Content has become the marketer’s most valuable resource, and it’s now as important for brands as water is for sustaining human life. Without content, your brand has minimal presence online and, consequently, minimal visibility in today’s heavily technology-orientated world. Digital content in particular comes in many different types and formats, and while no marketer should never underestimate the importance of illustrative visual content, it’s still usually written content that accounts for the bulk of the work involved in any sustainable marketing strategy. Written content is also extremely diverse when it comes to the sheer number of formats available, and diversifying your strategy by adding various different formats to the mix is essential for ensuring the continued health and growth of your business.
Many academics absolutely hate them, but there’s no doubt that listicles are among the most popular content formats of all. These articles are perfectly suited to the online audience, since people tend to prefer scanning through content when looking at it on the screen. In fact, the popularity of list-type articles illustrates perfectly just how different writing for the Web is to writing for print. List-type articles typically start with enticing titles, numbered paragraphs and short snippets of information, with each one accompanied by an image or video. Unsurprisingly, many lists are extremely shallow in nature and teach people absolutely nothing. However, it doesn’t have to be this way, and there’s no reason why you can’t use the format to give an overview of a subject in a fun and engaging way that’s also easy to read.
Forget about sponsored reviews for a moment, since they’re usually right up there with fake news websites and other spam masquerading as legitimate opinion pieces. The power of honest reviews, however, is immense, which shouldn’t come as any surprise since today’s consumers invariably look online to read reviews before they purchase something expensive. As such, user-generated reviews, such as those found on e-commerce stores like Amazon, have become enormously popular. While many people put a lot of weight in professional reviews, it’s usually user feedback that has the bigger influence on purchase decisions. If you are running an e-commerce store, allowing customers to leave public reviews can be extremely effective for refining your product inventory and ensuring that more customers are happy with their purchases.
Just as today’s consumers like to read online reviews, so do they enjoy reading comparison articles. Oftentimes, people find themselves torn between two competing products, in which case they’ll often want to read a professionally written comparison of them. Comparative analyses are particularly popular when it comes to tech and finance industries. For example, someone might be interested in buying a new computer, but they’re torn between going for an AMD- or Intel-based model. Another consumer might be looking for cheaper home insurance and want to compare the options available to them. Consequently, they’ll probably want to read a more in-depth analysis comparing two or more different products or services. After all, there are clear reasons why comparison shopping websites have become so enormously popular.
When it comes to branding individuality, the story is your most your most useful format. People love stories, since they lend credibility and personality to the brand behind the product or service. Most brands tell their stories on their About pages with the intention of making a more personal and meaningful connection with the target audience. It helps to humanize your brand and make people better relate to you. It’s also important to be honest and transparent when it comes to talking about things like humble beginnings, past failures and consequent discoveries. Every successful brand has a unique history, purpose and place among the competition, and it’s being able to tell the story behind it that makes your website’s About page one of the most important of all.
Whether it’s changing a fuse or applying for a mortgage, people are always turning to the Internet to find quick and simple, step-by-step guides on how to do various things. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that how-to guides, particularly those targeting complete beginners, are among the most popular of all content formats. How-to guides apply to almost any industry and, while they offer genuine value to your target audience, they can also have a powerful effect on your brand’s image. They help to show up your brand as an industry authority, which is extremely important when it comes to building up trust and rapport. After all, a business website or blog that offers useful content is likely to show your brand in a much more positive light than some spammy affiliate website.
Opinion pieces are often dodgy territory when it comes to content marketing. After all, there is no shortage of Internet trolls who are hell-bent on starting flame wars with anyone who might have a different opinion to them. At the same time, for a brand to have a distinct personality, it also needs to exhibit a distinct style and set of opinions. Undoubtedly, this individuality might upset some people, but no brand is successful because it manages to please absolutely everyone. For example, opinion pieces, provided you approach them diplomatically and professionally, may be used to give people an insider’s look into your industry and the unique problems it faces. After all, your job as a marketer is to influence people, and a lot of that comes down to changing people’s opinions by having stronger ones of your own.
#7. Curated Lists
Content takes a lot of time and effort to create and, if like most businesses, you’re outsourcing all or a portion of it to a digital marketing agency or team of freelancers, it can quickly get expensive too. As such, small businesses in particular will want to make sure that they get as much life out of their content as possible. For this reason, it’s wise to publish plenty of evergreen content that doesn’t become irrelevant within a few weeks or months of it being published. This kind of content is also ideal for repurposing later on. You can repackage old content in the form of a curated list or even an eBook or other in-depth piece of content. A curated list might, for example, provide short overviews and links to some of the most popular articles you published in the previous year.
Web users are a wary bunch, particularly when it comes to parting their money on a product or service they’re not completely familiar with. To help put their minds at ease, you’ll need to provide plenty of information about the product or service in question, and one of the best ways to do this is by way of an FAQ. Unfortunately, many marketers overlook the importance of having a good set of frequently asked questions and their answers, instead approaching them as little more than an afterthought when, in reality, they’re actually a pretty important part of the sales funnel. To summarise, a good FAQ should make customers feel more comfortable about making a purchase and set clear expectations. To further build trust and show your brand’s transparency, you can also use this opportunity to ask for your customers’ input.
#9. Anchor Content
To be successful, content marketing must be approached strategically, meaning that it needs to have a plan and some sort of hierarchy. Anchor content is what forms the basis of many content marketing strategies. These longer and more in-depth pieces of content are made to provide a great deal of useful information while also drawing attention to other, smaller pieces both on your website and beyond by way of links. On the other hand, long-form anchor content also gives you more of what you need and gives you something to promote in itself. While shorter written formats, such as the aforementioned listicles, are very important for providing something new and exciting on a regular basis, some in-depth anchor content can serve as the foundation for your entire content marketing strategy. Studies have consistently shown that long-form content also tends to attract more visitors from the search enignes.
#10. Guest Posts
Sometimes, it’s good to have a new perspective and get some fresh ideas, and that’s exactly where guest blogging comes in. Although the topic of guest blogging has been somewhat controversial since Google’s Matt Cutts declared it done for back in 2014. However, many people missed the point he was trying to make which was that it should not be used as a way to build links to your website. As such, you should forget about the spammy guest blogging networks and their implications for search engine optimization. Ultimately, a guest blogging agreement can still work out to be a mutually beneficial arrangement whereby you get some fresh, free content for your blog or website and the writer gets some extra recognition for their work.
Diversifying your content formats to meet the needs of your target audience is very important, but the goal remains largely the same across the board, which is to build trust and authority by educating and/or entertaining your target audience.