Top 10 Questions and Answers on Content Marketing

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.

You also need to learn how to optimize your content and your website as a whole. For some introductory SEO advice you can review my SEO Tutorial.

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).

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?

They won’t.

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. 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).

6. What are the most effective content methods that are currently working?

The best strategy is to create useful content for an audience and learn how to optimize it for the search engines There’s really no reason not to and in my opinion it’s a wasted opportunity if you don’t. There are a lot of searches done everyday on Google alone, something like 1 billion so you want to at least try to get your fair share of that traffic.

Once you’ve got your content created and optimized for keyphrases people search for, promote it by letting other sites know about it. If you’re successful at this you’ll gain some links that bring in direct traffic and give your rankings a boost in the search engines.

Plus if your content is useful then your visitors will be more likely to share it (and that brings in more traffic for you). And visitors will be more likely to sign up for your newsletters and buy stuff from you once they see the value you provide.

7. What is the optimal rate for producing new content?

The people I surveyed wondered how much new content they needed. Is once a week optimal? Is another number better?

I’ve put together sites that had all the content I was ever going to have on the site ready to go when I launched it. From there I never added a new piece of content, the content was just updated. These sites have gotten high rankings, links from other sites, and traffic from all over. So this can be done. You don’t have to have a blog format just because everyone else is doing it.

As far as building a relationship with your subscribers (which is one of the best things you can do with your time) they want and need to hear from you frequently. So producing new content and telling them about it (like on a blog) definitely works. But you can load up an autoresponder and get a pretty similar effect. Just show people around the content you’ve already got on your site at the rate of a new piece each week.

So again, you can create all the content you need for your site, set up an autoresponder, and then walk away from it.  You might have to update the content if it gets outdated. I ran two businesses just like this and they both earned very well from this exact method so I know it works. But in order to do this you will have to be willing to create a lot of content up front.

Which is why most people would rather drip feed it in blog format.

If you are going to keep producing new content then you get to decide what type of schedule you’ll keep. Personally, I think even as little as once a month will work. Once a week will work too. As far as connecting with your readers it’s probably better if you can do it.  Many sites post several new articles a day, but there’s no reason to feel you have to do that.

If you want to keep producing new content for your visitors and your subscribers weekly or bimonthly is a good mix. If you’re doing it all yourself then you need time to do other things (like work on your products and promote your content). And if you’re outsourcing you don’t want to have to spend your entire budget on creating content (you’ll need some money to promote it).

With a weekly or bimonthly publishing schedule your subscribers will still remember who you are and you can help them along their journey pretty well especially if you provide them with great content when you do reach out.

8. How to generate fresh ideas?

I’m able to come up with a lot of ideas by researching the keywords people search for.  Keyword tools are perfect for this. You can use the free Google Adwords Keyword Tool if you don’t want to spend any money (although I highly recommend Wordtracker if you can).

Just type in your main keyword and look at the related phrases that show up.  You’ll get a lot of content ideas from doing just this and these are the exact phrases people in your market are using to search for information.  So if you write content from your keyword research you’ve got a much better chance of writing about what people want to know about.

You can also get ideas by researching your competitors sites. See what types of content they’re providing for their visitors and make sure you’re covering those topics (and try to do an even better job than they did).

If you have any subscribers then ask them what they’d like to know more about. If you don’t have subscribers yet go look at other sites in your niche that allow comments and read those comments.  Find out what people there are interested in learning about and cover those topics on your site.

Another way to generate ideas for content is to review industry magazines. You can gain tons of ideas from print magazines.

Even if you just buy one a month that will help you immensely and there seems to be a magazine on virtually every topic.
And finally you can create content related to your products or services. For example, if you’ve got a piece of software that helps make Twitter marketing easier, then create content around using Twitter. It’s that simple and now your content works to generate the right type of visitor and helps you convert visitors into buyers.

If you’re not offering products or services, but instead are an affiliate for them you can use the same exact method. Just write about the products or services you’re promoting.  This will help you attract the right type of visitor to your site (the type who are most likely to need the stuff you’re promoting). It’s really no different.

9. What’s a good average length for a piece of content?

If you ask me my answer is always to write enough to explain the idea.

If you’re trying to help someone fill out a financial aid form for school, then write enough to explain that. Just give them the information they need. Once the content is written edit it and try to cut out the fluff.  Don’t worry about word count at all.  I think that’s the best process.

But I did find a study for you where they tried to figure what amount of words the search engines seem to like best.   It was conducted by serpIQ.

This study looked at the average content length of domains on page one of the search engine results listings. So they’ve basically done the research for us here.

For the non-writers out there, you won’t like their findings. They claim the average length of a piece of content ranking in the top 3 spots in Google is over 2400 words.

Before you get too freaked out for the study, they’re counting pretty much all the text on the page. So that means they counted the text in the sidebars as well as text in the main content area, so it’s not just the body copy.  So that 2400 word count figure might not all be the actual content, but some of the text in other parts of the webpage too.

Because of that, they claim 1500 words is a good target to try to reach.

That’s a far cry from the standard 500 word article many people are putting together. Worse, so many folks turn to article writing factories that just ask for a keyphrase and spit out a 500 word fluff-filled article for less than $10.

You really don’t have much chance for getting high rankings (or any traffic outside of high rankings) with that strategy at this point. The only way is to manufacture links back to those pages (and you’ll have to be very careful how you do that in order to avoid an algorithmic or manual penalty) along with crossing your fingers that those rankings last. It’s just not a good long-term business model.

I don’t suggest just moving the bar here and going from 500 word articles to 1500 word articles. You’re going to see better results if you try to give value in your content and forget about word count altogether.

10. Best places to put content other than your blog?

You want to keep your unique content unique to your site. Especially the text-based content.

I cannot stress this enough.  If you start allowing other people to publish identical content to yours on their site you’re diluting the impact it has.  Content is like currency online.  It’s very valuable and you don’t just want to hand it out.

Regardless of whether the search engines are OK if you put it on your site first for x amount of days, if you allow another site to publish it, now they’re getting links that could have been yours.  Those links could have resulted in traffic for you, but now someone else is getting that traffic.  And someone else is also getting all the visitor referrals you could have had.

Plus I don’t think it’s as cut and dry with regards to SEO as many people would have you believe. If the exact same piece of content is on your site and someone else’s, even if you put it on your site first, I’m not so sure you’re guaranteed to get the credit for it.  Why take that chance?

If you’re going to work in a medium other than text, like audio or video then it makes sense to publish that content on iTunes or YouTube.  Those are basically publishing platforms where you set up your own account and have a page that’s all yours.  You’ve got control over it. And you can remove your content from iTunes or YouTube at any time.  You can also publish this audio or video content on your site too (and if so publish a transcript along with it and only allow that on your site).

A lot of people visit YouTube and iTunes so it’s a given that your target market probably hangs out there too.  You can get a lot of traffic from those two sources and again you’re in control as it’s your publishing platform.

The same with social media sites like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. You can publish short snippets of your content on those platforms, with the end goal being to get people to your website and hopefully sign up to your newsletter there.

If you want to look outside the major platforms like these then with a little research you can find industry-related websites with a lot of traffic where your target market also hangs out.

Once you’ve uncovered where your audience hangs out, then use content to reach them.

For example, many site owners will link out to a piece of content on your site if it helps their visitors.  So you can get pretty far by putting the right type of content on your site and promoting it by telling the right site owners. That way you’re leveraging your time because you only have to create the content one time and it works for you in a number of ways.

In some cases you may need to give away a unique article to get a link from a popular site. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth it or not.  If you’re going to get targeted traffic from it, then it probably is. But in that case I’d suggest creating a unique article. Most sites looking for guest contributors will require that article to be unique to their site, so you’ll usually have no say in this anyway.

That wraps up the top 10 questions marketers have on content along with my answers.

If you have comments, advice, or feedback please leave them below.

8 replies
  1. Joe
    Joe says:

    Hi Lisa
    You have once again given in-depth answers to questions a lot of us have. I hope this is picked up by other webmasters and social media as the information and ideas you provide are priceless. I was going to comment on one or two of the questions you answered but as I read it through again I realized just how much thought has gone into each separate answer and one doesn’t outweigh the other.
    The whole thing for me is just awesome.
    Thank you

    Reply
  2. Owen
    Owen says:

    Great in depth explanation here and well worth the read. The Inline SEO course is definitely a great course and should be a tool that every internet marketer should have. Thanks Lisa.

    Reply
  3. Paul Warner
    Paul Warner says:

    A lot of effort on your part and well worth reading and learning from. A lot more complex and time consuming than I ever thought this was going to be, and all encompassing in trying to get to a place where I am making money doing this. I have great appreciation for what efforts you make in our behalf.

    Reply
  4. Wendell
    Wendell says:

    Many will disagree but article marketing for content is beneficial to a degree. There comes a time when the amazing articles some marketers write would do just a well on their own website. I see spikes in traffic but a drop off as well the longer the life of the article. When that happens, Ezine websites reap the benefits of a well crafted article the author could add to their personal website instead. Thanks!
    (not sure if the first post went through)

    Reply
  5. Hillary
    Hillary says:

    Thanks again Lisa for a very helpful article. I try to keep my site interesting with color and images, but without helpful, clear content that provides real answers to a keyword search you won’t get far. Luckily I’m a seasoned writer as well as a graphic artist. Now all I need is to maximize my SEO skills and learn more code 🙂

    Reply

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