5 Stubborn Content Marketing Myths That Won’t Go Away

Content marketing has gone mainstream. In fact, it seems like it has become so popular with businesses that everyone’s doing it. The coffee shop down the road from your house is probably blogging just like Coca-Cola, Chevron, and HP. And if they’re not, they’re probably recording videos for YouTube or tweeting, sharing, and posting items on Pinterest.

At this point, your parents have probably heard of content marketing even if they can’t quite put their finger on what it is. And in another year, they may be using it to promote their own businesses.

That’s why it’s so surprising that there are still so many myths about it. Even worse, several seemed to have taken hold among marketers, the very people who should know better! Today, I’m going to take a few of them apart. If you want to squeeze the most value possible from your content marketing, you need to abandon the following 5 fallacies.

#1. “I Need To Create As Much Content As Possible.”

Uh, no. As with pizza, cheesecake, or a fantastic lasagna, volume is not the most important feature of your content.

Quality is.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at what Google’s latest updates have done to the mountains of shallow content slapped together to rank sites. For all intents and purposes, it’s gone. It’s buried so far in Google’s index that no one will see it.

Your content needs to make an impact. It needs to drive social engagement and stimulate interest in the folks who consume it. If you can do that, create as much as you can. Just remember, producing high-quality stuff isn’t easy.

#2. “People Don’t Read Anymore. They Skim.”

Yes and no. People definitely skim in order to extract information quickly. But that doesn’t mean they no longer read. It’s not an either-or formula.

The fact is, people will read if they’re interested. And they’ll keep reading as long as they believe the material in front of them will help or entertain them. The flip side of that equation is that folks will stop reading the moment they get bored or realize they’re wasting their time.

Whether you’re pumping out 20-word tweets or creating 2,000-word blog posts, keep your audience engaged.

#3. “Content Marketing Is Just A Fad. It’ll Disappear Eventually.”

Hate to break it to you, but content marketing isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it was around long before the internet arrived. And it’ll be around long after we’re gone.

Businesses have been using content in one form or another to promote their stuff since the 1800s. According to Wikipedia, John Deere came out with its magazine The Furrow in 1895. A few years later, Michelin published its Michelin Guide. Both were designed to offer useful information to select audiences while promoting the companies’ products.

Things haven’t changed much. Today, we just have fancier names and different delivery systems. Instead of sending out magazines and printed guides, we blog, create videos, and publish ebooks. Instead of seminars and conferences, we hold webinars 10 feet from our refrigerators.

No, content marketing is not a fad. It has history on its side. If anything, the internet is more of a fad than using content to promote goods and services.

#4. “I’m Not Going To Give Away Information That I Sell”

First, no one expects Coca-Cola to publish its secret formula. And no one expects you to put all of your material into a nice package and give it away. Yet, Coca-Cola is a huge proponent of content marketing (they even publish a daily blog). So are Red Bull, Colgate, General Electric, and Proctor & Gamble.

If they can do it without giving away the farm, so can you.

Second, how many of your customers purchased from you after reading a single piece of content? Not many, I’d guess. Chances are, they needed to be coaxed and convinced that you’re an expert. They needed to feel comfortable that you sell good stuff.

Building that kind of trust takes time. It also takes a stream of content that leads folks toward making a purchase decision. Content marketing isn’t about giving away trade secrets to keep people’s attention. It’s about engaging your audience and connecting with them.

#5. “I Don’t Have Time To Create Content!”

Running a business is tough. Believe me, I know. There are more things to get done than time to do them. And there always seems to be at least one fire to put out.

But creating content is an investment, not an expenditure. It adds to your business. Every piece of great content you produce has the potential to drive a stream of people to your site. Every article or guest blog post can give you additional exposure to prospects. Every video you create can further build your brand, bring influencers to your doorstep, and position you as an authority in your field.

In that light, you don’t have time not to create high-quality content!

There are a lot of other content marketing myths floating around out there. But from what I’ve seen, the 5 I’ve listed above do the most harm. They hold people back and prevent them from getting the most out of their material.

My advice? Dismiss them. Treat them like the fallacies they are. Then, get to work putting out great stuff your audience is hungry to consume.

Your Turn!

What other content marketing myths have you run across lately? Have any of them caused you to hesitate and miss opportunities? Tell us about your experience in the comment section!

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Guest Posting Is Not “Bad” for SEO – If You Do It Right

Whoever said that search engine experts have a tendency to screw up a good thing weren’t far off the truth. When a useful, innocent technique is discovered to have great value for ranking sites, everyone rushes in to exploit it. With time, the technique becomes less useful, not only to those who enjoyed its benefits before anyone muttered “SEO,” but also to the search experts themselves.

That is exactly what has happened to guest blogging.

Bad news first: guest blogging as we have come to know it as a linking strategy is, for all intents and purposes, done. It’s finished.

Now the good news: for the smart content marketer, Google’s Penguin 2.0 update has opened up guest blogging as an exciting “new” opportunity to extend your reach, gain exposure, and build a bigger following. Links will happen as a nice side effect.

Today, I’ll explain how SEO experts caused guest blogging, as a link-building strategy, to go through a radical change. You’ll then learn 3 things to do today to take advantage of the new opportunity.

Why Content Marketers Should Prioritize Guest Blogging

Forget about Google for a moment and consider the reasons people contributed material to popular blogs in the past. First, they gained valuable exposure. By putting their best material in front of the blog owner’s audience, they could gain new fans and improve the visibility of their brands.

Second, the content marketer gained quick entry into a new niche. Someone hungry to make a name for herself could tap into an already existing community. That’s difficult to do on your own blog.

Third, they established a relationship with an authority in their niche: the blog owner. That relationship not only gave them credibility, but often led to other opportunities.

The key to all of the above, of course, is high-quality content. Without it, you can’t expect to win fans, build brand loyalty, dominate your niche, or make nice with influencers. And that’s where things went off the rails.

Where Guest Blogging Went Wrong (Thanks To SEO Experts)

Search experts learned pretty quickly that getting content on other people’s blogs was a great way to build links to their sites. The problem was, they needed to build lots of links fast to rank sites quickly. Writing guest blogs took too much time. So, many of them hired out the writing at bottom-of-the-barrel rates. At the same time, they had software created to identify thousands of blogs they could post their articles on.

The result: a lot of low-quality content began to pop up on blogs. It became a form of article marketing. Worse, much of the content was off-theme. It veered away from the blogs’ main topics, leading to a lot of less-relevant outward links pointing at a variety of low-quality sites.

How Google Tried To Fix The Problem

Google tried to fix the problem with Penguin 2.0. The algorithm update stressed relevant content and links from high-quality sites. It was no longer enough for SEO experts to pummel every blog in their niches with content of questionable quality just to build links. The content needed to be thematically relevant to the blog’s main theme. It needed to be well-written. And it needed to trigger some level of engagement (comments, social shares, links, etc.).

Google’s Penguin 2.0 update flipped guest blogging on its head, at least for SEO experts exploiting the strategy for short-term gain. The immediate benefits – i.e. a quick influx of links – evaporated. They did so partly because of the algorithm’s new focus and partly because blog owners were now more careful about the submissions they accepted.

For the savvy content marketer, this has cleared away a lot of competition. But that doesn’t mean getting published is easy.

3 Tips For Getting The Most From Guest Blogging Post-Penguin

In many ways, guest blogging is even more valuable now than it was prior to the Penguin update. Thanks to Google, you now have much more to gain from the strategy. That is, if you use the right approach.

#1 – Focus on high-quality sites.

You want to be published on blogs that Google considers to be authoritative. Check each site’s incoming links. Are other high-quality sites linking to them? Take a look at whether posts center around a particular theme or if they’re all over the place.

#2 – Create good material.

Writing well-written, insightful, and useful articles has always been important, particularly when tapping into another’s audience. That’s what increases readership, attracts fans, and improves your brand. But it is doubly important now that Penguin 2.0 has prioritized signals that reflect quality.

In each guest blog post you write, highlight a problem, offer a solution, and provide actionable steps the reader can take to solve the issue on her end.

#3 – Leverage authorship.

Google has done content marketers a huge favor by launching author rank. This is a platform that connects everything you create with your author profile in Google+. I’ll explain exactly how it works in detail in the future. For now, suffice to say that it gives you a way to develop an audience based on everything you write. It doesn’t matter whether your material appears on your blog, someone else’s blog, or an authority business site.

Guest blogging not only continues to work, but can be even more effective now than it was in the past. If you’re a gun-slinging SEO expert interested only in reaping short-term gains with shady tricks, you’re in for a long, hard trek. If you’re a content marketer who wants to build an audience around top-notch material, now’s the time to strike!

Your Turn!

What changes have you made to your guest blogging routine based on Penguin 2.0? Have you changed your blogger outreach strategy? Have you altered the way you create blog posts? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section below!

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7 Ways To Build Authority In Your Niche With Content Marketing

As we’ve mentioned in recent posts, content marketing is more than just publishing a blog. A blog is just a tool for getting your message across. It gives you a way to connect with your audience, engage them, and build their trust. But at the end of the day, it’s still just one of many tools you can use to do so.

What if you had several tools at your disposal to accomplish the job? How much more successful would your company be? How far could you extend your reach to engage people and draw them into your circle?

The best content marketers know that people respond in different ways to different types of content. A person might not read a blog, but will watch videos. An individual might ignore PDF white papers, but ravenously consume the same information through an infographic or Kindle ebook. The solution is to create lots of different types of content to reach different segments of your audience. Give them what they want in a format they want to consume.

Here are 7 ideas to start working on today…

#1. Blog Posts

Let’s start with the most obvious idea. If your business lacks a blog, and you’re interested in publishing content, start a blog. It’s one of the simplest ways to publish content and interact with readers. Plus, thanks to the huge number of plugins available, it’s also the quickest and easiest way to encourage readers to give you some social love.

#2. “How To” Guides

It doesn’t matter if your niche is woodworking, quilting, or budget traveling. You know how to do things that other people want to learn. So, put it into a series of “how to” guides. You’ll build authority in your niche and become more widely known as word gets around about your material. Your content will be useful enough that folks will feel inclined to share it with their friends.

There are lots of ways to publish “how to” information. You can post it to a page on your site, wrap it up into a PDF, and create a Kindle ebook. You could also use it to create podcasts and videos. Putting it into different formats ensures you’ll get maximum mileage from the same material.

#3. Infographics

Infographics have grown in popularity over the last couple of years. They package a lot of data into an easy-to-digest format. Because folks tend to enjoy them, they get shared on social media sites.

One word of caution: if you create an infographic or pay someone to create one for you, don’t skimp on quality. Presentation is everything. It plays a major role in whether your infographic gets passed around.

#4. Videos

Video has become a huge component of content marketing. With it, you can deliver a lot of material quickly in a way that engages the viewer. Plus, it’s a format perfectly designed for the growing mobile space. (When was the last time you saw someone reading a PDF on their iPhone?)

The great thing about videos is that they are easy to create and highly shareable. If you have a witty sense of humor, you might hit a sweet spot and see one of your videos go viral!

#5 – Email

Email seems so 90s. After all, it’s an antiquated platform that hardly anyone uses anymore, right?

Wrong.

Email continues to be one of the main tools people use to communicate with each other. That means it’s a great way to stay connected to your audience. For example, you could publish a weekly or monthly newsletter. Or just email folks when you want to share something with them you’re sure will benefit them. Best of all, you’ll show up in their inboxes; you don’t have to rely on them to remember to come back to your site.

#6. Ebooks

There’s something about ebooks that creates trust, builds authority, and improves customer loyalty. They can be given away for free, used for lead generation, or sold as standalone products. If you give them away, they become instantly shareable (assuming the content is top-notch)

If you’re struggling for ideas, here’s a secret: you can repackage content you’ve created in the past and use it as the basis for your ebook. For example, a lot of popular bloggers have created ebooks from their top blog posts. Simply reformat your previously-used content, add some new insights, and voila! You have a new ebook.

#7. Podcasts

Podcasts are popular because they deliver information in a way that allows the listener to multitask. You can listen to interviews with your favorite marketers or business leaders while doing house chores. You can listen to insights about your niche while working up a sweat at the gym. You can gain knowledge while taking a walk, running errands, or driving to work.

The good news is that they’re easy to produce and easy to distribute. Simply load them up to iTunes and post a link to the podcasts on your blog. Then, get social and ask folks to share the goods with their friends.

If you’re running a blog, great! But there’s so much more you can do to get your content in front of people who want to consume it. The challenge is that not everyone is a voracious reader of blogs. So create content in formats that cater to their preferences.

Your Turn!

What types of content have you created for your niche? Which types do you enjoy creating the most? Which types do you look forward to creating the least? Let us know in the comments section below!

4 Steps To Reach New Audiences Through Guest Blogging

Guest blogging. It’s been around since blogs have been around. And it continues to be one of the best strategies a content marketer can use to bring targeted traffic to her site.

Consider what happens when you create a useful, engaging post for someone’s popular blog. It introduces you to a new audience. It establishes and improves your brand. It gives you credibility, which is valuable if no one knows you. It opens up opportunities for you to network with folks in your field. It generates publicity as your post gets shared in the social media space. And of course, your site receives more traffic.

If you’re not guest blogging, you’re leaving a lot of opportunity on the table. But now is a great time to change that. I’ll give you a 4-step process below for getting started on the right foot, and getting the most mileage from your efforts. Read them carefully. Each step contains a number of useful tips.

Step 1. Create A Strategy

Most people approach guest blogging without a clear plan for what they want to accomplish. The problem is, if they haven’t figured that part out yet, there’s no way they can identify the best avenues to pursue. More often than not, they waste a lot of time and generate poor results.

Before you reach out to blog owners, sit down and formulate a plan. First, figure out what you want to achieve. Backlinks? Publicity? Traffic and sales? All of the above?

Second, start to identify blogs that can bring you the results you’re looking for. Use Google to perform searches with “guest post” and your target keywords. Do the same on Twitter.

Once you’ve put together a list of blogs to target, it’s time to put together a pitch. Prepare to do some research.

Step 2. Investigate Your Target Blogs

Think of popular blogs like magazines. They don’t accept every submission they receive. They pick the most promising pitches, and give the folks pitching them a green light. In order to improve your chances of getting picked, you’re going to have to do some basic research.

First, go through the blog’s archives. Note the flavor of the writing, and the type of folks for whom the blog is written.

Second, check out which entries have received the greatest number of comments. Which ones have received the most social media shares? That’s a good way to identify the ones that have really taken off with readers.

Third, look for posts written by other guest bloggers. Did they do well with readers or did their material fall flat? Try to figure out the reasons in either case.

Step #3. Create Your Pitch

Most popular blogs that accept posts from third parties will have a page devoted to guest blogging guidelines. Look for that page and note the rules. (Ignore them at your own risk.) Then, start preparing your pitch.

In an email, introduce yourself and explain who you are. Provide a bit of background on your expertise, and explain why you’re qualified to write a blog post on the topic covered by the blog. If you have written for other blogs in your field, include links to the posts.

Next, introduce your idea. Write a short summary of it (2 or 3 small paragraphs are fine), and explain your intended approach. If you have a few ideas, include them all.

Step #4. Write Your Guest Blog Post

Let’s assume you receive the green light from the blog owner. It’s now time to create your blog post!

One of the most important things to remember is that you’re not being given the go-ahead to promote your business. You’re expected to write a first-rate blog post that matches the pitch you sent to the blog owner. Don’t mention your products or services. Any links to your site should be reserved for your author’s box at the end of your post.

Try to link to a few of the blog’s past entries within the body of your post. Use keywords that are related to their subject matter.

It’s also a good idea to include one or two external links to resources about items mentioned in your post. You can link to Wikipedia entries, reports published by credible sources, or even the Twitter account of a known personality.

Lastly, create your author’s box. This is your bio. This is where you toot your own horn, and explain why you’re an authority in your field. Include a link to your site or blog, and mention your products and services. You can also use the space to generate traffic to your social media accounts.

Follow this 4-step system to guest blogging on a routine basis, and you’ll slowly become a bigger player in your niche. You’ll generate a growing number of backlinks, a bigger stream of traffic, more social media interaction, and a growing number of sales.

Now, that’s an outcome worth fighting for!

Your Turn!

Have you ever guest posted on a popular blog? Did your post generate the results you were looking for? What, if anything, would you do differently today? Leave a comment and tell us about your experience!

Is Your Content Marketing Focused On These 3 Crucial Goals?

When it comes to content marketing, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. From researching keywords and brainstorming topics to writing and distributing articles, the details can distract you from your long-term strategy. It’s worth taking a moment to remind yourself of the reason you’re producing content in the first place. In other words, let’s pull back the lens so we can see the forest.

First, content marketing has always been an indispensable tool for promoting products and services. This was true long before personal computers even existed, and will still be true a hundred years from now. Second, there are numerous ways to offer content to your target audience. Submitting articles to build backlinks to your site is merely one of them. Third, your content must earn. If it’s not driving a profit, there’s no reason to create it. The key point to remember is that your content can drive profit in a lot of ways, some of them very subtle.

Using those three principles as a launch pad, we’ll explain why you should focus – or refocus – your content marketing on three critical objectives.

#1. Push Prospects Through Your Sales Funnel

A lot of business owners think of content marketing as a straight line from introduction to purchase decision. That is, they write an article with the goal of motivating a person to visit their website for the first time and buy something. Here’s why that approach is shortsighted.

Think about the process you go through to buy a product. You may not be entirely convinced that you need the item. So, you explore the company’s website, and read articles that explain and demonstrate the need. If you’re unfamiliar with the company, you might join their newsletter, download a few of their white papers, and subscribe to their blog, where they occasionally offer case studies.

This type of high-quality content is essential to moving you toward a purchase decision. That’s the reason the company creates it. But notice that most of it is focused on increasing your comfort level, not hard-selling their product. The company is moving you through their sales funnel. The more exposure you have to their content in its various forms, the more likely you are to buy.

Use this same approach in your own content marketing. Realize that every person in your target audience is at a different stage of your sales funnel. Some are just discovering you, and need to be nurtured. Others are at the point where they just need to know how to send you money.

Different stages of the funnel need different types of content.

#2. Provide Useful Information Your Target Audience Will Appreciate

Clearly, you want to leverage content marketing to increase your revenue. It’s tempting to mention your company in your articles, blogs, and case studies. But doing so isn’t necessary. In fact, it comes across as overly-promotional, which is more likely to turn off your target audience than engage them.

The key to building your audience’s trust is to make sure every piece of content you create is useful. There are a lot of ways to do this depending on where your readers are in your sales funnel.

For example, suppose your company offers credit repair services. Someone who is unfamiliar with credit scores and how they are calculated might appreciate a short article titled, “7 Ways To Improve Your Credit Score Today.” This person is at the beginning of your sales funnel, and needs a gentle introduction.

On the other hand, someone else might have read your blog, along with a few of your case studies, and as a result, is much closer to buying your services. This individual needs something much more specific. An example would be a special report titled, “How To Improve Your Credit Score By 250 Points After A Foreclosure Or Short Sale.” The report would end with a push toward your services, along with the benefits of hiring you. Because this person is further along your sales funnel, “useful” content means something different to him or her.

This is the reason it is important to know where your prospect is in terms of being ready to buy. The wrong type of content will have little effect. The right type can clinch the sale.

#3. Publish Engaging Content Consistently And Frequently

One top-notch whitepaper isn’t enough. A single case study, no matter how good, won’t do the trick. A blog updated once every month or two will lose readers. You need to produce superior content on a consistent and frequent basis to engage your audience.

Think of your company as its own publishing house. Each piece of content you produce is focused on moving people through your sales funnel, ever close to buying:

– You create articles to build links to your site
– You send a weekly newsletter to your email subscribers
– You publish your blog two or three times a week
– You submit guest posts to influential blogs in your niche once a month
– You create case studies and white papers, and make them available on your site
– You send monthly press releases with news about your company

We’re merely touching the surface. The important thing to remember is that content marketing can be so much more than just submitting fodder to article directories for links. Major brands, including some of the biggest companies in the world, are increasingly using content to attract, engage, and ultimately move their audiences to buy their products.

Content marketing is more important today than ever. The key is to create material your audience craves.

Your Turn!

How have you used content to attract leads and build sales? How do you keep yourself on track to produce content on a regular basis? Let us know in the comments!

photo credit: An Archer’s Mess via photopin (license)

4 Reasons To Create High-Caliber Content That People (And Google!) Love

High-caliber content isn’t just lengthy or written well. It’s content that shows other people you’re a major contender in your niche, that you’re an industry expert, and not only do you know your stuff, but you can get it across in a way that demonstrates your passion and expertise.

Doesn’t that sound like the type of person you’d like to do business with? Wouldn’t you be comfortable hiring that person or buying her products? That’s the beauty of high-caliber, or “cornerstone” content. And if you’re not creating it, you’re losing out on a lot of great benefits.

Today, I’ll explain four reasons you should be putting in the time and effort to create content that people will love. Don’t be surprised if Google gives you a healthy boost to boot!

#1. It’s Hard To Compete With

How hard is it to write a 400-word article that passes the quality standards at EzineArticles? Admittedly, not very difficult. And that’s why so many people do it. With hundreds of thousands of folks submitting articles to EA, what are the chances that yours will rise to the top? Not very good.

That’s just one of the reasons you should create material that shines.

Think of the last time you came across a page of content that absolutely blew everything else you had seen out of the water. Didn’t you give the author credibility? You probably made a mental note to revisit the site down the road. High-caliber stuff stands out from the rest of the fluff out there, and it’s really tough to compete with it.

#2. It Becomes Popular

Cornerstone content gets attention because people tend to like it. When people feel as if they’ve gotten something from a piece of content, they share it with their own social and professional networs. No one says, “You have to read this fantastic article over at EzineArticles! It answers every question imaginable about the mating rituals of tree sloths.” Ho-hum content doesn’t get people excited!

An example of high-caliber content that becomes wildly popular is SEOMoz’s history of Google algorithm changes. It gives 14 years of detailed history, algo tweak by algo tweak, on a single page. Is it any wonder that it ranks above Wikipedia for the term “algorithm history”?

#3. It “Sticks” In Google

When you publish a small “throwaway” article, it may get a little bit of attention for a short period of time. It’s new and hopefully relevant to your audience’s needs. Eventually, interest in it declines. If you monitor your stats, you’ll notice the traffic to that article eventually dries up. One of the reasons is because its place in Google’s index starts to fall.

Not so with cornerstone content. Great material tends to attract links with time. The incoming links keep the content ranked well in Google, which keeps it in front of people interested in the topic. When folks stumble upon it, they share it with their friends via social media sites. That generates social signals that Google uses to further rank it at the top, and keep it there!

See how the momentum continues over the long run? More links, more social signals, higher ranking.

Also, if the topic of your high-caliber piece warrants regular updates, those updates prompt Google to rank the content high.

#4. It Builds Subscribers

When people trust you and like what you have to say, they want to hear from you on a regular basis. You’re an authority figure to them. That’s a great opportunity for you to build an email list. Your list gives you a chance to reach out to your audience whenever you want. You can drive them to a blog post on your site, ask them to buy your new product, or encourage them to share your recent white paper on their favorite social media sites.

How can you attract people who want to join your email list? By drawing them to you with your cornerstone content! When folks find your material to be educational, interesting, or intriguing, they are more receptive to giving you their email addresses. Before long, you can have thousands of people on your list waiting to read your next piece of content.

Your Turn!

What was the last piece of top-notch content you created for your business? Did the content help to generate links to your site? Did you ask your readers to share it with others on Twitter and Facebook? Let us know how it turned out for you in the comments section below!

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