Content marketing can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be. You may base your strategy on the basic idea of producing valuable material for your users, or dig deep into data that dictates a complex process of creating content for the entirety of the customer journey.
Either way, some fundamental content marketing principles should be guiding how you create and distribute your content.
The trouble is, many marketers don't follow those fundamental principles, usually out of ignorance or apathy. Neglecting them, however, can put a serious damper on your potential growth.
So, when planning your content marketing efforts, keep the following six principles in mind.
1. Provide quality over quantity
There's simply too much content out there for any kind of quantity-based strategy to work. The truth is, if you want any hope of attracting meaningful attention with your content, you have to be a part of the minority offering the "best of the best" content. If that means producing only one standout piece rather than five lukewarm pieces, so be it.
Most marketers end up ignoring this principle in part because our brains are wired to see values in terms of quantities: Two articles, on the surface, seem better than one, providing twice the benefits. But if neither of those articles is good enough to attract attention, you might as well have zero articles.
2. Focus on the long term
In the early stages of your campaign, it's easy to get bogged down with trying to get fast results, or to focus on individual content pieces that could be a boon to your brand. However, you also have to remember that content marketing is a long-term strategy; and, unless you treat it like one, you'll have a hard time reaping long-term benefits.
For example, in the short-term it may be a better use of your effort to publish an article on a low-authority source you know you can obtain. But, in the long-term, it's better to shop that piece around to higher-authority sources, even if you face rejection. You have to constantly look forward, building your strategy iteratively, rather than focusing on immediate gratification.
3. Good content can't succeed by itself
Let's say you've written a great piece: You've done original research; you have a practical, compelling topic; you've tailored it to your target audience; and you've written a piece that's both eloquent and entertaining. Unfortunately, there's a misconception that, at this point, the content will do the rest of the work for you—that all you have to do is publish this piece, and it will naturally attract the readers, shares, and links it needs to support you.
If you want your content to earn you the greatest possible value, you have to give it an initial push; usually that means pushing it out on your social media platforms, asking some of your closest followers to share it, or even pursuing paid advertising for an extra boost.
4. Write for your readers
This is a simple (and hopefully obvious) concept that many modern marketers still aren't getting. Some people write for search engines; they produce articles for the sole purpose of optimizing for certain keywords or building backlinks. Some people write for themselves; they have these great ideas and want to get them published as a digital means of hearing themselves think.
But noneof those methods can make you successful in the long term; instead, if you want your content to thrive, you need to write for your readers, specifically. Provide valuable information; tell them what they need to hear, not what you want to say, and not what you think search engines want to hear.
5. Interact and engage
Content marketing is a two-way street, and many marketers forget that. They see content marketing as a kind of megaphone, or a channel for distribution to the masses. Accordingly, they forget that their users have voices, too, and that those voices need to be heard and engaged with.
After publishing your articles, you need to follow up with commenters, sharers, and discussers to make them feel appreciated, and work on building a community rather than preaching at an audience. Without that level of engagement, your readership will be fleeting, and you'll rob yourself of potential loyalty.
6. Adapt and reinvent
Things can change quickly for a content strategy. There might be a new technology that allows you to better communicate with your audience, or a new trend among your key demographics, or a competitor that finds a new angle that's more popular than yours. If you want to survive in what is an ever-changing content world, you need to continually adapt and reinvent your strategy. Find new mediums, explore new topics, and generally work to improve your approach. If you remain stagnant for too long, your readers will grow bored and you'll be left with stagnating—and eventually declining—results.
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These principles aren't really up for debate. Though they vary in power and may apply differently to different businesses and different industries, they serve as functional "golden rules" of content strategy. Remember these fundamentals, and don't cut corners.