The 10 commandments of content marketing

Make sure your content is easy to share, has a voice, solves customer problems and converts readers into buyers. If it doesn’t, it’s doomed.

It doesn’t matter if you are focused on social media marketing or search marketing — you need to weave contagious content into your overall marketing strategy.

Here are the 10 commandments of content marketing:

1. Create the best content you can.

This is easy to say, but hard to do.

To make your content memorable and sticky, start with the six key concepts in the book “Made to Stick”:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Unexpectedness
  3. Concreteness
  4. Credibility
  5. Emotions
  6. Stories

If you can weave some of these principles into your content, you are well on your way to awesome content. You can read more at “6 Ways to Make Your Content Sticky.”

2. Write awesome headlines.

In the past, people had to buy a book, magazine or newspaper to obtain information. That purchase was a financial commitment. You bought it and were committed in some small way to keep reading.

But the social Web offers so much free content that if a headline or first sentence doesn’t grab your attention, you discard it and move on to the next snippet.

Web surfers are a challenge for content creators. You have only moments to capture someone’s attention and get him to click on your link, whether it appears in a tweet, Facebook post or search engine results page.

Learn the art of writing headlines.

3. Create focused content.

Successful businesses know their customers. They understand customers’ problems, wants and pain points. You need to focus your content around the topics that provide answers, meet your customers’ deep desires, and solve your customers’ pain.

Keep your content on a tight leash. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask, “Is this something my customers need to know? Will my customers find this information fascinating?”

If you know your customers and are passionate about your industry, then you know what those answers and topics are.

4. Give content a coherent structure.

We are a time-poor society that is bombarded with messages, ideas and information. It’s often overwhelming. The challenge is often not what to read, but what not to read.

Walls of text without structure are a turn off. The key elements of well-structured written content are:

  • Short sentences
  • Short paragraphs
  • Subtitles
  • Bullet points
  • Lists

Don’t serve up an article that screams, “I dare you to find the key points within this vast wall of text!”

5. Make content easy to share.

Content needs to flow. It needs to be liquid and designed for the social Web.

Including social-sharing buttons that are prominent and easy to find are a war you must win with your Web designer. I often see greyed-out sharing buttons that only an eagle could spot.

And don’t overlook buttons without social proof; show how many times the article has been tweeted or shared on Facebook.

Even prominent publications such as The New York Times get this wrong:

Sometimes function needs to win out over design.

6. Optimize content for search engines.

Facebook and Twitter may be trendy, but don’t forget Google. Before you hit the publish button on your blog, make sure you have made it easy for search engines to index and crawl your keywords, phrases and content.

There is no excuse to not do this — free plug-ins available for WordPress make this easy and efficient.

This screenshot from my blog shows how the plug-in Yoast helps you optimize your site for search engines:

Yoast will help make your content visible to search engines. It helps you optimize keyword phrases in your blog posts.

7. Give your content a brand voice.

Each brand, whether personal or corporate, has a voice. It may be edgy, adventurous or conservative. You should weave this voice, or personality, into your content’s DNA.

Corporate brands such as Coca-Cola call this linked and congruent content; it matches the brand’s mission and purpose. Red Bull is a brand that gets this.

Personal brands should also make this part of their content creation. Read more about this in “7 Tips to Finding your Writing Voice.”

8. Make multimedia content.

Don’t underestimate the power of words, but the visual Web demands more. Create and publish multimedia content along with written content. Offer one message in a variety of formats.

There is also another principle at play here: The more senses a piece of content involves, the higher the retention rate. Below is Edgar Dale’s learning pyramid. It shows the increased retention rates when you involve multiple senses and multimedia:

Source: National Training Laboratories, Bethel, Maine

Create and publish videos, podcasts, images and infographics, and don’t forget whitepapers, eBooks and transcripts. Some people like to read, and others love to watch.

9. Distribute content on multiple social networks.

Don’t assume your audience is only on Facebook. Some people like Twitter, and others love Pinterest. YouTube has 1 billion unique visitors every month. Distribute the same content on different social networks.

Once you publish your blog post, it’s time to distribute it far and wide. Ubiquity is the goal. This builds trust and grows brand awareness and credibility.

10. Convert readers into buyers.

Content without a goal is a waste of time and money. The goals of content marketing can include obtaining subscribers for your email list, increasing Facebook likes and selling a product or service.

Make sure your content converts readers to buyers. Content marketing needs a sales or landing page that converts.

According to Unbounce, a sales landing page based on conversion-centered design should have seven key elements, which are split into two categories: design and psychology.

Design

1. Encapsulation

2. Contrast and color

3. Directional cues

4. White space

Psychology

1. Urgency and scarcity

2. Try before you buy

3. Social proof

Here is an example of how that would look:

What about you? Is content marketing part of your digital marketing strategy? What could you do better?

A version of this article originally appeared on JeffBullas.com.

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