October 10, 2017

Content Marketing vs Content Strategy: Best Practices for 2018

Content is King?

Thanks to nearly every SEO “guru” touting this phrase, we are now living in the age of content for the sake of content (previously, it was the “age of mobile” where every business with more than three employees decided that they absolutely needed an app).

While producing content is certainly a key element of any successful business strategy, there are, of course, both right and wrong ways of doing it.

What is content?

Perhaps one of the most over-used and generic words in the digital vernacular, “content” in this case refers to anything that is read, viewed, or listened to. While lots of publishers like to think everything on their site should be considered as content (including banner ads, thumbnail images, auto-playing trailers, footer menus, etc), SEOs and dedicated content marketers are usually talking specifically about value-adding material like informative articles, entertaining or educational videos, pictures, and infographics.

For SEO purposes, Google likes to see “fresh” content being added to sites on a regular basis to show that they are actively contributing new information to the web, which can also help with indexing frequencies and “crawl budgets.”

For these reasons, maintaining a blog is usually an easy way for most websites that don’t regularly update their landing page information or products for sale to satisfy Google’s best practices.

But what is the best type of content to post on a blog? How often should you be posting? Who will be doing the posting, and how does this fit into the rest of your business’ overall strategy? Can we look at platforms other than our blog?

The answer is to embrace the 7 Ps, and come up with a great content strategy.

What is a content strategy?

A good content strategy is the over-arching guide that determines what type(s) of content should be produced, when it should be rolled out, which platform(s) or mediums should be used, where it will be published, and to whom it should reach. From here, other nitty-gritty aspects — like how the intended audience will interact with your content — should be considered.

Think of a content strategy like the blueprints for a house – the more detailed and granular you can plan them out, the better and more accurate the finished product will be.

This process does require significant time, research and thought, but by coming up with a great content strategy, you will have a better understanding of what, how, and why your business should be using content to better achieve its goals.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing refers to one specific branch of the content strategy — producing relevant, meaningful, and soft-selling content to attract and retain customers.

The emphasis here should be on the “soft” element of soft-selling. With 75% of consumers wanting brands to deliver personalised content, and around 80% saying that the quality and relevancy of the content is an important factor in their decision-making process, the days of producing cookie-cutter, hard-selling advertorials are thankfully coming to an end.

How to market content in 2018 and onwards

To produce something that your customers will value, educational and informative content should be the first port of call. Two-thirds of consumers believe this to be the best form of content marketing, as it shows a people-first approach rather than being brand or product-centric.

To double-down on this, interactive content has been proven to provide better engagement amongst consumers, so should also be considered if resources permit.

One of the NY Times’ most popular articles of all time was an interactive quiz about regional dialect, which was not only entertaining to complete, but provided an informative set of heatmaps upon completion.

In order to really excel at content marketing in 2017 (and into 2018), businesses must not only have a well-thought-out content strategy that details every element of what they are going to produce, but also fully understand that customers want to consume content that provides ongoing value to them above everything else.

While regular blog articles about company news, staff spotlights, or industry updates are still important elements of a good content strategy, particular focus should be given on how to provide the most value to customers in a way that fits in with other promotional elements (such as social media, AdWords, and even TV commercials or radio ads).

To get started, here are some content marketing ideas that are proven to perform well with consumers:

  • Buying guides
  • Quizzes, polls, and surveys
  • Interactive infographics
  • Calculators
  • How-to videos
  • And, for advanced businesses, virtual reality

You will be surprised at the impact good content marketing can have on your KPIs when backed up by a robust content strategy!

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