8 Powerful Ways to Take Your Content Marketing Strategy to the Next Level

Written by Neil Patel on November 19, 2015

next level

There are hundreds, if not thousands of different content marketing tactics out there.

They can be use to create better content, get more traffic and make more sales.

But tactics are only useful if you know when and where they should be used.

And to do that, you need to understand the principles that form the foundation of effective content marketing.

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Understanding the basic principles of content marketing helps you to know when a tactic would work well with your audience.

This is why they are so important to know and understand.

However, considering and incorporating those principles can be a bit tougher.

Those principle are, by necessity, very general.

To implement them in your content, and, with your content strategy as a whole, you’ll need to see them in action.

I’m about to walk you through 8 fairly advanced ways that you can apply the principles of content marketing.

Are you working on a content marketing campaign? Follow these 8 powerful ways to take your content marketing strategy to the next level.

They are a way to take your work beyond the level of beginner and intermediate marketers. 

1. The trust you build is based on a consistent tone

One of the most basic principles of content marketing is that you need to build relationships and trust with your audience.

Okay, sounds good.

But how do you actually build trust?

There are a few different factors that contribute to building trust, but none are more important than a consistent tone.

You could also equate your tone to your brand identity.

In order to gain someone’s trust, there has to be a connection. And for a reader, that connection needs to be to your brand.

Your brand could be the combination of a team of content producers, or, it could just be you. Either can work just fine.

What’s behind a brand identity? The first thing you need to understand is what a brand identity is composed of.

We’ll move on to the consistent part after.

There are many layers to your brand identity.

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It starts internally (for you or your team), when you define your core values.

  • What do you believe in?
  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • How are you trying to do it?

The answers to those questions will reflect in your work. You will create content in a certain way and it will affect your audience in a certain way.

Your readers will ideally start to recognize the look and feel of your content. This extends to things like your color scheme and your logo.

Once you’ve established a solid brand identity, people will associate something as simple as your logo with all the things you stand for.

Pretty crazy, right?

Those layers build upon each other over time, and each exposure to your content add more meaning to your brand for each reader.

Maintaining a consistent tone in your content: Let’s start with the simplest aspect of being consistent in your branding.

Whatever your brand is (whether it’s you or a company), you need to have a face for it. It could be a logo, or in a case where you are the brand, a picture.

Take a look at my Facebook page, what’s the first thing you see?

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A nice, professional picture of my hairless head.

But what about on my other blogs, like the NeilPatel.com blog?

Well, in the sidebar of all the posts, you’ll see the same picture:

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Seeing a pattern?

Guess what you’ll see in the sidebar on Quick Sprout posts?

You guessed it…

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If someone has read enough of my content, it means that the values that I have resonated with them; they’ve connected with the reader in some way.

And that’s a great thing.

Because now, when they see a picture of me, whether it’s at a webinar, on a sales page, or next to a future blog post, they know that what’s about to follow is something they can trust.

They know that I stand behind it in a certain way and that I believe in being thorough and giving as much value as possible.

That’s only possible with consistency.

If your content is constantly of varying quality and has conflicting viewpoints, readers never know what to expect.

It’s hard to trust someone if they are always “flip-flopping” their opinions.

If you run a large multi-author site, you need to be vigilant to prevent this from occurring and damaging the trust that you build with readers.

For example, on the Crazy Egg blog we have several regular contributors:

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How do you make sure that they all write in the same general style, level, and with the same viewpoints?

There are 2 main ways.

First, it’s always a good idea to have an editor. For the Crazy Egg blog, we have an editor that not only manages all the writers, but edits their work for consistency.

The second way is something that all marketers and business owners need to do:

Define your core values and expectations.

All new writers to the Daily Egg team are given a PDF to read that lays out several of our expectations.

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Even if you’re the only content creator for your business, you should still write these out.

The clearer you define these, the more it will show in your future content creation.

2. Content on closely related topics has extra benefits

Be honest with me for a second:

Have you ever found yourself continually testing out different content marketing tactics?

One week you’re writing long guides, the next week list posts, then expert roundups, then infographics, and so on…

There’s nothing wrong with using different tactics, but when this scenario happens, the focus is usually on the tactic.

This means that there’s very little focus on how the content fits into all of your other content.

You may be writing on topics in your niche, but that doesn’t mean that they are related to each other.

For example, a post on social media tools isn’t related to a guide on content marketing, even though they are both on marketing topics.

Related content builds on each other: There’s something that happens when you start producing content on related topics.

Say you create one article, a guide to running your first split test.

You promote it, get a decent amount of traffic and attract some new readers.

Great.

Now, what if you write a second article and it’s about social media marketing tips?

Well, you do the same thing, and get the same results. 

But let’s back up a second…

Instead, what if you wrote an article about split testing tools?

You can still promote that and get that second batch of traffic, but now you can connect your first and second article.

People who just learned how to do a split test are going to be interested in learning about tools to help them do it.

Many of them are going to want to read your second article as well.

Just by writing on a related topic, you get more pageviews, and build more trust with your readers.

There are 2 main scenarios where you can take advantage of this.

Scenario #1 – You can create a series out of your content: One way to leverage related content is to make a series out of it.

Instead of releasing a huge guide at once, release it one part at a time.

Here’s an example from Brian Dean.

He sent his subscribers an email about a technique he calls the “shoulder niche approach”:

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At the end of the email, he connects it to the next piece of content he’ll publish, which is a case study using that exact technique.

Anyone who got that first email is going to be waiting in anticipation for the next one, resulting in a higher open rate than normal.

Scenario #2 – You can link to more of your own content: Another way you can connect related content together is to simply link to it with internal links in your content:

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I do this several times in each article, linking to any related articles that I think readers might be interested in.

This naturally increases the average amount of content a visitor reads, which helps me build deeper relationships more quickly.

On top of that, highly relevant internal links will improve your search rankings as well.

Maintaining consistent brand signals: I’d like to leave you with one final example in this section that illustrates the potential effectiveness of having a unique, recognizable part of your brand across as much of your work as possible.

Matthew Woodward is an SEO and affiliate marketing blogger.

He doesn’t have a particularly distinctive logo, but what he does have is a very unique color scheme of blue, black, and purple (maybe pink?).

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Some might argue that it’s an ugly color scheme.

And it very well may be. However, after seeing it only a handful of times, his readers will start to recognize that color scheme as his brand, no matter where they see it.

He uses this color scheme whenever he gets the chance.

In his sidebar…

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At the start of his Youtube videos…

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And across all of his social media pages…

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We talked about your brand standing for something that will help you rise above the crowd. Ideally, the symbols, colors, and logos should also be created in a way that makes you stand out.

3. Content that sells can be good for both you and the reader

One thing that many beginner marketers love to do is put content in categories.

This content is all about giving value.

This content is all about making sales.

And while certain types of content falls into those categories (like some guides and sales pages), the majority of content has a little bit of both.

Content that sells isn’t selfish: The problem with putting content in one of those extreme categories is that it shows you have a certain mindset.

You associate value with “good”, and sales as “bad”.

And, it’s the reason why so many beginners say “I could never be good at sales”. They picture the sleazy used car salesman and think they need to be like that to succeed.

It scares them away from producing any content that has a selling component, which means their sales are poor.

But in many cases, the best way to sell is to give a ton of value, so content has both value and selling in it.

There are 2 types of content that are particularly great for this.

Hybrid content type #1 – Webinars: Something I’ve had a lot of success with recently are webinars.

If you ever want to see an effective webinar in action, just go to NeilPatel.com and sign up to attend my next one.

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Webinars should consist of 90% value. You spend at least the first 45-50 minutes teaching the audience some of your best stuff, like your own personal strategies and processes.

Then, you give them a soft sell at the very end.

Because there’s so much value given away, more than in most blog posts, conversion rates are insane. It’s common to get around a 20% conversion rate.

Hybrid content type #2 – Case studies: Case studies are a great way to show that your products (whether it’s a physical or informational product) actually work.

Case studies allow you to reveal some of your best content (in most cases paid) and show the results that content can achieve.

The transparency is one of the reasons why readers love well written case studies.

And, because they get to see the results of your product, they are likely to try and purchase it for themselves – no hard sell needed.

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If you’d like to learn more about creating great case studies, here’s a guide I wrote.

Making money isn’t bad: While giving value is a great goal to have, having a goal to increase revenue isn’t bad either.

The more money you make, the more you can invest into making better content, and making more of it.

Selling will actually allow you to give more away.

4. Great content can be recognized by answering one question…

How do you evaluate the quality of content?

There are many ways of course, but one way is to ask yourself one question:

If I was the reader, would I stop what I’m doing to share this with a friend?

Because that’s what you need if you want to grow a die-hard following. Your best readers need to become your advocates.

They need to find your content so interesting and useful, that they need to share it with someone.

Of course, not all of your readers will share it in reality, but if your average reader shares it with at least a couple close friends, you have a chance of it going viral.

8 Advanced Content Marketing Principles that Most Never Consider

So, how do you overwhelm your reader with so much value that they have no choice but to share it?

Just make “great content” is a little vague.

Instead, there are 2 tactics in particular that I’ve seen work amazingly well.

Tactic #1 – Incredible depth: If there’s one thing that the average writer can do to take their content from good to great, it’s to add more detail.

I try to be as detailed as possible,  in each blog post or in one of my advanced guides.

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The reason that long, in-depth content makes people want to share it, is because it stands out from every other piece of content they see on a regular basis.

It’s like one of those home shopping channel advertisements: “But wait, there’s more!”

Just when they think they’ve received a good amount of value out of the post, they realize that there’s more waiting for them when they scroll further.

Tactic #2 – Make the reader feel special: People know that when they recommend anything to their friends, it reflects on them.

The typical person doesn’t want to recommend bad content, just as much as they don’t want to recommend a bad song or movie.

So when you’re writing about anything, point out the good qualities that the reader most likely has.

Are they:

  • eager to learn
  • intelligent
  • better than their peers
  • caring
  • kind

You’ll never see me write an article called “content marketing for idiots”. I could use a more offensive word than idiots there (use your imagination).

No one would want to share that, because it makes them feel bad.

On the other hand, I love to mention good traits such as adding value to the world and improving lives through marketing.

Who wouldn’t want to be seen as someone who is good at their job and also helping others?

5. Transparency for no reason is pointless, and possibly detrimental

Transparency is extremely popular right now.

Revealing what’s going on behind the scenes to your audience is great for building trust.

It can be very effective, when done right.

However, transparency should be strategic.

A great example of transparency is Moz. They publicly release their revenue numbers each year, no matter if it was a good or bad year.

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Other blogs like Groove also do this.

So does that mean if you reveal how much you’re making that your readers will love it?

No, it doesn’t.

They may, but they might also not give it a second look.

The effectiveness of transparency depends on how much value it adds to a post, or a blog in general.

People relate to the things you reveal (good for building trust), but they can also find it interesting and compelling (supporting what you write about).

When and where is transparency useful? There’s a good chance that you could use transparency to improve the results of your content marketing.

But the crucial deciding factor into whether or not to reveal something is if it’s something that can add value to your content for your readers.

If not, don’t do it.

Say you reveal your revenue to an audience that doesn’t care about it.  They might think that you’re making too much and that your products must be overpriced. You could actually lose sales because of transparency.

What might your audience be interested in?

  • your revenue (if they are interested in business)
  • your processes
  • how you make your product
  • how you respond to customer complaints and suggestions
  • how you decide on what products you’ll focus on in the future

The reason that you see so much about revenue when it comes to transparency is that you’re a marketer or business owner.

You’re a part of audiences who care about revenue.

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For many audiences, you’ll see that they don’t care about how your business is going, they care more about your products and what goes on behind the scenes to make them.

6. If you wouldn’t show it to your mother, it’s not good enough

We talked before about a way to determine if your content was good enough to publish. Here’s another.

Think of the people that have opinion’s you care the most about. If you wouldn’t be comfortable with them reading it, you need to improve it.

It could be your mother, or a close friend or mentor.

If possible, actually send them a link to it.

There’s about a 0 percent chance that you will send a post link to someone who you want to look intelligent to unless that post was as good as it could be.

If you’re not willing to show it to them, you might already know what you need to fix.

But if not, there are 3 main areas that are usually the problem that can be identified with these questions:

Question #1 – Is every fact or claim backed up with data? What are people typically impressed with? It’s usually not the words used, but the research that went into writing them.

If you’re citing studies and credible data, your content no longer seems like something anyone can do. Instead, it shows that you put serious time and effort in and chose to raise the quality standard of your work.

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Go through your content and see if you’re referring to studies whenever you make a claim.

Also, go through and see how many studies you refer to in total. It depends on the topic, but always aim for at least a few.

Question #2 – Did you edit the content as well as possible? Sometimes you get to the end of writing a long post and editing is the last thing you want to do.

But you and I both know that editing can turn a mediocre post into a great post.

Force yourself to spend the time removing all the fluff and fixing basic things like spelling errors.

Question #3 – Did you create each part of the content with the reader in mind? A final reason you might not want to show your content to anyone important yet is because you don’t feel that it has much value to your reader.

You might think it’s boring or too basic.

In this case, look at your content, section by section, and ask yourself if each section was really made for the reader (or just made to make you sound smart or to fill a word count).

7. Just because you’re a blogger, doesn’t mean you can’t learn from storytellers

Storytelling doesn’t really have a defined role in content marketing right now.

Stories aren’t needed for many types of content (e.g. infographics, list posts, etc.), but they can improve some types of content as well.

So, we’re at a point where content marketers aren’t really sure if storytelling is too important, and how to use it, if it is.

It’s not necessary, but knowing how to use it in certain situations can provide 2 main benefits to your content:

  1. entertainment – stories are typically realistic, which makes them easy to relate to. This realism also makes them typically more entertaining.
  2. clarity – stories are a great way to make a point. You can paint a picture of a scenario and really put the reader’s imagination in that situation.

If you’re trying to explain a concept, stories can illustrate them brilliantly. This includes both the key points you’re trying to teach, but also when you’re relaying information from other sources. For example, instead of just posting a study’s abstract, you can craft a story based on its results.

If you want to start applying storytelling more effectively, let’s start with the basics.

There are 4 or 5 elements of a good story (depending on who you ask).

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The background: You can’t just launch into a story, whether it’s a short or long one.

If you start telling me about a scientist feeding mice Gatorade, then, as a reader, I want to know why you’re telling me.

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Before every story, write a quick sentence or two about why it’s important.

For example:

A study in 1981 illustrated that Gatorade might cure cancer, it was a fascinating experiment…(and then go on)

The rising action: The next stage involves going over the details that lead to the big important moment.

If you were telling a story about a study, this would be the part where you point out any important details in the experimental setup.

If you were telling a story about how social media impacted a business, this is where you would explain the approach the business took.

The climax: The climax is the big revelation:

They found that Gatorade completely eliminates cancer in 91.2% of rats, and it also gives them the power to fly!

This is the most important part of the story, so give it emphasis.

The resolution (conclusion): To finish off any type of story, you should have a conclusion where you wrap things up.

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More importantly, you need to spell out how the results of the story should impact your reader, especially since most of your content is going to be non-fiction (real and practical).

8. The way you present your content reflects your brand

We talked before about your brand identity.

Your brand is one of the most important factors for building relationships and trust with your readers.

We already went over how your business’ core values can be reflected in the content you create.

But now, I’d like to dive deeper into that one aspect, because it’s really important.

When your audience sees your content, they connect whatever they’re thinking and feeling to your brand.

The writing in your content and your approach to writing are 2 of the most important factors that affect what readers feel and think.

However, there’s one more – the design.

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You’ve often heard me say that design matters.  This is one of the major reasons why.

Yes, it makes content more readable, but more importantly, it leaves a reader feeling like they are reading premium content.

When someone feels like they’re getting access to special content, they value it higher and put more focus into consuming it.

You could stand out by having terrible ugly content design as well, but then readers will make a negative connection with your content and your brand.

Instead, make your content look great and readers will associate your content and brand with quality (over all of your competitors).

I’ve written many times about how you can make your content look amazing. Here are some posts to get you started:

Conclusion

It’s great to know and test out different content marketing tactics.

Tactics are important for actually accomplishing things.

However, tactics are ineffective if you don’t know when to use them.

That’s where strategy comes in. This is where the expert content marketers are separated from the inexperienced.

To plan an effective strategy, you need to understand the principles behind content marketing.

Then, you need to understand how to apply those principles to your strategy, which is where this post comes in.

I’ve showed you 8 key concepts that will help you form a more complete and effective content marketing plan. Ideally, you’ll learn and apply all of them.

I know that these aren’t the simplest concepts, so if you have any questions, just leave them below in a comment.

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