TopRank Marketing Editor

10 Tips For Content Marketing Success

TopRank Marketing Editor     Content Marketing, Online Marketing

As more companies, marketers and industry professionals flood the web with content, the value of those with a true understanding of content marketing keeps going up. More noise increases the value of signal. If your content marketing defines you as that source of signal, you’ll consistently be found, referenced and chosen ahead of competitors. With 6 in 10 marketers spending more on content marketing in 2010, now, more than ever, is the time to find where content fits within your marketing strategy.

Some statistics from Technorati’s 2009 state of the blogosphere back up the efficacy of content marketing:

  • 15% of bloggers say they are paid to give speeches on the topics they blog about
  • 71% of all respondents who maintain blogs for a business – their own or one they work for – report that they have increased their visibility within their industries through their blogs
  • 56% say that their blog has helped their company establish a positioning as a thought leader within the industry
  • 58% say that they are better-known in their industry because of their blog

And as powerful as blogs are – they are just one potential avenue for content marketing. Content marketing includes all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content to engage potential prospects or current consumers. No matter how you’re engaged, continually sharpening your content creation skills is core to being an effective digital marketing or PR professional.

If you’re brand new to the idea of content marketing, the following points by Mike Masnick succinctly describe why it matters:

The captive audience is dead. There is no captive audience online. Everyone surfing the web has billions of choices on what they can be viewing, and they don’t want to be viewing intrusive and annoying ads. They’ll either ignore them, block them or go elsewhere.

Advertising is content. You can’t think of ads as separate things any more. Without a captive audience, there’s no such thing as “advertising” any more. It’s just content. And it needs to be good/interesting/relevant content if you want to get anyone to pay attention to it.

Content is advertising. Might sound like a repeat of the point above, and in some way it is — but it’s highlighting the flip side. Any content is advertising. It’s advertising something.

Hopefully we’ve got your buy-in to the idea of content marketing. TopRank Online Marketing as an agency embraces this for our clients and ourselves, as content marketing lives at the intersection of social media and SEO.

To help readers here, following are 10 tips to help make your content marketing efforts succeed:

1. Ensure all content passes the “So what?” test

A great quote from Chris Garrett sums this up nicely:

A much overlooked aspect though is “So what?”. What should the reader take away? Where is the benefit? Why should we listen to you?

Just churning out content for the sake of going through the process is setting yourself up for failure. Unless you’ve got a model like Demand Media and would benefit from being fast, cheap and profitable as hell, go the other route and refine all ideas to pass the “So what?” test. Especially if you’re in B2B – the goal of content marketing is usually to inspire trust, grow your reputation and influence your market. Throw-away content accomplishes none of these things.

2. Create remarkable content, take chances, stand out

With some 900,000 blog posts published every 24 hours, and more than 20 hours of video uploaded every minute to YouTube as just two examples, how do you expect to stand out with “vanilla” content? If you’re going to play it safe or regurgitate what is being done by others you’ve got almost no chance to succeed unless you already have a large community built you can tap. And even then, as we add layer upon layer of aggregation, sharing and filtering to the web it’s still possible to be ignored. You need to consistently break the mold, be an unmissable resource or in some way stand out to make your content heard.

3. Speed and agility are factors

If your content marketing efforts are agile enough to touch audiences in a timely manner, you’ll be top-of-mind for prospects vs. slow moving competitors who have complex approval processes. Again and again, the web rewards nimble companies far more than those who are restricted or micromanaged.

4. Personality is essential

We connect deepest with content that has a voice and personality behind it. No one enjoys reading the language on a corporate website. It’s cold and impersonal and in reality does not connect with audiences, it merely conveys information. Personality and emotion are lacking in most corporate and business communications, and this has carried over into the content marketing efforts of many. But, infusing these elements within your content marketing strategy can be a powerful way to not just speak to prospects but connect with them.

5. Content should forge connections

Your content marketing can also accomplish another valuable goal: building connections and relationships. This has both social and SEO returns. Connections can help build inbound links, increase shares in social channels and ultimately help your content gain visibility. Incorporation of these connections should be worked into the content artfully and naturally. Readers may not even realize what is happening, but those you are trying to forge connections with will.

6. Worry less about perfection, more about tone

Be less concerned with being perfect and more concerned with being earnest, thoughtful and genuine. Perfection is severely overrated and minor flaws are forgivable, while the wrong tone can be as detrimental as causing online reputation management issues.

7. Make content scan-able (and attractive)

Make no mistake, your prospects are busy. To treat them as if anything else were true is disrespecting their time. By making your content scan-able, you increase the propensity they will not just scan that content, but if the parts that catch their eye during the scan are worthwhile they will go back to read it. Use headlines, bold text, get creative with your formatting, get designers involved – do whatever it takes to make content attractive and scan-able.

8. Draft sticky headlines

Follow basic headline writing tips and work to create headlines that entice potential visitors to your content in the first place. Without strong headlines, your blog post will get skipped over in a cluttered RSS reader or inbox, your white paper or PDF won’t get passed along and you’ll never penetrate social news sites.

9. Consistency and quality

As we’ve noted here before, every company is now in essence a media company. The quality of your content is how prospects will imagine your service or product to be, and the consistency you produce that content is a signal to how dedicated you are.  Both are required.

10. Realize promotion can’t help bad content

It’s tempting to try to put a band-aid on bad content with things like advertising or push promotions. But if you have to advertise your content, in a sense you’ve already failed. Content marketing should be an organic process, and by advertising your content you’re admitting failure of creating something worth sharing. Push promotion on the social web is similar to this – you’re ultimately going to have to face the fact that your content isn’t working on its own to naturally connect with people. Now, that’s not to say you can’t help good content travel (this is one of the 16 rules of social media optimization) but by trying to force bad content to spread you’re wasting resources.

As many readers here are engaged in content marketing on a daily basis, we’d love to hear your thoughts. What content marketing tips have you found most helpful?

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  1. Avatar bencurnett says

    Hey Adam:

    I'd add #11- Use Graphics. We tend to think about content as text, which is good, since text is the most difficult kind of content to deal with. But graphic elements (Demand Media not withstanding) should add as much to your tone as the writing itself.

    This post succinct and comprehensive. I really liked it. Thanks.

  2. Great tips. I'd love to see some input on how to set up the human systems for content, particularly for business where the content generators and the content posters are not the same people.

  3. Hi – Great list and article… thanks. The only point I disagree with is that Content does not and cannot forge connections — people do. People make authentic connections with other people. And, people buy from people they know — not from content. This is why I believe that Content is King now longer — wrote an article about that and will welcome discussion:

    • Point taken, Scott – you could argue that for sure. But people are the ones responsible for the content, so you could argue that way as well.

  4. Great tips. I was just reading Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel (great read). He largely echoes your advice and in fact, says that content is media, not just advertising. To me, that speaks of one of the biggest shifts in mindsets in moving towards content marketing. It's not just advertising… it's media.

    • “Not just advertising?” Ah, but all content is advertising – it's advertising *something*. And at the same time, all advertising is content. In a long tail world, taking that viewpoint let's you see the truth: in the end it is all content since viewers and readers now have choice.

  5. Great post. A good exercise to do when it comes to driving the second point and standing out is to check out technorati for other blog posts that have been done on what you're going to write about. Seeing how many others have done the same exact thing is usually a pretty big jolt that'll make you want to try something new.

  6. Avatar karenmarcus says

    Nicely done. I like the focus on connections. Marketing has changed from simply providing information and hoping someone responds to it to building relationships. We don't necessarily expect people to take action based on any one piece we put out, but expect them to come to trust us over time, and then think about taking action. So, that creates a difference in the way information is presented–more helpful, less hypeful.

    • Like the way you put this Karen, its about trust. At the risk of being shot down, thirty years ago big brands dominated, and implicit in the big brand was trust. Now we are swamped with literally millions of small unknown brands, in this case eg individual bloggers taking on branded newspapers as a info source.

      The focus therefore becomes building relationships to build trust. As you say trust isn't built by one article by as you Adam say many consistent articles overtime.

  7. Avatar judyrodman says

    Great tips… I like to ask myself, who am I talking to? Why would they want to hear what I'm saying… at an emotional level? What do I want them to do when they are finished reading? What can I say to make them want to give me their email address?

  8. I coudln’t agree more, personality is probably for me at least what finally got my marketing working…


  9. I couldn’t agree more with the overall message of your article. Good content is key to any website online users are going to find useful. I also believe that “original content marketing” and other innovative search marketing techniques need to be balanced with good old fashioned face to face marketing ( see article on balanced marketing – ). Thanks for the good points.

  10. It is often stated that content is king but in reality quality content is king! This really should be our emphasis.

  11. first, i just have to say that your blog is great.. keep it up 🙂

    i agree that relevant content would do wonders for your business because it targets the correct audience.. in my small business, my website which was set-up by Prova contains only relevant information for my niche market… if you do decide on a niche market, stick with it and be perceived as an expert… this will definitely make you more visible online

  12. very nice indeed, one of the finest pieces of writing I read in 2010. Thanks very much for sharing us the passion.

  13. Excellent article, very useful, will be back again, thanks

  14. Avatar Sheilaelliott says

    Your blog is interesting and motivated me a lot i have noticed many changes in your blog and they are like improvements for you.
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  16. Great tips; they are part of copywriting 101. I constantly preach to clients and prospects that while images are pretty, content will convert them. I urge all of them to master at least the basic copywriting principles outlined above.

  17. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the statement that all content is advertising.

    One of the problems with push marketing is that consumers just got tired of the ads and to being “sold” everywhere they turned. To me, content marketing as a pull mechanism (as you mention) needs a bit more emphasis. It's content that solves problems being experienced by your targeted prospects. The “meat and potatoes” that your ideal dinner guests want.

    I think that what's not stressed enough here is that content used in a content marketing campaign is used to inform – to provide solutions – and to provide reasons why people should consider you an authority on the subject over time. In other words, to build trust so they WANT to do business with you.

    If you are going to adopt the position that all content is advertising, I think you need to qualify that a bit with content used in a content marketing campaign – if it is indeed advertising – needs to take a much more subtle approach than advertising and direct marketing, as discussed in this content marketing white paper.

    (Disclosure: I helped create this paper. My intention in linking to it here is not to advertise it, but to provide it as an additional resource for providing context to this discussion and to the concept of content marketing – at least how I see it.)

    I think most of us still need to promote content that's part of a content marketing program – in the appropriate places and in the appropriate way – and that it's unrealistic to expect that, because you created great content that's different with graphics and a catchy headline, it will somehow, magically be popular and get found on its own, much less that your key prospects will find it useful. Unless, of course you have a ginormous following, like this blog (a well deserved and hard-earned following, of course).

    • Hey Randy – definitely understood about 'not being comfortable' with it as advertising. But maybe we need to shift our thinking on the term.

      It all depends on how you look at it. Resourceful content is used to inform, but it is still advertising the brand or people behind the content. Certainly not the same as a direct, in your face “buy now” advertisement, but it is an advertisement none-the-less. I don't think the term has to conjure up such a negative image if we consider that advertising is content and content is advertising.

      As a quick case-in-point: when I'm not doing marketing, I write music. I let users download it free (I *purposely* feed it into filesharing services, etc.). That content *is* my advertising, and for it my music site now has around 900 subscribers. Now I have an audience that I can market to and monetize. See how that worked? Now, go apply it to your business 🙂

  18. Adam – what great advice!!! I totally agree.

    I argue , however, that Personal branding should be the HUB of your SM strategy, and content is The crucial element. I also think that all corporations should have personal brands. Here is my latest post on this topic :

    Would love to know your expert and unique feedback.


  19. Avatar karenmarcus says

    Thanks, Cam. You make a good point, too: the big brands used to be equated with trust. But that trust has eroded over the years. So, what signifies trust now? Seems to me people are reverting to a time when one did business with a person rather than a corporation.

  20. I come from a PR background where the #1 rule about good content is that it has to tell a good story. This is just as true on the Web – especially on blogs. Everyone loves a good story and a blog post is far more engaging if it has a strong narrative — a main character, a challenge or obstacle, an interesting twist, and a compelling ending.

  21. What a wonderful article…

    I'm still taking it in. We'll definitely share with our community, and learn from it for our blog's content at

    Thanks much Adam…

    Ky Ekinci
    Office Divvy

  22. Avatar claudialawrence says

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  23. A lot of info here. I've bookmarked to return to really soak it in. Some good points.

    I'm not sure I agree with consistency anymore. I used to think people returned to your blog based on always knowing you post on Monday, or every day 12pm, etc. But it seems like I get a bigger jump in reader after taking a week off. But maybe that's just me. Still trying to build my blog up.

  24. Adam, great ideas. Creating is the first step. Your point 10 is spot on. If we lived in the Field of Dreams, “create and they will come.” The reality is if content is advertising, we need to manage the distribution to retain existing and attract new audiences. Study what 'clicks' with your audience and re-invest your learning back into improving your content. Thoughts?

    Bill Flitter

  25. Thanks for the shout out on the Junta42 study. Excellent 10 tips.

    I would add this – figure out exactly what your niche is. It's the only way to really understand your true customer and their pain points!

    Keep spreading the faith.

  26. Hi Adam,

    This is definitely a tweet-worthy list. If I could add one thing, it would be to think about how your can repurpose your content. So many times I see great stuff go out in a blog or a newsletter and then it dies. If you've got quality content, it makes sense to put it out to multiple channels.

  27. Great post – and thanks for going beyond a list of 10 things because the descriptions help.

    Personally, I struggle with tone – having a dry sense of humor, I have to work hard at writing against that natural inclination. Sometimes I wonder if it works or not.

    And I wonder about forging connections – it's a slow process (for me) and I wonder how to speed this up. Does the content change? Do you reach out to other bloggers and ask them for comments – either by leaving an actual comment or through evaluation of the post/content/writing style.

    I am a marketer, not a writer/publisher so this is all new to me even after several years.

    Thanks for the post.

  28. Wow amazing!Content marketing is a marketing technique that helps in creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action.Ne ways i will keep looking around for more information.

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  29. I really like the things that you had to say.

  30. And don't forget to get user feedback. Good example of many principles above in a new campaign by the band devo!

    Focus group testing the future!

  31. great article Adam. I agree that blogs are super effective for business.

  32. Avatar atlanticOptimize says

    Blogs are great to keep in touch with existing or potential clients. Thanks for the list!

  33. Avatar reflectmediagroup says

    Thank you for this post… Very informative and accurate. We do a lot of content writing at the media company I work for ( and this will be helpful for our content writers. *runs to printer*

  34. Avatar articlewriter says

    This is very valuable information. You made me laugh with #10 because I could not agree more… A bad article is BAD no matter how much you promote it. And, I have really seen BAD ones. Thanks for sharing!

  35. Avatar websitetraffic says

    To have relevant content, you have to create content based on the original single content marketing plan. For that, you need a well-structured site based on diligently researched keywords.

    If these keywords are are all related to the same cause and achieve the original single content marketing plan, your web pages will be relevant and you attract the targeted traffic.

  36. Avatar websitetraffic says

    To have relevant content, you have to create content based on the original single content marketing plan. For that, you need a well-structured site based on diligently researched keywords.

    If these keywords are are all related to the same cause and achieve the original single content marketing plan, your web pages will be relevant and you attract the targeted traffic.