In the competitive world of content marketing, winter is always here.

And that means you don’t have the luxury of sipping wine out of a goblet whilst waiting for your posts to go viral.

No, you’re out on the front lines valiantly fighting for your content to be seen. You’re arming yourself with statistics that’ll help you win over readers. And you’ve mapped out a strategy that’ll keep you one step ahead of the competition at all times.

You’re basically the Jon Snow of content marketing – and you already know the Iron Throne can’t be won without a battle.

Ready for the fight of your life? Use this Game of Thrones guide to create ruthless content that resonates with your target audience and keeps them coming back for more year-round.

Be Unpredictable – Like a White Walker

You never know when the White Walkers will appear — and that’s part of their… charm, right?

If you want to ensure your target market doesn’t get bored or lose interest, make your content as unpredictable as a White Walker.

Mix up your headlines.

Always doing numbered lists? Try a ‘How to’ headline or a data-backed headline to pique reader interest.

Or try getting a little controversial by challenging a popular idea or capitalizing on a trending topic with a themed post.

Ruthless tip: Beat out the competition by double-checking your headlines for length, emotional impact, and more using CoSchedule’s free analyzer. (You can also use this tool to analyze your email subject lines too.)

Try content upgrades.

A content upgrade can be anything you deem as “bonus material” that is offered along with a blog post.

For example, if it’s a post on 12 new sites to promote a blog, your upgrade could be an ebook that provides 12 additional ways to promote a blog or a spreadsheet that helps people keep track of their promotional efforts.

The important thing here is that the upgrade provides value to your reader — and complements the topic of the blog post.

Some ideas include:

  • Templates
  • Checklists
  • Cheat sheets
  • Ebooks
  • In-depth how-to guides

But constantly alternating between upgrades is how you will remain unpredictable to your readers.

Ruthless tip: Offer your content upgrade in exchange for your readers’ email addresses using a tool like Sumo. The cool thing about Sumo is that you can switch up how each content upgrade is offered, from a click-trigger pop-up to a scroll box. (And you’re able to A/B test to find out what works best with your audience.)

Sumo is free at a basic level, but the paid plans allow you to integrate with your email provider.

Use interactive content.

Your readers expect quality content from you, but it doesn’t always have to come in the form of an 800-word blog post, right?

Interactive content will shake things up for your reader — while still allowing you to create content that aligns with your readers’ interests.

Ruthless tip: Use a free tool like Apester to create entertaining quizzes, surveys, and polls to keep readers engaged on your blog — and away from your competition.

You can also use interactive content for crowdsourcing. (E.g., “What topics would you like to see on our blog?” “What should we name our podcast?” and “What new features would you like to see on our website?”)

Have Foresight – Like Bran Stark

You’re no Three-Eyed Raven, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little foresight when it comes to knowing what your readers want.

In fact, foresight is essential if you want your content to attract and retain your target audience come rain or snow.

Create insightful content.

Insightful content will surprise your readers because it addresses their thoughts, questions, pain points, and concerns.

Your goal should be to always make your readers say, “How the heck did they know?!” because that’s when you’ve really tapped into what they want and need from you.

Ruthless tip: Interactive content can help you gain insight into the topics your target audience would like to read.

You can do this by sending out surveys and posting polls on your blog. Once you have this data, map out a strategic plan that covers these topics from all angles.

The key here is to go deeper than the data provides.

● What related topics can you cover?

● What are the underlying issues?

Dig past the surface to make a more insightful connection with your readers.

Stay on top of trends.

What are the current trends in content marketing? What are the upcoming trends? What are the hottest tools, plugins, apps, and software that content marketers are using?

Knowing the answer to these questions will ensure you’re armed with content-marketing weapons that’ll blow the competition away.

Ruthless tip: Listen to content marketing podcasts to stay in the loop on current and upcoming trends.

Luckily, podcasts are easy to fit into a busy routine — listen to them on your morning commute, on a coffee break, or even while you clean. (Seriously — I do it all the time!)

  • Try ‘This Old Marketing Podcast’ with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose or ‘The Content Pros Podcast.’

Use analytics to understand your audience.

What type of content performs best with your audience? How long are readers staying on each page? What is your bounce rate? Are your readers converting? Are you using Google Console to check queries so you know what your readers are searching for?

Sheesh — that’s a lot of data to know — but Google Analytics can help you answer all of these questions (and more) so you can create insightful content for your audience.

Ruthless tip: Sumo offers free content-marketing analytics that will help with insightful content creation and mindful formatting too.

Use their heat map and analytics to learn where readers are clicking (and where they aren’t) and to find out at what point they lose interest on each page.

Be Dauntless — Like Daenerys

Daenerys has an unbreakable spirit and enough bravery to see her through a whole boatload of terrifying — and seemingly insurmountable — situations.

She won’t let anyone, or anything, stop her from getting what she wants.

And since we happen to be in a cutthroat age of content marketing, a dauntless approach just might help you win the battle too.

Try something new.

How will you know what your target audience responds to if you don’t conduct tests?

Maybe it’s an edgier headline, a controversial topic, or even a new promotional platform… but not being afraid to try something new should always be a part of your strategy.

Ruthless tip: Ephemeral content (content that lasts for a very short time) is popular right now thanks to platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

Whether it’s telling a story through a series of photos or a quick video, ephemeral content could be a strong addition to your content-marketing efforts.

Explore promotional avenues.

Readers aren’t handed to you on a silver platter. And what works one year won’t necessarily work the next.

That’s why you need to have an arsenal of promotional avenues that help you get your content out there.

Ruthless tip: Promote your content using free sites like BizSugar, Slideshare, Medium, Business2Community, and Linkedin Pulse — but mix in paid platforms too.

These include Outbrain, Taboola, paid advertising on social media sites, influencer marketing, and pricier opportunities like BuzzFeed (if you have a large budget to work with).

Monitor your keywords.

What’s a surefire way to get tons of traffic to your site? Get on the first page of Google.

And carefully choosing the right keywords to target is how you do this — but you also need to monitor how the keywords are doing (on a regular basis) to keep your strongest-performing content at the top.

Ruthless tip: Yoast SEO is a fantastic plugin for WordPress that will alert you to optimization errors in your posts and Moz will help you with keyword research and analysis.

Moz notifies you when keywords move up or down — and gives you valuable content recommendations that may help you rank higher too.

Ruthless and Ready for Content Marketing Success

Just like it takes an army to win the Iron Throne, it takes a battalion of tools, software, creativity, and intuition — not to mention blood, sweat, and tears — to win the content-marketing war.

To stay afloat, you’ll need to arm yourself with a strategy that has been meticulously mapped out (but don’t let your pride keep you from constant analysis and revision) and a ruthless-and-ready attitude.

Yes, only the strongest content will survive — and the weak will meet a fate worse than death… page 25 on Google.

Will your content emerge victorious or fall prey to the competition? Share your thoughts in comments!

Images: author-purchased via Getty Images