Tom Mitchell – Senior Content Executive
What the internet needs is more content pieces about content, right?
Wrong. If they were to have any weight to them, there’d already be a tonne out there. Every man and his digital dog is doing it.
And that’s one key factor in my biggest takeaway from last week’s excellent search marketing conference Search Leeds: We, as content marketers in 2018, need to work harder.
Content marketing has been around long enough now for brands to grow more sceptical of its value, for new ideas to seemingly get harder to come by, and for journalists to become trickier to coax into choosing your story to publish over the hundreds of others in their inbox.
It’s lucky then that I came away from Search Leeds with a few insights on how to get around those kinds of problems.
(It’s worth noting here that I’m talking specifically about distributed content here – content that is seeded out to press in order to gain links, or promoted via social and other digital channels in order to drive website traffic. More functional on-site content such as product pages are a different ballgame, but they’re very much still part of content marketing, and should always be thought of as such.)
Content success still comes down to ideas – and hard work too
Yep, ideas are still where it’s at. No surprise there.
However, in 2018, it really comes down to how hard you’re prepared to work to convince people that yours is a good one.
That’s what Search Leeds speaker Hannah Smith argued anyway. Ideas were the focal point of Hannah’s talk, and they’re what we content marketers rely on.
Hannah shared three key tips for nailing your content and getting those sweet links and shares.
1. Pay attention
An idea can come from anywhere, it just needs recognising as such and nurturing.
The writer Neil Gaiman says that “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”
It’s a message that applies to us content marketers too. Paying attention to the news, to what’s going on around us and most importantly to our thoughts is crucial in spotting ideas.
It’s a lot easier than trying to force it in the 1-hour timeslot you allocated yourself on Thursday afternoon.
2. Understand the media landscape
Once you’ve got that idea, you’ll probably begin to doubt it’s worth. Has it already been done? Will anybody care? Am I a failure to my parents?
Hannah cited understanding what journalists have covered/are covering as key in getting a sense of if they will have the appetite to cover your idea.
Using tools such as buzzsumo or simply Googling stuff can give you confidence that your idea does have value, and it’s a confidence you can use to help you get it signed off.
3. Don’t give up
Hannah said that if you’re seeding out content to press and you send 100 emails and get no response, then the only thing you unequivocally know is that your pitch email is naff. Not your idea.
Looking for new angles and never giving up is vital in getting links, and you can apply that logic to getting support from your team/client/boss too.
Try to spot any potential barriers to buy-in – Hannah gave the example of confusing maths in a headline stat – and break them down.
So, what have we learnt? Work harder to spot ideas, work harder to validify them, and work harder to get them picked up. Sounds like a lot of hard work to me.
But it doesn’t always have to be.
Making your content easier to make, and easier to sell
One of the first speakers of the day at Search Leeds was digital agency founder Kirsty Hulse. Kirsty began her talk by saying how value questions were getting harder to answer. Selling content to her clients was becoming a bigger task.
Kirsty was worried it was just her, but in a Twitter survey she found many of her peers were finding the same.
The rest of her talk was formed around tackling this problem by making content easier to execute, and easier to buy.
Steep production costs may often be what stops a great content idea getting off the ground.
Kirsty recommended a host of tools that can be used to create visual content quickly and cheaply such as Timeline, a free site that you can use to build a beautiful timeline using nothing more than a spreadsheet.
I would add Typeform to that list, a tool that you can use to easily create great looking surveys that are actually enjoyable to fill out.
And if there’s not a handy tool available, why not get someone else to make it for you? Don’t be afraid to reach out and get rejected.
Hannah recalled appealing to architects to build a structurally sound pillow fort for a bedding client. While most laughed her off, one company jumped on the idea, did the work, and co-owned a story which got links from the likes of Cosmopolitan, Ideal Homes and House Beautiful.
Kirsty stressed the need for volume when it comes to content campaign ideas – or the importance of not putting all your eggs in one risky-looking basket.
Many of us (Kirsty and myself included) will have worked hard on content campaigns we have thought were destined for success, that have gone on to flop. When that’s all you’ve got going on, suddenly you’ve got difficult questions to answer.
Kirsty suggested mitigating that risk by running smaller content campaigns at the same time, giving yourself (and the client) something to fall back on.
Alternatively, I would suggest having backup ideas ready to go in at least some form.
When a festival headliner drops out (I’m looking at you Frank Ocean), it’s unlikely to be a coincidence that the organisers manage to get a big-name replacement in at the last minute. Sure the idea of the original headliner might have been a good one and an easy one to sell to fans – but the replacement idea often isn’t too bad either.
We get around a bit – read what our Senior Account Manager Becci made of the Brighton SEO conference here.