A best practice is “a standard or set of guidelines that is known to produce good outcomes if followed.” Best practices are hugely helpful because they allow you to make use of experiences prior to your own. However, “best” doesn’t mean “indisputable”, or something you need to use in every circumstance. When it comes to content marketing, there are some best practices that you hear over and over – but it’s ok to question them. Here, we are reviewing 5 best practices that can often be misunderstood.
5 Best Practices for Content Marketing
1. Create only content that your audience wants.
It is a commonly accepted tenant of content marketing that you need to focus on content that appeals to your target audience. That’s certainly true. However, what about content that they might be interested in, but don’t know about yet? If you stop at only the content that you know your audience needs, you might be missing some opportunities. For example, new government regulations are things that people don’t always pay much attention to – but if something passes that is likely to ultimately impact your clients, don’t you think they may want to know about it? Furthermore, based on your own findings, you may be able to report on data or other things that your audience doesn’t see “behind the scenes”. It can become easy to keep covering the same things over and over if you only focus on what you know your audience wants. Consider that they don’t know what they don’t know, and then expand your content into some new areas.
2. Only engagement metrics matter (not views).
Most of the advice you’ll find on content marketing – including a lot of our own – centers on avoiding vanity metrics. The general wisdom is to focus on the ways that people interact with the content, not simply the number of views or impressions. That being said, narrowing your analysis to purely engagement would be a mistake. Remember that some of your audience is “invisible”. They aren’t likely to comment or share. They probably won’t sign up for emails or take other action. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention. They are out there, ready to engage with your services when the need arises. They can become clients at some point, even years later. For this reason, it’s still helpful to understand these “vanity” metrics and aim to deliver content to people who are observing silently.
3. Create content that reaches the top of ranking pages.
Writing for SEO is an important part of today’s digital marketing landscape. Prioritizing appearing on the top of search engine pages assures you’ll be viewed by more people. Luckily the days of keyword stuffing are gone, but people can still take writing for SEO too far. For example, a featured snippet or top ranking may not direct people to your website. It gives people some awareness of your brand at most. Instead, focus on your corporate goals and realign your content strategy to better meet those goals. Think about what you really hope to achieve with your content and focus on how to reach those goals rather than only focusing on SEO.
4. Content metrics will help you to understand your audience.
Again, at a general level, this is true. Pulling metrics about who views and interacts with your content can inform you about your target audience. However, to have a real understanding of your market, you need to take things a step further. Connecting content consumption with conversion metrics can help you learn a lot more valuable information about your audience. That’s because not everyone who views your content is a good prospect for your firm. Instead, learn more about who ultimately becomes a client and then work backwards to understand how they previously engaged with your content. In this way you can spot behavior that is more likely to occur in eventual clients. From here you can better understand the audience segment that’s most likely to convert and then cater to them.
5. Gated content is best for leads.
It’s common for content marketers to put their most valuable content behind a gate for lead generation purposes. Gated content is a powerful tool for obtaining new leads, but it’s not the only one. In fact, some people performing independent research take care to avoid content that requires inputting contact information because they don’t want to deal with the follow up. For this reason, we suggest striking a balance in your gating strategy. You can limit gating to the pieces targeted toward the lower phases of your sales funnel. These are the people who are evaluating services so they would be more likely to be receptive to follow up outreach. You can include details from gated content in more general material that will entice other readers as well. Make it known that there is more detailed content available as well. Just let the reader know in advance which items are gated.
Best practices are helpful for several reasons. However, before you blindly follow them, consider your own firm, goals, and situation. How well will this practice work for your specific scenario? Are there any disadvantages? How can you modify the best practice to better suit your needs? Content marketing is essential, and getting it right can do great things for your firm. We can help with audience profiles, special consulting, historical analysis, messaging, and more. Contact us for a consultation.