As early as 1999, Seth Godin was talking about the attention economy. In his book Permission Marketing, he notes, “In light of today’s information glut…there’s a vast shortage of attention.”
Seventeen years later, a recent study has found that humans now have a shorter attention span than goldfish–about eight seconds to be exact–thanks to smartphone use. Meanwhile, the amount of content on the internet continues to explode, with 92,000 new articles posted every day.
These are daunting numbers for content marketers, but there are measures you can take to ensure that your content stands out in the crowd.
1) Understanding What Activates Your Audience
In my experience, many content marketing programs are constructed based on opinion rather than data. Editors get together and come up with story ideas that sound interesting to them.
Why are we creating this content in the first place? It’s usually in pursuit of some kind of business outcome, such as thought leadership, awareness or conversions. Remember that it’s called content marketing. If you aren’t using data to plan your content, then you are just blogging – creating content with no real purpose or plan.
It takes word of mouth to help content cut through the clutter. I use search audience Insights to build a picture of the engaged audience that is activating your content through shares and links. To create a truly effective content marketing program, you have to start by understanding what activates your audience.
Find Content that Converts
Move away from empty metrics like pageviews. Start taking a more nuanced approach to analytics, then use the audience insights you garner to create and inform a data-driven approach to content.
- The inspired audience responds to and shares content. Which content topics are generating comments, social shares and backlinks? These are signals that this content activates your audience; they care enough about the content to comment or share it.
- How are people accessing your site? If your analytics show a lot of visits from smartphones, a site loaded with infographics and PDFs may be a bad idea.
- What content types are people responding to on your site? If your videos have high bounce rates and low time on page, it might be a waste of time and money to keep producing them. Identify the content formats that convert.
- What are the most common entry points on your site from organic search? Which pages have the highest conversion rates? Take lessons from your top conversion pages and apply them to your top traffic pages.
Find an Unsaturated Niche
One of the questions that is not asked enough in content planning: “Has this topic already been covered to death?” We often waste time creating content that has absolutely no chance of ranking because it’s already been covered so many times. The best-written content in the world is useless if no one can find it.
Do some research to determine whether the topic you have chosen is already saturated. You can use a tool like BuzzSumo, or do a simple Google search and see what pops up.
If your primary topic has been exhausted, try approaching the topic from a new angle.
Look at the most shared pieces of content on the topic – why have they been shared so much? Could you write a response to one of them? Is there another angle to the topic that isn’t so saturated (but that people are still looking for)?
How and When are People Looking for Your Content?
Use Google trends to look at the seasonality of your content topics. When are people interested in the various topics you are thinking about covering? Have some topics increased in interest over time? Have some decreased?
Plan your content creation calendar to push out the right content at the right times.
Also, determine how most people are accessing your site. If your analytics show a lot of visits from smartphones, a site loaded with infographics and PDFs may be a bad idea.
With that in mind, what content types are people responding to on your site? If your videos have high bounce rates and low time on page, it might be a waste of time and money to keep producing them. Identify the content formats that convert and use these insights in content planning.
2) Semantically Optimize Your Content to Rank
Are you using language that your customers use? Just a bit of keyword research can make the difference in your content ranking or not ranking in organic search.
First, get over your corporate terms. No one cares about buzzwords that you had 30 meetings to come up with. Think about the main topic of each article and ask yourself, “If I didn’t work at this company, how would I search to find this article?” That is your first step toward keyword optimization.
Now, enter that term into the Keyword Planner to see if anyone is searching for that term. If they aren’t, the Keyword Planner will offer you some alternative suggestions.
Always look for keyword that are the most relevant to what your article is about, not the ones that are getting the most searches. It’s better to shoot for a targeted, relevant keyword with 10 searches a month than a more general keyword with 10,000 searches a month.
If you try to optimize around keywords that aren’t extremely relevant to your topic, you’ll pull in searchers who aren’t interested in your content. These disappointed visitors will quickly bounce out of your site, which tells Google that your website is not a great authority on this subject.
3) Go Where the Fish Are
If you want to break through the clutter and reach customers, your website may not be the best place for your content. Consider letting the content type and topic determine where content should live. BuzzFeed announced that they were moving toward this model at SXSW 2015, and they know a thing or two about getting content out there.
Think about how much time you spend on content ideation compared to the time you spend planning distribution. These should command equal time. If your customers are in the habit of visiting a big industry website, rather than trying to force them to your site, put your content where they like to browse. Again, the best piece of content is useless if no one sees it.
This may mean your content lives exclusively on YouTube or LinkedIn, or it may mean you offer content to industry bloggers or websites.
4) Build Relationships With Influencers
We have become so saturated with information that traditional marketing has become ineffective. We have returned to the pre-advertising days of word of mouth.
According to a Nielsen study, 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, while only 58 percent trust branded websites. Additionally, 70 percent of participants said they trust online consumer opinions. This means people even believe what strangers say more than they trust what brands say about themselves.
“You can no longer dictate your image to the consumer, which is what advertising has mainly done for the last 40 years,” notes advertising critic and author Bob Garfield. “People are basing what they have to say about you in these social circles not on what your ads say but on the quality of your goods and services and how you comport yourself in the marketplace.”
This means you need to harness the power of influencers to help your content break out.
The first types of influencers you should engage are content experts. Use a tool like BuzzSumo to find thought leaders in your industry who have a large online following. Start making a plan to include some of these leaders in your content as subject matter experts.Engage with these thought leaders online so they become aware of you and your content.
You should also start paying attention to the influencers in your social community. Start keeping track of who is sharing and commenting most often on your content. These are the engaged members in your community. Start finding ways to thank, feature, reward and involve active community members.
Measure, Adjust and Win
Good content is not enough anymore. There is too much of it out there to believe that good content alone will break through.
However, from my years of SEO experience, I can tell you that by following these four steps alone you will be ahead of many Fortune 500 companies in terms of content optimization. Data is not the enemy of creativity; embrace data and allow it to guide your creativity to the maximum audience.