There's no other way to put this:
If you aren't upping your content game in a big way this year, you're going to struggle.
With big brands going all-in with content marketing, the competition has never been fiercer. That means people that take the "I'll publish twice a week and see what happens" approach to content are going to be invisible.
Don't let that be you. Stand out from the noise with these five techniques that flat out get results.
1. BuzzFeed Style Headlines
Hypnotizing headlines, like this:
Although you don't necessarily want to pump out cute cat content, there are a few important takeaway lessons about headline development that we can learn from BuzzFeed:
- Curiosity=Clicks: Remember when "7 ways to..." posts used to get clicked like mad? A huge part of that was the curiosity factor. There are too many "7 ways to..." posts right now. You really need to up the curiosity ante to get clicks today.
- People read the entire headline. So make it great: Copyblogger states that 80 percent of people will read your headline, but only 20 percent will read the rest of the page. The genius of sites like BuzzFeed (and moreseo, ViralNova) is that they write very long headlines, like this:
These ultra-long headlines fly in the face of most headline-writing conventional wisdom. But it makes perfect sense: if people tend to read the entire headline, why not make it long? The more content you have, the more "click triggers" you can hit with your headline.
- Don't be afraid to write first person headlines: For example, the most popular post ever on ViralNova is:
Now that's what I call an awesome headline!
What if you're in a boring B2B niche, like insurance, you can use these headlines hacks to get more clicks ("7 Weird Ways to Save on Life Insurance. #5 Can't Be True...can it?").
2. Paid Content Amplification
Here's the thing about "great content":
It's not enough anymore.
Even mind-blowing, epic stuff needs a push to rise above the noise in 2014. A push like paid content amplification.
Here are a few channels to add to your arsenal:
- Twitter Ads: Twitter is finally getting serious about advertising. And just like in Facebook's early years, early adopters will reap massive rewards. Kristi Hines has put together an awesome primer to show you the ropes.
- Zemanta: Zemanta recommends content to bloggers that have installed their WordPress plugin. This means you can actually get backlinks from your efforts. Although very promising, I've recently read mixed reviews.
- StumbleUpon Paid Discovery: For cheap targeted traffic, you'd have a hard time beating StumbleUpon. The added benefit of this network is that, if your content is good, the traction you get from paid clicks results in a boatload of free traffic, as you can see from my account:
- Reddit Ads: Reddit isn't for every industry out there (due to it's young, male demographic). But it's top 50 Alexa rank is hard to ignore.
3. Write ONLY In-Depth, 1500+ Word Blog Posts
I'm not a huge fan of the "X is dead" angle.
But there's one thing I'm certain about when it comes to blogging: 500-word posts are dead.
This isn't new.
In 2012 Moz found a clear correlation between content length and links for their blog posts:
And Neil Patel noticed that 1,500-word posts generated 68 percent more Facebook likes than shorter posts:
Why do longer posts do so well?
There are a few reasons:
- Long content has a higher perceived value: When someone sees a long post they automatically think "wow, this must have taken a ton of work. I need to share this." Post with 300 words don't have the same effect.
- You can create the definitive guide on a topic: I can tell you from experience that having the definitive guide to something on your blog is the fast track to hands-off link development. But it's hard to cover an entire subject in 400 words.
- More engagement and time on site: Reading 1,500-words of pure gold puts someone in a very appreciative mood. A mood that encourages them to share your stuff.
Longer posts may take more work, but the ROI of one long post is head and shoulders above a handful of short articles. Peep Laja (who grew his blog from zero to 50,000 visitors in one month), states that: "If I could offer you only one tip for the future, writing long, thorough blog posts would be it."
4. Design is More Important that Content
Most people spend way too much time agonizing over every word in their blog posts. Do you really think that misusing "their" vs. "there" is going to make any difference in the social shares, links, or comments that you get? Of course not!
The fact is: people are going to evaluate your content largely on two factors:
- Content length (see above)
Sure, copywriting matters. But design matter more. So that's where you should spend your time and energy.
Here are two examples of insanely well-designed content to draw inspiration from:
The perceived value of beautifully designed content like this blows your average blog post out of the water. It takes some investment to create something like this (usually in the form of a professional designer) but the ROI is usually off the charts.
5. Use Outreach to Get Results
The first four strategies will only get you so far.
To squeeze the most value out of your content you need to promote it via outreach.
Yes, that means manually emailing dozens (or even hundreds) of people about your content. And not just email them: but send each one a personalized, non-pushy message.
Here's a fantastic outreach template that GrooveHQ used to get shares from heavyweights like Gary Vaynerchuk:
Now you don't have to follow this template exactly. But it's got almost everything you want in an outreach email: personalized, non-pushy, and gets the person involved with your content (which makes them more likely to share it).
You can also outreach using Twitter, Google+, and even LinkedIn. The platform doesn't matter that much. It's just important that you do it!
If you got some value from this article, I'd love to hear from you. I'm always looking for examples of businesses that are doing well with content marketing in 2014. If you know someone who fits the bill, let me know in the comments section right now.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!