While there is no shortage of “best practices” for content marketers, they often don’t make a lot of sense because they’re too contextual or specific to certain types of companies. Best practices also run the risk of losing their “best” designation when everyone is following them.
But what about a list of specific do’s and don’ts for content marketers that are practical and applicable to all? Well, we have plenty. So, let’s get down to the basics of content marketing with this list of our top 24 do’s and don’ts.
In “Do’s” We Trust
Content marketing can be complex. There are a lot of moving parts. And the game changes regularly, but these are some tried and true do’s that you can trust.
1. Do have a strategy
Without a content marketing strategy, you are a ship without a sail. You are just floating along without a purpose, letting the wind take you where it may.
Your strategy should dictate your course and ongoing content planning guides you through the often-rough seas.
And once you have a strategy, you have to stick to it! Staying aligned with your content marketing strategy is just as important as having one. Stay on course by planning and evolving that plan as needed.
2. Do develop a vision for what your team and process will look like in the future
Just because the captain of a ship says he’s going to sail to Africa doesn’t mean he has his full crew and resources at the ready.
In most cases, the process of developing a content marketing strategy will identify gaps and a “wish list” of programs and tactics that would simply be impossible to execute for your current staff and resources. But that doesn’t mean you just chuck those ideas overboard.
Document those wish-list items, determine how and who you’ll need to get them done and start working towards that vision in a phased approach.
3. Do hire based on your vision, not your reality
Again, building your ideal team may take time. Who do you have available today to get the ship moving? What’s the next hire that would be ideal and what metrics do you need to see to validate that hire?
Most content marketing teams include a combination of writers, designers, strategists, and developers. Consider the core skillsets the team needs and start building out the right crew to accelerate your pace.
4. Do find a Chief Content Officer
The Chief Content Officer (CCO) is your champion for everything content marketing. Quality content is a company-wide endeavor, so you need a captain for the ship.
To cultivate a culture of content, the CCO plays an instrumental role. When you have a passionate person in a leadership position, it can help inspire great work and support the fact that content is an asset that is supporting your business growth.
5. Do look to your staff to find talent
Companies that truly embrace content marketing often promote a mindset that content is everybody’s responsibility. While this might not be feasible for every company or employee, producing a steady stream of content may require assistance from subject matter experts or staff members beyond your marketing team.
Now, you may be thinking that you absolutely do not want Bob from accounting to write for your blog. But then you learn that Bob is a gardening vlogger who has been honing his video production skills for years. Oh, and he just happens to know everything about your industry.
Go on a voyage to find those already on your staff that might have hidden talents. You may find it where you least expect it.
6. Do listen and pay attention to what’s going on in your industry
You must regularly check the pulse of your industry. What are people talking about? What content marketing trends are shaping the future? What new research has just dropped that has identified a shift?
Be on top of industry news then leverage it to create content that is relevant to your audience. The more they look to you as a news source, the more top of mind you will be when they’re ready to buy.
7. Do keyword research to guide content
Organic search and SEO are a critical part of content marketing. You should know what your buyers are searching for, which is usually connected to a problem they are trying to solve.
With keyword research, you can angle your content to align with the answers your audience wants. Most importantly, you need an SEO-centric content strategy that delivers more opportunities for ranking.
8. Do competitive analysis
Always have an eye on what others are doing and how you stack up. What content are they creating that is really engaging their audience? What keywords are they ranking for? And don’t just look at your direct competitors. Industry publishers are competing for your audience’s attention as well.
9. Do obsess about sustainability
Remember that most digital marketing channels are always on. Therefore, you need to build a content marketing engine that doesn’t turn off. It can rev up or slow down as needed, but you have to consider the risk of stalling.
When developing the strategy and plan for a new content initiative, sustainability should be a key consideration. For each content initiative, program or channel, set expectations by answering the following:
- What is the expected lifespan of this initiative or campaign?
- Have we picked a sustainable frequency based on our staff and resources?
- Is our topical focus sustainable? Will we run out of things to talk about?
The more we obsess about sustainability, especially early within the strategy process, the more successful we’ll be at delivering on the expectations of our audiences.
10. Do establish a review and QA process
Don’t let content quality slip through the cracks. You’ve got to have good editors as well as a workflow process in place that validate statistics, fact checks, and of course, catch any grammar errors.
11. Do keep tabs on what you have published
Content marketing needs to have governance. Products and services evolve. Content becomes inaccurate and misleading. Customers get confused when outdated content is still sitting out there on the interwebs.
An ongoing content audit and maintenance process keeps your content fresh while also identifying opportunities for repurposing high-performing assets and SEO optimization.
12. Do use the right tools
No crew is complete without the right tools. So, how are you using tech to optimize your content marketing operation?
With a robust content marketing platform, you can plan, collaborate, manage, and automate. Plus, you’ll have all the analytics to gauge the performance of your content.
No, it’s not too good to be true. And, effective tools won’t cost you your entire budget. You can even try DivvyHQ for free to see if it’s a good fit.
13. Do have a content promotion plan
Hitting publish is only the beginning. If you want your content to be consumed, today’s noisy digital world all but requires companies to execute a variety of organic and paid promotional tactics.
Pro Tip: Turn your plan into a content promotion checklist and get to work.
14. Do track key metrics religiously, but focus on actionable insights
When it comes to content marketing metrics, there is no shortage of things to measure and it’s easy to drown in data. The key is to look closely at the KPIs that really matter. Identify the 2-3 KPIs that have obvious actions associated to them and execute improvements regularly.
For example: If your email open rates are poor or declining, spend more time A/B testing better subject lines. If your organic ranking position for a specific keyword has dropped, focus on optimizing and developing more content and backlinks for it. If your blog subscriber growth has stalled, review your audience personas to realign your content ideation and editorial plan.
Don’ts: Keep Your Ship Out of These Troubled Waters
Now it’s time to talk about what not to do. Heed these warnings!
15. Don’t just think like a publisher, act like one
As the practice of content marketing started to take shape in the U.S., it was common to hear thought leaders proclaim, “You need to think like a publisher.”
Yes, thinking is good, but executing like a publisher is a whole different animal. Companies often need to make culture changes, staff changes, operations and technology changes that seem like salt water that many companies won’t want to swallow.
But those changes need to happen if a true commitment to content marketing is to be made.
16. Don’t let your spreadsheet become your job
We hear this from prospects every day: “Our editorial calendar spreadsheet has become a nightmare to manage.”
Most of us hate spreadsheets, so why do we keep using them? When we rely on them too much for content planning and other important operational functions, they can start to feel like prisons.
Collaboration is confined. Data is detained. Creativity is restricted.
It’s time to wake up from your nightmare with a solution that is built to manage the complexities of the content planning and production process (hint: we make one of these).
17. Don’t create a piece of content without it having a specific purpose
In other words, don’t create something just because someone asked you to. What are you, a content vending machine?
Every piece of content you produce should have a goal that aligns with your strategy, an intended audience, and a place in the buyer’s journey.
18. Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Remember that wish list we mentioned earlier? It’s tempting to try to start executing everything right out of the chute. But then the reality of the content process sets in. Creating great content consistently is very labor intensive and it’s easy for teams to feel burnout.
Just remember that you can always ramp up your content marketing efforts as your business grows. It’s better to do less really well than go off course by overwhelming your resources.
19. Don’t hide behind your brand
People do business with people. Bring faces, voices, and personalities to your content and social media. Have a point of view. Get on the level with your audience and never talk at them.
20. Don’t make it all about you
Content marketing isn’t a commercial for your brand. It’s a story about what keeps your audience up a night. It’s a means to a solution. It’s an answer to questions. The more you talk about yourself, the less they’ll want a ride on your boat.
21. Don’t silo your content and social media teams
Since departmental and team silos are very common within marketing organizations, it’s no wonder they’re all struggling with waste, poor communication and transparency.
Successful content and social teams are an integrated part of all customer-facing business functions. The more transparent and collaborative the environment, the better.
22. Don’t forget about the customer experience
If you’re only creating content to pursue prospects, then you’re ignoring the most important audience you have: your customers. Retaining and up-selling/reselling existing customers is much easier than bringing in new customers. Equal time, effort and resources should be dedicated to creating content for both pre- and post-sale content experiences.
23. Don’t just push, create opportunities for engagement
Imagine you’re walking down the street and there’s a guy on the corner with a megaphone screaming constantly about some promotion that is completely irrelevant to you. Would you have any interest in talking with him? Of course not.
Alternatively, imagine the same guy (sans microphone) walks up and compliments you on your fabulous shoes, asks how your day is going, and asks if you have a minute to answer a question. Would you take a minute to chat? Probably more likely.
This situation illustrates what a lot of companies do every day with their content. They just push and promote content all day long with little-to-no focus on including engagement mechanisms. Don’t be that company.
24. Don’t pollute
The waters of content marketing are full of pollution—low-quality content. Don’t become a polluter. Quality over quantity always!
The do’s and don’ts of content marketing are sometimes tricky to navigate. You’ll have a much calmer voyage when you have technology you can trust. Take a peek at DivvyHQ to see how it can offer smooth sailing.