You’ve probably heard of peak beard—the point where more men have beards than the number of people who find beards attractive. There were rumours that the beardiness of London’s men had reached saturation point in 2014; we’ve been waiting to see the decline ever since!
Around the same time, a less trendy speculation occurred—that content marketing had reached saturation point. The internet is flooded with more blogs, e-books, whitepapers and articles then we could ever need or want to read. Hundreds of articles go viral on social media every day, the same stories recycled and regurgitated. 71% of content marketers say that less than half of their content is being consumed.
But despite this, over 70% of marketers planned to produce more content in 2017 than in 2016. Just like London’s bearded hipsters, it seems that content marketing is here to stay. So how can you stand out in a content-saturated world?
1. Add value with your own research
Savvy readers know empty content when they see it, so don’t insult their intelligence with patronising or plagiarised advice. Your content should lead the way in your industry, offering insights the audience cannot find elsewhere. Make thought leadership more than just a buzzword.
The best way of achieving this is by commissioning your own
primary research. This usually requires a significant investment, so make sure
you’ve identified the problem your audience is trying to solve. Give readers the
answers they’re hunting for and back up what you say with credible evidence.
If you can’t afford to commission primary research, don’t panic. Leveraging your existing contacts can go a long way. Conduct an email survey, or interview your customers for useful insights to share.
2. Put relevance and quality before size
The ideal length for a piece of content is 1,247 words. Just kidding, don’t trust anybody that tells you that there’s a straightforward answer to the optimum length of content. Research by HubSpot found the ideal word count was 2,100. But then when it looked at its own content, 2,250-2,500 words was the sweet spot.
The right length depends on your audience and what you have to say—but there are three simple rules you should follow:
- Don’t bulk out an article just for the sake of it. You might do better in search results, but what’s the point if people give up reading it halfway through and leave thinking you waffle? Make every sentence count with simple, jargon-free language—we love Orwell’s rules for writing.
- Avoid keyword stuffing. Search engines put a lot of effort into spotting it. Instead of moving you up the results, it could do the exact opposite.
- Be honest about what your content is. If you advertise your article as a CEO’s complete guide to cybersecurity, but it’s just a recycled piece from 2013 about phishing scams, you’ll be found out pretty quickly.
Despite popular opinion, people’s attention spans aren’t getting shorter. It’s their patience that’s shrinking. According to Nielsen, 361,000 Americans binge-watched the whole of Stranger Things 2 on the first day it was available. Millennials, like every other generation, are happy to invest their time if content is relevant and engaging. As the number of options grows, your audience is more likely to jump ship if you lose their interest.
This means there’s no magic pill for getting your articles to the front page, and trying to game the system could backfire. The answer is hard work and good content. Write stuff that your audience loves. Simple as that.
3. Define your leadership ‘niche’
Many businesses try to stretch their expertise to reach a wider audience—but this can result in “phoned-in”, poor quality content.
Make sure you have the authority to write about your chosen topic in-depth. Your business might sell saucepans, but that doesn’t make you a qualified thought leader in Indonesian cuisine. You’d be better off blogging about caring for non-stick surfaces.
It doesn’t matter if your audience is niche, as long as you’re doing the topic justice and your content stands out from the competition as a reputable source. Use insightful interviews, quotes, data and case studies to support your hypothesis, and offer genuine takeaway knowledge for your target audience.
4. Investigate new mediums
We’re seeing a big shift towards subtitled animations and videos; short and digestible snippets of information delivered through channels like social media.
Of course, real thought leadership—whether it’s an article or a whitepaper—is difficult to condense into a few seconds of video. But you can use these mediums to promote your content. Create promotional trailers or teasers to pique the interest of your target audience and drive traffic to your content.
5. Don’t feed the beast
We’re all exposed to so much content it can sometimes feel like an assault on the senses. In response, many internet users are taking steps to curate and limit what they’re exposed to. They’re using social media filters and ad-blockers to avoid irrelevant content.
And that’s fair enough. The world doesn’t need another bland, regurgitated article about SEO best practices, social media trends, or how to improve your content marketing (and I’m aware of the irony as I write this!).
Even if a topic has been covered to death, there’s almost always a new angle or twist you can take. Look at the issue from the perspective of different stakeholders. Spice it up with personal anecdotes or a narrative angle that will appeal to a new audience. Most tired issues can be refreshed with a playful stance; even if the bulk of your article is serious.
Be brave. Don’t be scared of tackling the tough topics. The more specialized, technical or controversial the topic, the less likely it is that you’ll be drowning in a sea of similar content.
6. Keep it simple
Here at Gloo, we write about some pretty in-depth technical topics. Software-defined networking, data security legislation and IoT sensors to name just a few. If you’re not familiar with these topics (and even if you are) they don’t usually make for light bedtime reading.
But that’s why we make a big effort to cut through the jargon. The best content is written in a tone that anyone can understand and enjoy, from beginners to experts. Your writing should help readers to digest complex business ideas without breaking a sweat, muttering expletives or heading to dictionary.com.
Like a good beard, your content needs to be meticulously groomed—and tickle your audience in the right places!
See our blog on how to get your whitepaper read.
Posted by John on 1 March 2019