However, there are some pretty significant mistakes that content marketers make when publishing online that can diminish their potential ROI.
Whether you’re completely new to publishing online or you’re already a prolific blogger and content marketer, keep these dos and don’ts in mind to make sure that the content you’re publishing doesn’t get lost in a sea of competition.
1. DO: Think Mobile
More than half of the world’s internet traffic now comes from mobile and tablet devices, so if your content doesn’t look great when your audience tries to view it on their smartphones, you’re going to lose opportunities to convert them into leads and customers. Google has reported that a difficult-to-navigate mobile site results in a 61% chance of visitors leaving. If your site is mobile-friendly, visitors are 67% more likely to convert.
This is especially true if your site loads quickly. One case study found that mobile pages that are a mere one second faster can experience up to a 27% increase in conversion rate. When visitors have to sit around waiting for your content to load because you haven’t optimized it for mobile traffic, they may just end up getting impatient and leaving.
The increasing popularity of mobile web browsing has even led Google recently to announce plans to begin indexing and ranking pages based primarily on the mobile version of a site. When this mobile-first index launches, websites without a mobile-responsive site won’t stand a chance of ranking on the first page.
When publishing your content, whether it’s your main web site, your landing pages, your blog articles or even your lead magnets, stop and think about what the experience of consuming your content from a mobile device will be like for your audience. If it’s worse than the desktop version, here are a few simple ways to improve your content’s mobile responsiveness:
- Use shorter headlines to avoid getting cut off on small screens
- Intersperse visually appealing images with shorter chunks of text to keep readers scrolling
- Speed up your mobile pages’ load time by using Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages
- Use hamburger menus or other smartphone-friendly navigation options
2. DO: Include a Headline That Pulls Your Audience In
Before you publish your next web page or blog article, take a moment to stop and consider whether you’ve chosen the most effective headline possible. Does it tell readers exactly what to expect from the content? Does it present it in an appealing way that’s sure to engage their curiosity? Does it match the message of the ads you’re using?
Digital Marketer has said, “Understanding the art and science of compelling headlines is a staple of digital marketing. It will improve your results in nearly every aspect of your marketing … understanding how to write great headlines is about understanding why people take action. Why they say ‘yes.’”
To get readers to say “yes,” be sure that your headline is connected to something they care about. This might be a benefit that they really desire, a pain point they want to get rid of or a fear that they want to avoid. Headlines should be emotionally gripping, but don’t take it too far — you don’t want to be overly dramatic or over-promising. Your headline should provide an accurate preview of the content so that readers know if it’s what they are looking for.
As marketing expert Neil Patel explains, “The primary purpose of the headline is to get the first sentence read.” It’s simple: If readers aren’t pulled in by the headline, it doesn’t matter how well-written or in-depth the rest of the content is. Your audience will never see it.
According to Neil Patel, a successful headline should be:
- Unique: It’s unusual or attention-grabbing enough to stand out.
- Ultra-specific: It needs to give potential readers enough information to know whether or not they’ll be interested.
- Urgent: It should compel your audience to keep reading so they don’t miss out on something.
- Useful: It needs to connect to a benefit for the reader so that they know what value they’ll get if they continue reading.
3. DO: Research Questions People Are Asking About Your Topic
The best way to get your content found is to anticipate the questions readers will use to search for it. When your potential customers have a question, the first place they’ll turn to for an answer is Google. According to Andy Crestodina, co-founder of Orbit Media, there are three main types of search queries that indicate different types of intent.
- Navigational queries: These sorts of search terms are used to navigate to a specific brand or experience. Users who input navigational queries know exactly where they want to go. Some examples might include “Facebook login” or “Spotify sign up.”
- Transactional queries: These phrases indicate a purchasing intent, either now or in the near future. For example, users who search for “red high heels less than $50” or “best laptop bag for business travel” are probably going to make a purchase soon.
- Informational queries: These are questions or phrases that users search for to find an answer to a specific question. For example, “What’s the best time to post on Facebook?” or “How do I publish a blog article?”
This third type of query is where you want to focus your content marketing efforts. Before you create a new piece of content, instead of simply assuming that it’s something readers will want (or that you know which terms they will use to search for it if they do want it), do some digging and find out.
There are many helpful tools you can use to unearth the most popular questions that are being asked about your topic. You can use these tools to better plan the content you’re writing, or to optimize existing content for better search results.
At ONTRAPORT, our favorite tool for this is Answerthepublic.com. Simply input the topic you’re writing about, and it will give you all the most popular questions that are connected to that topic. You can also use Buzz Sumo to discover the most popular content already existing on your topic and Google Keyword Planner to get more specific information about the volume and popularity of specific search terms.
1. DON’T: Publish, Then Abandon Your Content
If you’ve been publishing content for a while, chances are some of your older articles, ebooks, white papers or videos are getting a little dated. This can have a negative effect on your audience’s perception of your brand. (Do you really want a new lead to see that ugly infographic you published five years ago before you had updated your brand standards?)
Google actually penalizes publishers who have neglected their content for too long and rewards publishers who keep their content freshly updated, timely and relevant. This is known as your freshness score, and it can have a significant effect on your search engine rankings over time. When you first publish a new piece of content, it begins with the highest freshness score it will ever have, then it degrades as the content ages. You can, however, stop this decay or even reverse it by regularly updating your content. Although Google won’t change your freshness score for small updates, when you revisit an old piece of content that was published in the past and add new information and new links, Google will update your freshness score, providing a boost to your placement in search engine rankings.
We use this strategy for the ONTRAPORT blog regularly. In fact, the article you’re reading right now was updated to include this content almost a year after its original publication!
When it is time to “republish” content, you should begin by selecting a blog post, download or web page that’s had impressive engagement in the past but has plateaued. Go through and add more information to it that is new and up-to-date. Have new developments, technological advances or current events occurred that should change the content of the piece?
Digital Marketer calls blog posts like this “Now With More” posts. You can learn more about how to republish content for greater SEO results (and less effort spent creating brand new content) on their blog.
2. DON’T: Use Sloppy Visuals
Whether it’s on your blog, your social media profiles or your website, avoid publishing images and visuals that don’t meet a high aesthetic standard. It can make your brand appear unprofessional and lead your audience to form snap judgments about the quality of your content. It doesn’t matter how amazing your ebooks, blog articles or social media posts are: If they look less than appealing, they will get passed over in the blink of an eye.
Audiences in the digital age are exceedingly image-driven, and the quality of the images you use in your content can make or break your audience’s perception of your brand.
Instagram expert Sue B. Zimmerman explains how this is so troubling: “Every day I see horrible photos, bad lighting, irrelevant stuff blasted all over hundreds of accounts. Why is it so hard for people, particularly business owners, to only post great photos?”
Focus on sharing visual content that really communicates the essence of your brand and grabs the attention of your readers. Zimmerman suggests, “Think to yourself, ‘What magazines do my ideal customers read?’ Ok, would your photo look good on one of the first 10 pages? If the answer is no, think about how you can switch it up. New angle? Better lighting?”
Bad photography is not the only issue; poor design and layout can also hinder engagement. Your content might be an unappealing wall of text if it doesn’t include visuals, effective subtitles or layout variations such as bulleted lists, tables or callouts.
According to Zabisco, via this piece by Hubspot, 40% of people respond better to content that uses visuals rather than just plain text. People pay more attention to visuals than they do to text. In fact, according to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, visitors typically read only 20-28% of the words on a page.
The takeaway here? Focus on making your content easier to consume and more appealing to a general audience by including thoughtful visuals, sleek design and high-quality photos.
3. DON’T: Forget to Make the Right Offer
The last item on this list is actually the most important one of them all.
The final “don’t” is forgetting to make the right offer at the right time. Although the primary purpose of content marketing is to offer value to your audience by sharing important information with them and answering their questions, you don’t want to miss your opportunity to leverage that engagement to generate more leads and sales.
There are two ways you can mess this up:
- Making offers at the wrong moment. Being relevant is important! You wouldn’t offer your most expensive, big-ticket product to a lead you were talking to for the first time, so don’t make an offer for it inside a blog article. Choose your timing carefully.
- Not making any offers. Focusing on editorial value is important, but remember why you’re doing content marketing in the first place — to create leads for your business. If you don’t include enough opportunities for readers to become leads, you won’t achieve that goal.
Here’s how Russ Henneberry from Digital Marketer explains the problem: “The trouble is that great content is absolutely not enough. Nor is it sufficient to REPETITIVELY create great content. You also need the right type of ASCENSION offer – If you are asking your first-time blog reader to buy your $500 product or to join your $49 subscription service — you’re sunk. Instead, gradually ascend your reader with a lead magnet or tripwire offer.”
The biggest publishing mistake you can make? To stop after merely publishing great content. Don’t forget to give readers a chance to take the next step if they’ve enjoyed it. Here are a few ways to do this:
- Insert a strategically-timed pop-up offer on your blog articles to encourage readers to opt in for more free content such as an ebook or worksheet.
- Include soft, subtle pitches for your product throughout your content, especially content that is targeted toward buyers who are in the middle or bottom of the funnel (that is, they’re closer to the buying stage).
- Follow up with new contacts who opt in for your content by sending them more, similar content that they will also like. After engaging with them for some time, you can then send them an offer to buy something.
These six dos and don’ts are not a complete A-Z manual for your content marketing strategy (If that’s what you’re looking for, head to this blueprint). However, they will start you off on the right foot and make sure that you’re not wasting precious time and resources on content that doesn’t achieve the goal: more leads and more sales.