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5 Surprising Truths About Content Marketing

Done well, content marketing can do huge things for your brand--but getting it right is more art than science. Here are five things you need to know.
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You probably already know that content marketing is important. You probably also hear a lot about tracking, conversions, and assigning a proper value to content. But effective content marketing--especially in the context of brand building--isn't that simple. Without a conversion to track, the effects of your content marketing efforts can be less tangible and more difficult to quantify.

Even so, content marketing can be incredibly effective in building brand authority and recognition. Nine out of ten marketers are involved in content marketing, yet only 32 percent consider themselves effective at it. These five truths about content for brand building may surprise you; they'll certainly help you improve your strategy:

1. A Very Small Portion of Your Content Will Generate Most of Your Traffic

It might seem really intimidating to consider doing content marketing at any sort of scale. It must be a lot of work, right? It is, but if you focus on one really great content project, there's no need to stress yourself over creating something new every week.

On my website, just 4 percent of our articles generate almost half the traffic and 85 percent of our social shares. It really does pay off to focus on fewer high-quality content projects, rather than trying to bang something new out constantly.

2. Promotion Comes Before Content Creation, Not After

How are you going to promote your content? If you're already looking at a finished piece and just deciding now, you've prepared to fail.

We use a reverse funnel approach to content planning and creation at WordStream. Before anyone puts pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), we need to understand where we plan on promoting and which publications we'd like to pick up our story. We need to know what kinds of stories they love, to ensure we're going at it from an angle more likely to get covered by media.

Read the publications and columnists you'd like to get your story in front of. What types of topics are they covering? What do they share in their social channels? This will help shape how your content will appeal to them.

3. TV & Radio Are Underutilized in the Age of Digital

I had the opportunity to appear on Fox Business TV during the Twitter IPO story, thanks to a content project we worked on in the IPO run-up.

For brand building, TV and radio can be a big plus. Online marketers have largely ignored traditional media and it does have its issues, don't get me wrong. Online channels are so much easier to track and quantify sales. However, TV and radio can win your brand big exposure and when you're appearing as a topic expert, it's a win for your brand name.

4. SEO Doesn't Work for Brand Building

This is a lesson I learned the hard way. We invested a good deal of time in optimizing our blog content for search, and it was working! Over six years, our blog traffic grew steadily by over 8 percent a month, until eventually we had over 600,000 readers a month. However, our time on site was low and engagement was abysmal--visitors stayed on site for about a minute and a half and 80 percent of them never came back. At the time, only 3 percent of our organic traffic came from branded searches, telling us our brand recall was really, really bad.

What is the point of attracting new people over and over and over if they check out and don't care to visit you again? SEO was a great vehicle for winning new readers, but it did nothing for building our brand.

5. Remarketing Can Help

Remarketing was instrumental in helping us turn our low engagement and brand recognition trend around. It enabled us to get our content back in front of people who had, at one point, shown an interest.

There are a ton of reasons someone might leave your website--they're skimming or browsing around, they got distracted, their baby just tried to eat their mobile... who knows. Remarketing gives you a chance to reconnect with those visitors via ads that appear while they're doing other things around the Web.

Key Takeaways for Using Content Marketing to Build a Brand

When your goals are to increase brand recall, improve authority, and build trust in your brand, content promotion is key. Remember:

  1. Quality always trumps quantity. Focus on doing less but doing it better, then promoting it more.
  2. Plan for promotion from the initial concept and planning stages to help you create content people will want to share and report on.
  3. Don't forget about the power and exposure of traditional media coverage!
  4. Work on recapturing the interest of organic search visitors through remarketing.

How effective have you found content marketing for promoting your brand? Share your thoughts below.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Apr 7, 2014

LARRY KIM | Columnist

Larry Kim is the founder and CTO of WordStream, provider of the 20-Minute PPC Work Week and the free AdWords Grader. You can subscribe here to Larry’s business growth tips by email.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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