Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The No Hype Guide To Video Marketing on YouTube

Let’s get one thing straight, if you want to use video as a way to market your business, you’re going to have to learn about production.
This whole idea behind “all you need is a webcam” is pretty much garbage. Don’t believe me, when was the last time you watched someone’s webcam video for extended periods of time? To be fair, it’s sometimes true that a webcam is all you need, but only if you have an engaging video personality. And let’s face it, being good on video is not a skill that most people are born with.
I’d love to tell you otherwise, but one look at the YouTube Trends blog would suggest otherwise.
Big businesses are savvy now and they’re throwing more money into production. If you want to be competitive, you’ve got to have some skills. 

What Skills Do I Need?

In order to create videos that are going to be worth your audience’s time, you (or a team) are going to need to have a solid handle on at least these 5 areas:
  • Storytelling/Writing
  • Editing
  • Composition
  • Networking
  • A Basic Understanding of SEO
These basic components are in the DNA of nearly every video that spreads online.


This is the foundation. Without a basic understanding of how to tell a story, there is no way you’re going to make a video that’s worth watching.
Being a good writer is not as essential to being a good storyteller, which is why some unscripted talking to the webcam videos can work, but it is certainly essential if your story isn’t compelling enough on it’s own.
Consider these two people talking about food:

(I dare you to watch for longer than a minute and a half)
and the now popular Dayum Drops:
In the Five Guys Review, even though the host is talking to the camera the entire time, his personality, and his ability to move through the story from start to finish keeps you watching the entire time.
In real life, you or I might just cram food into our faces without much thought for story (even if it’s tasty). His expression, however, makes you vicariously experience this moment of bliss when he bites into the burger. His ability to vividly tell the story of eating a Five Guys cheeseburger makes you want that experience, which is a ringing endorsement for the Five Guys brand.
Dayum Drops has such an engaging personality, he can take a mundane event and turn it into an experience with no script at all. On the other hand, the show “Tales of Mere Existence” tells the story of mundane events, but with clever writing and a dry voice over (if only to emphasize the mundaneness of it all):

At the end of the day, good storytelling is the foundational element that separates the competent videos from everything else. It is also often the missing element in most online videos. Without a good story, there is nothing to build on, so the video is destined to fail.
A few key resources on storytelling and writing:
Terrible Mind’s 25 Things You Should Know About Story Structure
Lew Hunter’s ScreenWriting 434
Stephen King’s On Writing


One thing I can say with the utmost sincerity is good video is more about what’s taken out than what’s left in.
If you want to make good videos, you’re going to cut the script. You’re going to move your story structure around. You’re going to shoot things that will never see the light of day.
Editing is the most frustrating, most time consuming, most rewarding experience.
It happens in two phases:
Pre-Production: This is where you’re plan your video. You write your script, figure out your locations, and plan your camera angles.
After you’ve planned your story and written the first draft of your script, it’s important to cut out all of the parts that are superfluous. Then, once you’ve written your script (even if it’s as something simple as a burger review) you need to read it aloud so you can rewrite and cut all all parts that do not move the story forward.
If you’re shooting “on location” it may become necessary to edit the script again. More often than not, you’ll find certain things don’t work as well in real life as they did when it was just you and your computer.
Your script may need to be edited frequently throughout the entire process. So long as your edits are ultimately serving the story, frequent editing is okay.
Post-production: After all of your footage is shot, it’s time to put it all together. This is the part where most people just aren’t willing to put in the time, probably because editing a video is very hard work.
It has been said that in the average 90 minute move there are over 5000 cuts. Editing is what makes the video. It controls the pace of the story.
“The choice and length of shots shape our response to everything we see on the screen… It’s the reason we like movies, because in the end, wouldn’t we like to edit our own lives?”
– The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing
See what James Cameron has to say about this build up in Terminator 2:
A major Hollywood production shoots nearly 200 hours of film, the editor may work for months, even years, turning those 200 hours into a 90 minute movie. Professional video bloggers do it too, just much quicker.
Try watching only the first 14 seconds of this video. You’ll see what I’m getting at:
Did you watch all 3 minutes? Me too.


You may have heard him mention the “Rule Of Thirds” at the 0:27 second mark in the video above.
This is what he was talking about:
The Rule of Thirds is the basic building block for video composition and is an even older component in that visual language we were talking about earlier.
If your video involves complex movement and editing, you need to storyboard to organize your thoughts. Yes, it takes more time, but it’s a lot less complicated than getting to your set and trying to figure everything out on the spot. One of the major signs of a rookie video maker is someone who is not able to visually communicate the story. Be sure to have an idea of how your story will flow before you start filming, otherwise you risk losing your audience.
Here’s a whole series of videos about storyboarding on Vimeo.


If nobody sees your videos, do they really exist?
The truth is, there are volumes upon volumes of content about how to effectively social network. Heck, I even made a video about it myself:
But in my experience, I’ve found that the best networking for showing off your videos happens in person.
If the thought of showing your videos to people in person freaks you out, there’s a simple solution: Make better videos.

A Basic Understanding of SEO

Basic SEO deals with the findability of your content, but I put this component last because assumptions are too often made that if your video is findable, then it’s going to convert.
This couldn’t be any further than the truth. If your video is good, it’s going to convert. If it’s findable, that’s just icing on the cake.
So what do we do to make it more findable?
  • Keyword Research
  • Title Tag Optimization
  • Description Optimization
  • Video Transcript
Keyword Research
Simply put, what phrases are people typing in if they wanted to find your video?
You probably already thought about these keywords while making your video, but what you probably didn’t realize is that in addition to using the Google Keyword tool,  you should also be looking at the YouTube Keyword Tool.
Don’t make the assumption that because 10,000 people are searching for a particular keyphrase through Google, that they’re going to be searching for it in YouTube as well. Remember, most people are going to YouTube for entertainment or very specific types of tutorials, whereas Google can be used to search for anything under the sun.
For example, Google’s keyword tool returns 49,500 global monthly searches for the phrase “landing pages”, while YouTube’s states “Not Enough Data”. The term “make money online”, however, returns 368,000 and 20,000 respectively. Therefore, look at both places and try to find the middle ground between them.
Title Tag Optimization
It’s important to use your Keyword phrase in the title, but be careful not to make it look spammy.
Here are the first 4 examples for for the phrase “KettleBell Workout”:
Notice how each one gives you a very specific idea of what the video is about. Each one offers something a little different, but gives the searcher the freedom to choose what is going to be best for them. For reference YouTube’s keyword tool shows 21,600 searches for the phrase, while Google says 49,500; that’s a perfect sweet spot for keyword optimization.
Description Optimization
Notice how the words “KettleBell” and “Workout” are bolded in the description area of the videos? That’s because the video producer remembered to add them throughout the description.
Include your Keywords, but don’t overdo it. Google loves going slaphappy on spammy content.
Also, don’t forget to include a link to your desired call to action as high up in the description. If you want people to share the video, use a service called ClicktoTweet.com. If you want people to opt into a mailing list, insert a link to the landing page you want them to go to. It’s as simple as that.
Video Transcript
This is a big one that many creators often skip, because it can be a bit of a tedious process.
If you were smart in your planning, you created a script of your dialog ahead of time. Open up that script in Notepad, remove everything except the dialog, and save as a .txt file.
Then, add your transcript to YouTube:
Aside from making your hearing-impaired and international viewers happy, this also gives additional content for the GoogleBot to index when they’re trying to determine which videos to rank into the searches.
See, GoogleBot can’t watch videos (poor guy) so he looks for as much relevant information on the page as possible in order to determine what he should put into Google’s main search.
This isn’t a fool-proof tactic by any means, but it certainly doesn’t hurt your chances.
Notice the top two video results in the Google Search for “KettleBell Workout”:
They’re the first and third results from the search we did on YouTube above. The #1 video result here does not have a transcript, but the #2 result does.
So again, it’s not an exact science, but even if you don’t end up ranking in Google, many of your viewers will still appreciate it because having text that coincides with your video often helps people retain the information better.

A Few More Notes

Play to Your Strengths
If you’re not funny, don’t try to ham it up. If you are don’t get too concerned about doing it right.
Even Hubspot has their own in-house SEO rapper:
Encourage Video Responses
On YouTube the hierarchy of social currency looks something like this:
  1. View count (least important)
  2. Like (slightly more important)
  3. Comment (pretty important)
  4. Video Response (most important)
These factors all play into how your videos rank for any given keyword on YouTube. Of these, the video response is the most important because it requires the most investment from your viewer.
“But how to I encourage video responses?” you ask.
Chances are, your customers are going to be pretty camera shy, which means you’re going to have to think outside of the box.
The most obvious thing you can do is network with fellow YouTubers since you already know they’re comfortable on camera. Because video comments and responses are so important, you may consider responding to one of their videos first before asking for the return favor.
Inbound Links
Just like other web content, links and embeds on relevant, high quality websites signal to YouTube and Google that your video is one of the good ones.
If you need places to scout for links, plug in a major competitor’s channel URL intoopensiteexplorer.org:
If you’re not a paid member, you’ll only get 10 results, but this provides you with a starting place to give you an idea of where else you should look.
It may seem counterintuitive to encourage inbound links that point anywhere other than your website, but remember that YouTube and your website are two entirely different properties. Having different people link to each place means you have more chances of dominating the search rankings with your content on a given keyword.


Like I said in the beginning, if you want to use video marketing for your business your first concern should be creating high quality videos.
If your video isn’t funny, or shocking, or scary, or extremely informative and full of personality, the effort of marketing and promotion will be fruitless. Focus on marketing only after you’ve created something worth marketing, otherwise it’s just a ton of wasted effort.
Have you noticed the “recommended videos” that show up on the right sidebar when you’re watching a video on YouTube? Those are the videos that have the highest retention rates, so if people aren’t watching your videos all the way through, you’re not showing up as recommended. If you’re not showing up, you’re missing out on more potential viewers.

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Top 7 Reasons People Unsubscribe from Your E-mail List

email list thinkstockSo what can your organization do to keep customers from unsubscribing from your e-mail lists?
Business owners and marketers spend a lot of time getting customers to opt-in or subscribe to their email newsletters and lists. However, they often don't exert the same effort to ensure that these customers they worked so hard to get stay engaged. And then they are puzzled (and annoyed) when that "unsubscribed" notification shows up in their in box.
So what can your organization do to keep customers from unsubscribing from your email lists? Here are the top seven reasons people opt out of email and what you can do to keep customers from clicking that 'unsubscribe' button.
1. They never signed up, or didn't realize they signed up, for your email list.
"The number one reason why [people] see high unsubscribe rates is because of poor list-building tactics," says Brett Farmiloe, a MailChimp expert and the founder of Markitors. "People think it's OK to buy, rent, scrape and add customers to their lists, and it's not. In fact, it's against MailChimp's terms of service to import third party lists," he says. And "there's a good reason why: People hate unsolicited email. There's not a faster way to get people to unsubscribe than to add them to your list without their [consent or] confirmation."
"Consumers [typically] unsubscribe [from email lists] because they didn't realize they subscribed in the first place," says Daniel Burstein, director of editorial content at MarketingSherpa. "Some businesses add people to their email lists with italicized mice type at the bottom of a form and customers don't even know they are signing up. They think they are just registering for a sweepstakes or downloading a white paper." The solution: "Clearly communicate to customers that they are subscribing to an email list by providing an opt-in checkbox on forms, along with an error message if they don't complete the checkbox (if subscription is required to receive the incentive)," says Burstein.
2. You're emailing them too often.
"The [other] frequent reason that people unsubscribe from email is that the email marketer underestimates or overestimates the frequency which subscribers wish to hear from them," says Ros Hodekiss, design community manager at Campaign Monitor. "According to a recent survey, 53 percent of consumers reported getting too many emails from retailers, while only 44 percent said they get the right amount." However, "there are simple ways to get around this issue," she says. "First of all, you can have your subscribers submit their email frequency preferences, either [when they] subscribe, or later, via an email preference center or similar. This approach puts the power into your subscribers' hands," she explains, which has proven to be an effective way of holding onto them.
[Typically, according to Campaign Monitor's research, "sending an email every two weeks is the sweet spot for subscriber engagement."]
"Secondly, periodically survey your subscribers to find out more about them, which I recommend, for reasons beyond simply learning how to become a better sender."
3. They can't properly view your email.
"Just because your email looks good when you test it on your own accounts doesn't mean it's going to be perfect on all of your audience's email platforms," says Austin Paley, corporate marketing communications manager, Blue Fountain Media.
In particular, beware of "image-heavy emails -- emails that look like a poster more than an email," says Philip Storey, head of global strategy & insights consulting, Lyris, a provider of digital marketing solutions. "Over 50 percent of emails are opened on mobile devices, and mobile devices struggle to download images," he explains. "Therefore, if you hide your awesome value proposition in an image, people won't see the content and are more likely to unsubscribe." Therefore, if you don't want people deleting your emails, or worse, unsubscribing, "make sure that your email renders correctly across all devices," says Paley. "Using a tool like Litmus is incredibly helpful because it allows you to see how your mailer looks across all platforms, so that you can tweak code accordingly if there are any issues." Or just make sure that the email template or campaign manager you use is mobile friendly.
4. Your email is too cluttered or looks unprofessional.
"If an email blast looks messy or unprofessional, people will think of it as spam and unsubscribe," says Gianna Kagel, co-owner, Assisting Hands, a home healthcare agency in New Jersey. To fix this problem, try using a service such as "MailChimp or Constant Contact, and send yourself the email [first] to see how it looks before you send it to your marketing list. If the formatting looks off or you notice any typos, fix it before you let your consumers see it," she says. "Having someone proofread the email before you send it is always a good idea as well."
"Not everyone is a designer, but if your email isn't aesthetically pleasing or looks dated, you're sending [the] message: I don't care enough about my business to have good branding, or I don't care enough about your email reading experience to make this pretty and easy to read for you," adds Summer Brighton, creative director at Summer Brighton. Her solution, like Kagel's (and many others): "Use an email marketing service [that has] templates you can customize. Or find a graphic designer to put something together for you." Just "make sure that your branding and messaging is clean, current and nice to look at," says Brighton.
And again, don't forget, a large portion of subscribers are reading your emails, or trying to, on a mobile device.
"Very rarely do I check email on an actual computer, yet I receive many emails that are structured for desktop use only," says Michelle Brammer, marketing and PR manager, eZanga.com, a digital advertising company. And when viewed on a smartphone or tablet, these emails can appear cluttered, or may not even load, she adds.
"To grab attention quickly, and swiftly, and avoid deletion, make sure images load quickly, use a readable font size, make the subject line relevant to the context," and keep the message short and sweet, she says. "Failure to clearly convey the message [quickly] will result in deleting the email, or worse, unsubscribing."
5. The content isn't relevant to them.
"People subscribe to email newsletters because they believe the sender has something valuable to offer," says Farmiloe. "But sometimes [marketers] don't acknowledge subscriber preferences and send content that doesn't match what the subscribers want. That's when that unsubscribe button gets pressed, when content isn't personalized." The solution: "Take the time to segment subscribers based on their preferences and campaign activity. Personalize content with targeted offers and consistent content," Farmiloe says.
"It seems so simple and straightforward: Understand your target audience and provide content that is relevant for them," says Linda Pophal, owner/founder, Strategic Communications. "But, despite the fact that we all know this to be true, too often we fail to deliver. Why? Because we are, by nature, internally focused. We understand us more than we understand them." And, as a result, we lose them.
To keep subscribers subscribed, "take steps to understand and stay up-to-date on your audience's needs and interests," she advises. "You can do this by being attentive to the content they are most interested in, by frequenting online discussion groups that your audience engages in, by monitoring relevant social media channels and by conducting research ( focus groups and/or polls and surveys) every once in a while to seek feedback from your audience."
"People [typically] sign up for email newsletters because [they're] relevant to their lives at that moment," says Brammer. "New parents, for example, sign up to learn more about strollers or bottles and pacifiers." However, "if you're still sending the same message two to three years later, the content isn't following the customers' journey," she says. To keep customers interested, "modify the email pitch," so it is relevant to where they are at now.
"If you neither email people with any new or interesting information nor any promotions of any real value, then what are you emailing them?" asks Ken Wisnefski, CEO, WebiMax, an Internet marketing company. "People are busy and they get a lot of email. If you want people to stay subscribed, and open your email, there has to be something in it for them, otherwise you are wasting their time, and they will unsubscribe."
6. You're always trying to sell them something.
"Some people unsubscribe because every email they get from you is an advertisement to buy your products or services," says Gloria Rand, an Internet marketing consultant. "Don't barrage your subscribers with sales emails all the time." Instead, "follow the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of your emails should feature helpful tips or strategies related to your industry, [or] free ebooks, templates or registrations for free webinars. The other 20 percent of your emails can be sales-related."
"As business owners we all want to convert potential leads into paying customers," says Brian Bowers, assistant director of operations, 48 Hour Film Project. "But dumping someone into a sales funnel right away is the quickest way to get them to unsubscribe." Indeed, "people are inundated with thousands of virtual sales pitches every day. If your email is just a hard sell to get them to purchase something, it's going to get lost in the shuffle."
The solution: "Provide [helpful information and] original, relevant content in your newsletters," he says. "It not only keeps your emails from looking like a sales pitch, but also establishes you as an expert who has legitimate solutions to help solve their problems. Sure, not everyone will end up buying, but you can bet that when the time comes that they do need your help, you'll be at the top of their list of people to turn to."
7. They feel your content is boring, unoriginal and/or repetitive.
"Creating content is hard. Producing varied and engaging content is even harder," says Tyler Walton, marketing manager, Clutch, a loyalty program provider. "Yet, it's worth the effort to ensure that subscribers don't find your content repetitive and boring. In fact, content marketing research shows that marketers who align content to their audiences' interests at specific stages of the buyer's journey enjoy an average 73 percent higher conversion rates vs. marketers who don't do so," he points out.
Furthermore, "not only should your value-added content be varied, the way you present it should be as well. Use blog posts, articles, infographics, SlideShares, pictures and videos to convey your story in a diverse way," Walton says. And "if you can't come up with interesting content at the frequency you initially promised [or desired], slow down your pace. Your subscribers won't complain [about] less quantity as long as you give them great quality."
"If you're providing information that can be found anywhere, by default you are not providing value," says Pophal. "With so much content freely available to audiences of all kinds, those that are able to provide unique information will gain and maintain an audience."

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Monday, 30 March 2015

Applying The Metrics: Turning Your Analytics Into Actionable Strategies

Metrics matter. That’s a fact. And thank goodness – with the billions that have been spent already on big data, not to mention the trillions and trillions that will follow, they had better matter. Otherwise, what’s it all for?
There are some marketers out there who still remain a little skeptical about the impact that can be made by spending time on measuring the metrics – what’s that old saying of Benjamin Disraeli…? “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Well, while it’s certainly true that certain statistics can obscure the facts of reality or mislead people (for instance, did you know that statistically teetotalers die younger than drinkers? It’s true – but what that statistic doesn’t tell you is that most teetotalers are ex-alcoholics), when it comes to online marketing, if paying attention to the right statistics, then you can most certainly make a difference.

Which Ones To Watch

There are essentially 2 types of metrics – vanity and actionable. Your vanity metrics are things like your Twitter following and website hits. Although these are of course important to the digital marketer – otherwise we’d all be out of a job, right? – they are nonetheless meaningless unless they start turning into actual conversions.
Actionable metrics, on the other hand, are things like the data you extract following a round of A/B testing after you have added a new feature to your website, or are testing out a couple of options on your email campaign. These will give you clear insights into your campaigns, which will help you no end in devising an ongoing strategy from there.

Are Vanity Metrics Really Worthless?

Well, that’s the big question really, and what I want to try and focus on in more detail here in this blog post.
Vanity metrics make up a lot of big data. Analysis from McKinsey reveals that corporations that use their big data analytics effectively show a 5-6% higher profitability rate than those that don’t, and their marketing ROI is improved by 15-20%.
While it’s certainly true that the sorts of companies that the analysis from McKinsey is reporting on are likely big, multi-billion dollar corporations, that isn’t to say that slightly smaller enterprises and SMEs alike cannot make some headway into their marketing strategies by analysing a larger set of metrics – that is big data.

Big Data For The Small Business

You will no doubt already be gathering data using a number of online tools. Twitter, for example, has now rolled out its analytics platform to be accessible to all users for free. Your content management system (CMS) should also be telling you how many hits you’re getting to your website, where you visitors are coming from, how long they stay, and how many pages they visit.
Your email, too, should be informing you of just how many people are opening up your newsletters, how many people are clicking through to your website, and how many conversions your campaign is creating. All of this is the vanity stuff – but, if you use it wisely, then there’s no reason that you cannot start turning it into actionable strategies.
What you need is the right tools for the job. So below are 2 of the very best that are out there for you to start using right now, so you can begin to make some meaningful strategies from all the data that you are continuously collecting.

Canopy Labs

Canopy Labs is a very smart tool that can help you do exactly what you’re trying to by collecting all of this data – predict the future.
Canopy labs will analyse customer behaviour patterns along with sales trends over time, which it then uses to generate predictive behavioural models that can be used to take action on your marketing campaigns going forward. For companies with up to 5,000 customers, then it’s completely free to use, otherwise it’s $250 a month.
A great feature of the product is the 360-degree Customer View, which is designed to provide you with some very comprehensive and useful data about each and every one of your individual customers. Providing vital information about their lifetime value (such as their loyalty, purchase histories, engagement levels etc.), you are provided with analytics that will tell you exactly how valuable each of your customers are to you. You can then also use this data to make personalized offers, hone your marketing campaigns etc. Priceless.


Tranzlogic is the second tool that we would highly recommend. This is something that will provide you with decisively actionable metrics, rather than vanity metrics of any sort. What it does is provide SMEs with customer credit card data – something that has traditionally been the reserved information of large corporations.
If you want to know more about the spending habits of your customers, then signing up with Tranzlogic is imperative. By linking payment service providers (PSPs) with merchants, proprietary data is turned into relevant, actionable data that can be used to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing strategies.
The information garnered can be used to accurately measure sales performances for comparison, improve business models and loyalty programmes, and evaluate the value of individual customers, as well as demographic segments.
This is true, actionable data, and you can start using it right now to help you make your best business decisions to date.
How have you managed to turn your analytics into actionable strategies? Are there any further tools that you would recommend? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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11 Big Content Marketing Challenges (and How to Overcome Them)

These days, content marketing is a lot like the housing market. Sure, it’s still possible to get on the ladder and own your own home, but making the transition from renter to proud new homeowner has become a hell of a lot harder than it used to be.
Content marketing challenges demotivator
When I started my content marketing career, “content marketing” wasn’t even a thing. Now, everyone and their grandmother is a publisher, a brand storyteller, or something equally nebulous. The overuse of clichéd marketing buzzwords like this doesn’t mean that content marketing isn’t important. On the contrary, it’s never been more important.
However, there are numerous challenges that make content marketing difficult in today’s media environment. In today’s post, I’ll be looking at 11 of these content marketing challenges and what they mean to your content strategy, as well as sharing some tips for overcoming them.

Content Marketing Challenge #1: Insufficient Resources

Producing content is easy. Producing good content is much harder.
It takes time and skill to produce quality content consistently. Many small businesses tackle their own content marketing efforts, and for good reason. After all, nobody knows your business better than you, so you’re the perfect person to blog about whatever it is that you do.
Unfortunately, producing consistently great content can get in the way of other things, like actually running your business.
A lack of time is arguably one of the biggest barriers to content marketing that many businesses face. The other is a lack of sufficient budget. After all, if you don’t have time to produce your own content, it stands to reason that paying someone else to do it makes sense. The problem with this approach is that, since it takes skill to produce great content, many would-be content producers are faced with what is known as the project management triangle:
Content marketing challenges good fast cheap pick two 
Pick two.

How to Overcome It

Whether you outsource your content production or keep it in-house, you’re going to pay for it – one way or another. Either you accept the time investment required to produce consistently quality content, or you’ll have to pony up and pay someone to do it for you.
Outsourcing might seem like the more affordable option, but it’s not without its risks. For starters, you’re at the mercy of another company when it comes to maintaining a regular production schedule. Secondly, you risk publishing content that fails to leverage your expertise and industry knowledge, or even meet your basic expectations in terms of editorial quality, which can harm your brand.
Alternatively, choosing to produce your own content can save you a lot of money, but unless you’re somehow able to balance running a business and running a blog, you may have to be willing to put in a lot more hours.
It’s tempting to think of content as a “free” marketing strategy, but it isn’t. Be prepared to deal with the tangible costs of content marketing long before you sit down to write your first post – or ask someone else to do it for you.

Content Marketing Challenge #2: Increasing Competition

Whether you’re blogging about your small needlecraft business or enterprise-level IT hardware, someone else has already been blogging about it for a long time. To make matters worse, there has never been such intense competition for your audience’s attention.
Content marketing challenges attention economy quote
Unfortunately, this challenge compounds the first. As competition for limited audiences (even large ones) intensifies, what can you do? Create better content, which requires more time, money, or both. The result is a figurative arms race – who can produce the best content, the most frequently? In addition, as competition for audience attention escalates, the expectations of your readers become higher, placing you under even greater pressure to consistently deliver not just good content, but truly exceptional content.
While I was researching this post, I came across a blog post by Rand Fishkin about how content marketers have become their own worst enemies, published over a year ago. Interestingly, it was a remark in the comments section by Jon Morrow that really nailed the current state of content marketing and its future:
 Content marketing challenges Jon Morrow comment
Jon makes an excellent point about the phenomenal success of TV shows like “Breaking Bad” in a completely oversaturated market – if you suck, you get nothing. If you win, on the other hand, the gains are almost immeasurable. The problem, of course, is that actually creating content on a par with “Breaking Bad” is very, very difficult.
Jon’s comment sparked some vigorous debate about content marketing, and it didn’t take long for someone to mention Darwinism in the context of content; only the strong will survive.

How to Overcome It

There are no guarantees in content marketing, but one thing’s for sure – if your content is crap, you’re doomed to fail. Each and every post you publish has to be as good as it possibly can be, and you need to keep this up for years if you hope to build and sustain a sizable audience.
It’s virtually impossible to hit the mark every time – even the very best blogs still publish mediocre content from time to time – but you have to strive for nothing less than excellence.
However, there is some good news. The relentless intensification of competition in content marketing has created a unique challenge, and opportunity, for savvy content marketers, which is…

Content Marketing Challenge #3: Keeping Quality Consistently High

As a content producer, reading is a significant part of my job. During the course of an average day, I read dozens of blog posts, news stories, and in-depth articles. I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
At least half of them are terrible.
Content marketing challenges worst examples
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Out of respect (and a keen sense of professional self-preservation), I’m not going to name names or point the finger of blame at specific publications (aside from the dig at TIME above, which is obviously well deserved). I am, however, telling you that even sites with huge audiences and large teams of professional writers and copyeditors frequently publish simply awful articles riddled with mistakes, lazy writing, or incorrect facts. Why? Partly because they have to, and partly because they can.
Some sites leverage their name recognition and branding to get away with publishing half-assed crap, whereas some of the most consistently excellent content I’ve read in recent months has been published on small, independent blogs run by a handful of people (or even a very talented individual). This means that, thanks to the relentless pressure to Always Be Publishing, opportunities to publish useful, insightful, well-written content (you know, the stuff readers desperately want) are right there for the taking – if you’re up to the task.

How to Overcome It

It would be naïve to assume that an article published in a glossy monthly technology magazine doesn’t have more pull than even the best of posts on a scrappy upstart blog. However, if you consistently push yourself, take the time to develop your writing skills, and only publish the very best content you can, before long you’ll actually be publishing content that’s better than at least half of what ends up online every day. Keep it up, even when it feels like nobody’s reading you.
Also, don’t compare your work to other publications too often. Yes, it’s valuable to be aware of overall editorial standards and content trends, but you should focus on making your latest post even better thanyour last post – not losing sleep over whether your latest article is better than something you read in Wired last week.

Content Marketing Challenges #4: Shifts in Trends Toward Paid Promotion

Sometimes, simply publishing great content just isn’t enough.
We’ve written about the importance of content promotion in the past, but the content landscape is shifting rapidly toward a heavy prioritization of paid promotion.
Content marketing challenges paid content promotion
Sure, “organic” social media promotion most definitely still has its place, but with platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn offering a range of increasingly sophisticated ways to segment audiences and reach the right people – for the right price, of course – greater emphasis is being placed on paying to get your content in front of the people you want to see it.
There’s no easy solution to this problem. Relying solely on organic social promotion might work just fine for a while, but if you’re trying to aggressively expand your reach and grow your audience, you may want to explore paid promotion options. Just as you should expect to make a tangible investment in the actual creation of your content, you may also have to pay to ensure it reaches more people and accomplishes its purpose.

How to Overcome It

There are dozens of variables that will dictate the best social media advertising strategy for your business, such as:
  • Budget
  • Target market demographics
  • Typical social media consumption habits of your audience
  • Content type
  • Device compatibility of content
  • Desired business outcomes
We’ll be covering how to promote content on social media with a limited budget in a forthcoming post. In the meantime, it may be worth experimenting with paid content promotion on a small scale to gauge the effectiveness of your campaigns before embarking on larger (and likely more expensive) promotional initiatives.
However much you decide to spend on content promotion, be sure to set goals for your campaigns. Do you want to attract more followers? Increase referral traffic? Capture emails for your newsletter? Gain external links from industry publications? Think carefully about what you want your campaign to do before making an investment, whether it be $50 or $50,000.

Content Marketing Challenge #5: Impatience and Unrealistic Expectations

If you’ve ever had to make a business case for content marketing to your managerial team, you probably already know how imposing these challenges can be. Although content marketing has been in vogue for several years, misconceptions abound about how it works and what management can expect from an investment in content marketing.
Content marketing challenges getting stakeholder buy-in 
The first distinct challenge is impatience. Mention the word “years” in any pitch meeting with management and you’ll likely be met with cold stares and uncomfortable silences. However, the truth is that, even with a large and skilled content marketing team behind you, it can often take several years for content to start doing what it’s supposed to do.
This isn’t a flaw in content marketing itself, but rather a problem of expectations. Many executives and managers are used to the relatively immediate return on more traditional marketing strategies. Asking them to not only fund content marketing projects, but potentially wait several years for them to pay off, is a difficult pill to swallow.

How to Overcome It

The first thing you and other content stakeholders need to come to terms with is that content marketing takes time. Very few blogs achieve runaway success overnight, and it takes time to establish an audience and build credibility.
Content marketing challenges patience
The figure above is a snapshot of WordStream’s traffic over a six-year period from January 2009 to January 2015. See how long it took before our content marketing efforts really took off? It took more than two and a half years before traffic even started to increase considerably, and we didn’t begin to see major increases in traffic until early 2013 – four years after we began our content marketing efforts.
The second thing you need to manage are your expectations. Agree upon realistic traffic and engagement targets, rather than setting yourself up for disappointment by aiming too high too fast. It’s better to establish manageable goals and achieve them than dismiss your content marketing efforts as a failure by missing targets that are too ambitious.
If your content marketing campaigns are more successful than you had anticipated, adjust your targets accordingly – just be sure to have enough data to justify a change in plan.

Content Marketing Challenge #6: Maintaining Ambitious Publishing Schedules

The term “signal vs. noise” comes up frequently in discussions about content marketing. In this context, the signal is your content, and the noise is everything else. Simply put, with so much content being produced, the sense of urgency to publish as much as you can (with the ultimate goal of brute-forcing your way through the sheer volume of articles being published every day) is often too great to ignore.
Content marketing challenges signal vs. noise
There are innumerable blog posts, white papers, and how-to guides out there telling you that publishing at least once per day is essential for content marketing success. However, what if you simply can’t maintain this kind of publishing schedule?

How to Overcome It

Good content marketing is difficult to scale. If you want to publish more frequently, you need to invest more resources (see challenge #1). If you can’t do this, the quality of your content will suffer. With this in mind, it’s crucial to balance quantity with quality, with particular emphasis on the latter.
It’s better to publish one truly excellent post per week than post five mediocre posts every week. With so many publishers vying for attention, the only thing that will differentiate you from other publishers in your industry is quality content, and only you can decide how often you can publish. Consistently excellent content is more important to your audience than whether you update your blog several times in a single day. After all, who wants to read five crappy posts a day when they can truly savor and learn from one really excellent post?
Content marketing challenges publishing frequency
Image via Content Marketing Institute’s ‘B2B Content Marketing 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America’ report
Don’t buy into the content marketing myth that publishing less than once per day will doom your efforts to fail. Always focus on quality rather than pumping out filler content for its own sake.

Content Marketing Challenge #7: Focusing Too Broadly (or Narrowly)

One of the most common mistakes that many content marketers make is focusing too broadly on a vast subject area, or zeroing in exclusively on the tiniest niche.
Achieving a balance in terms of editorial focus is a challenge for even established, well-resourced content production teams. Cast your content nets too widely and you could face an uphill struggle to establish a name for yourself, or risk losing traffic to larger, more established publishers.
On the other hand, focusing on a highly specific niche might seem like a great idea (and it can be), but by doing so, you may struggle to expand your readership further down the road, or even run out of genuinely new and insightful things to say about your industry.

How to Overcome It

Begin by starting with a broad category relevant to your business, then come up with increasingly granular ideas for potentially relevant subcategories. Remember, though, that the narrower your editorial focus, the harder it may be to expand your audience as your content strategy matures. Leave yourself enough breathing room to come up with exciting posts about relevant topics, but avoid targeting vastly broad subject areas.

Content Marketing Challenge #8: Risk Aversion (or ‘Content Comfort Zones’)

Content marketers are, by and large, creatures of habit. We tend to stick with what works. If a particular type of post resonates with our audience, we’ll often apply this “formula” to our next post, and the next, and so on. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that we genuinely want to provide our readers with content they find useful, actionable, and valuable.
The second is that, frankly, we’re hopelessly addicted to the pageviews.
The struggle is real.
Remember when I said that it can sometimes take years to establish an audience and generate consistent traffic from content marketing campaigns? Well, now imagine that whatever you’ve been doing has worked really well, and you’re seeing tens of thousands of unique monthly pageviews as a result of your efforts. You’d probably be hesitant about trying something radical that could potentially tank your traffic, right?
This is why so much content out there is bland, generic, instantly forgettable crap.
Every day when I check my RSS feed for the latest news and content, the vast majority of it ends up looking and sounding exactly the same. Granted, this is particularly prevalent in marketing content (perhaps more so than other industries), but even well-known mainstream media brands all seem to be pushing the same content, day in, day out; six surprising ways to accomplish this routine task, 21 things you won’t believe about some everyday occurrence, why you shouldn't be doing this thing everyone else is doing. Even this post follows this pattern.
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