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‘Content’ is a big and ambiguous word. It’s easy to find yourself lost in its depths, unsure on exactly what you ought to be producing, and how to make it effective. It’s easy to fall into a rut after a while, especially when you feel pressured to be posting something as long as it’s anything that might get noticed.
Of course, posting with that mindset will rarely achieve strong results, and can leave you feeling even more deflated in the long-term.
When this moment of uncertainty strikes it can be beneficial to read over the wisdom of others and reorient yourself. Content marketing should be about building strong relationships, getting creative, and adding value to the world around you - which are all things to feel inspired about. We’ve collated some of our favourite insights that have energised and motivated us - and that ought to be the guiding lights of any successful content marketing strategy:
On your relationship with your audience:
1.“Authenticity, honesty, and personal voice underlie much of what’s successful on the Web.” - Rick Levine
2. “People don’t want to be marketed at in the social channel. This is where they want to talk to each other, and brands are there by invitation. They have to be a great guest at the table.” - Veronica Fielding
3. “As you go about creating new customer engagement programs and direct marketing packages for your brand, look for opportunities to give rather than to get. Whoever makes the first kind gesture, as studies show, tends to gain the most.” - Jeanette McMurtry
4. “Content is not king, but a president elected by the votes of those whom it aims to rule.” - Raheel Farooq
5. “Focus on how to be social, not how to do social.” - Jay Baer
The thing that these quotes emphasise most is that content marketing isn’t about constantly trying to sell something to your audience, but instead about building a good relationship with them - and good relationships require trust and care. You should aim to create and publish content in a form that educates, informs, inspires and entertains your audience - giving them something that ultimately adds value to their day. It is only in return for this value that you should expect to be rewarded with a customer’s interest, which will then develop into a potential profit further along in the buying cycle.
On SEO’s place in your content:
6. “SEO is a marketing function for sure, but it needs to be baked into a product, not slapped on like icing after the cake is baked.” - Duane Forrester
7. “In 2004, good SEO made you remarkable on the web. In 2014, good SEO is a result of being remarkable on the web.” - Rand Fishkin
8. “The objective is not to ‘make your links appear natural’; the objective is that your links are natural.” - Matt Cutts
9. “Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first.” - Wendy Piersall
10. “We must move from numbers keeping score to numbers that drive better actions.” - David Walmsley
SEO can feel like a technical maze that’s impossible to get your head around. Different companies out there will take advantage of this and promise they have hacks to cut to the top of rankings, but the truth is that in 2018 it’s impossible to cheat good SEO.
It’s useful to think about it from the perspective of a company like Google. They want to prove their usefulness as a search engine by offering the customer the most relevant, high-quality results first. In order to get those results, they want to encourage sites to become more useful to customers, to offer unique and engaging content that will meet people’s needs. They don’t want to encourage sites that feign relevance by stuffing their content with hidden keywords. The ranking algorithms are therefore constantly being tweaked to better reward sites that offer the former, and penalise sites that offer the latter.
These quotes encourage the mindset that good rankings will ultimately follow honestly good content, which may take time, but is vital to a successful modern strategy.
On research and adaptability:
11. “Your customers are not you. They don’t look like you, they don’t think like you, they don’t do the things that you do and they don’t have your expectations or assumptions. If they did, they wouldn’t be your customers; they’d be your competitors.” - Mike Kuniavsky
12. “If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk.” - Robert Baden-Powell
13. “People ignore design that ignores people.” - Frank Chimero
14. “Innovation needs to be part of your culture. Consumers are transforming faster than we are, and if we don’t catch up, we’re in trouble.” - Ian Schafer
15. “Take a risk and keep testing, because what works today won’t work tomorrow, but what worked yesterday may work again.” - Amrita Sahasrabudhe
Content marketing is ultimately a commitment, not a campaign. It’s going to require some trial and error, as well as plenty of ongoing feedback for you to nail what your audience is most engaged by. And even when you do nail it - chances are that it’ll eventually change up again at some point and you’ll have to repeat the process to catch up. This isn’t something to be demotivated by, far from it, it’s a strategy that allows you to be innovative. Stay tuned in to what your audience is saying, and stay in touch with your creativity. There’s never any shame in going back to the drawing board.