Crafting valuable content is crucial with recent changes to the Google Search Algorithm — Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, and Pigeon. A content marketing strategy revolves around several key elements. I crafted several helpful posts detailing how you can succeed across these elements, including the importance of consistency in creating content, how to optimize your content marketing, how to craft the perfect post, tips for creating content, and measuring the success of your content marketing. But, are you getting the most from your content marketing strategy by crafting a variety of content?
Content variety in content marketing strategy
Take a look at the content matrix below — thanks to our friends at distilled.
Dividing content up into four parts: entertain, educate, persuade, and convert isn’t a new idea — it’s been around since the early days of advertising and is loosely tied to the different stages of the consumer journey from awareness to purchase. Because visitors represent all 4 stages, awareness, interest, desire, action (buying), you need content variety as part of your content marketing strategy.
An alternative categorizes content into inform, entertain and educate — each aimed at a certain visitor type. I’d like to discuss these categories first.
Your content marketing strategy depends on what type of product you’re selling. Some products simply demand an entertaining approach — such as Disney. Visitors to the website expect entertainment, and Disney provides this through gamefication, as well as their entertainment options. Visitors simply don’t want an education about the parks or movies, they want an emotional lift, not endless reviews of properties and instruction for visiting the parks.
And, Disney delivers.
But, you wouldn’t want that approach from IBM or WebMD. It’s hard to take these sites seriously when they leave their well-worn persona as serious companies talking about serious stuff.
Hence, expectations play an important role in the types of content you deliver on your site.
Notice, the distinction isn’t between whether the company targets businesses or consumers — WebMD is decidedly consumer-oriented. It’s based on visitor expectations of what the visit should look like.
Target audience and content marketing strategy
Your target audience also impacts decisions about content on your site.
Think about your target audience. What do they expect? What types of content will they find most persuasive? How will they respond to different types of content?
For instance, a colleague who publishes about social media marketing targets small businesses. Her content is very folksy, but a little light on information. But, for her target audience, that works great. Small businesses often have limited marketing knowledge and they’re looking for general information, rather than specifics. They also appreciate a little levity so her folksiness really hits the mark. So, a combination of entertainment and education works for them.
In contrast, other colleagues target CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) or Marketing Managers at mid-sized and large companies. These folks want in-depth information and don’t want to waste valuable time with lightweight content. Sure, they can appreciate the writer having a personality, but they want details they can put to work without too much side banter.
Why variety should be part of your content marketing strategy?
Despite everything I already said, there are 3 good reasons for using a variety of content as part of your content marketing strategy:
- Individual differences in how readers respond to different types of content
- Different goals of each type of content
- Variety is the spice of life
While many educators scorn the categorization of learners based on learning style, people do have a preference for the type of content they consume. Some folks love podcasts and video. Others, like me, want more information dense content, and prefer text or infographics. It has nothing to do with visual versus auditory — it’s just a case of how dense the content is. Or whether you can consume content while doing other things — like driving or washing dishes.
Different goals for different types of content
Now, we get back to the infographic. Content has different goals beyond just informing, educating, and entertaining. It must persuade and convert (convince?) visitors since the website likely wants to make some money, not just build visitors.
Persuasion relies on making explicit or implicit arguments in favor of buying the product. Explicit arguments involve content such as:
- comparisons between products
- product demos
- CTA (calls to action)
- Recommendations, reviews, endorsements
Digital marketing, as opposed to advertising, relies heavily on implicit arguments for buying a product. Here, we often talk about Cialdini, who is the father of influence, and his 6 tools of influence:
- Social proof
Creating content that persuades visitors to buy your brand relies heavily on effective use of these weapons of influence. Want some examples?
Here you go.
Scarcity is a powerful tool of influence. Used effectively, visitors feel they must respond (buy, sign up, etc) now or the opportunity is gone. For instance, when Google introduced Google+, they restricted the social network to invited users. Because people couldn’t get on the platform, they were desperate for an invitation. Without this scarcity, adoption would likely have been slower.
You should make social proof a part of your content marketing strategy by letting visitors know others (especially their friends and celebrities) value their content. For instance, the Facebook plugin I use displays images of your friends who already like my Facebook page — social proof that your friends find my page valuable.
Reciprocity is the old tit-for-tat that’s worked since the beginning of time. If you give somebody something, they want to give something back. That something can be as simple as recognizing those who contributed to your success or more complex, such as giving a free ebook to visitors. I used this very effectively with a client, hexsee, at a crowded trade show. It’s often hard to get folks to stop long enough to demo your product when the room is crowded with others vying for attention. So, I stood in the walkway handing out branded swag to passersby. Most then felt obligated to spend a few minutes letting my demo hexsee and a number of them signed up for the launch next month — by the way, there are still a few spots remaining, if you want to give it a whorl — it’s free!
Consistency is important because it tells people what to expect each time they visit your website. A good example is Moz dedicates every Friday as “Whiteboard Friday” where a content provider shows something on a whiteboard. The lesson is videotaped and transcribed within the content body. You know you’ll find this post here every Friday.
Sprinkle persuasive content throughout your site to help move visitors toward buying your product.
But, don’t forget you need to include content that converts as part of your content marketing strategy. Now, personally, I’d move some elements distilled included as converting elements up to persuading elements — for instance, demos, ratings, and testimonials. Conversion requires a specific direction to act — commonly called a CTA. Sure, it’s great to have valuable content and folks will gobble it up, but you need to tell them what they should do after they read your content. And, don’t make them work too hard at converting — every click you add to the checkout process decreases conversion significantly. Embed highly visible CTA buttons within your content. If you want an example, take a look at my landing page for content marketing services.
Variety is the spice of life
It gets pretty boring to come back to the same website time after time to see the same content. Mixing things up not only gives visitors some variety in what they see, but taps into different preferences and goals.
I hope I’ve convinced you to try some different types of content as part of your content marketing strategy. Let me know what’s working best for you.