Oh, those best practices. I get asked about them often. What’s the best practice when it comes to , <insert topical area> Christoph?
I’m a big fan of best practices and even a bigger fan of ignoring them when it counts.
Let’s look at some of the areas that have some of the most commonly debated best practices in content marketing.
Ways to be more relevant
The different tactics of how to be more relevant hardly ever change. In a nutshell:
- Know your target audience
- Know your own area of expertise
- Write about that
- At the right intervals
Sometimes I hear gurus talk about new or better ways (new best practices). Ultimately, the way to stay relevant doesn’t change all that much. Talk about things your target audience might care about and you have a chance.
Ways to reach more audience members
Of course, creating highly useful content that people find helpful will only work for an organization when the content either gets found (SEO) or gets distributed to the right people.
Search engine algorithms change frequently but tend to favor frequent, educational and well-written content. That seems to be an ongoing best practice. Stay real. Be useful. You have a chance to be found.
But distribution on social media, native advertising, Search Engine Marketing and the likes seems to change more. Social media networks change their rules and algorithm.
For example, I used to recommend posting to Facebook 8 times a day. While publishing a lot on Facebook might still work well for some organizations, for many it won’t work too well at this stage. The days of counting on just organic Facebook reach are gone. But on the other hand you can target people relatively well, but will have to spend some money.
Other tactics evolve too. Prices changes. Competitors emerge. Things evolve.
Publishing less (or more)
How often an organization publishes on their blog is one of the most debated topics perhaps. Recommendations range from once day to a couple times a week to multiple times daily to weekly.
But of course the publishing frequency doesn’t have anything to do with the publishing quality necessarily. Typically, what I found is that at least once a week is a good start and then ramp it up from there as needed. Once you go below once a week content creation teams can loose steam and a little bit of that practice to continuously try to create useful content and sharing it on an ongoing schedule.
But the opinions out in the content marketing field vary widely and there’s really no complete answer for everybody except that for content to have impact we have to publish it.
The right kind of keyword research matters
I sometimes run into two camps:
- Overthink keyword research
- Just tell stories without research
Of, course, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Tell unique stories, but also do your research on what words to use so your audiences can find your content!
Another widely debated topic. How long should content be? 300 words, no, wait 500 Words! No wait at least a 1,000. Wait, at least 2,000. So this is an ongoing discussion. And there is value in having content that actually is longer. Usually that means it’s more thorough and adds more information. Unless of course somebody is just adding fluff.
Ultimately good stories can be told in shorter pieces or they may have to be longer. It all depends. Typically, from my own experience I found that longer often is better than shorter but when you have a really good story that can be told in 100 words don’t add 900 more unnecessary ones.
Of course, now we’ve seen research that finds that longer articles apparently rank better in Google because they look like they’re more thorough to Google. Personally, I recommend to clients to try to hit 500 to 1,200 words per article and if you have to go longer go longer and if you have to share an article that’s shorter that actually has to be shared do that as well. So no the current best practice, try to follow it as necessary and then break it when necessary.
Facebook, Twitter, whatever
The best practices on social networks change all the time. Let me give you an example: Many years ago I recommended to just feed Twitter posts to Facebook. That used to work way back when and then people started automatically sending Facebook posts to Twitter and that didn’t really work because usually they were too long and you got to link to a Facebook post.
Thankfully, I don’t see too many brands still do these strategies which used to be pretty common early on. Then brands started posting more on Facebook when organic reach was still quite high. In fact I would then recommend posting 10 to 14 times a day and as long as your content is useful and relevant to your audience nobody would care that you post a lot.
On Twitter, as strange as it sounds you can actually post up to every 15 minutes. For example, on my own account I tweet 56 times a day – obviously much of that is automated – and it hardly impact performance negatively ever. Typically the impact is positive as long as I don’t repeat the same tweet over and over throughout the same day.
Yes, inbound marketing activities have to lead to sales. Because if inbound and content marketing activities don’t bring in sales or nurture leads it won’t help making a continued business case for doing them? Of course, overall business growth is measured in dollars.
As much as I love to grow my audience just having a huge and relevant audiences will not pay the bills on its own. But, it’s a fact that everyone who is doing content marketing well and actually bringing business through content marketing has built a huge relevant audience. Now the definition of huge can vary widely. For some industries 5,000 people in your relevant audience could be just enough if it’s very targeted.
Sometimes people will give some measurements a bad rep. We might even call them vanity metrics. Look at the number of readers or followers or whatever else it might be. And while those metrics on their own don’t bring in any money they help us gauge if our strategy is actually working. Are we building relevant audiences?
Remember, content marketing is in large part a top of the funnel activity. So that means we are trying to raise awareness to our brands and we’re trying to slowly move people down the marketing funnel so they remember us when they need our services later.
We should always learn from each other. Even our competitors to a degree. See what they are doing and apply what might be worth copying. But we don’t want to fall in the best practices trap. The best practices trap of course is the methodology where we see what everybody else is doing, where we see what the so-called experts are calling a best strategy and then we do it but it may not work for us as well as it is working for somebody else.
And sometimes I wonder if some best practices even work well for others. For example, some organizations talk a lot about engagement on social media but you can have a huge impact on social media even with average or below-average engagement levels. On blogs: People always debate whether or not they should have comments turned on. But most readers don’t comment anyway and many comments nowadays are not that relevant to blog posts.I usually don’t see much value in them. For the most part but they work for some, so don’t stop doing them because I don’t think they are a best practice.
I would say this is a best practice: Keep up on content marketing best practices, try them and keep doing the ones that work. Disregard the rest.
Christoph is ScribbleLive’s Vice President of Content Marketing Strategy.
He helps businesses and organizations in the Americas develop and implement strategic content marketing plans and practices by combining efficient workflows, content marketers’ skills and useful technologies.