...from my book, Findability: Why Search Engine Optimization is Dying.
Rule #2: Have a Voice (or Brand) That Customers Can Identify
With all of the changes going on in Internet marketing, attracting new customers and readers can be difficult. So, it only makes sense to be sure you don't let them slip away. That's where having a strong and unique voice (a brand) comes into play.
If you think about most major national ad campaigns, they tend to feature a distinct message and tone. Some are funny, some are serious, etc., but they all have a kind of theme and personality that shows up on television spots, magazine ads, popular Web pages, and more, week after week. That consistency creates a subtle impression in a buyer’s mind. It also gives them the chance to "look forward" to new messages or installments.
You don't have to have a massive advertising agency on your side to build that same kind of focus into your content marketing. All you have to have is a sense of who your audience is, and who you want to be to them (or how you want your business to be perceived). Then, you simply ensure that the new content you develop fits into that model.
Naturally, you want to ensure that the voice you’re cultivating strikes the right balance between appropriate and attention-grabbing. For example, a local bakery can get away with a lot more than a cancer research center. The point isn't to be over the top, but to know that readers, followers, and customers should be able to expect a certain kind of tone from you. That way, they can learn to recognize your brand, feel more attached to it, and keep coming back to your messages again and again.
Rule #11: Build Your Content From an Ongoing Plan
One of the toughest things about effective content marketing is coming up with a continual stream of interesting thoughts, ideas, and marketing pieces. As anyone who's ever faced a term paper on a deadline knows, it's incredibly difficult to sit down in front of a blank screen and generate pieces that are fresh and interesting day after day.
For that reason, it makes sense to do what the professionals do: work from an ongoing plan and calendar. Think of the team at your favorite magazine. We can guarantee, no matter what it is they cover, that they don't simply sit down a week before the issue is due and come up with a list of things to work on for the day. Instead, they have an ongoing schedule (or editorial calendar) of themes to work with, which then get expanded into related articles, topics, follow-ups, and so on.
You should do the same for your content marketing. Begin by deciding what kinds of topics your audience cares about, and how you can make those tie into your business or expertise. Then, think ahead and decide what sort of subjects to address, what kind of format you want for each one, when they'll need to be posted, and so on. By the time you're done with this process, you'll have an editorial calendar of your own that you can use to stay on track. It might take a bit of time and effort to devise, but believe us when we tell you that it's much easier (and more effective) than starting from scratch every week.
To make things even easier, get into the habit of keeping a file or notebook with spare ideas that occur to you. You'll be surprised at what kinds of thoughts can come to you in odd moments, and how you can use them to generate compelling content from one month to the next.
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Rule #20: Always Ask the Key Question About a Piece of Content
Although we have spent a lot of time talking about "quality" and how it relates to content marketing, that's a difficult thing to define. Most of us know better content when we see it, but things are tougher when you're evaluating your own work – not to mention trying to keep producing new material on a regular schedule.
So, how can you decide whether your content is ready to be released? There is an easy way to tell: ask yourself whether it's really worth the time someone spends after clicking on it.
Before you say "of course" and move on, think about things from a potential customer's perspective. Will they learn something valuable, be entertained, or at least come away with a new perspective and understanding on your topic? If the answer is "yes," then you've done a good job. If, on the other hand, the reader or viewer is going to get little more than a sales pitch, or if your ideas are hard to understand, then there is more work to do.
It's easy to violate this golden rule of content marketing, but taking shortcuts will always come back to haunt you. Once readers and buyers learn that they can't trust you with their time and attention, you'll have a hard time winning them back. But if you always give content that's worth their while, your plan will become more and more effective as you keep releasing new articles, videos, and social updates.
These 21 rules of findability help us understand how to get found online. But what about getting found by the right people? To help you do that, we've created a free communications briefing tool. Feel free to use it, and feel free to share it.