December 5, 2016

1542 words 7 minutes.

The Content Marketing Best Practices You Should Ignore in 2016

A man in a suit reviewing marketing documents on his tablet.

Content marketing is one of the most valuable tools available for reaching new customers online. The benefits of content marketing range from increased brand awareness, qualified leads, converted sales, and customer retention. In other words, it’s a go-to solution to meet almost any business objective. But content marketing is, for all of it’s benefits, a tough beast to tame. One reason it can be difficult to fully realize its benefits is its ever-changing nature.

  • The world of content marketing is constantly in flux.
  • Readers' habits change.
  • A hot new social media platform emerges.
  • Search engines update their algorithms.

And best practices shift.

9 Content Marketing Best Practices You Should Ignore in 2016

In a field that’s constantly evolving, it’s important to know what the real best practices are, and what you can forget about.

Read on to discover which 9 “best practices” you should ignore in 2016.

#1: Market To The Cliche Entitled Millennial.

A lot of best practices will advise you that there’s one particular type of millennial you should be marketing to. This stereotypical millennial is an entitled, picky hipster. They love technology yet are stuck in the 90s. They probably have a waxed moustache, and definitely have a short attention span.

Except, that’s really not true.

Millennials are an incredibly diverse generation, with a wide variety of interests and buying habits. You simply can’t create one buyer persona to address them all.

YES, you should be targeting millennials. Millennials have officially surpassed Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation. That means they have a lot of potential spending power- there’s money to be made there!

But if you fall into the trap of stereotyping an entire generation, you might just miss out on a huge opportunity. Millennials are people too, don’t mistakenly lump them under one big stereotype of “kids these days.”

#2: Create Viral Content

Remember “the dress” that went viral back in 2015? (It was totally white and gold, by the way.)

The brand behind the dress, Roman Originals, raked in a lot of money thanks to that viral post. They confirmed the actual coloring of the dress, blue and black, and then announced that the dress would also be sold in white and gold thanks to the attention it was getting.

According to CNN, sales of the famous dress skyrocketed 347% after the outfit went viral.

It’s no wonder everyone wants to create viral content.

I have some sad news though: not everyone will be able to create viral content. The process of “going viral” is notoriously unreliable.

The idea that creating viral content is a “best practice” goes back to a misunderstanding of the nature of content marketing. It’s a long term strategy, not a recipe for instant success.

If you do manage to go viral, or want to chase that dream, go for it. But it’s far more important to create great content targeted specifically at your ideal customer than to try to write content that will appeal to the whole world.

Have a solid foundation first, then set your sights on becoming the next dress.

Backlink strategies have changed. Today you need to focus on earning backlinks by creating relevant and useful content. There’s no shortcut around this. You can’t beg, borrow, or steal backlinks. And when it comes to buying them, well…

Do not do this.

Google does not like it when you do this.

Google will come for you.

Search engines are getting better and better at detecting shady SEO techniques. That’s because they’re always on the lookout for spam posts readers won’t want to see. Outdated and dishonest techniques like buying links and excessive guest blogging make your site look like spam and can hurt you in the search results.

If a search engine catches you using spammy techniques, you could even be removed from their index until the problem is fixed.

The best way to build organic links is to produce great content, promote it well, and guest blog strategically.

#4: All You Really Need is a Blog

A great blog is an excellent marketing platform, but it’s just one of many different ways to approach content marketing.

What’s more, a blog won’t work for every business.

In content marketing, you want to use demographic information to get to know your ideal customer, and then target your content at that customer. While doing this, you may discover that your ideal customer doesn’t read blogs.

There are many different types of content you can create. Your ideal customer may be really into:

  • Ebooks
  • Podcasts
  • Videos or vlogs
  • Case studies or research data

Don’t be afraid to think outside the blog.

#5: Keep It Short

You’ve heard the rumors:

The internet is making our attention spans shorter.

People don’t read past the headline these days.

The best blog posts are 500 words long.

The truth is much more complex than that. Keeping your posts short and simple isn’t always a recipe for success.

SEO changes all the time.

Google updated their algorithm to search for in-depth articles in 2013. Some successful brands will publish articles up to 2,000 words long or longer! (The post you’re reading now is over 1,000!) So don’t dismiss longform content too hastily.

When deciding what length your post should be, know your audience.

If you’re writing for mobile users, shorter may be the way to go.

But if you’re exploring a complex topic or want to create shareable content, consider a longer post. Longer content does well on social media and gives you the space to go in-depth and create content that will serve as a great source of information and earn you more backlinks.

Focus on writing a great post first, whether it be long or short.

#6: Make Sure To Post About Your Company

This practice is all about introducing your reader to your business. It could be a behind-the-scenes post, a press release covering a staffing change, etc. This type of post is all about you.

The thing is, that may not be what your readers want.

There’s no one type of content that will work in all industries. If your business makes guitars for rockstars, people might love a behind-the-scenes glimpse at your company. If you sell toilets though, they’re probably just reading your content to answer their own questions.

Know what your audience wants, and don’t let anyone tell you there’s any one right type of content that will work for all businesses.

#7: Write For Search Engines vs. Write For People

Disclaimer: you can’t actually ignore either of these best practices.

But you DO have to balance them.

Search engines aren’t going to come to your site and purchase your product or service. That’s why it’s crucial that you focus on writing for the people who will be visiting your site.

However, there are many effective SEO best practices that will help you get your content perform better with search engines, which will help you bring in more readers in the first place.

#8: Grammar Isn’t Important- Content is Casual

Grammar is part of your image.

Yes, the internet has given chatspeak and sentence fragments a boost in popularity.

Social media has a grammar all it’s own. (Proper capitalization can look too formal, punctuation takes up valuable characters and is thus optional, etc.)

But intentionally breaking traditional grammatical rules and not being aware of those rules are two very different things. Understanding grammar and style and how you’re using them to connect with your audience will make you a better writer.

Neglecting to check your website or content copy for grammar or spelling mistakes can make you appear unprofessional. Worse, it can lead to a lack of trust.

As the old cliche goes, know the rules before they break them. Adopting a more casual tone doesn’t mean you can toss aside the basic rules of grammar.

#9: Don’t Automate Your Social Media

You have a job to do, a business to run, a life to live. You have bigger fish to fry. You can’t spend all day on Twitter.

DO automate your social media.

Scheduling a few posts to show up on your social media pages throughout the day will help you stay relevant without taking up too much of your time.

Just remember to balance automated posts with live engagement.

You don’t want to rely so heavily on automated tweets and posts that you’re not part of the conversation.

Let’s circle back to “the dress” we mentioned earlier. If Roman Originals had automated their social media and then forgot about it, they may have missed the opportunity to engage in that conversation and lost revenue.

Stay current.

No one best practice will work for everyone, forever. The world of content marketing changes all the time, and every business will have a unique content strategy. The best practices that worked last month may not be effective this month. The best practices that work for your buddy in the insurance industry may not work for your business.

When you’re creating your content marketing strategy, keep your ideal customer in mind. The practices that work for you and your business, the ones that help you be a more effective marketer, are the real best practices.

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