In recent years, it has become standard practice to talk about copywriting, video, and other online marketing ingredients as "content." That's useful shorthand, but it's also potentially damaging to your actual marketing efforts.
The reason is partly to do with the word, but mostly to do with the philosophy behind it.
To understand why, consider that "content," as a word, is like "concrete mix," or "all-purpose flour," a term that implies that one chunk is essentially as good as another... or worse, that it's something you should buy and/or produce in bulk.
As we all know, however, that's just not true – content comes in a lot of forms and varieties, not to mention quality levels. When customers come across a generic website, filled with generic (but usually keyword-rich) pages, they are bored at best, and angered at worst. They aren't looking for "content," and they aren't happy when they find it.
It isn't just important for you to have quality content, but also that you have something that your customers really want. Put another way, the "quality" in quality content only exists if your customers agree that it does.
Here are some tips for getting away from "content" and getting towards valuable marketing material:
Use the sniff test.
Although this isn't exactly a technical term, it's a good one to describe that gut feeling you have when you're looking at adding or posting to your business website. Does it look, read, and feel like something you would want to come across if you were an actual customer searching for a piece of information, a certain product, or a valuable service? Or, would it seem like "fluff," designed to fill a gap, rather than appeal to an actual person?
Some of this has to do with quality (grammar, resolution, etc.), but it mostly speaks to focus and intent. Use the sniff test with your own content and see what you find.
Think of your customers first.
Most marketers take a "candy-flavored medicine" approach to giving out information – the details customers are looking for are there, but they are buried under lots of generic copy about how good the company is, how low the prices are, and so on.
To really stand out, flip the script: Think about what buyers want to find and see, and then tailor that message to what you do, or simply add a call to action at the end. When in doubt, post something that's interesting or informative and then add the marketing touch later.
Study the feedback and behavior you see from actual buyers.
Nothing tells you how customers actually feel about your content as well as watching them interact with it. While you can actually put too much stock into web analytics (a topic we'll tackle soon), the evidence doesn't lie when you're dealing with customer behavior. If people like something, they'll return to it, bookmark it, show it to their friends and colleagues, and even link to it. If they don't, then it's just another piece of "content" clogging up the Internet.
Don't just study what works and what doesn't, but see if you can string together common elements, messages, and themes to create more information that customers will love.
Keep adding to your site and refining your messages.
Just as too much generic content is a terrible thing, customers seemingly can't get enough of it if what you're offering is great. That means you should be sure to add to your site from time to time, making it a resource that people in your industry want to return to on a regular basis.
You can’t be an authority with just a couple of articles, post, or videos, so make a point of adding to your site on a regular editorial schedule.
What Happens When You Move Beyond "Content"?
As an online marketer, you want to deliver unique and valuable information. Producing something of that's of value to your customers makes you stand out from the crowd, and gives your readers a reason to come back to your site time and time again.
The more of a resource you are for buyers, the more interest they have in your company, your opinions, and your products. That means you outshine the competition, even when there are differences in price and service. It might be more work to produce material with real value for buyers, but then again, that's the best way to add more "content" to your bottom line.