The Top 10 Lessons from Content Marketing World

I just finished up at Content Marketing World, and boy did I learn a lot. Content Marketing World is a lot like Disney World for content marketers. There are different themed tracks (or parks), like "B2B Executives," "Demand Generation," and "Performance ROI," each offering different seminars (rides) with polished, professional, and entertaining leaders.

Everyone from the Content Marketing Institute, or CMI, was extraordinarily helpful and kind. For example, my shoes destroyed my feet on the walk from the hotel to the conference center.

It's a little graphic so click here if you want to see the damage.

I didn't notice how torn up my feet were until I got to the conference center--I suppose this is one of those lessons from Content Marketing World that I should have known earlier: don't wear new shoes to a conference where you're going to be doing a lot of walking. Once I saw how bad both my heels were, I felt like I could barely walk.

I reached out to a volunteer, who quickly got Megan, a more-senior volunteer.

She had no idea where a first-aid kit was, but she made it her first priority after thoughtfully grabbing me wet paper towels from the bathroom to clean up the blood. About 10 minutes later, she returned with gauze, tape, band-aids, antiseptic, and a glove to dispose of waste. Turns out she knew first aid, and could wrap the back of my feet semi-professionally. Megan, if you're out there, GIANT thank you! You made Content Marketing World a much more pleasant experience!

Sorry for the poor image quality.
Sorry for the poor image quality.

Besides Megan, Content Marketing World lives up to the hype. These are the top 10 lessons, tools, and tricks that I pulled from the conference.

Limit your content marketing channels.

Rule 1 from Content Marketing World
Rule 1 from Content Marketing World

This was such a relief to hear.

The opening keynote was Kristina Halvorson, CEO of Brain Traffic. She focused on content strategy. Key takeaways included how to document your strategy, how you should prioritize and create goals, and how to execute. The talk was powerful stuff.

But the biggest takeaway, for me, was this one line: "Don't say 'yes' to all the things! There is power in saying 'no.'"

There are so many channels that brands are involved in. For example, with Capterra, we promote with:

  1. Facebook
  2. Google +
  3. Instagram
  4. Our blog
  5. Pinterest
  6. Quora
  7. Reddit
  8. StumbleUpon
  9. Twitter
  10. YouTube

We're also producing whitepapers, studies, infographics and more while exploring new promotion channels.

Whew.

Brands should focus on what they're good at and cut out the rest. This is perhaps why 92% of marketers are unable to meet task deadlines--they're trying to do way, way, way too much.

Specialize. You don't need to do everything.

Create a mind map to generate multiple kinds of content.

Rule 2 from Content Marketing World
Rule 2 from Content Marketing World

In my seminar with Gini Dietrich, the CEO of Spin Sucks, I learned a whole lot about guest blogging and pitching. In fact, I was so inspired that I wrote an entire post detailing how to use Mozbar (her tool of choice) for guest pitching and other Mozbar hacks.

Her biggest takeaway, though, was not necessarily about how to use Mozbar. This may seem simple, but the way she used mind maps was inspiring.

Typically, we see mind maps look like this:

Yet Gini took a different approach. She centered instead centered around a keyword for topic generation. Her mind maps look a lot like this:

Content Marketing World Mind Map Template
Content Marketing World Mind Map Template

In this case, my long-tail keyword is "content marketing for lead generation." I then consider my audience, and plug in what they would be interested in that's related to this topic.

When you fill it out, your mind map should look something like this:

Content Marketing World Mind Map Template Updated
Content Marketing World Mind Map Template Updated

"Content marketing for lead generation" is a wonderful long-tail keyword, but not every post should be about that specific topic. Therefore, from the outskirt topics, brainstorm how you can create--and repurpose--related content. This tool can be used to create your content calendar. Pretty cool, right?

Content Marketing World Mind Map Template Updated 2
Content Marketing World Mind Map Template Updated 2

Now you have a bunch of topics that your readership tangentially cares about, and it's up to you to sneak in your keyword to your post. Selecting related topics builds you as a thought leader in the specifics of your keyword. Doing so raises your site's rank on Google and also increases brand awareness.

Illuminate conflict before you offer a resolution.

Rule 3 from Content Marketing World
Rule 3 from Content Marketing World

For B2B marketers, this lesson from content marketing world might be the most important.

As for me, this tip was intuitive--it was something that I had known, but hadn't articulated. It's a lesson worth remembering, with everything a marketer does.

The status quo, same old, same old, is how businesses optimize efficiency. It's how they can intimately learn a process and they like to keep it that way.

For example, Capterra largely uses Trello, Google Calendar, and Wordpress as its mish-mashed editorial system instead of specialized content management software. We've yet to see a content management software that has the ROI to justify to management--and frankly, our system works, so why change it?

Thus, it's up to marketers to do three things:

  1. Establish what the status quo is.
  2. Create conflict with the status quo. The conflict must be something that, once discovered, is impossible to ignore.
  3. Offer the product as a resolution.

With your blog readers, YouTube subscribers, tweeps, and any other followers, you can't just focus on the third step, because your consumers don't know they have a problem yet.

As was articulated several times in the conference, you have to know your customers and their pain points to establish steps one and two. Doing anything else is hardly marketing at all.

Write your ideas down. All of them.

Rule 4 from Content Marketing World
Rule 4 from Content Marketing World

This point was touched on by both John Cleese and Matt Heinz.

Your brain is always working. It's consistently churning out new, innovative ideas, and you're going to forget at least 50% of them, maybe more.

I mean think about it. Your brain is processing all kinds of sensory information in addition to your own thoughts. If you're in flow, you might be so focused that you miss things around you, or if you're rushed or stressed, creative ideas are smothered until a later time.

In Getting Things Done, David Allen explains that a "core dump" helps clear the mind for higher-level thinking (you can do this simply with free task management software).

Writing your ideas down means commitment and follow-through.

This lesson is great for everyone in creative fields, not just in content marketing. Don't miss out on your "ah-HA!" moments just because you fail to remember them.

Let other people make your content for you.

Rule 5 from Content Marketing World
Rule 5 from Content Marketing World

I'm not just talking about freelancers.

Content marketers are notoriously slammed with all kinds of work they have to complete on a very specific schedule. Putting pressure on those content marketers to produce all their own original content leads to rushed work, inconsistent writing, stressed-out content marketers, and missed deadlines.

No.

No.

No.

Instead, use every single one of these channels to outsource writing projects.

Guest bloggers

These people are hungry for backlinks. Matt Heinz suggests trying to do influencer outreach for guest posts once a week. All you have to do is edit up their work and throw it on the site!

Do a Q&A

Influencers love to talk about themselves. Compose an email interview and publish their responses.

Crowd source

Something big happen in your industry? Reach out to influencers for their reaction and request that they keep their answers short (so you're not wasting their time). Best of all? They'll promote that content for you.

Curate links

There are loads of free content curation tools (I use them to increase my Twitter following). Pick out the best articles on your topic and publish a roundup of those links once a week!

Long story short: don't over-rely on your writers to come up with all your content. There are lots of channels to give them a bit of a break.

Your old posts still have value.

Rule 6 from Content Marketing World
Rule 6 from Content Marketing World

To me, posts written before September 2014 are in the graveyard unless their evergreen content has caught on in Google.

That's unfortunate.

Old articles still have tons of value, your audience is just having trouble finding them.

First of all, you should republish them with a quick update. Doing so will alert search engines that your content is still relevant.

Then, use tools like Google Trends and Keyword Tool to determine what keywords related to that post are relevant now. The problem may be as simple as this: your industry has changed, and you need to update your post to reflect those changes.

For your old posts that are still doing well, make sure to update them anyway if they're older than six months old. It will give them an extra bump from search engines. You can also revise the post to reflect changes in user search behavior and add some content that's relevant to the industry now that wasn't just half-a-year ago.

Your email marketing looks like spam.

Rule 7 from Content Marketing World
Rule 7 from Content Marketing World

Maintaining your opt-in, clean email list isn't enough to evade spam filters. In fact, 15% of email marketing doesn't make it to the inbox at all.

That's a ton of missed leads. Fortunately, there's a lot you can do about it.

Make your email stop looking like spam in the first place.

There are four steps to doing this:

  1. Balance your text and your images. Don't go too heavy on either. There should be one image per 500 words of text.
  2. Don't swear or even use pejorative colloquialisms.
  3. Are you using symbols or caps? DOESN'T TH1S L0OK LIKE $PAM?
  4. Use HTML design and make it clean, clean, clean.

And remember, there are four rules for email marketing (and frankly, good marketing in general). All of your email should be:

  1. Engaging (tested)
  2. Timely (automated)
  3. Relevant (segmented)
  4. Consistent and consistently good*

*These four takeaways are from Jessica Best.

Content promotion is super outdated.

Rule 8 from Content Marketing World
Rule 8 from Content Marketing World

You're more likely to complete Navy S.E.A.L. training than click a banner ad.

Facebook's organic reach is at 2% and it's dropping.

350,000 tweets are chirped out every day.

Amazing content goes unseen, not because it sucks, but because there is too much information online to compete with.

Our old paradigm about how to promote online is over. If it's not over now, it will be by 2020.

The solution lies with what Chad Pollitt claimed at the Content Marketing World conference:

Content is no longer king. Audience is.

So let's apply this idea:

The world of traditional PR is making a comeback, and social media is on its way out. There's a content bubble just waiting to burst on all social channels, including LinkedIn, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+. The best way to promote your content is in the following seven ways:

  1. Email, email, email. Your list subscribers want to read what you have to say. Never ever leave them in the dust.
  2. Target journalists by helping answer their questions. Hop on over to sites like HARO, Muck Rack, and Reporter Connection. These sites are where journalists congregate to get advice on any given topic. Use your expertise--with a backlink, of course--to get earned coverage.
  3. Use content distribution tools. Services like Taboola, Outbrain, and Gravity are great for promoting branded content as a "related" article to whatever consumers are reading online.
  4. Develop a relationship with individuals in media. Invest in tools like BuzzSumo to identify which journalists cover what verticals. These tools will help you identify exactly who to contact about a guest post.
  5. Guest post. Don't give your influencers rubbish. Send them quality, insightful content, and only link one keyword back to your site.
  6. Aim for that bylined column. What's more valuable: 10 locally-owned blog posts with 300 views a piece or one link from Forbes, one link from Inc., and one link from Entrepreneur? Your priority should be getting those high-quality links. It will absolutely make your SEO--and your content--show up on search engines.
  7. Syndicate: There's no reason for your awesome blog posts to stay on your site. Take advantage of other sites to publish your material. Hesitant? Change the title, refocus the keyword, and tweak the intro--that should deal with a majority of Google's SEO problems. Consider sites like Medium and LinkedIn to do so.

Break content down into interchangeable parts. This is called "Intelligent Content."

Rule 9 from Content Marketing World
Rule 9 from Content Marketing World

Want to repurpose your content onto multiple channels?

Start thinking about it like LEGOs.

What do I mean by that?

Your content should easily break apart into tiny parts that can be repackaged quickly into different mediums.

For example, take a recipe. You can break down a site with a recipe into different modular parts that all fit together. No matter its contents, every recipe has:

  • A title
  • A label for ingredients
  • A quantity and measurement for each ingredient
  • The ingredients themselves
  • A photo
  • Directions, listed in order of operation

This "template," if you will, has tons of interchangeable parts. Wouldn't it be cool if you could sort your recipes by ingredient, ease of preparation, or even tools (ex: no oven)?

That's what "intelligent content" is all about.

I sat in on a six-hour seminar on this topic, so I'm going to give you the most basic bits of it.

Intelligent content has five fundamental characteristics:

  1. It's modular: It's broken down into individual bits that can be easily reshuffled, yet connects with the other pieces easily (like LEGOs).
  2. It's structured: Both computers and humans have an easy time processing and reading the information.
  3. It's reusable: The content can be used on multiple channels. For example, a blog post can become an ebook, website, slideshare, and webinar just using its modular parts.
  4. It's format free: Forget your special fonts and colors. Your text should just be text.
  5. It's "semantically rich:" Your content should include metadata that tells the computer what it is.

Using these key terms, you can take one piece of content and repurpose it into multiple channels. I took this slide from Scott Abel and Kevin Nichols's slidedeck.

Intelligent content example
Intelligent content example

Cool, right?

Quality versus quantity is still a debate.

Rule 10 from Content Marketing World
Rule 10 from Content Marketing World

The most popular content on the internet is not high quality.

Don't believe me? Check out Buzzfeed, Upworthy, and even sites like ClickHole.

Consumers only go online to do two things: to be informed or be entertained.

If your content does not fulfill either of those needs, it will be ignored.

This also means that readers care less than you think about the quality of your content. Sure, they might care about a typo because it reflects poor attention to detail, but they're not necessarily going to care about post length, structure, or even quality of prose. If the site entertains or informs, they're happy.

On the other hand, brands need to maintain their "image." We know that QuickSprout produces better articles on content marketing than anything The Week will publish. I come back to QuickSprout because I've learned to expect the best content.

In other words, if you're focused on returning customers, create lots of content and hope that some sticks.... or take the time to make well-researched, high-end posts.

But you can't have both.

And you can't burn yourself out on it.

It's up to marketers to strike a balance, and that perfect middle ground has yet to be found. There simply isn't a magical answer.

More lessons from Content Marketing World?

There were so many lessons from Content Marketing World, and I'm sure I missed a lot of them. What did you learn? What did you wish you learned? Let me know!