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5 Easy Ways to Step Up Your Content Marketing Game This Year

This post was originally published in April, 2018 and updated in July, 2020.

Ever feel like your content marketing efforts are okay at best?

Now and then, a reader opts in to your email list.

You’re making juuuust enough sales to keep your brand surviving.

But it’s not what you dreamed of.

It’s not the crazy success, the tons of comments and shares, and the legion of fans you dreamed of when you started creating content.

What could be wrong?

Well, here’s the thing.

In content marketing, “OK” just isn’t enough.

You need to be spectacular. You need bold, fresh, eye-opening content.

And you need content strategy and audience-building processes to work smart instead of hard.

So, are you ready to improve your content marketing?

Here’s a little inspiration to get you started:

According to a HubSpot study, brands that published over 16 blogs a month got 4.5x more leads than brands that published below four blogs monthly.

impact of monthly blog posts on inbound leads

Source: Hubspot

So, you see?

There are proven formulas you can use to improve your content marketing.

In this blog, I’ll show them to you.

Ready to be inspired?

step up your content marketing game

5 Steps to Improve Your Content Marketing for Bigger, Better Success

What’s surprising is working hard doesn’t necessarily mean working smart.

You can be putting a ton of work into content marketing and still be getting results that are just, well, MEH.

Follow these steps to turn things around.

1. Track Your Rankings in the SERPs

You can either push out blog after blog and hope they climb to the top of Google’s SERPs…

…or you can be strategic and plan your way to the top.

One way to see how well you’re ranking for your chosen keywords is to use my favorite keyword research tool SEMRush. (This is a paid tool, but totally worth it if you ask me!)

To start, head over to the Features tab.

semrush features tab

Source: semrush.com

Select the Position Tracking Tool.

From there, you can see how well your keywords are doing against your competitors’.

semrush position tracking

You can even click on different keywords to check how well they are ranking against the competition.

semrush keywords

You can also use SEMrush for conducting a gap analysis. Simply plug in your URL plus your competitors’ URLs. This will show how well you stack up against them, plus which keywords you’re missing.

semrush gap analysis

Source: contentstrategycourse.com

For more details on how to use SEMrush for content strategy, read: 3 Must-Have Content Tools for Marketers: SEMrush, KWFinder, Ahrefs.

2. Optimize Your Headline for More Clicks

Your headline is your first interaction with readers.

When they see it, they’ll decide whether to explore or ignore your content.  

Take this headline as an example. If you stumbled across it on Google, would you feel compelled to click it?

headline example

Source: google.com

No, right?

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it. In fact, it’s the right length and doesn’t contain spelling or grammar errors. BUT, well, it’s just meh.

Now, how about this headline?

good headline example

Yup, you’d click that! 👍

Here are two steps for improving your headlines.

1. Be Clear about Your Promise to Readers

Online readers don’t search on Google for the pleasure of consuming great literature.

They search because they want to accomplish something, whether that’s learning how to write a blog, finding the cheapest shoe store nearby, or comparing chocolate cake recipes.

Now, imagine your readers want to learn how to write faster and you title your piece “How to Write a Spellbinding Blog in 45 minutes.”

Would they click?

You bet!

Headlines are all about promises. Promise your readers they’ll accomplish what they want when they read your content, and they’ll flock to you like bees to honey.

Pro tip: Before you write the first word of your blog, sit down and seriously ask yourself the question, “What new thing will my audience be able to do after reading my post?” Craft the answer into a compelling headline and watch your clicks soar.

2. Add Emotional Marketing Words to Your Headline

Remember, marketing is all about emotion. People buy things for feeling first and fact second.

Want proof? Chocolate cake has 0 benefits. It’s packed with sugar, has no nutritional value, plus it makes you fat. So why DO you buy chocolate cake? Because it makes you feel good!

The same is true of emotional headlines. Readers will click when they feel a connection to the words you’ve written.

Pro tip: An excellent tool I use for headlines is Advanced Marketing Institute’s Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer.

EMV headline analyzer

To use it, plug your headline into the search field and click Submit for Analysis. Your score will be based on how many of your words are emphatic, intellectual, spiritual, or all three.

Let’s test the headline of this blog (5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Content Marketing this Year).

EMV headline analyzer results score

A perfect score is 100%, but I’ve found that a score above 40% significantly increases clicks.

3. Go Beyond Great with Your Content

As Google has said, “Great just isn’t good enough.”

content: great isn't good enough

Source: google.com

To enjoy success, you need to go beyond great. You need to be unexpected, bold, and eye-opening.

To make readers love your content:

  • Take a deep, comprehensive dive into your topic.
  • Be bold, fresh, and unconventional.
  • Present your content so it’s easy on the eye.

1. Dive Deep

Content that merely scratches the surface of a topic will never make it in the eyes of your reader.

For example, check out this piece about travel in Mexico.

uninspired content example

Unimpressive much?

Give your readers shallow, useless content and they’ll vanish, never to return again.

If you want them to stay?

Take them deeper. Impress them with power statistics, graphs, and claims.

For example, don’t start your blog with “Mexico is a great place to spend your vacation.” Start it with, “Did you know that 32.39 million Americans traveled to Mexico in 2019 alone?”

You can even throw in a graph like this.

travel to mexico stats

Source: statista.com

The goal is to make your readers feel like experts on the topic by the end of your piece. If you do, they’ll come back to you again and again.

2. Be Surprising

Don’t tell readers what they already know. Dry, old, regurgitated content will get you nowhere in the world of spectacular content marketing.

Instead, open their eyes to a new point of view. Add research you did yourself. Tell stories that challenge the norm.

Here’s an example.

Smartblogger great content example

Source: smartblogger.com

“Most people don’t know there’s a huge chance of failure, so they spend months or even years creating a blog that has zero chance of succeeding.” Say what? Don’t they all say, “If you build it, they will come”?

A hard-hitting fact like that is enough to have readers glued to your content.

3. Give Your Readers a Break

Online readers aren’t in it for the literary experience, and you can bet they’ll balk when they’re hit in the face with a huge wall of text. 

wall of text

To keep them reading:

  • Make your sentences and paragraphs short.
  • Use an easy, flowing, conversational style.
  • Use subheads generously.
  • Cut the fluff.
  • Don’t be boring.

Here’s a super example from Brian Dean.

well-formatted content example

Want to improve your content marketing? Watch my FREE intensive masterclass here. I’ll show you the six steps to a powerful content strategy framework, plus how to avoid three mistakes that KILL content profits.

Sign up for a FREE Masterclass

4. Reacquaint Yourself with Your Audience

Do you know the people you’re reaching with your content marketing?

Of course, you did complete research on your target audience before you built your brand. You ran surveys, thoroughly researched your target market, and built audience personas.

The question is: is your audience now still the same as it was then?

To find out, do a fresh survey of your audience. Ask people why they’re following your content, what new ideas they want to explore, and what they desire to learn.

For maximum response:

  • Keep your survey brief and mention the exact time it will take them to complete it.
  • Give away a little incentive for survey-takers. A free download is an excellent idea.

(Want to know how to create surveys with HUGE response rates? I teach exactly how to do it in hands-on video exercises inside my Content Strategy and Marketing Course.)

Enroll in the Content Strategy and Marketing Course

5. Start a Facebook Group

I started my Facebook group, Practical Content Marketers and Strategists, in 2018. As of today, we’re nearing the 2,000 members mark.

The amazing part? We’ve accomplished this without any form of paid marketing!

So, if you’re looking for an amazing way to get insights from your audience, find out what your readers’ struggles are, and dig up fantastic topics to write about… a Facebook page is the simple, fun, free way to do it.

Here are three tips for keeping your audience excited and engaged in your group:

  • Post pro tips
  • Encourage conversations with intriguing prompts
  • Share your best content from your blogs

How to Improve Your Content Marketing Game Moving Forward

Do you feel like you’re working too hard pushing out blog after blog but not seeing the results you dream of?

Maybe you’re putting your heart and soul into your content, but at the end of the day it just feels “OK.”

If this sounds like you, then great!

You already have the massive work ethic and passion. All you need to do is tweak your content marketing efforts using the tips I’ve mentioned, and you’re in for a HUGE change!

Do you have the skills it takes to be a successful content marketer? Download this FREE cheat sheet to find out.

Profitable Content Marketer Skills Cheat Sheet
step up your content marketing game

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