Stop. What did you just click on? Look at the ridiculous headline for this column. Read it out loud to yourself.
So why did you click on that Upworthy-inspired headline? Because it works.
Well, I've got a confession to make. I'm not a single mother and, to be honest, I haven't found a simple trick that enables me to beat enterprise SEOs.
Although this article may not make you laugh (hopefully the tongue-in-cheek headline at least gave you a chuckle) or cry, it does contain some simple advice to consider the next time you work on your content strategy. Since you're here already, why not stick around a bit longer?
The Fugly Truth About Content
My last column discussed how sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy have better content strategies than most marketers – not to mention article titles. They give users what they want in a format that connects with them.
These publishers use pictures and videos to communicate ideas quickly, as they know that the average visitor may only spend seconds on their articles unless the content is truly engaging. They choose topics that have mass appeal, as social channels are some of their major traffic drivers.
They also churn and burn endless streams of content, both to win with numbers as well as test many different avenues to find "what works." These approaches, in and of themselves, are definitely worthy of emulation as so many marketers fail to execute on these fundamental concepts.
It's also important to note, however, that these websites cannot be emulated point for point to maximize success. What a horror the Internet would be! It's bad enough with a few of these sites being plastered on our Facebook newsfeeds.
We don't need big brands taking the exact same approach and creating completely disposable content ad nausem. Someone has to create something of value on the Internet!
4 Crucial Tips for Developing a Content Strategy
So, with that said, what should mid- to large-size companies bear in mind when they are developing their content strategies? Certainly there is much to learn from the likes of these modern content farms, but what basic tenets should rule your quality assurance process?
Let's address it point for point.
1. Your Content Should Stand the Test of Time
There are definitely exceptions to this (when addressing very recent events and taking advantage of buzz), but in general your content should be evergreen. For brands, the value in content generation is in the long term – searches over months and years building up to be a large portion of your overall inbound traffic.
If your content isn't evergreen, you had better be chasing some very buzz-worthy topics or planning a multi-channel approach to drive traffic and engage visitors. One channel alone is unlikely to drive a positive ROI.
2. Your Content Should Satisfy a Real Need
The best content for driving long-term value is content that satisfies real needs – answers questions, offers data analysis, provides statistics and research citations. Any of these can drive long-term value for people many months and years after you create it. This is also important because it feeds into the next point…
3. Your Content Should Build a Positive Brand Image
Big brands can experiment with interesting topics that might be tangentially related to their business – but always while making sure to project a positive brand image. Sites like Upworthy can afford to ascribe to the "no PR is bad PR" philosophy, but it's unlikely your company can do so.
Making content that satisfies real needs of customers, especially those who are likely to stick around for a long time, associates your brand with helpful content and positive feelings – both of which will help later on in the purchase funnel.
4. Your Content Should Actually be Interesting
Experimentation is important. You're not going to hit it out of the park with your first try. That said, maintaining a strict level of quality, interesting content is necessary to protect your brand over the long term.
If you try for a purely quantity-based approach, people are likely to bounce so quickly it could affect Google's assumptions about the quality of your website. It also creates bad user experiences, which could affect later interactions with your properties.
Yes, you should test different avenues of content creation, but don't sacrifice your brand while doing so. Make it truly interesting.
As long as you follow those tenets, feel free to experiment with the tactics that work well with these content juggernauts. You may find you improve your results dramatically – all without sacrificing your brand or making the Internet a worse place.