I asked my subscribers to take part in a Content Marketing Survey about a month ago and put together a full report on the results. One of the things asked in the survey was “what were your top content marketing questions?”.
There were a ton of replies to that open-ended question and since so many people were nice enough to take part in the survey I’m offering up my answers to their questions.
I’ve been using content marketing successfully since 2001 so I have a lot of experience creating, publishing, and promoting content online. However, I’m sure other experienced marketers have opinions that differ from mine. If you’ve got any advice or further questions on content marketing just leave a comment at the end of the article so everyone can benefit from further discussion.
Here are the top 5 questions marketers had about content marketing along with detailed answers based on my experience.
1. How can I use content marketing to gain the most SEO benefit?
You really need to consider that the entire job of the search engines is to rank the best and most relevant content high. It doesn’t matter what someone with black hat tactics or loopholes tells you. What I just stated is a fact and if you want long-term traffic from search engines (namely Google since they’re currently running the show) you’re going to need to consider that.
Does your content answer the questions someone typing in the search term might have? Is it a good resource for visitors or is it mostly fluff and filler? If it leans toward fluff then you can still get it ranking high, but those rankings might not last. And with fluff and filler you won’t get the benefit of traffic from other sources (like visitor referrals and direct traffic from sites in your market that link to you).
But there’s more to it than having solid content.
The shortened version of search engine optimization is the following:
Step 1: Do keyword research.
You need to find out what people are typing into the search engines. That way you know exactly what you should be optimizing your content for.
Step 2: Optimize your content for those keyphrases.
Simply enough, use the exact phrases you uncovered during your keyword research phase in your content. Don’t spam, don’t over-optimize, just make sure those keyphrases are in there at least one time. Try to include them naturally.
In addition to making sure they’re in the content, include keyphrases in your title tag, in your headline and in your anchor text. The anchor text is the text that you use to link to that page.
Just that alone will help you optimize your content.
Step 3: Promote your content.
If you want search engines to think your content is the best for any given keyphrase then you have to show them that it’s popular. One way search engines measure popularity is by looking at the sites linking back to it.
Over time, the search engines have gotten more and more sophisticated at measuring these links. It’s not just the sheer number of links, but the type and quality of sites linking back to yours. It’s best if your content really is popular (and attracts real links) rather than content that just looks popular (because you’re able to manufacture a bunch of links to it from blog networks and fake sites you set up).
Eventually those manufactured links can be devalued and if that happens you’ll see a drop in your rankings. Google has gotten better at this, to the point where it’s not worth it to play the games anymore (they take just about as much time as creating valuable content and getting real links back to it).
And yes, I realize it’s a shameless plug, but I do offer a complete SEO course. It’s 10+ hours of step-by-step and actionable advice. I only mention it as there’s a lot to SEO and I can’t fit all I know about the topic in this tiny little space, but what I’ve given you above is a start along with a few free resources to help you out.
2. How can I find high quality writers?
I’ve outsourced a lot of content over the years (tens of thousands of dollars worth) and what I’ve found works best is to go to Guru.com and place a project with a description. Once that’s done I’ll start reviewing the freelance writers who bid on my project.
I’ll look at samples, their area of expertise, and any comments they included with their bid (if they can’t communicate well in the bid then I pass immediately).
I also consider their rate of pay and don’t just select whoever is cheapest. When it comes to outsourcing your content, the old saying, ‘you get what you pay for’ often holds true.
Why would a good writer slave away over your content for $2 an hour?
It’s completely unrealistic to ever think you’ll get a bargain like that. The bottom line is if you want to outsource your content, you really need to be willing to spend some money and pay decent wages.
I’ve found dozens of great writers through this method. But as you can see, finding a good writer takes a little of your time. You can’t just expect to push a button and out they come. You basically have to interview them like you would any employee. So once I find a good writer I keep their contact information and use them again when another similar project comes up. That way I don’t have to keep going through this process.
Another way to find good writers is to go to the top websites in your industry. Look at the writers who write articles there and consider contacting them for a job. They’ll be expensive, but they are the best.
Yet another method is to use a writing service. There are a few writing services where you can select the amount you’re willing to pay. In theory, you’ll end up with better writers for higher pay.
I’ve used a few services like these and they’ve worked out OK. By using a service like this you don’t have to go through a review process for your writers, you just enter your project details, select the pay (again, a higher pay is likely going to result in a higher quality writer), and you’re matched up with an available writer.
This works because the best of these sites take samples from the writers and carefully rate them. The writers with the highest ratings cost more to work with. So if you’re willing to pay more you’ll get matched with a higher rated writer.
The problem is most top writers won’t use these services because it’s hard to get regular clients this way and they don’t get paid as much since the service takes a large chunk of the money. But you can get pretty decent content this way. The best site like this in my opinion is TextBroker.com.
I just want to point out that you absolutely cannot expect to find a good writer from a $1 for 100 word article churning factory. It’s just not possible. All they want you to give them is a keyword. They don’t do research on the topic and they don’t want you to give them research. They just write filler for you.
In the past, I’ve spent a good deal of my time and money trying to get inexpensive content from these types of services and it just does not work. You also cannot outsource your content writing to people whose native language is not English and expect anything decent.
Again I’m basing this off my actual experience. At this point I have not met anyone who’s outsourced more content than I have. If you’ve done a lot of content outsourcing and would like to share your tips in the comments please do so.
My final tip for getting high quality content is once you find a writer, you need to clearly communicate your needs to them. If all you say is, ‘hey please write me an article on walking a dog’, you might not get what you want.
Your content will turn out better if you write out details within your project description. Give them an outline with resources and references to use or tell them in the project description that you’ll need them to do research on the topic too. You may also need to edit the article or ask them to edit the article when it’s done. This is what it takes if you want the best results.
3. How can I create content easily and quickly?
If you want to use text-based content then someone is going to have to write it. Whether that’s you or a freelance writer, someone has to write it. Writing content can take time, especially if you want to create something useful for your readers. You usually can’t just slap it together.
If you don’t like writing and don’t want to outsource, you can always try a different medium like audio or video. Many people absolutely refuse to write, but they are awesome on camera or in an audio recording. If that fits your style better then go for it.
Maybe you’re fantastic at creating images that speak to your target market. If so, you can use that to your advantage.
The point is, your content does not have to be text-based.
However, text-based content does work best for SEO. The search engine algorithms run off keyphrases and they can’t pull those phrases out of images, audio, or video nearly as well (or in many cases at all) compared to the written word.
But if you’re recording audio or video you can always transcribe it. And if you’re into creating images like infographics then you can always write out what the image covers or hire a writer to do that for you (which means you’re back to outsourcing if you don’t like writing).
Alternately, you can do the best job you can optimizing a page without a whole lot of text on it.
There’s still a title tag, headline, and anchor text linking back to your page, along with a short summary of what viewers will see if they watch or listen (at the very least write that out to encourage people to watch or listen).
You can get your webpage ranking well with this method and even if it doesn’t crack the top 10 at Google for your keyphrase, you can still get traffic from other sources (like iTunes if you’re creating audio or YouTube.com for video).
If all this talk of spending time to create content is starting to freak you out, just keep in mind at the end of the day it’s not really about quantity, but quality.
For most purposes, you don’t really need to create as much content as you might think. If you look at it like this then taking 5 or more hours to create a single piece of content is much better than spending that same 5 hours to create 10 articles with little to no value.
4. What is the most effective media?
This will differ by audience and what your goals are. Text-based content is currently the best as far as SEO goes.
But like I mentioned previously, you can attract traffic from iTunes if you put together a podcast. I know John Lee Dumas at EntrepreneurOnFire.com is averaging about 4,500+ downloads a day on iTunes. That’s a lot of traffic.
And with audio, you can always transcribe it for SEO purposes later (if it was done in a way where that makes sense, keep in mind you do need to write around keyphrases in order to rank high for them).
Alternately, you can attract traffic from YouTube.com and other sites if you upload your videos to YouTube and allow them to be embedded. Again, you can get your video transcribed for SEO purposes (if it was done in a way where that makes sense).
So there’s a double effect by using audio or video especially if you’re more comfortable working in one of those mediums as opposed to writing. If it allows you to create more quality content, faster then you should definitely go that route.
People really like listening to audio while they’re on the go (like at the gym or commuting) and they love watching video.
You need to think about how you can make the biggest impact. If writing is your thing then it’s fine. A lot of people still read.
5. How to create content that keeps the visitors attention?
The best way to keep someone’s attention is to help them solve their problems. Help them get answers to their pressing questions.
Using a keyword tool will help you uncover what your target market wants to know. You can also ask subscribers and customers what they need help with. Or visit other sites in your industry and see what kinds of comments people are leaving there. Then create content on those areas.
Other than selecting the type of content people want to read there are a few things you can do to help keep your visitors attention.
One is to think about how you format your content.
A giant block of text is impossible to read.
You want to have lots of white-space. Use the return key on your keyboard a lot (break up paragraphs).
You should also have images and use bullets or numbers if you can.
Special formatting like underlining, italics, and bolding also helps break things up.
Another possibility is to use colors in your font.
All this makes your content more easily readable.
And do consider that a lot of people would rather listen or watch than read. So consider using audio or video as a medium (along with transcripts).
Part 2 of Top 5 Content Marketing Questions and Answers …
Before I knew it, the first draft of this article was incredibly long. But I want to make sure I answer your questions with as much detail as I can. So I’ve split it up the questions into a second article. Read 5 more questions and answers on content marketing for more Q & A on content marketing.