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8 Content Marketing Rules to Live By

A person types on a laptop

What rules does your content marketing team follow? While your brand likely creates content, you might need to learn about common rules that can boost your results. Whether you’re new to the content marketing niche or are a veteran, take a look at these eight rules that can help your team level up.   

Rule 1: Put a plan on paper

You need a content marketing strategy. Get the team together to talk about your content and work through a plan. When you’re happy with it, write it down. Research shows more brands are committing to a documented strategy, with 66% relying on a written plan, up from 57% in 2022, according to a report from SEMRush.

Your strategy should include:

  • Your marketing objectives and goals
  • A description of your target audience
  • Market research
  • Content workflow
  • Content calendar
  • KPIs to measure success

Once it’s written down, ensure it’s shareable so your team can reference it frequently.

Rule 2: Define your audience and customer journey

To be successful at content marketing, you need to know who your audience is and how they go about becoming customers. 

Dig into your data to create a well-defined customer persona, which should create a clear picture of your target audience. Remember, specifics are important. You need to know more than your audience’s sex and age, you want a picture of the whole person. You want to know their age, sex, occupation, yearly income, family makeup, buying habits, previous purchases, buying frequency, hobbies, and any other piece of information you can use to hyper-define your audience. 

Examine the customer journey too. Many journeys involve the following stages:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Purchase
  • Retention 
  • Advocacy

With a defined buying path, you can produce content for each stage, which generates more effective results.

Rule 3: Consider the Pillar-Cluster Model

To aid in SEO, consider creating and organizing your content into pillars and clusters. A pillar is a centralized topic; it’s usually fairly broad. Connecting to that pillar are clusters, which are subgroups of the pillar. 

For example, if your brand sells small business accounting software, the pillar might be The A-Z Guide on Small Business Accounting, while clusters might focus on bookkeeping and taxes. 

This type of structure not only helps you keep topics organized, but when it’s set up in this format, it helps search engines index your pages and can increase their rankings. 

Rule 4: Don’t skimp on word count

Research shows in depth content is preferred to shorter content. From a reader’s perspective, an article that provides thorough instruction is helpful, and since brand’s are in the market to delight customers, long-form content makes sense. 

Aside from giving customers value, longer content is more likely to become a resource cited by industry experts. As a result, your brand gets more backlinks, and gives your SEO a boost.

How long should the content be? While it varies, a study of the top-ranked Google results suggests the sweet spot is about 1,400 words.   

Rule 5: Focus on formatting

As you generate content, no matter its word count, structure it so it’s skimmable. Your readers will likely assess an article first before reading it line by line. Show them what’s in the article, by using:

  • Subheads to break up text
  • Bulleted lists 
  • Infographics
  • Images to add interest
  • Call out boxes
  • Block quotes

You can apply the same ideas to other forms of content too. If you’re creating a video or infographic, for example, structure it into sections. Think through the organization of your content so it’s easy for people to digest. 

Rule 6: Measure content

All marketing efforts must be measured to judge efficacy. Refer to your content marketing strategy to review your goals and the KPIs you plan to monitor. 

Common KPIs to measure include: 

  • Organic search traffic
  • Views
  • Keyword rankings
  • Brand mentions
  • Conversion rates
  • ROI
  • Follower growth

Assign a point person to check metrics regularly, and plan team meetings to discuss them. Talk about what’s going well, and what isn’t. 

Together, make a plan to improve your metrics. Remember, though, not to change too many things at once. Small changes are best so you can attribute improvements to a specific action. 

Rule 7: Use data to support your content

Whether you’re writing an article or shooting a video, try to include statistics in your content to provide additional support. Statistics can help you stress the need for something or emphasize a pain point that you can solve. 

If you can, use your own data. While it’s okay to pull stats from third-party, non-competing sources, using your own statistics demonstrates authority in the niche. 

If you have enough raw data to create a report, do it. Data-based content gets a lot of traction and is often used in lead gen campaigns. While it may take some time to analyze the data, it can turn into a great piece of content, and with the right repurposing plans, you can get solid mileage from it. 

Rule 8: Repurpose content 

Content creation is time consuming, which is why it’s important to get as much mileage out of it as possible. 

If you create written content, repurpose it by:

  • Taking an e-book and breaking it into several blog articles
  • Using snippets of text in newsletters or promotional emails
  • Turning the statistics that you’ve gathered for an article into a socially shareable infographic
  • Pulling out quotes and create social graphics

If you have video content, repurpose it by:

  • Pulling out short clips to tease full-length content
  • Sharing a clip in your newsletter 
  • Turning the video script into a blog post

You can also identify weak content (as judged by your metrics) and make improvements. Maybe the word count is a little light, lacks formatting, or has a complex title. Make edits to your content to ensure time spent on its original creation isn’t lost. 

If your team lacks the resources to incorporate these rules, it might be time to consider outsourcing your content marketing. You can turn your content creation needs over to an experienced team of marketers who are just as invested in its success as you are. See how can help your brand.