Thomas J. Armitage

Digital Marketing Consultant | Utica, NY

Tag: content marketing

content marketing
Here’s What “Quality Content” Actually Means

Here’s What “Quality Content” Actually Means

Content Marketing

Online content comes in many forms. But four times out of five, at least for most startup owners, the most popular type comes in the form of blog posts. Why’s that? Because static pages rarely change and more advanced forms of content (like case studies, infographics or videos) take time and resources that entrepreneurs rarely have.

Great content should be generated often. It’s one of the best inbound marketing techniques business owners can do to drive people to their sites.

Wait.

Stop me.

You’ve heard this one before.

Of course you have. We all have. It’s all marketers have been talking about for the past three years. “Content is king.” “Get blogging.” “Make sure it’s high quality.” “Do it.” “Do it now!”

This quote graphic was floating around the web last year. Ever see it?

Source: Simon Kemp (@eskimon)

 

Now, I don’t disagree with the concept of quality trumping quantity, or quality content being one of the most significant factors in driving new, qualified visitors to your site. It makes perfect sense from a marketing perspective. Because no one wants to be talked at. They want to be talked with. And they want to learn.

Blog content is a great way to introduce products and services to a potential customer base, but with a much softer sell. And it gets people talking about you and your brand. It’s so important for startups to be engaging in content marketing and blogging because the brand recognition just isn’t there yet.

But where I have a problem is making a recommendation around the creation of high quality content without giving writers (many times, the business owners and their teams) an indication as to how to arrive there. Because to be frank, it’s easier said than done. So I’m going to give you the low down…

Yes, you should be blogging. Yes, it should be high quality. And here’s what quality actually means.

Keywords

When writing blog posts online, it’s important that you take search engine optimization (SEO) into considering. SEO is the practice of improving a website (or web page) to help grow traffic levels, both in terms of quantity and quality. This includes a number of different efforts, both on-page and off-page. Generating new, relevant, rich content is one of the most important factors. Always begin with keyword research. Each post should try to focus on a few different keywords that are important to your business. I usually target two to three per post. Use some tools to help determine these – weigh in relevance, traffic volumes, competition and more. Once you’ve decided on the words you’d like to target, you can then begin to flush out your post. Take time to write a catchy post title too, which incorporates a keyword.

Length

I’ve seen marketers make recommendations around content length. “The longer, the better,” some say. Kevan Lee, one of my favorite bloggers who writes over at Buffer, noted that the ideal length for a blog post is 1,600 words. I won’t disagree that long posts fair better in search, but you need to understand why. Long post feature more information. There’s stats, evidence, research. It’s more resourceful. Google wants to be an answer engine. It wants to help its users solve problems. Don’t keep checking the word count or write lengthy just for the sake of writing lengthy. Focus on helping out your readers. If you do that, it will be the perfect length. (In case you’re wondering how long a 1,600 word post is, the post you’re reading now is about 1,500 words.)

Readability

Write for the reader instead of the search engines. Writing should be natural and free flowing. SEO has changed dramatically compared to that of 10 years ago. The search engines are smarter. Try not to be overly focused on working in those keywords. It’s better to leave a keyword out of a sentence than to have the content sound odd or awkward. One technique is to write the content freely first and then go back and try to work the keywords in where they fit best. This approach allows you to focus more on readability than on keyword integration. Also, use headlines (usually H2s) and bulleted lists when possible. This makes posts easier to read and breaks the content down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Consider numbered posts, like “Top 5 Ways,” or “The Best 10 Products,” etc. Those are often well received.

Multimedia

Incorporate multiple pictures into every post. Images give visual verification to visitors (I love alliteration!) that they are indeed looking at the content they want. Consider graphs, charts, photos of people, stock photos, memes, screenshots, call-outs, quote images, etc. All of these things will visually enhance your piece. If using pictures, be sure you attribute the source or photographer (if necessary) and include appropriate alt tags based on the image and possibly the keywords for that page. If you have a smartphone or camera, try to take your own photos. And don’t forget about other media too which can also enhance your piece. Consider embedded podcasts or radio shows as well as videos or animated gifs!

Meta Data

Meta data consists of the title tag and description. You should have appropriate meta data for each blog post that you publish. Write and upload these with the keywords in mind that you’ve selected. Titles should be no longer than 60 characters and descriptions no more than 160 characters. Any more than this and it’s likely your words will get cut off in the search engines. Write naturally without any added punctuations like pipes or dashes, and avoid keyword stuffing. Use a plugin like SEO Yoast (if your blog/website is in WordPress) to add these with ease. Don’t forget to override the URL slug if you want to incorporate a keyword there too.

And don’t forget about other SEO stuff…

  • It’s important that your site is technically sound so Google respects you and each new post. Be sure that there is no duplicate content on any of your pages. When writing, make sure you do not copy and paste content from other pages to your new blog post (you’d be surprised how prevalent this is). Write unique content. If you have similar language somewhere else, try to paraphrase and use different language. If you are required to have similar or even the same content on two or more pages, use canonical tags to let Google know.
  • Try to write like an educator rather than a marketer. With Google’s Hummingbird update, they are looking for information-rich content that will help answer questions and fulfill the needs of web users. Try to ensure that the content answers a question(s) that the reader might have. It wouldn’t even hurt to explicitly state that question within the post. Write conversationally. By writing with a tone that reads less bias and more informational, it will have a stronger impact in search and be better received among your target audience.
  • Be sure to exercise linking within your content – both internal and external. If you are referencing material that is found on a different page of your site, hyperlink the reference to that page using internal linking structure. Likewise, if you have cited material or can send users to a trusted third party resource for more information, be sure to add a link. Don’t forget to go into old posts on your website and add links to the new posts you are creating. Be cautious of too many links and/or including links to untrustworthy sites. Both can negatively impact your efforts.

If you prepare great content on your site, finally, you’ll want to market those articles well with sharing techniques. Share on your social media channels. Utilize in your lead nurturing programs or email marketing campaigns. Advertise them. Publish as long-form posts on LinkedIn or share within your LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities. Ask partners, vendors or friends to share on their social media channels or to link to the post from their online content. And consider featuring the post on a guest blog or in a relevant trade publication (just make sure you use canonical tags so the search engines do not see these as duplicate pieces).

If you prepare quality content, you will reap the rewards over time. These benefits can come in a variety of ways. Here are just a few:

  • Develop a voice and brand personality
  • Increase awareness for your brand, its products and services
  • Generate new links and referral traffic
  • Gain respect by the search engines and be rewarded by boosts in rankings
  • See growth in organic traffic
  • Give past visitors a reason to come back
  • Give yourself custom content to share on your social media sites

Quality content takes time to prepare. Just from experience, I’ve found that, when taking the above points into consideration, a blog post usually takes 3 to 4x longer than a normal, “blah” piece. Budget your time accordingly. It will be well worth the extra effort.

This post was originally published in Steamfeed. To view the original article, please click here.

Five Tips for Writing Case Studies That Aren’t Boring as Hell

Five Tips for Writing Case Studies That Aren’t Boring as Hell

Content Marketing

This article is about case studies…

Wait. Don’t leave yet!

In the past, everything about case studies has probably made you run far away. They are often dry, generic, or pretty much just a high school pep rally (minus the cool letterman jackets) cheering on a company, product, or solution. But they don’t have to be.

Case studies can play a powerful role in one’s content marketing strategy. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute (PDF), small B2B marketers say case studies are the most effective content marketing tactic they can use.

Good case studies can help to subtly yet persuasively show off products or services. They tell the story of a business problem that your customer had and what you did to help overcome it. Statistics offer tangibility, and quotes from the customer give credibility.

When done right, case studies could win over new customers who are already in the purchase funnel.

It’s time to take a different approach to writing case studies so that they’re read and shared—and result in more leads.

Here are five things you should keep in mind to create case studies that are less boring and more effective.

1. Build suspense

Imagine that your favorite movie didn’t have a set-up, a climax, and an ending. What if Morgan Freeman told the whole story about Andy Dufresne before we were ever introduced to the horrors of “Shawshank?” Or if Kevin Spacey let viewers know he was Keyser Söze during the opening credits of “The Usual Suspects?”

They wouldn’t have been very good films, huh?

As readers, storytelling is what draws us in and captures our attention. Case studies need to do the same! Sharing numbers without any sort of story leaves us asking “So what?” So incorporate the who, what, where, when, and why. Build suspense as you do so. Then hit the 777 jackpot (i.e., climax)!

Case studies that tell a compelling story about the subject and the outcome help customers better understand the impact you can have on them and their business.

Ardath Albee, CEO and B2B marketing strategist at Marketing Interactions, stresses the importance of storytelling in case studies, which have been traditionally very numbers-driven:

[Case studies] should tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. In all the interviews I do with customers of my clients, the number-one reason they say they choose a vendor is along the lines of “they just seem to get us” or “they made us feel like a big fish in a small pond.” Case studies should help to convey that type of emotional connection.

2. What’s in it for them?

Even though you are sharing your success story and trying to make your brand seem like the cool kid on the block, the case study is actually all about the reader—the potential customer. Make sure your focus is on letting potential customers in on the secret, and share how they can reap the same benefits described in the story.

Avoid bragging about how great you are. Instead, focus on the problem so the reader can relate, then hit them with the positive outcome. By putting the emphasis on the customer, the case study will read less of a “rah-rah” fest and it will come across as authentically trying to help the customer solve his/her problem.

Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing Inc., shared his point of view on writing case studies with the reader at the forefront:

Great case studies take the customer’s point of view. They talk less about your product, and more about the problem being solved on the customer’s end. Further, effective case studies that get shared more often include specifics! What was the problem, how was it resolved, and what were the measurable improvements that demonstrate success.

3. Testimonials are everything

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes for a moment. What would make you want to read a particular case study?

Usually, it’s because you share a common interest or you’re experiencing the same issue as the subject of the case study. You want to see whether you’ll find a solution to your problems.

Incorporating testimonials within your case study adds a level of truth and validity to its claims. Testimonials are also powerful because they give readers insight into what was accomplished and why it was so worthwhile.

This is the one chance for the reader to see a third party’s point of view in your case study. Make it count.

Your customers aren’t stupid. So when you handcraft a testimonial to include in your case study and it was massaged by a content marketer, copywriter, the CMO, and the office cleaning person… it sounds phony. Fake quotes are ineffective and boring. Instead, maintain original quotes as best as you can. Let it read as if a happy customer said it aloud. It will be much more powerful.

Rachel Foster, CEO and B2B copywriter at Fresh Perspective Copywriting, tells how testimonials make the biggest difference in livening up a case study:

The biggest problem I see with corporate case studies is that they often don’t contain customer quotes. This usually occurs when marketing or sales is in a hurry to get a case study out, but they don’t have permission from the customer to use the story… [A] case study without customer quotes isn’t doing you any favors. People read case studies because they want social proof that a product or service delivers results. Without quotes from satisfied customers, you’ll have a hard time delivering this proof.

4. Make it visual

More often than not, in the B2B world, we deal with ultra text-heavy documents that may be technically sound but fail to fully engage the reader.

Visuals can help take that same information but present it in a more aesthetically pleasing way. Now the reader can become more involved in the piece and potentially recall the message more easily at a later date (remember, a case study is just one of several customer touchpoints).

We see all types of visuals on the Web today. Consider including some in your case studies, including…

  • Screenshots
  • Charts and graphs
  • Product images
  • Action photos of customers
  • Quote pictures for your testimonials

The visuals should be professional in appearance, certainly; but, more important, is that they be on point and consistent with the message you are trying to convey. Visuals also help break up text, making it more digestible, and they make for nice social media material for promoting your case studies.

Rick Short, director of marketing communications at Indium Corporation, explains how imagery can take your case study to the next level:

Visuals speak to a different part of our brains—more to our animal. The use of visuals allows us to tap into this raw, emotional consciousness—making the user’s experience more visceral. To me, the most impactful visual says one thing succinctly and clearly. The type or style is less important than the crispness.

5. Don’t lie

Trust is needed to make a case study believable and meaningful. To establish trust, the piece of content must shout “HONEST.” Generic quotes and statements about improvement are lackluster and uninteresting. They are not going to help you win over a customer. Instead, use real company names and numbers. Use actual product shots. Show the face behind a testimonial.

You don’t want your case study to be blasé—like all the other ones out there. If you had great success, show it: An inside look into a customer success story will be a much more engaging read—and it will have more impact, at the same time.

Tom Pick, chief analyst at WPO Inc., talks about the importance of specificity, authenticity, and honesty in a case study:

Use real numbers and statistics. A phrase like “saved the company money” or even “saved the company a substantial amount of money” are ho-hum. Everyone says that. But using an actual figure, like “saved the company $4.7 million last year” or “cut IT support costs by 65%” gets attention, and adds credibility. Use quotes—actual quotes—that sound like things people would actually say. Made-up quotes are obvious.

* * *

With these five techniques, you should be better prepared to write case studies that drive engagement and shares, as well as cultivate leads. The content may take some extra time to prepare, but the result will move you closer to your marketing goals.

This article was originally published in MarketingProfs. To read the full article, please click here.

101 Different Types of Content for Your Content Marketing Plan

101 Different Types of Content for Your Content Marketing Plan

Content Marketing

Content Image

We keep hearing it over and over again: “Content is King. Content is King!” And it’s true. Content is the single best way to drive people to your website today. Various types of content, strategically connected to your brand, can work wonders in capturing the attention of consumers and leading them in your direction. But you have to provide some sort of value. Teach them something. Entertain them. Do something that makes it worth their while. That’s where you have the opportunity to tell them about your brand and what you can do for them.

I always encourage my clients to create boatloads of great content. That’s when they say: “Well, we already blog, so what more can we do?” Ahhh yes. I’m so glad you asked. Because in fact, there’s actually 100 more things you can do.

I’ve compiled a list of 101 things that can act as content on your website. Some are standalone, some work together, but most importantly, they can all be promoted on the social web and be used as resources to drive your target audience to your website. Content will help attract traffic, accumulate more social shares, improve SEO efforts, and more. Your end goal is to leverage these types of materials so you can do a better job at educating or entertaining your audience to sell your products or services, strengthen your brand, or both.

Are you ready? Here we go:

  1. A/B testing and results
  2. Affiliations and partners
  3. Aggregation of articles
  4. Animated gifs
  5. Associations and memberships
  6. Audio recordings
  7. Background and experience info
  8. Blog posts
  9. Book summaries
  10. Brochures
  11. Cartoons
  12. Case studies
  13. Certifications
  14. Charts
  15. Cheat sheets
  16. Comics
  17. Comments
  18. Commercials
  19. Comparisons
  20. Contests
  21. Creative stories
  22. Custom software
  23. Customer reviews
  24. Data and statistics
  25. E-books
  26. Email newsletters
  27. Embedded tweets
  28. Event information
  29. FAQs
  30. Files and spreadsheets
  31. Flyers
  32. Free guides
  33. Full videos
  34. Giveaways
  35. Graphs
  36. Guest posts
  37. History
  38. How-to guides
  39. Illustrations
  40. Infographics
  41. Interviews
  42. Lists
  43. Live chats
  44. Live streaming video
  45. Maps
  46. Media mentions
  47. Memes
  48. Micoblog posts
  49. Micro-videos
  50. Mind maps
  51. Mobile apps
  52. Music videos
  53. News
  54. News releases
  55. Newsjacking write-ups
  56. Newsletters
  57. Online games
  58. Personal bios
  59. Photo galleries
  60. Photos
  61. Pin boards
  62. Plugins
  63. Podcasts
  64. Polls
  65. Portfolio pieces
  66. PowerPoints or SlideShare presentations
  67. Predictions
  68. Pricing
  69. Pricing sheets
  70. Product demos
  71. Product or service information
  72. PSAs or video PSAs
  73. Q&As
  74. Questionnaires
  75. Quizzes
  76. Quotes and Inspirational messages
  77. Ratings
  78. Research or synthesized information
  79. Resource pages
  80. Results of polls, surveys and questionnaires
  81. Reviews
  82. ROI calculators
  83. Sales sheets
  84. Screencasts
  85. Screenshots
  86. Site tour videos
  87. Software reviews
  88. Specification or data sheets
  89. Stupid, fake and funny images and captions
  90. Surveys
  91. Templates
  92. Testimonials
  93. Timelines
  94. “To do” and “what not to do” articles
  95. Twitter chats
  96. User-generated content
  97. Vlogs
  98. Webinars
  99. White papers
  100. Wikis
  101. Worksheets

Remember. Entertain > educate > persuade > convert. That’s your goal. All of the content above can be included in your content marketing plan to do a better job at building your online presence and boosting your traffic. So next time you’re in a conversation about content marketing, or if you are developing your content calendar, you should no longer struggle to come up with ways your company can start leveraging this tactic. Select one or more from the ideas above! Good luck!