Content Marketing is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Do your competitors use content marketing?
How’s it paying off for you?
Content marketing has become a buzzword—which means just about everyone says they do it. The problem for a business owner is being able to tell whose advice is good advice, and who’s just selling hot air.
It also means running a wall of competitors who all use the same content tactics you do. This creates a situation where, rather than getting ahead, you find yourself creating content just to keep up. It’s like an arms race where everybody is toting some pretty big content guns.
- Dominate the search results
- Increase site traffic
- Convert a higher percentage of your traffic
- Become an authority in your industry
- Build customer trust & get more repeat customers
So why isn’t it working? Well, for starters, you gotta slow down—and stay in it for the long run.
Running the Content Marketing Marathon
The biggest mistake I see from many sites is that they expect a few pieces of content to pay off immediately. There’s a few reasons why that won’t work:
- A small amount of new content is unlikely to affect search rank and thus won’t dramatically improve traffic (even if it’s good)
- Content has to be optimized to answer questions or solve problems—typically around keywords. You need to hit a lot of long-tail topics before you can dominate your field.
- Answering a single question for a potential customer doesn’t make you their trusted source. But if they notice that they consistently get the best information from your site, you become their go-to.
- Readers may need to visit the site many times before they take an action such as signing up for a newsletter, requesting a consultation, or contacting you.
If you research your topics well, it is true that you’ll find 5-10 that are the most valuable, and you might get some results within a couple weeks of publishing them—or a couple months.
But you’re more likely to see a gradual buildup as you produce 20, 40 or more high quality articles. And from there, the best thing you can do is continue to build on that foundation with ongoing content long-term.
Don’t Do What Everyone Else Is Doing
The other big mistake many businesses make is to do cookie-cutter blog posts and generic informational pages.
In some cases, I have talked with business owners who literally go look at their competitors’ content, then rewrite the same posts for their own site. There are a couple reasons why that won’t work:
- At best, you just barely catch up to your competitor—never pull ahead.
- You’re allowing someone else to be the industry leader, and decide what topics matter in your industry.
- The quality of your information will be (at best) the same as theirs, but theirs has been around longer. All else being equal, that means the search engines will favor their content.
Your content should be original. It should also be better in any way possible.
Looking at your competitors’ content is a good idea, but not to just copy what they’re doing. Instead, look at it with a critical eye.
Pretend a junior writer just turned in this content and asked you what you want changed.
Could be it be longer?
Is there something your company does really well, that this content seems to gloss over (maybe the competitor’s weak spot)?
Make a list of everything you wish that article had covered, that it didn’t. And get a competent writer to make your own version, whether that’s your most talented staff person or a hired content company.
4 Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
Sprinting and copying aren’t the only traps to steer clear of. Most would-be content marketers who aren’t getting results also fall into one or more of these mistakes:
- Making your content too short. There was a time when 400-word blog posts were all the rage, and for some genres they still are. Not so for informational copy from a business.
Yes, if you’re writing a FAQ then it makes sense to keep answers short and snappy, but your info pages should be meaty—800 words at the short end, but longer is good.
Readers routinely read, and Google rewards, posts that are 1,000 or even 1,500 words long. Not sure how to fill up all that space? You probably need to focus more on solving problems rather than selling (see below).
Give authoritative explanations with clear examples and recommendations.
- Focusing on selling. Content is not sales copy. Repeat after me: content is not sales copy. Content marketing succeeds because it helps the user with their need. It does not, must not and cannot focus on what you need (the sale). Don’t brag or toot your own horn or slam the competition. Offer your services at the end, sure, but put the focus squarely on helping the person who’s reading it.
- You’re not promoting it. Content doesn’t just summon hordes of customers to throw money at you. Certainly not just because you hit “publish.”
How well do you promote your content? Do you have a social strategy, and do you use your newsletter to help promote your articles? Show your content to people, especially customers, and it will do a lot more for you.
- It’s bad writing. I don’t mean to throw stones, but this problem is endemic—and it’s easy to fix.
Remember that the entire internet is made of content (billions and billions of pages of it).
Your customer has choices.
If your article seems spammy, obtuse or confusing at first glance, they will click “back” within 4 seconds and find someone else. You have to have clear, good writing to win the content marketing game.
5 Ways to Up Your Content Marketing Game Overnight
Okay, that’s a long list of what not to do. Let’s take a breather. What about some positive, easy-to-use steps you can do to improve your content? Well, luckily, I got those, and you can literally use them in your next article.
- Write with emotion.This sounds hard, right?! But adding just a little emotion to your content goes a long way to connecting with the reader, and it’s actually easy!For example, let’s say your content is about appliance repairs.
Don’t start with, “When a refrigerator won’t stay cold, it could be X, Y or Z. Let’s look at how to fix each one.”
Try, “Having a broken refrigerator is more than an annoyance—it can ruin your day or your whole week.
If your refrigerator isn’t staying cool, there are ways to fix it, and they don’t have to cost a lot of money. Let’s look at what might be wrong.”
It’s a small change, but you start by sympathizing with the reader, and that goes a long way—farther than most of your competitors.
You don’t have to be touchy feely. Just put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you’d be feeling, and write that. (And don’t waste it by immediately trying to sell them. You’ve gained a little trust, so prove it was well-earned offer them helpful information first.)
- Hook the reader (fast).The emotional focus goes a long way toward this, but there is no substitute for a strong opening. Some businesses agonize for hours over the perfect click-grabbing headline, only to open with a boring sentence that loses all that traffic.So how do you hook them?
That deserves a whole blog post of its own, but one way is to crank up the urgency right away.
For example, if I’m writing for a law firm, I won’t just open with, “XYZ is a serious charge, and you need to defend yourself.” I will open with, “XYZ is a serious charge—and it carries jail time.” The mother/wife/parent of the person who was arrested might not know this, or might be wondering about it.
Now they know how serious the situation is, and they have every reason in the world to keep reading advice from a lawyer. They’re hooked.
Don’t be afraid to scare your reader a little. They should know how serious a problem is, so that they want to keep reading and solve it.
- Break up your text. Don’t use giant paragraphs.It’s okay to use one linersAnd, use bullet points for:
- Supporting reasons, or
- Options and possibilities
- Stop selling yourself—until the end.
There are basically two places where you’re allowed to put a sales hook in informational copy.
One is near the very beginning, and only if it’s a long piece. It’s better not to do this in the copy at all, but to have a highly visible “Contact Us” or “Get a Free Quote” box near the top of the page. That way you can grab interested customers immediately without making them scroll.
The more important place is at the end. End with a call to action and reiterate what you can offer, then have a contact form or a number to call (ideally both).
Everywhere else? No. Stop selling.
That means indirectly, too. There’s no need to brag or make big promises in informational copy—doing so only detracts from your credibility, because it doesn’t seem like you’re there to help.
Instead, if you really want to show off, do it in ways that subtly reinforce your authority. For example, “We often get customers facing XYZ problem. Most of the time, we can fix it simply by… [extremely helpful solution the customer appreciates].”
- Get a voice.
Your customers aren’t robots. You shouldn’t be either. Give your blog posts some personality or charm—or even some edge. They’ll like it… and your conversions will prove it.
Want some help crushing your content marketing? Let the experts help out à just visit ByteLaunch and tell us about the project you’re working on!