.

4. Don’t put all your eggs in a blog basket

Blogging has become an entry barrier for content marketing. Instead of being an appropriate entry point, it’s now a distraction that can keep a business from publishing content where it truly matters.

Why do I say this? Let me explain how some businesses view blogging:

  • OK, we need to do content marketing.
  • All right, let’s start a blog.
  • Blog.
  • Keep blogging …
  • Keep blogging …
  • Keep blogging, and, by the way, why isn’t this working?
  • OK, stop blogging. (No ROI)

“Content marketing” in the minds of such businesses begins (and ends) with a blog. If, and when they realize that the blog is useless, they either give up or keep plodding on, throwing content into the lonely abyss of wasted online content.

Stop blogging for just a second, and think about the issue strategically. Blogging is not a strategy. Blogging is but one method in an arsenal of content marketing methods. But, before you ever settle in on blogging as the primary method of choice, you must first determine whether or not blogging is the best strategy.

Content doesn’t mean “blog.” Content is just content. Where you post and promote this content is the key feature of a successful content marketing strategy. Spend time thinking about that question before you ever start a blog.

5. (You learned this in grade school) Share it!

Here’s the next face-palm problem that I encounter when I consult with companies on content marketing. Scenario: A business starts a blog and starts producing content. So far so good.

But they don’t share it. Why aren’t they sharing it?! “Well, we’re focusing on organic traffic … you know, search traffic.”

This is a problem. Creating content is only the first part of a two-step process in content marketing. What is that two-step process? It goes like this:

  1. Create content.
  2. Share content.

Sharing is the next and necessary step after creation. Just creating content won’t get you anywhere. It only puts more content on the web, which isn’t what your brand needs. Sure, it might generate some marginal organic traffic to the content, but that’s not going to cut it.

It’s time for you to blast out a sharing strategy. In an earlier section, I shared BuzzSumo’s features of viral articles. Let me point out two of those again:

  1. The article is shared by at least one influencer.
  2. The article is promoted several days, weeks, and months after it was originally written.

Viral articles don’t go viral just because they’re there. Viral articles go viral because they’re shared.

Sharing is neither easy nor quick. In fact, you should probably spend more time sharing your content than you do creating it. It’s that important.

Keep in mind that sharing content isn’t just tossing it out on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. That’s good, but only a small start.

Conclusion

Content marketing best practices might be considered standard, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to make yours successful.

These tips seem obvious, but for some businesses caught in the content marketing hamster wheel, they could completely change things:

  1. Go visual with your content.
  1. Stop creating boring stuff, and make your content eminently shareable, readable, and engaging.
  1. Figure out where your customers are.
  1. Think outside the blog. Maybe there’s a better way to do content.
  1. Share your content.

Need help finding the content marketing tactics that can help your strategy succeed? Check out our guide to Building the Perfect Content Marketing Mix: Execution Tactics.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he has created one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world. You can connect with him on Twitter @neilpatel.

Other posts by Neil Patel

Join Over 170,000 of your Peers!

Get daily articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get CMI’s exclusive e-book Get Inspired: 75 (More) Content Marketing Examples FREE!

  • http://hedstrominternetconsulting.com/ Steve Hedstrom

    Great post Neil! It is so important to find the audience and share. Have a wonderful Wednesday! :-)

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Steve, thanks for the feedback and support.

  • Mario Schwertfeger

    Really nice post! Especially liked the second part as this is the fundament of success in my eyes. But of course also finding the right audience is an essential step. Which tools do you recommend? Did you already try Impactana? I like that in Impactana you can watch out for content that’s similar to yours and then analyze which influencer shared certain content and afterwards you can directly contact them for your outreach. What’s your opinion? How do you optimize this process?

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Mario, I think that’s a great service — I don’t use it as much. I think finding as many insights as possible is the key to really optimizing and improving your efforts.

  • http://www.seniorhousingforum.net/ Steve Moran

    I overall really liked the article. What is kind of puzzling for me though is the article is the discussion about article length. Without doing any actual digging I am sure I can find article after article that suggests the ideal length of a blog post is around 600 words. Thoughts?

  • Ellen Stacklies

    I really enjoyed reading your post and I would very much like to read more about your opinion and experiences on this subject.
    “Keep in mind that sharing content isn’t just tossing it out on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. That’s good, but only a small start.”

  • Marina Svyatetska

    And one more
    Use social media Campaigns!!!

    Using social media tools for promoting your
    company is often underestimated. Some 45% of online adults worldwide say they
    regularly check out brands’ social networking pages; however, that proportion
    varies dramatically across geographic regions, according to a new survey from
    Ipsos OTX and Ipsos Global@dvisor. 39% of under 35 claim a stronger connection
    is forged when a brand’s posts interest them.

  • http://careersreport.com Maureen Utley

    Allow me to show you a real way to earn~ a lot of extra money by finishing basic tasks from your house for few short hours a day — See more info by visiting >MY!___@+__ID|

  • My Two Cents

    Thank you for this! I love what you said about writing like a human. As a content writer, it drives me crazy when a client asks me to write a wet-cardboard-flavored, third person, emotionless article. Emotion is a powerful motivator, so why not use it in our content marketing strategy? Anyway, I appreciate your taking the time to pass along these embarrassingly obvious goofs that are so easy to make when you’re rushed. God bless!

  • Kim Gabriel Manzano Marfil

    Great post! I also found this article that shows how high-quality content can increase your sales and leads. (http://blog.hubstaff.com/outsourced-writing-teams-and-content-marketing/)

  • http://www.callboxinc.com/ Vivien Reyes

    Good point! Companies take no notice of these features for their content marketing strategies. It should be interactive, easy to navigate and at the same time comprehensive for its intended audiences. Surely they will be enlightened with this post.