If Your Content Strategy Isn't Working, Here's 25 Tips to Improve It
How about we just skip the introduction here.
Let’s skip the graphs from the Content Marketing Institute and get, with no preamble, to the heart of the matter: content isn’t working for you.
Let’s skip as well my shock. It’s not working - let’s fix it.
Here are 6 of the most likely reasons your content strategy isn’t working (and 25 tips on how to remedy that).
You Haven’t Waited Long Enough
We can get this one out of the way quickly. Content success doesn’t occur overnight (unless you have several sizeable influencers backing you) so if you have been blogging less than 6 months, turn around and get back to writing. Talk to me when you’re still struggling for readers after a year.
Think of it like snow. When you first notice it’s coming down you run to the window, only to see that nothing’s sticking. Fluffy whiteness is falling from the sky but it hasn’t actually resulted in anything exciting yet. Give it a bit. Grab a cup of cocoa and wait. You’ll be making snowmen in no time.
3 Actionable Strategies to Hurry the Process:
- Optimize for search: Sorry friends, SEO still matters, and might be making all the difference. Header tags, keyword density, image sizes, alt tags, link-building - it matters. Check out my article Blog SEO: How to Easily Optimize your Blog for Search. (Top tip: Linking the full title of the article, like I just did, is better for its SEO than linking “check out my article
- Push social: Having a large and engaged social media audience is a huge part of content success. Become an active (not spammy) member of Google+ Communities and LinkedIn Groups. Track your results and experiment with those platforms and networks that work best for you.
- Establish a working influencer marketing strategy: One of the best influencer strategies I’ve seen recently comes from Groove. For 50 inspirational influencer marketing strategies and quotes (from the influencers themselves) check out my Slideshare “50 Influencers Speak out on Influencer Marketing.”
2. You’re Fighting an Uphill Battle
Your niche might suck. It happens. Whether it’s because nobody is reading content on your business’ subject, or because everybody is reading content on your business’ subject and you can’t stand out from the crowd, the content world can be a difficult one to maneuver.
This is an issue, I’m not going to beat around the bush. Perhaps the most difficult one to overcome.
It’s an issue not least because as soon as I give you a strategy to stand out from your crowded (or empty) niche, the guy who’s also reading this article right now will jump on it.
Here’s what I can do, I can give you a few things to think about. If any of these jump out at you, dive in:
4 Actionable Strategies to Defeat a Tough Niche:
- Create content in a format which your competitors aren’t: If they’re blogging daily, create Slideshares. If they’re running webinars or podcasts, put time and energy into an industry report. If they’re pushing case studies, create a kickass infographic.
- Get transparent: Talk about the struggles you’ve had in the past, and how you overcame them. Be honest about failed strategies, failed marketing campaigns or failed advertisements. Talk real numbers and show actual shots of your analytics.
- Get creative: Create a blogging persona; write controversially (and back it up); add flavor to your content (cuss!); focus on awesome images, etc.
- Find the niche within your niche: Set yourself apart by setting yourself to the side. Do you work in real estate marketing? Are your competitors writing about Top Tips to Sell your House?” Why not write “Top Tips to Buying Real Estate to Rent Now and Live Later”. Identifying the niche within your niche is a great way to own a keyword or subject. Just do your research to determine how specific is too specific (and how broad is too broad).
For a complete guide to differentiating yourself from your content competitors, check out my article with the Content Marketing Institute, “3 Strategies (and 25 Tips) to Stand out From the Content Crowd.”
3. You’re Not Investing
A SaaS company we work with spends about $1670 on every blog article they write. That covers site-hosting and email costs as well as their coder, designer, researcher, editor and author.
Am I saying you need to spend $1670 on your blog articles in order to find success?
But I am saying you need to invest in content. You need to invest your time, your energy, and yes, your hard-earned cash.
3 Content Things You Need to Spend Money On:
- A fast, knowledgeable and talented content creator: Investing in a content creator who can write, research and do a bit of coding can save you serious money. My recommendation? Find a recent English graduate - they’ll be cheaper, invested in growing your blog, and more familiar with research than an aging marketer. Put them through a month-long content bootcamp/internship and encourage them to read as much as possible.Then set them loose on something they see as their own.
- A fast, knowledgeable and talented designer: A huge element of creating content that stands out from the crowd is professionalism. If your blog page and articles themselves are attractive, clean and tight, you’ll see more engagement. If your blog page and articles are badly organized, messy and evoke 2003, you’ll fail (even if your content kicks ass).
- Analytics and tools: We pay for Google Analytics (traffic), Woopra (more detailed traffic), Customer.io (email), Slideshare Pro (allows us to generate leads from the content platform), Hootsuite(social) and more. These tools, at the heart, allow us to actually benefit from the content we create. They schedule our social posts, generate us leads, track our traffic, email that traffic and tell us what it’s worth to our business.
4. Your Strategy Sucks
What can I say about this?
Honestly it’s probably not your fault. This whole content marketing shebang only started up a couple years ago. For many businesses the person who is currently your content strategist was (four years ago) a journalist, email marketer, or, in the case of yours truly, a recent grad who thought he wanted to go into book publishing and was convinced his goatee looked awesome.
It’s not their fault (well, the goatee was). But not fixing it is.
5 Actionable Strategies to Establish a Kickass Content Strategy:
- Rather than a month-long content calendar, implement a two-week content sprint: Keep close track of how much content you or your team is comfortable creating. Estimate how much time each piece of content (and editing) will take you in days. Meet and discuss each two-week sprint before and after. Diversify content over the sprint to keep your audience intrigued and engaged.
- Establish content goals based on sector benchmarks: Readership, upgrades or other concrete conversions, social shares, comments, bounce rates, email open rates, email click-through rates, influencer shares — the list goes on. Track it with Google Analytics and Woopra and optimize what’s working and cut what’s not.
- Commit to time: As I mentioned in the first section, unless you fully commit to a content strategy or content format for at least six months (unless it’s clear from the start it’s a bad idea), you’re not going to get solid, measurable results.
- Commit to format: There’s nothing worse than spreading yourself too thin. Just because your competitor may be creating blog content as well as podcasts, webinars, videos, case studies, slideshares and infographics doesn’t mean you should be. Become confident (and known) for one type of content before diving into more. Read Joe Pulizzi’s recent articleon this subject if you want a bit more on this subject.
- Best practices: Take all these with your standard grain of salt (and remembering the point directly above): Publish content with more than 1,000 words; Publish at least once a week; Publish different content for different objectives (blog articles for brand awareness, ebooks and webinars for leads, etc); Create and promote in equal measure.
5. Your Content’s Bad
A bad content strategy is bad, but bad content is a killer.
There is no point in waiting; investing; finding your niche, establishing a kickass strategy or promoting, if your content is bad. No point at all.
Bad content is defined as content which neither excites nor educates (note these are not mutually exclusive).
It’s defined by content which doesn’t grab the eye or deliver something even remotely different from a previous creator.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve created bad content before. You know it when you do it - you feel it in your bones, crawling on your skin, all the way down to your toes.
I’ve stopped, and spend most hours of my day striving to ban it from my sight.
There is nothing I can do for you if your content is bad.
So fix it.
3 Actionable Strategies to Make Your Content Awesome:
- Get better at writing: Content marketing may have surprised your business, and now someone who was doing sales in 2012 is writing blog articles. This may not be their forte. Option 1: Register them for a writing course at your local community college (I recommend creative writing and persuasive essay 101, or their equivalents). Option 2: Put them back on sales and hire an English grad (represent!). Give them a crash course in your subject and set them loose.
- Copy your heroes: Marketing is half innovation and creativity and half emulation and inspiration. Find the blogs you love, identify why you love them, and be inspired by them (try not to copy, as people will notice, but yeah). My favorites: CopyBlogger, Groove, Buffer, and Medium.
- Try something different: If writing isn’t for you, there are other options (though blogging is the number one format proven to drive brand awareness, leads and trust). If you have a kickass graphic designer, encourage them to dive into infographics (one of the most shared content formats). Also consider creating Slideshares, or excelling in podcasts, webinars, or video.
6. You’re Not Promoting
You just wrote a sweet article - 1800 words of valuable insight, experience and analysis. You should be screaming it from the mountaintops; singing your intro at karaoke; making your conclusion into a lullaby.
Or at least be promoting.
I saw an article the other day which said that, in 2013, content marketing was 70% creation and 30% promotion, and that in 2015 it was now 10% creation and 90% promotion.
Honestly I think those percentages are both ridiculous and ambiguous, but I agree with the sentiment: promotion is (at least) half the battle.
3 Actionable Strategies for ORGANIC Promotion of your Content:
- Determine which social media platform is right for your business. For B2B content marketers it’s likely to be LinkedIn and Google+, with Facebook and Twitter likely third and fourth. For B2C you’re looking at Facebook, Pinterest and Google+. Experiment and test before investing.
- Create UTM tracking codes on all of your content’s URLs. This will allow you to see the affect of your social media on Google Analytics. For a walkthrough, check out Hubspot’s FAQ.
- Implement an influencer marketing strategy (as mentioned in section 1). Create a network of reliable readers who like your content, had a hand in creating it, or just straight up believe in you and want to see you succeed. I cannot emphasize enough how powerful a solid content relationship can be.
3 Actionable Strategies for PAID Promotion of your Content:
- Test and know for a fact that your content is delivering real-world dollars in the long run (particular articles, ebooks, webinars most notably). Once you’ve taken that step you can be sure that content is worth paying to drive traffic to. We do our primary content tracking with software ( Woopra), but it’s possible to do it with Google Analytics as well.
- I recommend Facebook advertisingfor boosting content. The reasons why have been written by me a hundred times (most notably in a guest post for The Content Marketing Institute entitled “How to Use Facebook Ads for Content Marketing: The Ultimate Guide”).
Also consider LinkedIn ads, something I’m just starting to play with now. The quality of leads is promising, as is targeting by job title and sector.
- Avoid Google search ads when promoting content, but consider a remarketing campaign offering an ebook or webinar promoted to bounced product page traffic.
Hopefully there’s something in here to inspire your content strategy.
I encourage you to hire good people and invest time, energy, and resources into your content (and content strategy) - only then will you know you’re doing everything you can, maximizing your potential for success.
Have you tried any of the 25 tips in this article? Have any of them got you thinking about your own content strategy? Let me know in the comment section below.
- Written by James Scherer
James is a content creator at Wishpond and author of The Complete Guide to Landing Pages (among others). When he’s not writing or designing for Wishpond he’s enjoying Vancouver breweries, ultimate frisbee and risking his life biking around the city.