Unless you live in a cave or spend most of your time hiding under a rock, you’ve probably at least heard the phrase “content marketing.”
During the past year, content marketing has moved to the fore of online marketing. In the face of Google updates that have penalized poorly written, keyword-stuffed, badly linked web pages, it’s no surprise that content — good content — has quickly become the backbone of many an Internet marketing strategy.
But one thing we know for sure. The Internet doesn’t sit still. Which means that content marketing is already undergoing some powerful shifts you need to know about if you want to stay in the game.
Content Marketing Basics
The fundamentals of good content marketing remain the same.
First, create original stuff. Recycling and rehashing ideas you’ve found on other people’s blogs doesn’t cut it. That isn’t to say you can’t write about what other people are saying … just be sure to get your own unique take in there. Otherwise, people might as well just save time and read the original blog post rather than yours. And they will.
Second, keep it coming. You can’t write a single, outstanding piece of content and expect that to give you anything more than a temporary boost in your traction online. Content marketing is an ongoing process. It takes commitment. It’s also totally worth it.
Third, write good stuff. No one wants to read poor-quality, boring content. They just won’t do it. And search engines are getting better and better at recognizing when content is unworthy. So, put your back into it … you know, figuratively.
Finally, don’t sell stuff. Your content is not a sales vessel. You’re working to build an audience. And you do that by deserving an audience. When someone agrees to be part of your audience, they’ll sign up for your e-letter or download your free report and give you permission to sell them stuff through appropriate sales channels.
And don’t thinly veil a sales message as content. You’re not fooling anyone.
Content Marketing Trends for 2014
According to a study released by the Content Marketing Institute, 54% of businesses are increasing their annual content marketing budget this year. That’s good news for web writers. Companies are ready to hire experts to help them create good, engaging content.
To help you position yourself as a go-to content marketer, these are the trends you need to know about …
Brand Themes: Some of the most successful content marketers online today are those who create a well-branded theme to drive their content. One example is Red Bull. Red Bull started its content marketing campaign in 2007. Since that time, it has constantly pushed the envelope by offering content in a variety of media and sticking to the themes of sports, energy, and competitiveness. They’ve built a loyal following and grown their customer base.
Tracking Results: Up to this point, a lot of companies have taken a haphazard approach to content marketing. It’s something they know they should be doing, but they’re not exactly sure how or why. Expect that to change.
Companies are going to start testing campaigns and tracking results with a specific view toward Return on Investment. Partner your content marketing skills with an understanding of analytics and you’ll be well-positioned to take advantage of this trend.
Get Familiar with Mobile: Mobile channels already play an important role in content marketing. That trend is only going to grow. Take the time to become familiar with mobile platforms and how they differ from standard Web use. Then, start offering a mobile component to your content marketing packages.
Hone Your Storytelling Skills: A good story element is behind every successful content-marketing campaign. Taking some time each week to work on your writing and storytelling skills will give you an edge here. One great way to do this is to study what’s working. Once a week, pick a piece of content that really resonates with you and copy it out by hand. This process helps you internalize the writing structure so you’ll be able to better use it in your own work.
Mix Your Media: Great content marketing isn’t just the written word. Really great content campaigns integrate video, infographics, user contributions, photographs, and more. If you’re not an expert in every kind of content, consider building relationships with people who have strengths in your weak areas. Together, you can offer a comprehensive content marketing campaign that will knock client’s socks off. Everybody wins.
Get on Google+: Google Authorship is becoming extremely important in search engine rankings on Google and in helping your audience to find you. If you haven’t already, go set up a Google+ account. Then listen to this event with Brian Clark on Google Authorship. (I’m making it free to the public for the next week, so you don’t need to be a member to listen. Don’t miss out! It goes back to members-only access on January 29nd.)
Content marketing is here to stay. In the coming year, expect it to get more organized and to be more in demand. Stay on top of these trends and you’ll be able to offer content marketing services above and beyond what your clients expect or what they’re able to find among your competition. That’s a recipe for big-time, web-writing success.