Content marketing is a tricky thing to navigate in today’s world.
There are so many different techniques out in the ether that it’s almost impossible to know what works and what doesn’t.
New, fancy growth hacks that promise you 100000% boosts in sales and conversions are almost always lying.
Do you blog? Do you create infographics? How about video content?
Sometimes, sticking to proven methods is the best strategy there is.
So, what works and what doesn’t?
That’s what I’m here to share, with only data-backed methods.
Here are 19 data-driven techniques to use in your content marketing strategy to boost your rankings.
1. Set content goals
Before diving into content marketing with the intent to boost rankings, leads, and traffic, you have to set goals.
Understanding what content types to pick will often stem from your own business goals and where your clients are.
The only way to create actionable content that drives rankings and links is to segment by funnel stage and separate by your goals.
Before creating content, ask the following question:
Why are you creating this content, what market does it appeal to and what purpose will it serve?
Creating content just to create more content is a strategy that will burn through your budget and your time.
Instead, you should have a purpose behind each piece you create.
For example, I recently wrote an in-depth blog post on Google’s mobile-first index:
I did this because I wanted to capture more people interested in mobile marketing and mobile SEO back to my blog.
If I didn’t want that traffic, I wouldn’t have bothered to write about it.
With anything you do in marketing, hedge your risks by analyzing the why behind your actions.
2. Blog more often than you think you should
Blogging is a great way to bring in new, organic visitors to your site.
And most people are blogging right now, especially in the B2B space.
But, they aren’t doing it optimally.
Blogging a few times per month can get you some amazing leads and much more traffic than ignoring blogging as a whole.
But if you’re interested in more leads and more traffic (which you are), then you have to blog more often.
2017 HubSpot research found that posting 0-2 times per month on your blog will generate an average of 100 new visits.
But companies blogging 16 times or more per month are more than tripling that number.
While that number isn’t feasible for every company, it’s a target that you can work up to.
No matter if you’re a B2B or B2C company, blogging can bring in more traffic:
On top of more traffic, companies that blog more times each month generate more inbound leads:
If you are only bringing in 100 leads right now with a few posts, just imagine the amount you can bring in with 16+ blog posts.
The key takeaway is this:
Companies of any size in the B2B and B2C space can benefit from posting more, high-quality blog posts each month.
Pro tip: Just remember to keep the quality high. Each post should be long-form and actionable.
3. Create link-magnet content
The more links you have, the better.
According to Google, the top two ranking factors are content and links.
A supplementary study by Backlinko found this to be true, with the data showing that more external backlinks had a direct correlation to higher rankings:
The problem is, backlinks are becoming harder and harder to come by.
It takes a perfect piece of content and tons of social shares to land a few basic links.
You really have to campaign for them when it comes to your site and blog.
But, you can combat the typical struggle of link building by creating link-magnet content.
Link-magnet content is simply content that generates links easily.
Why do infographics work? Because 65% of people are visual learners:
Other types of link-magnet content include:
- Outlier case studies
These content types are known to get more shares than your standard blog post.
Try using them to get more links faster to boost rankings and social shares.
4. Test your headlines
Headlines are a tricky, yet powerful piece of any content marketing plan.
Creating amazing content but promoting it with a boring, sub-par headline can lead to underperforming results that leave you confused and discouraged.
But the converse is also true:
Writing a thought-provoking headline can increase your click-through rate and improve your content virality.
Plus, CTR is an indirect ranking factor. While it doesn’t directly impact rankings, it only makes sense that Google would place the most popular content higher in the results.
The problem is that writing headlines is tough. It’s hard to know what appeals to your users and what doesn’t.
For that reason, I love using CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer:
Simply enter your headline into the analyzer, and you’ll get a score out of 100 on its success:
Breaking down your headlines using power words and emotion, this headline tool is amazing for perfecting your approach.
It will tell you what your content lacks and requires to be more successful.
Try using it to test your different headlines and see which ones appeal to your customers.
5. Supplement your content strategy with social posting (but not how you do it now)
After publishing a post on your blog, or a new video on YouTube, what’s your first step for promotion?
Commonly, people share content on every social channel possible.
And this strategy is a great start. Sharing on social has helped me gain tons of traffic, shares and ultimately links.
The more users that read my content, the better.
Not only do I get more traffic, but I likely will gain more links because I’ve helped more people who might reference it later.
But often, posting strategies on social platforms don’t work.
Why? Well, currently on platforms like Facebook, organic reach is declining.
It has been for the past six years.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to use social platforms to gain links and traffic.
It just means we have to adapt and change our gameplans.
The standard share and spam method doesn’t work anymore. You can’t post the same content over and over, or post ten times a day.
Instead, follow Buffer’s Facebook posting strategy to drive more engagement. To combat a decline in organic reach, they tried posting less often on Facebook:
At the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, they started posting only one to two times per day.
As a result, they saw a 30x increase in organic engagement. Fascinating.
They were heavily rewarded for posting better content less often.
Their organic reach started to skyrocket:
On top of reach, even their average daily engagement increased on days when they didn’t post:
With social platforms, try posting only your best content marketing pieces.
If you keep posting every small action on social, you won’t see strong results.
Posting less can increase your reach and engagement, resulting in more traffic and more links.
6. Repurpose content
Everybody wants more content to drive traffic and sales, but nobody wants to spend the time creating it.
Content creation is a labor-intensive tactic. According to OrbitMedia, a simple blog post takes an average of 3 hours and 16 minutes.
And that’s based on a 1,000-word blog post.
Meaning that if you’re writing 2,000-word blog posts, you could be spending over 6.5 hours writing content.
This is just for blogging. Creating, editing and publishing video content is even more laborious.
Not only does content take a long time to create, but it also requires great ideas which are often hard to develop on their own.
Instead of wasting time writing new content and thinking of new content campaigns, repurpose your current content into new campaigns.
It generated over 10,00 subscribers and millions of views.
Content repurposing works. The data proves it.
Try turning your existing content into new forms. If you have blog content, turn it into a slideshow, video or email campaign.
If you have email content, turn it into exclusive whitepapers.
Always consider ways to reuse content for more engagement and traffic with less work.
7. Use on-site search to boost rankings
Sometimes, the most obvious content ideas are sitting right in front of you.
Ones that if tapped into could be huge wins for your business.
If you have on-site search functionality, you should always be checking the Search Terms report on Google Analytics:
The on-site search report details all exact searches that have been made on your site.
It contains the exact keywords that people search for on your site.
Analyze the list and see if you have any topics that aren’t covered on your site.
These keywords can easily inform your next piece of content, allowing you to satisfy the search next time.
8. Mention influencers in your content
Getting links is hard enough as is. But you can’t just get any link.
According to Backlinko, you need links from the highest-quality sources on the Internet. Sites with high domain authority:
If you want to rank first with content and bring in more leads, high domain authority backlinks should be a big target in your marketing strategy.
One of the best ways to get them is by simply mentioning influencers or creating round-up style posts where you interview experts in your niche.
For example, I was recently interviewed for a post on Shopify and was mentioned on LinkedIn for it:
With my quotes used in the piece, I got personal recognition from a new audience, but I also gave multiple backlinks to the piece because it mentioned me.
Taking advice from top experts in your niche for your next article will increase the chances that they see it, share it and link back to it.
9. Write longer content
What if I told you that you shouldn’t only aim to write 16+ blog posts per month, but that you should also write longer content?
It seems like yet another struggle to overcome, but it’s worth it.
Let me explain.
The length of the average blog post in 2016 was just over 1,000 words:
But being average isn’t going to drive rankings and conversions from great inbound leads.
Not when studies show that content near 2,000 words ranks highest in Google search results:
Long-form content is dominating the scene right now.
It wins because it’s all-encompassing. It can cover multiple topics and sub-topics within the same post, meaning a user doesn’t have to keep researching for each topic and definition.
If you want to create longer content, try using Google’s “People also ask” box. Each time you click on a new question, more related questions get generated.
You can then take these common questions and break them down into outlines for new content:
- Keyword Stuffing and SEO
- Meta Descriptions 101
- How To Optimize your tags for SEO
- Keyword Density: Does it matter?
- What is keyword spamming?
Use Google to generate fast ideas for new content that you can turn into long-form blog posts or even e-books.
10. Focus on video content
Currently, blogging is all the rage when it comes to content marketing.
And for good reason:
It helps you rank for specific keywords and drives new inbound traffic that otherwise might not have heard of you.
It’s a great addition to any customer acquisition campaign.
But often, marketers focus too heavily on blogging, rather than putting stock into proven, successful mediums like video.
Currently, YouTube is seeing explosive growth, with over 1.5 billion monthly active users:
The user base is growing fast, and users are consuming content like crazy.
YouTube’s active users watch over one hour of video content on the platform daily.
These facts were the main drivers behind me putting more of my budget into video content rather than focusing only on blogging:
I now post multiple, informative videos on dozens of marketing topics every week.
It has helped my business thrive, bringing in new traffic from other sources rather than just organic search.
With video, you don’t need a huge budget like you might think.
You can start off by making informative how-to content, showing someone how to properly optimize their on-site SEO, for example.
Using a free screen recorder, you can easily capture video on your computer, helping people troubleshoot common problems in your niche.
Or consider making diverse content videos that resemble infographics. Using Biteable, you can create different forms of video content with their free templates:
Start small and build up your following and traffic until you can move your budget and invest more in higher-quality equipment.
But for now, free tools are available to anyone looking to start their online video campaigns.
Plus, YouTube videos are ranking more often for tons of different Google searches:
Now is the time to invest in video to diversify your content and skyrocket your traffic.
11. Use Grammarly and Hemingway to improve your content
Writing readable, enjoyable content in the marketing space is hard. It’s hard to make technical data and tactics fun and concise.
How do I know this? Well, first, from personal experience.
I used to suck at writing. It drove me insane.
But now, I love it, and it feels easy to produce content for just about any topic.
Secondly, most people skim/scan when reading online. Meaning your content has to be extremely readable if you want to find success.
Using block quotes, huge paragraphs and college essay-style writing simply won’t fly online.
People are in a hurry and don’t want to waste their time reading.
With Grammarly, you can type directly into their platform and test your copy for plagiarism or even sub-par vocabulary:
And with Hemingway, the editor will automatically detect sentences that are hard-to-read or have a simpler alternative phrase to use.
It can even detect if you are writing in the passive voice or using the wrong adverbs.
These two tools are a writer’s best friend and should become a massive part of your content strategy.
12. Invest in branded content
When you conduct a search on Google and look at the results, what is your first step before clicking?
Do you just read the titles and headlines? Or do you look at each piece to see what website it’s from?
Chances are unless you are brand new to the world of marketing, you look for common brand names that have clout and credibility, right?
For example, even if you are new to marketing but have only heard of brand X, you might even conduct a branded search for a topic:
Brand x + SEO guide.
The truth is, brand bias is still alive and well.
A recent study on branding and consumer purchase behavior confirmed this, finding that 59% of shoppers prefer doing business with familiar brands:
Increasingly, B2B marketers are listing brand awareness as a critical factor in their success:
Having strong brand awareness can even increase your open rate for email campaigns:
Brand building isn’t just for major corporations with billion-dollar budgets.
Small businesses in the B2B space can brand themselves and should be investing heavily in branded content.
13. Find top content for a keyword and reverse engineer it
With so much content produced daily, it’s a shot in the dark whether your content will find the same success.
One of the only ways to set yourself up for bigger wins with content marketing is to analyze current hit pieces and try to replicate the process for your own business.
When trying to rank content for a given keyword, it can be daunting looking at the search results.
For example, a simple search for even this long-tail keyword on “local seo for small business” nets a SERP analysis of massive, popular websites:
Long-tail keywords are often touted as the best for rankings, which is somewhat true, but that doesn’t always apply.
Not when it comes to competitive industries.
If your niche is less competitive, you might have an easier time ranking.
But if it’s SEO, you will be facing some large websites with a big link profile.
The best way to attack content and new keywords is by reverse engineering the process.
What I mean by that is looking at the finished products for given keywords and search results.
Using Moz’s Keyword Explorer, you can search for any keyword that you want to create content for:
Hit the search button and then analyze the SERP results:
As you can see, the monthly volume for this long-tail phrase isn’t huge. But it’s still competitive and brings in 90% of the searches via organic.
The key here is to analyze current content that’s ranking high.
That means everything from the actual content of the piece, to structure, to backlinks.
To get started, copy the first link in the SERP analysis and paste it into Moz’s Open Site Explorer:
In the “Established Links” box, you can see the exact amount of links this post has.
Scroll down and analyze what links they acquired, specifically focusing on the sites they got linked from:
By looking at factors like domain authority, it will tell you what quality of sites you will need to remain competitive in the SERPs when creating content on a given topic.
Next, analyze the actual content of the post and see where you can improve.
Can you add more sections? More examples? Any relevant studies, data or information? Can you make it longer?
Find any way to improve the content as much as possible.
Then, you can get extremely aggressive about your ranking strategy.
Try contacting those sites linking to your competitor’s post, asking them to check out your post and replace the link.
It won’t work every time, but it’s a surefire way to get a few links back to your site.
Reverse engineer the top content for your target keywords to develop your own game plan for ranking high.
This will also help you benchmark your own needs against the current status quo.
Boosting rankings isn’t easy.
But it’s necessary if you want to gain more leads from SEO tactics and inbound marketing.
Content marketing is your best bet to gaining better rankings and leads.
But not all methods work. And some are a huge waste of time.
Instead, stick with this list of data-driven techniques to drive more leads and better rankings.
Follow what the data tells you:
Platforms that are seeing explosive growth are perfect for driving traffic.
Invest more in branding your business, reverse engineering successful content and creating a content marketing strategy based on proven methods.
Follow these 13 data-driven techniques and you’ll be boosting rankings and traffic in no time.
What are your favorite data-driven techniques to boost your ranking?
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