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December 31, 2013

Content Marketing in 2014: Five Things You Need to Know to Succeed

In the movie Back to the Future, Marty McFly traveled all the way to the year 2015.  Back in 1985, that seemed so far away.  But now that we’re getting ready to start 2014, it’s safe to say that the future is officially upon us.

And if you plan to see success online, content marketing is going to have to be a big part of your future.

‘Content marketing’ became THE buzz term in 2013, but publishing quality content isn’t a new idea. In fact, according to research done by AOL and Nielsen, there were nearly 27,000,000 pieces of Web content shared every single day in 2011. So, the only thing that’s new about content marketing is all of the attention it’s getting.

All of that attention means you’re going to have to fight harder to get to the front of the pack. According to a study done by the Content Marketing Institute, Marketing Profs, and Brightcove, 93 percent of B2B businesses used content marketing in 2013, and 73 percent of them were producing “more” or “significantly more” content than they did in 2012.

Bottom line — your content strategy can’t just be good.  If you want it to stand out, it has to be great.  So, what do you need to know if you want to see content marketing success in 2014?

1.  You have to make things easy for your readers

At Business Insider’s Ignition 2013 Conference, the media companies in attendance said 50 percent of their core audience’s content consumption came through their mobile apps.  That’s proof that people want easy-to-understand answers and solutions right at their fingertips.  (The mobile Web isn’t for heavy reading.  After all, when’s the last time you read Hamlet on your Smartphone?)

Even people who are reading on a traditional computer screen want to see content that’s easy to digest. Back in 2006, the Nielsen Norman Group did a groundbreaking study on how people read Web pages, and the results are still very relevant today. After tracking hundreds of readers’ eye movements, they found that people scan Web pages quickly, focusing on the top and left portions of the page the most. (That’s why so many successful Web writers break things down into lists and short paragraphs — because it fits in with this reading pattern.)

No matter what device people use to read your Web content in 2014, you’ve got to keep it concise and conversational.  Take all of those fancy words you learned for the SATs and forget about them. Your readers want quick answers and solutions; they don’t want to marvel at your extensive vocabulary.

2.  You have to focus on promotion

If you’re going to put a whole bunch of time and energy into creating quality Web content, you’ve got to get everything you can out of each piece.  That means you need to find new ways to promote everything you publish.

Sharing links on your Twitter and Facebook pages is a good start, but remember, this is the future we’re talking about. You’ve got to expand your promotional efforts to include things that are specific to your niche.

Like what?

If, for example, you’re targeting small business owners, places like Biz Sugar, the OPEN Forum, and Share Bloc can be a gold mine. Each one is chock-full of small business owners trying to learn more so they can offer more to their customers. If you share great content with the people on these sites, they’ll view you as a bonafide expert. Plus, you’ll be able to get your name out there — all without having to rely on Google.

3.  You have to measure your progress

Even the highest-quality content and the best promotion aren’t enough to succeed at content marketing in 2014.  If you really want to set yourself apart, you need to know exactly how your content is being received.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to go out and spend an arm and a leg on fancy analytics software to measure your progress.  Instead, just be observant.

For example, which blog posts generate the most comments?  Or, which of your articles fetch the most re-tweets? The answers will tell you which subject matters are most important to your readers. They’ll also tell you which pieces people were fascinated enough to read all the way to the end. (After all, would you share something or comment on it if you zoned out during the first half?  No way!)

4.  You can’t avoid it, no matter what kind of business you run

Lots of brick and mortar business owners seem to think content marketing is something that only online businesses need to worry about.  However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. These days, the vast majority of customers head online to check out a business before they call it or visit it in person.  So, if your potential customers are going to be checking you out on the Web, you need to make sure they find good things.

For example, if you run a local hardware store and your blog shares easy DIY tips for homeowners, the people who are checking you out online are going to see that you REALLY know what you’re talking about.  That will make them much more likely to get in the car and head to your store.  After all, if they have a question or a problem, your employees will likely have an answer or a solution.

5.  You can’t afford to cut corners

Unfortunately, the corner-cutters who rely on cheap tricks and automated gimmicks are coming with us into the future.  These people know how important a solid content marketing strategy is, so they’ll look for ways to try to reap all the benefits without doing any of the actual work.  They’ll continue to use spinners, unqualified writers, and any other cheap trick they think will help them manipulate the system.

Luckily, they’ll fall off the content marketing map in 2014.  If nothing else, the content marketing surge has set the bar higher.  Business owners are doing what it takes to publish quality content — and more of it — so the corner-cutters will find themselves even further behind the curve.

Remember, readers want legitimate answers and solutions. With so many businesses doing content marketing the RIGHT way, readers have the power to simply ignore businesses that don’t provide what they’re looking for.  After all, there are, literally, millions of other businesses to choose from.  Why would a reader waste his time with a wannabe, when he can deal with a somebody?


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Nicole Beckett knows that content marketing will always play a huge role on the web.  That's why she spends her time helping business owners come up with the very best strategies.  Find out how she can take your web content to the next level by visiting Nicole and the team of journalists at Premier Content Source.

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