The web is saturated with articles that claim to teach content marketing success. Agencies, marketers, business professionals and bloggers alike have all thrown in their two cents’ worth, offering their own top tips for generating engaging, effective content. What I’ve found, however, is that none of this advice is accompanied by demonstrable success. How can we know that these techniques work without actually seeing the proof?
Content guidance generally focuses around the same five or six ‘usuals’, and whilewrite for your audience and include a great headline are both noteworthy pieces of advice, it’s nothing that we don’t know already. What we want to see is an actual, tangible example of bloody good content that has worked its socks off to return some results.
So that’s what I’ve done: a guide to creating great content that actually works, exemplified by a recent project for a client.
As one of the UK’s largest online retailers of home furnishings, the client provided plenty of scope. However, with focus turning to one of their sites in particular (they have a specialist site for each product), I found myself scratching my head over the content potential of roller blinds.
For this type of product, though not particularly sexy, there’s quite a lot to be said. Unfortunately, it’s all been said before. And while your content might be super relevant, highly informative, beautifully written and complete with aspirational imagery, it’s unlikely to take off because, well, it’s repetitive. We know this because we experienced it ourselves.
I tried educational articles about the best kind of blind for each room in the home; we capitalised on seasonality and trends with Halloween-inspired content; we pulled together a detailed story of the history of blinds, complete with reliable sources and thought-provoking images. I tried articles, listicles, case studies and infographics. I furiously promoted via social, connected with industry experts and charmed authoritative bloggers. Though we saw traction, it wasn’t the huge results that I was aiming for. I needed a new approach.
SEO informed by PPC
While myself and the SEO team mulled things over, it’s fair to say that the PPC guys were smashing it. It seemed ridiculous to not take advantage of their successes in the client’s paid activity. After all, if the conversion is high on paid traffic this will usually transfer over to organic.
So PPC pulled the latest campaign data and one thing became clear – blackout roller blinds was the target. It was the highest converting keyword across all campaigns alongside being a high margin product for the client. I decided to work up an idea focusing on blackout blinds, but I needed to bear in mind the results of previous content – ‘Top 10 Benefits Of Blackout Blinds’ and ‘Our Favourite Blackout Blind Designs’ may be relevant and hit all the keywords, but they’re too predictable, too dull, and definitely not shareable.
While the long term aim was to increase ranking for blackout blinds, I knew the best way to build a strong foundation was to steer clear of generic, salesy campaigns and instead generate genuinely engaging content that people would read, share and remember and, hopefully, would gain us some valuable backlinks. As such, I started to think around the subject, rather than focusing purely on the product.
Who’s actually buying blackout blinds? How old are they? Do they have children? What are their interests? Why do they need a new blackout blind? Obviously, those in the market for blackout blinds want to darken a room, either for themselves or their kids. They’ll be looking for a way to prevent being woken by the sun, promoting a better night’s sleep. Perhaps they’d benefit from other advice about sleeping well?
I went forward with a campaign about getting a good night’s sleep. Within this, I’d include the benefits of blackout blinds, but the content wouldn’t focus purely on this. Instead, it would inform people of everything and anything about sleeping soundly.
The making of
The content developed into a detailed infographic with several sections, including ‘Your Recommended Hours Of Sleep’, ‘The Causes Of Too Little Sleep’ and ‘The Benefits Of A Good Night’s Sleep’. The design demonstrated technical and scientific truths through bright colours and childish graphics: an engaging balance of fact and fiction.
When complete I hosted the content onsite, ensuring all SEO best practices were covered off, including all of the usual on page essentials aka optimised title, H1, copy, and an appropriate meta description. Distribution then began, including social promotion, contacting relevant sites that may wish to share, and submitting to visual content distributors (the latter often function on a submit/accept basis, and generally have a backlog of around two weeks while the host approves). I also utilised Visual.ly, which allows users to set up their own profile – kind of like Facebook, but for data visualization and infographics. While we know that outbound links from Visual.ly are “nofollow”, it’s still a worthwhile platform as there is exposure potential. A lot of it, I soon discovered.
A week after the release I tracked results to report back to the client. I discovered the site had received some new backlinks, including a link from DesignTAXI, one third of a global creative network, and named as Forbes’ top five design and creative sites. It was a big deal.
Little did I know at the time, but TAXI’s content curators trawl the web to discover the freshest creative to share onsite and via social. One of their go-to sources is Visual.ly, where they stumbled across our content and decided to share it. The client was now featured on one of the world’s top design sites, and exposed to upwards of 360k Facebook likes and 420k Twitter followers. They had been asserted them as experts that offer more than reams of roller blind product pages. They were now the proud owner of brilliant content that others were actively sharing, and were demonstrating to search engines that they were deserving of high quality features and links. Best of all, this link wasn’t chased or paid: it was earned.
From this, I’ve been able to compile my very own list of top tips for content marketing… and best of all, there’s not a “create a strong headline” in sight!
1. The knowledge of others is a benefit to you, and you should be open to stepping out of your comfort zone and into others’ areas of expertise. For this campaign, PPC data was extremely advantageous for our content. The most successful strategy is an integrated one, so utilise the paid search experts, the tech geeks, the PR pundits, the traditional media gurus, the creatives, and anyone else that happens to be hanging around – it really works.
2. Focusing on one quality piece of content is far more beneficial than churning out stuff ‘just because’. This campaign required data analysis, brainstorming, research, careful planning, copywriting, design, proofing and editing, not to mention the distribution, promotion and then monitoring and reporting. Any good content marketer will complete these tasks exceptionally well for one piece of work, rather than half-heartedly for several.
3. An obvious one, but don’t be afraid to promote your content. Utilise different methods to share it, whether that be dropping an industry expert a tweet, submitting to a relevant blog or simply picking up the phone. If your content is well researched, well executed and relevant, you have absolutely no reason not to share it.
4. Don’t overlook the potential of channels with “nofollow” tags. Just because search engines ignore the link, doesn’t mean everyone else will. In this case, submitting to Visual.ly put us in an excellent position to be spotted by DesignTAXI, thus gaining a really valuable link from an authoritative domain.
About the author: Amy Kilvington
Amy is a freelance copywriter and content specialist based in Yorkshire, UK. Her suite of content services includes copywriting, content strategy, social media and creative, along with consultancy and training packages. With a broad knowledge of all things digital, she focuses on delivering bespoke, creative content solutions that work… Naturally.