These five radically new content marketing strategies will instantly improve and overhaul your strategic content campaigns and blast your marketing team into the big leagues.
Implementing all five hacks should have some pretty immediate and positive effects on the quality and performance of your content. They are affordable and easy to integrate into existing processes by everyone from bloggers and small businesses, to brands, large-scale enterprises and digital marketing agencies.
With the exception of the first strategy (which represents a modernization of traditional content marketing), each strategy can be quickly integrated into existing publishing activities with no more than a few tweaks here and there.
Low hanging fruit, with potentially huge payoffs.
1. Upgrade to Data Driven Content Marketing
To get the best returns from your investment in content, it's important to be able to manage the entire publishing process well. Great management requires strategy, planning and decision making - all of which rely on great data. Competitive content marketing campaigns must rely on the best possible data - about the market, competitors, performance, SEO, and a host of other key metrics.
Having a publishing calendar, or content planner, is where most company's decide they're happy. That's not really going after a competitive edge; it's meeting the basic minimum requirements for a decent content marketing campaign.
Fortunately, there's a cheap and painless way to upgrade.
SEMrush's Content Marketing Toolkit is an all-in-one suite of content marketing tools that integrates a wide range of management, productivity, SEO data and research, competitive analytics insights, social media and engagement analysis to level-up just about every step in the publication cycle.
Combining publishing management features with the world's largest database of SEO data, plus in-depth competitor research and accurate performance monitoring is a revolution in content marketing.
There's another reason using the Content Marketing Toolkit is useful. Your account can be used in virtually every other aspect of online business - from SEO to viability testing, to identifying competitors or potential influencers to work with.
The Content Marketing Life Cycle
Driving an in-house marketing team consisting of writers and copywriters can be a minefield. Planning, strategy, scheduling, and a host of other challenges play a role. Communications and teamwork are vital. Productivity and efficiency are just as important.
The content marketing life cycle in 7 steps.
While the toolkit it super easy and intuitive to use, there are a lot of features that can really add value and save time and money. It's worth checking out this free content marketing toolkit course.
Get 9 exclusive, free video lessons on how to use the Content Marketing Toolkit.
For those of you who prefer to jump straight in, here's a bird's eye view of how the system is organized to help your brand plan and deliver content that generates the best possible returns.
1. Find a Topic
Coming up with the 'right' content to publish for your business is part research, data and science and part creativity.
Find a topic to write about.
The Content Marketing Toolkit helps you quickly analyze and understand topics within the context of what's already published online. SEO keyword research can also shed light on the potential viability and profitability of a specific niche topic.
The Creative Heuristic Algorithm, outlined and explained in the following section, Generate Super-Creative New Content Ideas, gives your team the ability to take niche topics and find creative gaps and angles.
2. Create a Plan
Plan content with a calendar that allows you to monitor activities, team members and notifications to ensure the team meets its deadlines.
Schedule and plan content with the ability to monitor the entire process, from start to finish.
3. Start Writing
Ensure all content is created using proven SEO templates to help capture higher page rankings in Google's search results.
Write content using proven SEO templates to drive more traffic.
Improve a wide range of metrics associated with your content, from SEO friendliness to readability and overall tone.
Optimize content for tone to closely match it with your brand's voice.
Keep tabs on who's talking about your content and what competitors are doing with their content.
Step 5: Schedule and plan content with the ability to monitor the entire process, from start to finish.
This is also a great tool for identifying new channels and PR opportunities to garner even more coverage for your published content. This fits in nicely with the section covering how to Bake In Serious Influence a bit later on.
It goes without saying that social media is an incredibly important area to consider as part of any content based marketing campaign. Measuring the number of social shares (in addition to keyword rankings in Google search) helps highlight the true impact of your content.
Measure the true impact of your brand's content via social mentions in addition to keyword rankings.
The ability to accurately monitor and understand the impact of your content is vital for ongoing growth. It informs strategic decisions about which PR channels are valuable and which are not. This compliments the final section, Become the News, that covers how to embed strategies for generating consistent and sustainable media coverage.
Analyze and utilize the overall performance of your content, across a broad range of metrics, to better inform strategic content marketing decision going forward.
Improve content based on the underlying performance data gathered about published articles.
At every step of the process there are value-added features, data and insights that help your team be more productive, publish better content, make better strategic decisions, uncover new opportunities and generally start firing on all cylinders.
Putting a comprehensive content marketing management tool in place puts your team in a position to start dominating other areas - from creativity to media coverage.
2. Generate Super-Creative New Content Ideas
The creative heuristic algorithm can help spark new ideas for content. In fact, it can help in virtually any aspect of business that requires creativity and creative problem solving. Plus it's super easy for you and your team to implement.
The creative heuristic algorithm provides a mechanism for creativity on-demand by generating a large array of both closely and distantly related semantic concepts for the brain to associate.
The underlying assumption of the algorithm is this,
The building block of creativity is association.
In other words, what we view as a creative idea is actually, at its heart, an unusual or counter-intuitive association between two concepts that are connected in some way (either closely or loosely —learn about semantic similarity).
To demonstrate how it works here I’ll use it to come up with a few new marketing strategy ideas for a hypothetical solar power company. Use the exact same process to come up with great new article ideas, blog post titles or marketing strategies.
2.1. Create an Anchor List
Think of anchor concepts as the niche topic of your article. The concepts around which you are going to generate new ideas. The more you have, the better.
Don’t stick to one single word. Find synonyms and closely related concepts around the topic you want to focus on. It’s worth expending some effort fleshing out this list because it will significantly increase your chances of finding a winning idea down the line.
I’m going to pick ‘solar power’ as one of my sample anchor concepts since this is the area of focus for our hypothetical company.
Anchor list (Solar Power)
- Solar power
- Solar panel
- Photovoltaic cells
Do a thorough job. Try to finish with as many concepts in the anchor list as you can.
2.2. Create a Control List
The control list can be much broader. You want plenty of diverse concepts that aren’t necessarily closely related to the ones in the anchor list.
Control list (Diverse Concepts)
- Niche digital restaurant
- Drug sniffing rats
- Car park shade installation
Have brainstorming sessions with your team. Different people always have different ideas and concepts rattling around in their heads. Search Google for new and different concepts and ideas. Record interesting events and things you come across on a daily basis. Be curious and proactive about finding new information.
2.3. Merge the Lists
Every single concept from the control list must now be merged with each concept in the anchor list. To see this in action, pretend I have two anchor concepts and three control concepts.
- Anchor Concept 1
- Anchor Concept 2
- Control Concept 1
- Control Concept 2
- Control Concept 3
Merging these gives me the following,
- Anchor Concept 1 & Control Concept 1
- Anchor Concept 1 & Control Concept 2
- Anchor Concept 1 & Control Concept 3
- Anchor Concept 2 & Control Concept 1
- Anchor Concept 2 & Control Concept 2
- Anchor Concept 2 & Control Concept 3
The total number of merged concepts is equal to the number of anchor list concepts multiplied by the control concepts. For this example,
2 x 3 = 6
These numbers grow very quickly. By the time you have an anchor list of 100 and a control list of 100, there are,
100 x 100 = 10 000
potentially new ideas.
4. Associate the Concepts
Now’s the time for your brain(s) to shine and do what they do best - associate. Your team can work on these individually for more diversity, or collaborate for speed.
With potentially thousands of different concepts to associate the brain has everything it needs to spark a truly unique, unusual, new, innovative and creative content ideas.
As mentioned, I listed ‘solar power’ as an anchor concept. One of the control concepts I'll use is ‘car park shade installation’.
The merged concepts look like this:
Solar power — car park shade installation
There are a number of creative ways to interpret this (the beauty of this strategy is that it encourages unique perspectives and fresh angles). Here are two associated ideas I came up with.
Congestion Busting Solar Parking Mass Transit
Create a large solar shaded car park on the edge of town. Operate a fleet of electric buses that are powered from the solar shade to take people to and from work. Generate revenue from monthly parking & transport memberships.
This helps commuters save money on expensive parking in the city. Reduces congestion on the roads. Saves burning fossil fuels. Etc.
Energy Independent Solar Parking Malls
Instead of using standard shade netting, approach malls and offer to shade their car-parks with solar panels. They can pay off the costs over time with revenue they earn from power generated.
This makes the mall energy independent. Gives them a secondary income stream from selling power back into the grid, or to customers driving electric vehicles.
It’s super easy to do, right? And fun. Instead of feeling like you’re trying to force creativity, the constant stream of new ideas is exciting and motivating. Altogether a far better way to be creative.
Pro Tips for More Creativity
Not every single combination of concepts will have meaningful associations. For example, semantically identical concepts have nothing to associate between them. The juiciest ideas come from semantically distant concepts that require a bit of jiggling and tweaking to successfully meld into a single, coherent new concept.
The most creative ideas will often arise between the least obvious or least connected (semantically distant) concepts.
It often takes a bit of mental acrobatics to mash two seemingly unrelated concepts together in a way that makes sense. It’s precisely this exercise that regularly surfaces unique associations that don’t occur otherwise. That’s what makes the creative heuristic approach effective.
The salient point is that the brain is actually being used. It’s not being forced to pluck a brilliant idea out of thin air, which is exactly what we ask it to do when we sit down in front of a blank piece of paper to brainstorm.
Trying to come up with brilliant new ideas by sitting in front of a blank screen is like trying to drive a car without gas.
Like a car, the creative engine of your brain needs fuel in the form of a diverse list of concepts to associate. Play around with it. Modify it. Nothing stops you from adding an additional variable list and merging all three to generate three-concept associations for even more diverse, creative and inventive ideas.
With 3 concept lists in play, the sheer number of potentially new ideas you can explore goes through the roof. If we have anchor and control lists of 100 concepts each, and we merge this with a variable list of an additional 100 concepts, the total number of new ideas is:
100 x 100 x 100 = 1 000 000
That’s more creative brain food than your entire team could possibly use in a lifetime.
3. Plan Content That Dominates
Let's redefine the term article by changing our approach to take things to a whole new level.
Think of a single article as a startup business in its own right.
Yep. You read that right. One piece of content is equivalent to a small startup business.
I'm talking specifically about 'flagship' articles intended to form the foundation of your brand's content marketing campaigns.
In the early days a few hundred words could shoot to the top of Google's page rankings and stay there. Over time competition grew as more and more people started trying to make money from the Web. It's gotten to the point where it is virtually impossible to rank a single article for a highly competitive (and therefore profitable) key-phrase in Google search.
It's time to evolve. Instead of churning out a new article in a single day, or even a single week, treat a single article like a small startup business - complete with a business plan.
Article Business Plan
Unleash your company's potential to generate revenue with a single article or blog post.
Drastically speed up research and planning to get a head-start on creating the world's most awesome niche content.
Download the Blog Post Business Plan
Gather and analyze everything you need to know to create and market an article.
Perfect for brands that need to increase visibility, drive higher levels of engagement, and ultimately start benefiting from better returns.
Here's a quick overview of what's involved in planning an article to get you amped to kick-start an organized and effective new campaign.
Article business plan overview, from ideas to revenue.
Like any entrepreneur starting a new business, your content team needs to know:
- How much time and effort is required.
- What financial costs there are.
- What gaps or angles exist.
- What obstacles exist.
- Who the competition is and what they're doing right (and wrong).
- How much traffic there is.
- Who your audience is.
- How much money you can make.
- How to make that money.
- How long it will take to start making money.
Most of all,
An article business plan will tell you whether or not the concept and topic idea is viable and worth pursuing.
Essentially, it will save work in the long run because it will ensure the team's efforts are directed towards something that actually has a chance of driving good returns. Not all content ideas do.
With a good understanding of the breadth and depth of an article's organic search potential, it's time to work out who's dominating the market. This is where the Content Marketing Toolkit comes into play because it is based on SEMrush's highly valuable SEO and competitor data.
SEO & Competitor Research
Discover who dominates a niche using SEMRush.
Create a list of target keywords and find the top ranking pages and sites for each one.
Analyze the top ranked sites using SEMrush to understand how and why they are dominating. This sheds light on what will be required to compete.
Identify sites that link to them. Incorporate this data into other aspects of the marketing plan in order to find ways to get those sites to link to your content (see Bake In Serious Influencer).
Try it out. Analyze a competitor right now.
Aside from the obvious benefits of a comprehensive market analysis combined with a deep understanding of the viability of your proposed topic, there are two more incredibly important reasons for researching and compiling a business plan.
- Influencer integration
- News media coverage integration
Don't think of your brand's content marketing campaigns as a standalone activity. It's not going to succeed if it's you against the world. Instead,
- Evolve content marketing into a collaborative exercise that benefits from the collective wisdom of experts and influential people in and around your niche.
- Embed irresistible hooks that form the basis of ongoing media outreach campaigns to rapidly build enhanced relationships with journalists and reporters.
These two aspects of content creation are so important in terms of bestowing inordinate reach and buzz, they're worth covering individually.
4. Bake In Serious Influence
Even if you and your team are experts on a given topic, there will always be plenty of really smart, knowledgeable people who know stuff you don't. Maybe other experts can approach things from a different angle, offer differing perspectives, well-rounded commentary, in-depth analysis, and so on.
Don't look at content creation as something your company does in isolation. Fundamentally,
Content creation is a collaborative effort and diverse perspectives add value.
Gathering input from influencers in your niche is incredibly important for four reasons:
Influencers Know Stuff (You Don't)
Improve your content using the experience and knowledge that other people have gathered on their way to becoming credible experts.
These external insights help flesh out your content and give it credibility.
Build Important Relationships
Reaching out to other people also helps to establish contact with people in the know. Getting them to contribute means they get to know a bit about your company and team.
Down the line they may ask you for insights or be prepared to work on other projects.
Increase Reach & Buzz
Influencers who have contributed to your content will be far more inclined to mention or promote it, assuming they like what they see (which they will because you're making it the best in the world). Here's an example of a tweet sent out by a prominent influencer in one of my niches after he contributed to an article of mine.
Marketing content is a lot easier when other names drop you.
Build Trust & Authority
Think of someone in your industry you respect and admire. Someone at the top of their game. Wouldn't it be great to have them contribute a quote to an article?
A lot of people in your target audience might also be interested in what they have to say. For that they'll read your article.
Build kickass influencer sales funnels to build valuable relationships and ultimately boost referral traffic from closely related high quality blogs & sites.
Bloggers who do influencer outreach are 87% more likely to report strong results.
Use influencer focused sales funnels to drive backlinks and buzz from credible industry sources.
Influence any influencer with an easy 3-step process. Offer. Engage. Pitch.
How to Build an Influencer Sales Funnel
- For each and every new article, find 10 top influencers in that specific niche.
- Start a dialog by offering value. It could be notifying them of a mention. Asking for a quote. Earning them press coverage. Sharing something they did well. Think about what you'd love people to do for your brand and do it for them.
Subject: Congrats! You've been mentioned in our latest article.
My team and I really learned a lot from your piece about [title] and mentioned it (with a link) under [sub-topic] in our latest article [title][link].
I'd love it if you would consider contributing an additional insight for this article?
It can be as long or short as you like. I will, of course, cite and link your contribution. If you can also share a link to a head-shot, that would be great.
- Engage with them to build a relationship. Be helpful. Comment on their great articles. Be generous. Be genuine. Here's an email template focused on how to respond to a successful contribution.
Subject: I've added your insight.
I added and linked your contribution. Very happy with it. Thanks so much.
Check it out at [title][link].
I've also followed you on [social network] and [2nd/3rd/etc social network] to keep up to date with what you're working on. Feel free to drop me a line if I can help out or contribute in any way.
- Find a conversion point and pitch - but only if you've already established a relationship (asking for something straight away is worse than useless). It could be anything from writing a guest article to finding a broken link on their site.
Subject: Broken Link at [title]
I've been reading your article [title] and noticed a [link] under [heading] is broken/outdated. I thought it would be perfect to replace with our article [title][link] because it's full of awesome insights - like the one you shared.
Let me know if you do update it so I can share it around my network.
- Refine & repeat. Build new lists of influencers to reach out to. Build new relationships using strategies that worked in the past. Change or discard techniques that don't work well. Keep nurturing existing relationships.
Like interest on money saved in the bank, integrating influencer sales funnels into every single post has a compounding benefit. At the start almost every email you send out is a cold call with commensurately low conversion rates. Over time, you'll build more and more valuable relationships with bigger and bigger influencers.
Monitoring the effect influencer outreach has is easy; assuming you're managing content campaigns with the Content Marketing Toolkit, as discussed in Upgrade to Data Driven Content Marketing earlier on.
Ultimately, your brand's content will be recognized as an industry leader, with influencers competing for coverage. That's where you want to be because the reach and buzz of each new piece of content is magnified by the reach of each of the influencers included.
5. Become the News
Becoming the news happens in two parts:
- Make the news: Integrate newsworthy hooks into each and every piece of content.
- Grab the headlines: Reach out and pitch attention-grabbing headlines that journalists and reporters will love.
Making the news each and every time your company publishes an article is the goal. An achievable goal.
5.1. Make the News
There's gotta be at least one (preferably more) hook that will appeal to the media within every single piece content. Always. Without a newsworthy hook, there's little prospect of success.
There are two ways to do it:
- Include newsworthy content (original research, current trends, novelty, conflict, etc) in the post
- Create news that cites your content
If you can't work out what is newsworthy about a topic, try this trick.
Create a newsworthy story by talking about other people, organizations or businesses doing incredible things.
Include local content if local media coverage is important. Interview people. Do Research. Offer a prize. Offer a scholarship. Do whatever it takes to be able to pitch something unique and interesting to reporters and journalists covering your beat.
For example, I wrote an article highlighting the best new business ideas coming out of U.S. universities. It's newsworthy because it's a showcase of up and coming entrepreneurial talent and has nothing to do with me.
Pitching to the right media led to coverage (in this instance USA Today).
Newsworthy content resulted in a citation from national media.
5.2. Grab the Headlines
When it comes to pitching journos and reporters, anything but the perfect pitch will be met with failure. A perfect pitch is a 'prerequisite, but not sufficient' condition for success.
Hook them with a fantastic title. Keep the pitch short. Simple. Easy to digest. Include access to everything they need in one place. Don't make them work for information, or corroborating evidence.
Learn how to write a press release that gets publicity every time.
Discover how to create newsworthy content and convert that into valuable media coverage with a compelling pitch.
Learn how to 'hook' journalists using attention-grabbing headlines and convert these into valuable media mentions.
The best way to ensure a successful pitch is to get on a reporter's radar and become an invaluable source beforehand.
Establish trust. Build a relationship. Share only genuinely newsworthy content to avoid being pigeonholed as yet another spammer brand looking for coverage. That is a pigeonhole you don't want to try get out of.
Follow them on social media. Comment on and share their articles. Provide helpful answers if they reach out for information. Be genuine and credible in general.
Combining all five of these content marketing strategies into one coherent process should go a long way to distinguishing your content from the mountains of white noise produced by other brands every day.
- Better process and team management from the Content Marketing Toolkit should streamline workflows and teamwork to help produce content more efficiently.
- Enhanced creativity from the creative heuristic algorithm should help your team identify gaps and angles that improve both engagement and competitiveness of each piece of content.
- Better research and planning using the blog post business plan serves to better focus your resources on viable content topics where you are likely to generate the best possible ROI.
- Collaborative content publishing, as a paradigm, will help to establish you as a thought-leader and help to generate valuable relationships with experts and influencers as quickly as possible.
- Embedded news hooks provides ongoing stories that engage the media and establish your business as a reliable and valuable source.
All told, there's not actually a lot of time and investment required to implement all five of these strategies.
A few hundred dollars a month gives you complete access to SEMrush's toolkit, SEO and competitor data. This small expense can be offset by the savings generated from additional research and planning beforehand - that reduces the amount of wasted labor pumped into less profitable/viable topic ideas and niches.
A few procedural tweaks will serve to get your team thinking out-the-box on a grand scale, connecting and building relationships with experts, influencers and the media as part and parcel of their everyday content marketing activities.
In short, these five innovative hacks represent some seriously low-hanging fruit with potentially huge payoffs for everyone, from bloggers to small businesses, large-scale enterprises and digital marketing agencies.