If you've been following the rise of content marketing, you know that it can be a bit of a roller coaster. One minute "content is king," and the next minute we're fearing the "content shock" that threatens to take us all down. It's enough to make any marketer wonder: Is content marketing worth investing in, or is it just a trend waiting to be replaced by the next big thing?
Fear not: Content marketing is here to stay. In fact, the term "content marketing" is becoming redundant as content becomes integral to any marketing strategy.
But with widespread adoption comes fiercer competition: The honeymoon period—when businesses could simply create great content and call it a day—is over. Good content marketing is no longer just about great content, it's about the entire content experience you're giving your audience.
In a speech at the Edinburgh Television Festival, Kevin Spacey said of viewers, "Give them what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in." (He was talking about Netflix's controversial decision to produce and release the first season of House of Cards all at once—a decision that paid off big time in the age of binge-watching and personalized TV schedules.)
In a nutshell, if you work with people instead of trying to make them work with you, they'll reward you with their time, attention, and loyalty. The same is true for your content—and, more specifically, your blog. Except instead of just time and attention, you'll get more leads (and more customers) too.
So, that said... What makes a great content experience?
1. Content That's Targeted... Like, Super-Targeted
There's so much content out there now that it's easy for anything you publish to disappear into the abyss of "10 Ways This Sloth Is Amazing You Won't Believe What Happens Next Plus Babies." So forget about creating content that competes with what's out there. Instead, focus on whom you want to reach and what it is they want, and need. Start by creating your buyer personas, then make sure every blog post you write is targeted to at least one of them.
For content that clicks, take advantage of the knowledge that surrounds you. The sales team is an often-untapped resource for inspiration, and who knows better about what potential customers want than the people who speak to them every day? Similarly, your customer service or support team has invaluable insight into customer inquiries and pain points that you can address in your next blog post (hey, content marketing is as much about retention as acquisition).
Also make sure to use the data at your disposal to constantly iterate your blog strategy. At Uberflip, we use our platform's metrics to see which topics are resonating with our audience and ditch the ones that aren't. But you can just as easily use Google Analytics to keep an eye on your blog post performance. Doing so ensures that you're consistently creating content that's relevant to prospective customers and will bring in qualified traffic instead of a bunch of useless hits.
2. Navigation That Makes Sense
Your visitors don't want to have search for content; you don't want them to have to, either. Creating a clear path that allows people to discover more content that's relevant to them (instead of hoping they stumble across it) means deeper engagement, more time on site, and an audience that just plain loves you back.
Create categories around topics that your buyer personas are interested in so that someone reading a blog post on, say, "10 Lures No Fish Can Resist" will have "You've Got Worms: Why Mother Nature's Bait Is Best" right there waiting for them.
Even better, try to include different types of content so they can consume a variety—e-books, videos, SlideShare presentations, whatever you have to offer that meets their needs—without much effort.
People aren't necessarily looking for an e-book vs. a blog post so much as they're looking for an answer to a question or more information about a specific topic. It's up to you to show the many ways you can provide value to them. After all, a blog isn't just a blog anymore, but also a "learning center."
For example, when we started reorganizing the menu of our content hub for using Uberflip and HubSpot together, our knee-jerk reaction was to divide everything up by format: blog post, webinar, e-book. After giving it a little more thought, we arranged everything by both content type (like a stream dedicated to webinars) and general topics (streams with relevant blog posts, presentations, videos, etc.) to make it that much easier for people to find what they're looking for.
3. Easy Sharing for Maximum Caring
When I'm reading a blog post and have to comb through the page to find sharing icons (or they're not even there—sacrilege!), it burns me up a little bit (maybe because my job revolves around social media).
People are busy! If they took time out of their day to read your blog post, don't ask them for more effort just because they'd like to share it—especially since they're choosing to basically promote you for free.
Make it as instantaneous as possible for someone to go from thinking, "Hey, this is interesting," to clicking that Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ button and sending their social seal of approval out to the world. (We use AddThis on our hub because it's easy to implement and offers many sharing options.)
You can also use nifty tools like ClickToTweet to make specific parts of a blog post—such as interesting facts or a quote—shareable. The more ways you can facilitate sharing of your content, and find ways to do the work on behalf of the reader, the better. And keep the details in mind, such as including your business's Twitter handle in any automatic tweets so you can gain followers and monitor mentions, or hashtagging relevant keywords where you can.
4. Content That Works Anywhere
How many screens have you looked at today? In January of this year, 55% of all Internet usage in the United States was conducted via a mobile device. That's a lot of people on a lot of devices... and if your blog isn't optimized for mobile, it's also a lot of missed opportunities for audience engagement and potential leads.
The amazing content experience you're providing your readers should extend to wherever they are, and more and more that's on the go (or sitting on the couch, eating popcorn for dinner, and playing with their phone even though their laptop's right there... Sound familiar, anyone?).
Therefore, responsive design is an absolute must for a blog or website now that people are accessing content from a range of devices at any given time. No matter how incredible your latest blog post is, only a tiny portion of your audience will bother scrolling, zooming, and swiping to read it properly. The rest will leave, and do so with a bad taste in their mouth.
5. The Right Calls to Action, in the Right Place, at the Right Time
A lot of attention is paid to optimizing CTAs, with marketers agonizing over whether an exclamation mark converts better than a period, which color schemes trigger certain emotions, and whether button corners should be sharp or rounded.
Not to say those aren't important. They are. But the one thing that's often forgotten about—as simple as it is important—is the context of the CTA.
When creating a CTA, put yourself in the readers' position and think about whether it's truly relevant to them. It's natural to want to focus on what you're promoting at the time or to go for the hard-sell to prompt them to sign up for your product or service; but even the most tried-and-true copy will fall flat if what you're offering doesn't resonate with the readers. Ask yourself why they're reading this post and what else you can offer them that will provide real value and turn them into a lead.
In our hub's SlideShare stream, for instance, we've placed a CTA to download a series of SlideShare templates we created. We've also placed overlay CTAs (also known as pop-ups) on each of our blog posts to subscribe to our Hub, but they appear only after the viewer has had the page open for 60 seconds—to give them time to read part of the post before deciding whether they'd like to keep hearing from us.
If the CTA is contextual, it puts you that much closer to a conversion.
What other tips do you have for optimizing your blog? Share the wealth in the comments!