Content marketing can be an effective strategy, but to be successful, you’ll need effective content. Therein lies the struggle that so many prospective content marketers have faced over the years: what is it that makes content “effective,” exactly?
If there was one definitive answer, there’d be a lot more successful content marketers out there, but the fact is the “effectiveness” of content is much more complex than any single factor or element could hope to define. A 2016 B2B Content Marketing report shows that 88% of B2B marketers use content marketing, but only 6% say it’s been “very effective” for their organization. To try and settle some of the confusion and point frustrated content marketers in the right direction, I’ve tried to boil down the factors for content success to three main factors.
Judging Content Success
Before I delve into the factors responsible for a piece of content’s success, I want to take a moment to define what that “success” actually is. Different companies have different goals in the content marketing realm, so what qualifies as success for yours may not qualify as success for another. Still, in this analysis, I’ll be referring to content “success” in terms of three main objectives, which apply to most — if not all — companies executing a content strategy:
· Clicks and staying power. The first indicator of content success comes in the form of clicks and visits. These are measurable instances that indicate your content was worth exploring to the average visitor. Online users are exposed to hundreds, sometimes thousands of pieces of content in a given day, so if yours manages to attract them enough to click on your headline and at least skim through your material, you can consider the piece somewhat successful.
· Comments and engagements. Users may be reading your content actively, but how much has your content engaged them? There are a few different ways to define engagements, but comments are a good standby. You can also measure engagements as link clicks, quiz completions, or conversions, depending on what interactive elements are present in your piece. In any case, more comments and engagements is an indication of more engaging material.
· Links and shares. Finally, the number of links and shares your content earns is an indication of how authoritative or valuable people believed it to be. The more of these you get, the higher it’ll rank in Google searches, the more visibility you’ll receive, and the better reputation you’ll earn as a brand.
If you can accomplish all three of these measureable metrics with a piece of content, you can consider successful no matter what your primary end goals are. That leaves one critical explanation left to analyze: how a piece of content achieves this level of success.
As promised, I’ve reduced these elements down to three main factors:
1. Originality. The originality of your piece comes through in several different aspects, but its primary role is that of a distinguisher. First, your topic choice needs to be original — writing about what’s already been written a million times isn’t going to help you. Second, your brand voice and the angle you take on the piece needs to have an original flair to it, or else people won’t be interested. Finally, the insights and conclusions you come to need to be original if you want people to stay with you.
With an original piece, you’ll immediately attract more clicks and readers because of the appeal of your title. You’ll get more engagements because people will be more interested and invested, and you’ll get more links and shares because fewer competitors have offered something similar to link to.
2. Practicality. Practicality comes in different forms, too. There’s raw practicality, which refers to whether a piece can be used effectively in daily life, but there’s also the generally “useful” side of practicality. As a contrasting example, a “raw” practical article might cover tricks to improve your memory and focus, but an indirectly practical article might discuss different sides of a complex political issue. The two main types of practicality in content marketing are informative and entertaining, and both are served well by including more details.
With a useful or practical piece, you’ll get more clicks and readers because they’ll want whatever it is you’re offering. You’ll earn more engagements as people raise questions or express their satisfaction, and you’ll get more links and shares as people tell their friends and followers about this practical insight.
3. Accessibility. The accessibility of your piece is all about making it easier for people to read and engage with it. The formatting of your piece matters here — for example, an article broken into clear subheadings, with bulleted and numbered lists is easier to read than one that exists as a long, bulky single piece. Execution matters too — if your piece is intelligently, cogently written, it has a much higher ability to retain your readers. Even the length of your content matters — long-form content tends to attract a greater number of links, though short-form content is easier to produce.
If your content piece is suitably accessible, there’s nothing to get in the way of users clicking through and reading (or watching) all the way to the end. Solid accessibility also naturally encourages more engagements, links, and shares, as people will have more trust and interest in your brand.
Though these factors are still somewhat subjective, you can take active measures to ensure that all three are present in every single piece of material you publish. With the rising saturation of the content market and ever-climbing consumer demands, it’s more important now than ever to stand out from the crowd.