This is a guest contribution from Sam Warren of Rankpay
I’ve got good news and bad news.
The bad news is this: that boring content you’re probably peddling? It’s not worth it anymore. It has its place, but it’s not going to take you to that next level.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not your fault for going about content marketing like this. We all do. We’ve been taught to.
But therein lies the problem doesn’t it? If we’ve all been taught to do something, and we all “follow the rules”, it stands to reason that it’d be hard to stand out. And boy, is it ever.
Don’t get discouraged though, as promised I have some good news as well.
While it may be difficult, it’s far from impossible to get noticed. You’re just going to have to think outside the box and that’s why I’m here.
I’m going to show you how to make a difference.
From time to time, we all need to brush up on our creative problem solving skills and remind ourselves that it’s OK to be disruptive and take risks.
But before we get there, let’s take a closer look at why we need to think this way in the first place.
Content Marketing Has Grown Into a Monster
It used to be hard to find good writers on the internet. Those that knew how to write an engaging and actionable article made waves quickly and efficiently.
Nowadays, good writers are a dime a dozen. In fact, there are far too many of us.
Back in 2012 Domo presented research claiming WordPress users alone create 347 articles every minute.
The signal to noise ratio is getting worse by the day, and in many cases writers have altogether forgotten why they started down this road in the first place.
- More shares?
- Improved search visibility?
- Building brand awareness?
- Getting email subscribers for remarketing?
Oh well, you probably don’t have time to consider such things. Better write another 500 word article to hit that deadline.
There, there, it’s all right. You’re not alone.
Further, this type of “bulk” content you’ve been taught to produce can still be marginally effective if you’re in a small and uncompetitive niche.
But for those of us fixing to make headway in existing markets, traditional advice just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
What Doesn’t Necessarily Work in Competitive Markets?
Don’t worry, I know you’re curious about what does work. We’ll get there.
But let’s first take a closer look at a few things you’ve probably been taught over the years. I’d challenge you to take a good hard look at each of them, and try to determine what measurable impact they’ve had for you.
This was popularized by Brian Dean a number of years ago, and it’s still a pretty awesome concept. I don’t want to devalue this opportunity for you, but it behooves us to be cautious and realistic.
Image courtesy: Backlinko
The problem is, after this technique started to make the rounds, many content marketers began investing serious time putting it to good use. As a result of this, unless you’re blogging in an up-and-coming niche, the return on investment often won’t usually be in your favor.
There are any number of cornerstone and evergreen content pieces out there that you’re simply not going to best without putting in an unacceptable amount of time and energy.
This is an “extreme” example, but say you run an SEO service, and you want to rank for the term “How to do keyword research.” Well, Moz is currently ranking #1 for that term. Spoiler alert: their post already has over 5000 links built to it.
The amount of time you’d need to invest in creating a resource that’s actually more useful than a well-established magnum opus with 1k+ referring quality domains, is staggering.
It may occasionally border on impossible depending upon your link-building abilities and social capital.
Tons of boring “recycled” content
Just take a look on Upwork and you’ll see a huge number of gigs looking for “writers” able to produce tons of 500 words articles focused on a small number of keyword variations.
If you’re working in a space that has no recognizable competition, this could get your site on the map. No doubt. But even under those circumstances, you’d still be missing out on so much of what content marketing has to offer.
Guess what? Readers aren’t going to click your article if it’s the same damn thing they’ve read a thousand times already. Recycling and spinning content will simply turn readers off.
Alienating your existing or potential audience is a surefire way to drive your traffic into the ground.
That horrid template you use for outreach emails
Getting published at notable outlets is a big deal for any marketer. It’s also a critical component to making sure you’re get the most out of your content marketing efforts.
But getting a publisher’s ear can be easier said than done. Case in point: the blog I edit at RankPay is a relatively low-key affair, but nevertheless I bet you’d be surprised by the sheer volume of pitches I get from writers looking to get published.
First and foremost, don’t be an idiot when you write these emails. Do us all a favor and avoid the common pitfalls.
- Don’t misspell names
- Don’t address the wrong publication
- Don’t pitch junk just to earn a link
- Don’t plagiarize
But there’s more to it than just that.
Chances are you’ve read that personalizing is the way to go. It is. But everyone recommends you say something like “I’ve been a long-time reader and I loved your article XYZ”.
While it’s nice that this shows you took the time to copy paste a title as opposed to just bulk-emailing, it still doesn’t win you any points these days. Every publisher knows what you’re doing, and it just makes you seem washed up and disingenuous.
What Does Work Nowadays?
Put simply, thinking outside of the box works.
Tell a story and be creative. Write about something that nobody else has bothered to yet.
Do you know why so many readers are happy subscribers to Seth Godin’s blog? It’s because they’ll never see anything he writes, anywhere else. It’s truly original and, even more importantly, it’s from the heart.
That last part is the key. The internet has made us all a bit more skeptical and increased our awareness of when we’re being “sold” or manipulated. Being genuine and honest is the best way to avoid having this problem yourself.
Develop a unique and authentic voice
Writing in a stiff or unnatural voice is a surefire way to alienate your readers.
Let your freak flag fly! Well, to a degree. Let’s not get carried away.
But the point I’m going to stress here, is that getting noticed demands personality, creativity, and authenticity. With so many talented writers producing quality content, you’re going to need to be different.
There’s often a level of candor that I still “feel” is missing from many popular writers. Perhaps once they reach a certain popularity point they feel they need to button up and follow the rules to be careful not to misstep.
I’m not popular enough to be burdened with high-brow concerns. But that being said, time and time again, being original and authentic gets folks to pay attention.
We all just want to relate to one another and to be heard, whether we’re creating or consuming content.
Actually be creative
While everyone shouts this from the mountaintops, very few seem to practice it.
I don’t just mean “don’t plagiarize”. Honestly that should go without saying. I mean tell a story that your audience hasn’t heard before. Screw the rules! Be creative! Be different!
Image courtesy: Derek Halpern
If you’re in IT, write a cute screenplay about how to better provide tech support. Write a limerick about common troubleshooting solutions. Being original (and often weird) is usually how content goes viral.
“If you’ve ever seen my YouTube channel, one of the first things you might notice is that I look ridiculous in half of my thumbnail pictures. Why would I publish these truly unfortunate freeze frames when I have much better pictures I could be using? The answer is simple: What stands out gets remembered. What blends in gets forgotten.” – Derek Halpern
People want to be entertained and educated. If you can accomplish both at once in an innovative way, you’re truly on to something.
Honest outreach emails
Instead of sounding like just another writer looking to grab a link, try being genuine for a change.
I’ve legitimately landed multiple publication opportunities by opening my cold emails with some variation of the following.
If you don’t know the publication, try being honest that you don’t. Make yourself vulnerable.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” ― Brené Brown
It seems risky, but the people on the receiving end of your emails are human beings. In my experience, people respect and appreciate honesty above all else. Trust me, candor is a refreshing treat when you work in marketing and/or publishing.
Putting Disruptive Ideas to Paper
Imagine yourself as a blogging entrepreneur! You’re going to have to take some risks. It’s scary to put yourself out there like this.
But the reality is, you won’t get far unless you “dare greatly”. That’s more wisdom from Brené Brown right there. Seriously, go watch her Ted Talks if you’ve somehow missed them.
It’s all too easy to just phone it in and write the same dribble you’ve been writing for the past few months or years. But let’s make 2017 different. Let’s make a difference this year.
- Be creative with the content you create
- Be authentic with your voice and tone
- Be different than your competitors
- Be honest with your outreach efforts
You’ll be amazed by the opportunities you earn when you begin to bring these goals in focus.
Sam Warren is the marketing manager and editor at RankPay, a top rated performance-based SEO service, and the proud father of a 10lb chihuahua mutt.