By now, you’ve read that “content is king” enough times to make your head spin.
And you already know that if you want to build an engaged audience, you’ve got to over-deliver by providing super valuable content.
Pardon the content marketing buzzwords, but I think we can all agree that “understanding that quality content is important” isn’t a marketing strategy. It’s common sense.
If you want your hard work to really pay off, then you’ve got to have a deliberate, data-driven content marketing strategy. As Arjun Basu of Spafax has commented on many a marketing blog post:
Content without strategy is just stuff.
You’re a smart marketer, and you (and your readers) won’t settle for “just stuff.”
This year, the marketing team at Unbounce read tons of actionable, thought-provoking blog posts that made us rethink our content strategy – here are 11 of our favorites to help you step up your content marketing game in the new year.
Articles to help you with a data-based approach to content marketing
1. Why You Should Focus On Clicks Before Conversions by Tommy Walker for Unbounce
When you’ve got your head down optimizing for conversions, it’s easy to forget that other metrics matter just as much – especially when it comes to content marketing. In this blog post, Tommy Walker calls for an emphasis on “the click.” As he puts it:
It’s only once we begin to understand what gets people to click that we can really understand what gets people to convert.
In the article, Walker explains that clicks are the “currency of the internet,” and he breaks down what it takes to bank more of them – from understanding the ecosystem of different distribution channels to deep-diving into your analytics data for actionable insight.
If you want to learn what clicks with your audience (sorry!), this is an invaluable resource for getting started.
2. The Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Analytics and Metrics by Pawan Deshpande of Curata
Whoever said that it’s difficult to measure the effectiveness of content marketing needs to check out this epic post by Pawan Deshpande (CEO of Curata).
In the comprehensive post, Deshpande goes beyond default metrics such as “page views” and “shares” into a detailed (and quite technical) analysis of more advanced metrics.
Depending on which KPIs matter to your business, this post will help you understand how you can track and optimize for them (including advice from professional marketers who are already gunning for the same goals).
After reading this post, you’ll be equipped to learn more about of the effectiveness of your content – and how it impacts your bottom line.
3. What We Learned Analyzing 595 Buffer Blogposts by Kevan Lee of Buffer
If you want to revisit your content strategy, sometimes the most logical first step is to look back and take stock of what worked (and what didn’t).
In this post, Kevan Lee of Buffer breaks down the specifics of their recent 595-post content audit. Generously, Lee shares the biggest takeaways as well as a detailed step-by-step tutorial of how you can do the same for your own blog.
As with most Buffer posts, this article will leave you with tons of data-backed insight that will stick with you next time you sit down to write (or promote) a post.
4. How to Optimize Your Older Blog Content for Long Tail Conversion by David Cheng for Unbounce
After you’ve conducted your content audit, your work isn’t done.
From there, you’ve got to take the numbers you crunched and turn them into actionable insight that will help you improve your posts – both past and present.
As David Cheng of ShareBloc explains in this post, there are many simple ways you can optimize past content to generate big wins – especially when you’re equipped with the information that a content audit reveals.
In the post, Cheng shares a few simple but really effective tactics that will help you optimize your evergreen content to bring in more long tail conversion (read: easy wins).
Articles to help you master content promotion and distribution
5. How to Create a Winning Content Promotion Plan by Stephanie Beadell of BuzzStream
Now that you’ve got a super data-driven method of creating content, you’re sure to create awesome resources that your audience will love. But how do you get it all out there?
In her post on BuzzStream, content marketer Stephanie Beadell explains that promotion shouldn’t be an afterthought; it should run parallel to content production, with most of the promotion work completed before the publish date.
Beadell shares a timeline detailing when each of the various pieces should fall into place: audience research, messaging, testing, outreach, moderation and wrap up.
And before dropping the mic, she leaves readers with a detailed “content campaign plan” cheat sheet to keep on hand. So actionable.
6. How We’ve Reached More Than 1 Million People by Guest Blogging by Alex Turnbull of Groove
If you’ve heard that guest posting is an important strategy, this post has the stats to really drive the point home.
Alex Turnbull of Groove kicks off the post by sharing specific stats of how guest posting has impacted the company’s bottom line.
Once he’s made his case, Turnbull gets into the nitty gritty of guest posting: how to choose a topic that will resonate with the guest audience and how to masterfully pitch your post idea.
To top it all off, he explains how Groove uses a killer combo of guest posting and dedicated landing pages to see real results from their guest posting efforts – in terms of more leads and conversions.
7. How BuzzFeed Mastered Social Sharing to Become a Media Giant for a New Era by David Rowan for Wired
BuzzFeed articles have an uncanny ability to make you want to click that “share” button. And even though they poke fun at marketers, I think we can all appreciate their mastery of ridiculously sticky content (no matter how stupid it can be).
In this post by David Rowan of Wired, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti provides a glimpse into what makes their fluffy content so damn shareable.
More think-piecey/strategic than tactical, the post breaks down the philosophy of a company whose bread and butter is content. As a bonus, Rowan even shares BuzzFeed’s internal “Guide to Shareability.”
8. 50+ Places To Repurpose Your Content: The Ultimate Guide by Garrett Moon for CoSchedule
Smart marketers pour their heart into every piece of content they create, striving to be as helpful, thoughtful and delightful as possible.
But even the most amazing pieces of content can bellyflop when they’re pushed out into the world.
This post by Garrett Moon of CoSchedule brings you exactly what it says on the tin: a comprehensive guide of over 50 channels to help you get maximum mileage out of everything you create. Moon does an awesome job of being concise while touching on the benefits of each channel/platform.
Whether through syndication, obscure social media sites or a multitude of other channels you would’ve never thought of, this post will help you show the world what kickass content you’ve created.
Articles to inspire your content strategy
9. Contrarian Content Marketing: How to Zig When Everyone Else Zags by Elisa Gabbert for WordStream
In a world where everyone is scrambling to create actionable content, posts can start to feel like carbon copies of each other – regurgitations of the same clichés. As Elisa Gabbert eloquently puts it in this article for WordStream:
90% of that content marketing is redundant crap.
As a happy alternative, Gabbert suggests going against the grain and publishing content that creates waves. To illustrate her point, she provides some pretty delightful examples of successful contrarian content.
As long as it’s not empty clickbait, Gabbert explains, contrarian opinions generate really interesting and stimulating discussions that benefit everyone – even the naysayers.
She goes on to explain why contrarian content generally performs well, and how you can make sure that there’s a smidgen of (smart) controversy in every post you write.
10. What Content Marketers and Journalists Need to Learn from Each Other by Dan Levy for Moz
As a journalist-turned-content strategist, Dan Levy’s got the unique advantage of having seen how content is produced in both the editorial and advertorial worlds.
And while many journalistic practices have already made their way into marketing departments (editorial calendars and style guides to name a few), Levy explains that content marketers still have lots to learn from journalists – and vice versa.
In this thoughtful two-part post, Levy explains what either profession can learn from the other. He touches on the perils of being too data-driven, neglecting to cite sources, and refusing to brush up on some basic HTML.
If you’re a marketer who strives to continuously get better at content crafting, this post is a must-read.
11. How to Vet New Content Hires by Gregory Ciotti
Now that you’ve got a revamped content marketing strategy to start off 2015 with a bang, you might find that you need a little extra bandwidth to make the magic happen.
He kicks off the post by emphasizing the importance of hiring the right person for the job:
The team you build is the company you build. Hiring well is the most important part of your content efforts.
Then Ciotti dives into his method for vetting new content hires, along will all the considerations he made along the way.
If you find it tricky to hire a new content person with confidence, you’ll definitely find this post helpful.
A resolution commitment for smarter content marketing in 2015
You’re already working really hard to deliver great content to your audience. But as marketers, there are always things we can be doing to be working smarter.
So let’s all make a New Year’s resolution to…
… Actually, screw New Year’s resolutions – make a commitment to get smarter about your content marketing in 2015.
We hope that these actionable articles will inspire you to try something outside of your comfort zone so you can look forward to a fruitful year of content marketing.
Now it’s your turn – what were your favorite content marketing articles from 2014?