Last year at MozCon, I talked about how as content marketers, we need to grow up and we need to be more accountable. And while we haven’t exactly solved all of our problems, we are seeing some positive results.
According to Point Visible, 70% of marketers are prioritizing content quality over quantity. Even better, 77% of B2B marketers are creating content based on stages of the buyer journey. Those are great stats to see and as content marketers, we are making progress.
The thing is, we can always be better. Whether you’re a content marketer who wants to try something new or an SEO who relies on content to be successful, there are so many things we can do.
So instead of thinking about how we can grow up, I want to think back to what we did as kids – we read. We read things like the Velveteen Rabbit and Where the Wild things are. We read Dr. Seuss and Cinderella. We read these great stories that used words and images to capture our imaginations and connect us to these characters for life.
Now I’m not saying I want everyone to go out and create a classic story, but what I am saying is I want us to think about how we as content marketers can use our storytelling skills to connect people to our brand. To create something that people remember.
Because there are already brands out there doing just that. Take Wegmans for example. Wegmans is a grocery store based out of Rochester, NY that has done an amazing job curating and creating content for social, for email, and for their print magazine.
The key to all of these things, is they create content their audience cares about. They create content their audience can relate to, that helps solve their problems, and makes their life easier. They create things that are actually memorable.
That becomes our jobs. Our jobs as content marketers, as storytellers, is to create something that does just that. To create something they care about, that reflects their interests, and that connects them to us.
And to do that, we need to make sure we are doing these four things:
- Identify Audience Needs
- Think Simple
- Get Creative
- Tell a Story
Identify Your Audience Needs
Let’s be honest, this alone isn’t a new tactic. As marketers, we have to understand who our audience is and what they want. This should always be our goal as marketers but it certainly needs to be our goal if we want to create something our audience will remember. We need to find out who they are, what they care about, and what problems they have.
Who is your audience?
To understand who our audience is, we can spend thousands of dollars a month on tools that tell us this, or we can use the ones we already have.
- Google Analytics Demographics – It’s not perfect but it will certainly show you some information on who is coming to your site.
- Email Database – Analyze your email database to better understand locations and job titles.
- LinkedIn Audiences – Location, seniority, job function…LinkedIn is another one that isn’t perfect but it will certainly give you insights into your audience.
- SEMRush Display Research – This is a tool I really like. If you are running display ads, you can get insights into who is actually seeing your ads. If you aren’t, try a competitor. You might get some good info along the lines of age, gender, interests, and more.
What do they care about?
When we are trying to identify the needs of our audience, we have to ask ourselves, ‘what do they care about?’ This is where our search prowess comes in and where some of our favorite tools can shine some light:
- BuzzSumo – An all-time classic in my book, BuzzSumo’s Influencer Tools show us what people are sharing and what topics they talk about most frequently.
- Keyword Everywhere – Keywords Everywhere is a browser extension that shows you the various keywords and suggested keywords around a search. Take a look to see what else people care about.
- Kparser – Kparser is another free keyword tool that not only shows you all of the various terms related to your primary term, but it also will show you terms by Google News, Amazon, Youtube, Google Images, and more. It’s a really great way to understand what your audience is looking for across various platforms.
Identifying what our audience cares about isn’t that much different than keyword research or content research. At the end of the day, we want to know what they are looking for.
What problems do they have?
Creating something helpful is key to creating something that’s memorable. Just like how we can use keyword research to understand what our audience cares about, we can use our amazing question tools to find out what problems they have.
- SEMRush – One of the things I love about SEMRush is the various functions and tools within the platform. In this case, the topic research tool can prove indispensable. We can identify not only the top headlines dominating search for our industry but we can also identify the questions people are asking. Brilliant!
- BuzzSumo – BuzzSumo’s Question Analyzer not only gives you questions related to a specific topic but will also group the questions into themes.
- Storybase – Storybase is a tool that’s fairly new to me and what I like about it, is it offers topics, questions, and also demographics tied to your queries. Pretty cool stuff at a relatively low cost.
There are certainly more tools that can help us find questions but the message is this — if we don’t understand who our audience is, we’ll never know what content will resonate with them.
One of the hang-ups I have with content is the idea that we have to go big. But that’s not true. What we need to be doing is helping our customers, answering their questions, and giving them the things they need.
A brand who does a really great job of this is Summersalt. Summersalt is a swimwear company that promotes inclusivity, body positivity, and environmental awareness. Seems like a lot just to sell suits right? The thing is, they really do tell that story in their marketing. And they do it in a simple way. Here are some images from their Instagram:
They also have what I think is a brilliant, and very memorable piece of content – their swimsuit size finder. Unlike competitors, who have put together long-winded explanations or unhelpful charts, they built a tool that asks you five simple questions. At the end, it not only gives you a size but also recommended swimsuits that would be a good fit.
That is brilliant content and they do it based on your body and your needs!
So how can we keep it simple? There are a few ways:
Get to the point.
Have you ever to find a recipe online? You’ve likely encountered the life story with a recipe at the end. Yes, that story is valuable in connecting with your audience but give users a way to access the recipe right away. Give them what they want.
Forget word count.
Look, I know that we are often fighting the search results. I spend hours analyzing competitor content and SERPs to understand how I can make mine better and that often means making something bigger and better. But it doesn’t mean you have to make everything bigger.
The same thing goes to answering questions. Don’t bury the answer. Whether you are creating a how-to video, a step-by-step guide, or even a comprehensive article, answer the question as soon as possible. Every piece of content doesn’t have to be the biggest. The next time you’re writing, throw your content into a summary tool like eSummarizer to see what you can get rid of.
The content I remember is content that is helpful. The Summersalt swimsuit fitting tool isn’t just a cool piece of content, it’s a cool piece of content that’s simple but also helps me figure out what I need.
Think simple means giving your audience what they want in a direct manner.
Creative is hard. As a result, we default to generic images. In fact, according to Venngage, stock photography (40%) and infographics (37%) are the most frequently used visual content. Ugh! Stock images do not equal memorable content.
We want images that connect customers to our brand, inspire them to take action, get their attention, and stand out in a sea of junk.
A couple of months ago I came across this ad on Facebook:
Not only did I stop scrolling but I clicked on the ad. It was colorful, it was fun, and it stood out in my feed. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was in REI, and what do I see? This same exact coat! The ad was so eye-catching that I remembered the coat, saw it in the store, and even tried it on. That’s the impact visuals can have.
Now, here’s the challenge. Most of us, including myself, see images or videos and think, I don’t have time for this or I’m not a Photoshop expert. The great thing is, you don’t have to be. We now live in a world where technology has made this easy. As Arby’s would say, we have the meats…well, the tools.
A few tools that can make your life easier and help you create better content include:
- Pixlr – Pixlr is a photoshop alternative that’s easy to use and great for editing pictures.
- Remove.bg – This is one of the coolest tools I have used in the past few months. With Remove.bg, you put in a picture of people, and it’ll remove the background.
- Snappa – Similar to a Canva, Snappa can help you create cool data graphics that can be used for just about anything.
- Recordit – I love making gifs. They are fun, they catch the eye, and they can drive engagement better than a static image. Recordit is a free tool that will do both screen recordings and gif creation.
- Giphy – How about straight-up gifs? The Giphy app allows you to upload photos or videos, and it’ll spit out a gif for you. Easy as pie!
Images play a role in everything we do as marketers. In emails. In print. In search. Go beyond stock images and starting creating something worthwhile. Upping your creative game doesn’t have to be hard and if you really want to make something that your audience remembers, you are going to have to move beyond words.
Tell a Story
I want to circle back to the idea of stories. Because when we are talking about creating something that’s memorable…you need a story. And that can be an image, a video, or just a great story.
Take for example Casie’s Dog Bakery. Casie sells dog cakes and dog treats and she wants to get the message across that dogs love her baked good. What tells a better story?
Telling a story doesn’t have to mean writing the next great children’s book. It simply means creating something that allows you to get your story across in a way that people remember and connect with.
As content marketers, as SEOs, as digital marketers in general…we should always be evolving. That means taking our content beyond the traditional blog post, taking it beyond stock photos, and creating things that show results. Creating things that stick in people’s heads and make them remember you as the brand that helped them or the brand they trust.
That starts with the four things above and it starts with you. Start trying new things and testing them. Create a gif and test it against the static image. Create a simple FAQ page and see how it performs.
Our job as content marketers is to create content that helps our audience and helps our business. It isn’t magic. It isn’t brand new. It’s simply progress.