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From the Trenches

Genuine Content Marketing Is Hard. Here’s How to Make it Work.

Bill Carey | June 30, 2021
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A lot of businesses — perhaps yours included — think content marketing equals writing blog posts. As a result of this mindset, your team hits the ground running, writing a bunch of stuff. It’s a frenzy, and you’re just trying to push out as much content as possible to satisfy your volume equals success instincts.

After a while (likely a short time in your view but an eternity to your bosses), the execs start asking questions. “We’ve been doing this content thing for a good bit of time, why aren’t we ranking well on Google? What’s the ROI of this writing thing, anyway?” Meanwhile, you’re frustrated, too. You thought you were doing the right thing by generating lots of content.

Here’s the truth: What you’re doing is mere content production. And we hate to say it, but production is table stakes. Instead, you need strategic, holistic content-driven marketing, which proves much more difficult.

Effective content marketing will generate real, long-term results for your business. Here’s what you’re doing wrong — and how to do it right.

Why Endless Content Production Isn’t Enough

It used to be true, if only for a short time, that throwing some keyword-stuffed posts on your newly minted blog would be enough to catch Google’s eye. Marketers often used three tactics to trick Google:

  1. Repeating a keyword multiple times in their blog posts’ first paragraph.
  2. Adding that keyword to every H2.
  3. Tacking the keyword onto their URL.

But these old school content marketing methods don’t work anymore, if they ever really did. Google has gotten infinitely smarter. They released six algorithm updates in 2020 alone! With each update, Google continues to show they value high-quality content — not keyword-stuffed messes — above all else.

It’s not only Google that’s getting smarter. Internet searchers (human people) are smarter and more discerning about what they read online, too. Why? Because they have more choices than ever before. And they’ve been doing this a while.

Content production has skyrocketed in the past five or so years. The internet is saturated with search results. Google the most out-there, random topic you can think of. Really, try it. We guarantee you’ll see billions (literally) of articles asserting their answers to your search instantly.

Everyone and their mother is putting content online, searchers have their pick of what to click, and Google is onto your old tricks. So what’s left to differentiate your randomly-produced content from every other B2B blog out there?

Content-Driven Marketing Requires a Holistic Strategy

You need more than haphazardly written blog posts to win business online. That much is clear.

Like we said, you need content-driven marketing.

Whereas content production implies a churn and burn, content-farm approach, content-driven marketing demands end-to-end strategy. You must:

  • Plan. Again, don’t just run with any idea that comes to mind. Be deliberate about the topics you choose, and map out your content ahead of time.
  • Produce. This is the creation part. Be sure your words — whatever form they may take — reflect thought-out SEO practices (read: stop keyword stuffing). Oh, and everything should be well-written (duh).
  • Promote and distribute. You’ve done the work to craft a purposeful, well-written piece of content. Don’t let it just sit on your site. Promote it via social, and consider paid media as well.
  • Repurpose, refresh, and repromote. More on this below, but just because you’ve written on a topic once doesn’t mean you can’t revisit it. In fact, it’s required to prove you’re a legit subject matter expert. Also, refreshing (with existing analytics in mind) and then repromoting your content is arguably as important as creating it the first time.
  • Report and analyze. Not to sound clichéd, but you can’t manage what you can’t measure. How will you know what is and isn’t working if you don’t measure and adapt your content practices? Answer: You won’t.

Practical Tips to Execute Your New Content Marketing Strategy

Once you’ve got your content-driven marketing strategy in place and your team’s humming along creating high-quality content, there are a few more practical tips you should keep in mind.

Content Clusters Prove Your Expertise 

We hinted at this above, but it’s not enough to create one — or even several — pieces of content on any one topic.

To show Google and your prospects that you really know what you’re talking about, you need to create many forms of content on the same and tangentially related topics to form what’s known as content clusters.

Take an example. You’re a healthtech marketer and you’d like your content to rank for the keyword “telehealth.” It’s not good enough to simply write about telehealth. In addition to rock-solid general telehealth content, you must also create content to address surrounding areas of interest, like remote patient monitoring, telemedicine, HIPAA requirements, second opinions, etc.

While important, it’s difficult to think up endless content ideas for one industry. Consider leveraging SEO tools like MarketMuse to help. MarketMuse suggests topics based on what you’ve already composed and rank for. The tool will even offer a topic with high search volume but low-quality results — an opportunity for you to create something valuable that ranks.

At the end of the day, it’s all about proving you’re a top player in your industry. Covering every nook and cranny of your subject area is paramount. 

Think Outside the Blog Box

Despite what most people think, content is so much more than the written word. It’s so much more than blog posts.

Don’t neglect other effective forms of content, like:

Non-blog post content tends to be underutilized because, frankly, it’s harder to do. A webinar, for instance, requires coalescing multiple speakers, ideating questions in advance, acquiring webinar technology, and so on.

That said, the extra effort is worth it. Leveraging multiple forms of content in multiple ways maximizes your content’s ROI. Can you extract a few salient points from that webinar? Great, make it a checklist. Can you summarize the webinar’s key takeaways? Perfect, that’s a separate article. And how about all the email and social promotion before, during, and after the webinar?

You can also squeeze more from your content investment by combining content. Blog posts with embedded videos get significantly better results than video-less content. Google truly puts videos on a pedestal. 

Your Options for Content Marketing Support

Everything we’ve discussed points to one thing.

Successful content marketing requires a balance of art (good, thought leadership-worthy writing) and science (content clustering, reporting, SEO tactics).

You have four options to proceed:

  1. Hire a content production shop.
  2. Hire an SEO shop.
  3. Go it alone.
  4. Hire an agency that combines 1 and 2.

The first option will lead to exactly what we’ve warned against this whole article: Churn-and-burn content production sans strategy.

SEO agencies, your second option, will more than likely only care about hard and fast SEO rules. They’ll add missing metadata, format pages, and optimize H1 tags, but they won’t help you create exceptional content, let alone create it for you.

The third option, to do it yourself internally, might work for a while. But consider all the benefits of outsourcing you’re missing. Besides, do you really have the tools necessary to make a content-driven marketing strategy work?

If you want to get serious about content marketing success, you need a firm that cares about both the art and science of content marketing — not just content production.

Yes, real-deal content marketing is hard, but the right firm can help. 

Related Resources

About Bill Carey:

As VP of Business Development, Bill’s role is to set the vision and direction for growth through both direct and indirect channels. Bill received his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in accounting from James Madison University and has more than 20 years of experience leading marketing and business development for B2B tech companies. In his spare time, you’ll find Bill following NY sports teams, spending time with his family or trying to discover the next great wine.