Content marketing missing the mark? Master these fundamentals to dunk on the competition.
Here, you’ll find:
- Why content marketing best practices matter
- 10 proven tactics we use for content marketing success
- Common content mistakes to avoid at all costs
- Expert tips to optimize your strategy across platforms
Publishing without a clear content marketing strategy is like heading into the NBA playoffs without a plan for offense.
Sure, you can hope to win with strong defense, but you give the other team the upper hand. Content marketing works similarly: without a winning strategy, your competitors take the lead.
Whether you’re a content marketing expert or beginner, incorporating the latest best practices into your strategy will keep your content sharp, relevant, and driving results.
Unleashing the full potential of your content means establishing a strong framework for strategy, creation, optimization, and analytics to achieve long-term success.
The ultimate goal is to attract the right people, build trust, and convert visitors into loyal customers.
Here, we’ll share the top content marketing best practices for digital marketers, as well as some rookie mistakes to avoid. And to deliver exclusive insider tips, we’ve enlisted the expertise of Caroline Cox, senior content marketing manager at HawkSEM.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear list of actionable to-dos to up your content marketing game, so keep reading.
Why do content marketing best practices matter?
A successful content marketing strategy sets up your business for long-term, sustainable growth by:
- Building trust and authority with your audience
- Boosting SEO and driving organic traffic
- Amplifying brand loyalty and thought leadership
- Increasing lead generation and conversion rates
- Maximizing your ROI through measurable growth
A well-executed content marketing strategy can be the secret weapon that sets your brand apart from the competition. You’ll have a roadmap to create a captivating online presence that engages your audience and drives growth for your business.
The downside? Mastering successful content marketing doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But we’ve got the intel to help you kickstart your content strategy.
Familiarize yourself with these 10 content marketing best practices, and you’ll be able to overcome obstacles and achieve measurable success in no time.
10 content marketing best practices
Ready to supercharge your content and see maximum ROI?
From boosting visibility and driving organic traffic to amplifying brand awareness and accelerating growth, here’s how to leverage your content to achieve your business goals in 2023.
1. Give your content well-defined goals
In today’s crowded landscape, hitting ‘publish’ on new content and hoping the views roll in isn’t going to cut it. Without a strategic approach to content production and promotion, your content is unlikely to gain the visibility and engagement it needs to achieve your marketing goals.
To truly succeed, you need a well-defined content marketing strategy with clear, measurable goals.
For example, is your goal to:
- Increase brand awareness?
- Generate more leads?
- Boost organic traffic?
- Improve the user experience?
- Increase engagement?
Once you zero in on precisely what you want your content to accomplish, you can create content that helps you achieve these goals. This sets the stage for targeted content creation and simplifies performance monitoring along the way.
That’s why the most successful content marketing campaigns have a well-defined goal map complete with actionable steps to get there (aka strategy).
And once you hit those goals, keep raising the bar by setting new ones.
2. Know your audience
Effective content marketing is about drawing in the audience most likely to connect with your brand, ultimately leading to increased engagement and sales. To do so, you need a crystal-clear understanding of who your ideal customer or client is.
Collaborate with your marketing team and home in on who your people are. What are their demographics? Their interests? Pain points? Develop buyer personas that paint a clear and vivid picture of the audience you want to target.
Cox says, “The most important factor in quality content marketing is providing the reader with real value, whether that’s answering a question, educating them, helping them solve a problem, or something more.”
Without a clear understanding of who that reader is, how do you create content that effectively resonates with and engages them?
3. Establish a brand personality
Your brand personality represents the soul of your brand. It embodies your values, mission, personality, and unique selling propositions (USPs). It defines how you want your audience to perceive your brand and how you’ll differentiate from the competition.
By aligning your content with your brand identity, you can create a cohesive message that resonates with your target audience and builds an emotional connection. It also provides a framework for all your future marketing campaigns.
Here are some questions to ask when developing your brand personas:
- What’s our mission, and what values do we embody?
- How are we different from our competitors?
- What tone and personality should we convey in our content and marketing campaigns?
- What are the main benefits of our offerings?
- Which channels and platforms does our target audience use to consume content?
- How can we tailor our content to their preferences?
Once you’ve got your brand identity solidified, you can create content guidelines that serve as a blueprint for every piece of content you create. This will keep all your new content consistent and in line with your branding.
4. Study the competition
Keeping an eye on your competitors can give you insights into their strategies, tactics, and messaging. This allows you to understand what other businesses in your niche are doing and identify opportunities within your content marketing strategy to differentiate your brand.
To be clear: you don’t want to copy their strategy. But you absolutely can take note of elements that work for them.
See how you can adopt certain methods in your own way for your own strategy. Doing so will also reveal content gaps you can fill.
Here’s a good starting point for what to survey:
- What topics do they cover that your brand can cover differently or better?
- Do you see gaps in their content that you can capitalize on to differentiate yourself?
- How do they use their content to reach a similar target audience?
- What’s something you like in their strategy that you can apply to your content while still maintaining your unique brand identity?
- Do they miss the mark anywhere? Perhaps some of their audience spends time on Instagram, but they’re not marketing there. Time to get ‘gramming!
By learning from your competition’s successes and mistakes, you can elevate your content marketing strategy and drive superior results.
5. Stay consistent
Consistency is key to achieving authority, trust, engagement, and loyalty when it comes to content creation.
Consistently delivering high-quality content that’s relevant, valuable, and engaging helps you create a sense of reliability and dependability. This not only expands your reach but fosters deeper engagement and loyalty from your existing audience.
The search engine results pages (SERPs) also love consistent content. Consistency informs search engines that your website is active, authoritative, and providing value to users.
From a content marketing standpoint, consistency is characterized by four primary factors:
- Consistently creating content for your target audience
- Maintaining a uniform brand voice and tone in every piece of content
- Publishing content on the same platforms regularly
- Covering topics that are consistent with your brand offerings
As you gain momentum and your audience grows, you can establish yourself as a thought leader and authority in your industry. You’ll grow a loyal audience base that looks forward to your insights and perspectives.
Pro tip: Create a content calendar to help you hit your marketing goals and ensure that your content aligns with your brand identity, messaging, and objectives, while also maintaining a regular publishing schedule. Include content formats, intent, and templates for every piece of content.
6. Diversify your content creation
The content landscape has never been more diverse than it is today. From long-form blog posts to short-form social media updates, this generation’s content creators have a wealth of options at their disposal.
So, is it better to master one or two mediums or diversify your content efforts across multiple channels? The decision to focus on one or multiple content formats ultimately depends on your goals, resources, and audience preferences.
For example, a B2B company might see better results with LinkedIn posts and case studies, while a B2C brand is more likely to succeed with Instagram and TikTok content.
That said, we aren’t fans of putting all your content eggs in one basket. This could leave you vulnerable to changes in audience preferences or shifts in the market.
While it’s good to focus on content formats that work best for your brand and audience, experimenting with different formats and channels keeps you agile and adaptable.
7. Integrate solid SEO
Content marketing and SEO are two sides of the same coin, working together to help you achieve your marketing goals and drive success for your business. Incorporating both practices into your marketing strategy creates a more effective and holistic approach to attracting, engaging, and converting your target audience.
The problem is, all the other brands are attempting to do the same thing.
How can you ensure your content ranks higher than theirs on search engines?
Conduct keyword research for your niche
If you were your ideal customer, what would you type into Google? Say your audience searches for “affordable painters near me,” and you’re a local painting company. What other queries pop up in Google’s related searches and “People Also Ask”?
Chances are high that those related queries revolve around a problem that you can solve, such as “How can I reduce the cost of painting?” Answer that question with a blog post, and guide them to your affordable services as a solution, along with other cost-saving tips.
Create uniquely valuable content that goes beyond self-promotion
Although you want to build awareness about your offerings, you don’t want to sell too hard. The most effective content marketing is all about providing value and subtly promoting your services between all that value — and most of the information you provide shouldn’t be self-promotional.
This will build enough trust for you to artfully squeeze a tasteful call-to-action (CTA) for your company.
Set a minimum content length
Google’s sweet spot for good content sits at about 1,500-2,500 words. Why? Because that’s about how much space you need to cover a topic comprehensively. When in doubt, choose quality over quantity. You’ll see better results by devoting a long-form format to a topic than pumping out a bunch of thin content.
Be careful with over-optimizing your content
Keyword stuffing — cramming a bunch of keywords into content — is a no-no for SEO.
Remember, you’re writing for people, not just search engines. Cox says that one of the biggest mistakes she sees businesses make in developing their content marketing is focusing too much on writing for search engines rather than people.
“Writing for search engines first might seem like a good practice – after all, better visibility means more traffic, right? But in the long run, it won’t help you stand the test of time or help you beat competitors who are putting real readers first,” she explains. “Of course, keywords and backlinking are important, but they shouldn’t come at the expense of crafting a readable, quality piece of writing that sounds conversational rather than robotic.”
In other words, the key is finding the right balance between SEO optimization and creating high-quality content that delivers genuine value to your audience.
8. Track performance
Content goals? Check. Now, how do you know if you’ve hit them?
According to Cox: “Keeping an eye on your content performance and user behavior on your site tells you a lot about what is and isn’t resonating with your audience.”
This is why giving your content a purpose is so important. With clear objectives, you can track your content’s performance and determine whether it’s meeting your expectations. This helps you identify areas of improvement, optimize your content strategy, and ultimately drive traffic and results.
ConversionIQ, for example, makes this easier by syncing all of your data from Google Ads analytics, Bing, HubSpot, and more, into one user-friendly dashboard. The more accessible your metrics, the more quickly you can optimize and refine your strategy.
So what metrics should you use to measure your content’s success?
Cox recommends looking at elements like traffic, SERP rankings, and new/improved keyword rankings.
“This helps frame our strategy by illustrating what topics we may want to create more content on, which pages deserve a revisit or refresh, and which keywords resonate with our audience most.”
9. Revamp existing content
New content is great, but you should optimize existing content, too.
To stay ahead, you need to continuously adapt your content marketing strategy to changes in customer behavior, demand, and search engine algorithms.
“The top way to keep your content relevant and effective is to plan for regular content audits and refreshes,” Cox explains, “This way, you can update, expand, and even combine content to ensure that what’s on your site is as accurate, relevant, and timely as possible.”
Look at your existing content and add new updates to links, statistics, research, and industry findings.
What are the perks of evergreen content? By optimizing older pieces, you can anticipate:
- Better search engine rankings
- Increased engagement
- Better ROI
- Enhanced authority and credibility
- Improved customer retention
The best content marketers constantly seek ways to evolve and improve their approach. So always be ready to pivot.
10. Stay current on evolving marketing trends and content types
It’s hard to stay at the top of your game if you don’t know what’s trending for your audience online.
Marketing is a fast-paced game, with trends and technologies evolving at lightning speed. Just look at how the landscape has transformed in recent years. With the rise of short-form video content, even TikTok and Instagram Reels appear on Google.
It’s important to go beyond written content as well and incorporate various content types, such as infographics, videos, branded images, and interactive media like user-generated content.
“Staying in the loop when it comes to your audience and industry is important,” says Cox. “As a busy marketer, it helps me to subscribe to a handful of industry newsletters so I can always be on top of the latest developments and trends.”
By ensuring your marketing team keeps a finger on the pulse of emerging industry updates, you can stay ahead of the curve and take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.
Pitfalls to avoid in content marketing
Leveraging successful content marketing best practices can be a game-changer for elevating your brand. If you’re a content marketing newbie, though, it’s easy to fall into some common traps that can stunt your business’s growth and reputation.
To help you achieve success in your content marketing efforts, here are a few faux pas to avoid:
- Publishing low-quality content: One mistake Cox often sees businesses make is focusing on quantity over quality. “Experience tells me it’s better to spend time publishing fewer high-quality, thorough, well-researched pieces of content than a ton of short, hastily-written pieces of fluff that don’t really help the reader.” The former, she adds, will do a much better job of helping you gain brand authority and consumer trust.
- Prioritizing SEO over quality: Optimizing your content for search engines is crucial for reaching the right audience, driving engagement, and lead generation. But Cox warns, “While search engine results page visibility is important, it’s the quality and value of your content that keeps readers on the page and wanting to know more, rather than bouncing to the next search result.”
- Not enlisting the pros: If your in-house team doesn’t have a content expert with the skills or bandwidth to craft high-quality content efficiently (especially if they’ve got other responsibilities), then hiring a content marketer or outsourcing to experts can allow your businesses to create high-quality content while saving time and resources for other tasks.
Cox says there are pros and cons to outsourcing. For one, you may pay less in the long run, but you may be limited in communication, revisions, and reliability.
While in-house writers are more of an investment, it lets you work closely with writers to ensure they stay consistent, garnering in-depth knowledge of your content style, target audience, and overall marketing goals.
Digital marketing can be a daunting world to navigate, but it’s these content marketing best practices that separate the OK content from unforgettable, high-quality content.
By mastering these content marketing best practices, you’ll build a strong and enduring online presence that translates to more revenue.
Prefer to take the guesswork out of content marketing? Together, we can create a winning strategy that blends creativity and data-driven insights to craft content that can’t be ignored. Let’s talk!