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5 Great Content Marketing Articles That Deserve Another Look

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5 Great Content Marketing Articles That Deserve Another Look

If you publish great content and hardly anyone reads it, is it actually great content?

That’s a question for the ages – or maybe the comments section.

Every content marketer plans, crafts, reviews, and publishes articles with the best intentions. We all want to publish the most helpful content, sharp insights, and genuinely leading thoughts.

Sometimes, articles you think will be great don’t hit the mark for audiences. (I’ve written about steps to take when your content “fails.”)

But what about the content assets in the middle? They are not top performers or true duds, but they didn’t get quite all the love you think they deserve.

Looking at CMI’s 2022 content, I found a set of articles that deserve another look. Here are a few that feel particularly relevant to this moment.

Author: Jonathan Crossfield

Reading time: 10 minutes

Why read (or reread) this now: Competition for audience attention will increase in 2023, and it will be harder to stand out. Jonathan shares his secret for finding a unique angle – even on topics so widely covered that it feels like an “SEO-to-the-death” competition. (It doesn’t hurt that Jonathan’s storytelling style kept me laughing all the way.)

Tempting tidbit:

They make this week’s topic about the common problems users experience with doodads because understanding the limitations of doodads is often the first step to deciding to upgrade to a full-featured doohickey. The team checks the keyword list, jots down the first few ideas that come to mind, and starts writing the briefs.

However, at this stage, the content ideas are wholly undeveloped.

Anyway, the writer is briefed with a title and a bunch of keywords, so they develop a straightforward structure and smash out 800 words. Time to tell the marketing assistant to look up stock images of attractive women smiling or looking thoughtfully at laptops while sitting in the most impractical and/or uncomfortable places possible. (Does anyone really write their blog posts on the stairs?)

Black woman sitting on wood stairs with a laptop in her lap.

Read the rest and learn to apply Jonathan’s originality formula.

Myth: Creative inspiration strikes out of nowhere. Reality: It takes a series of fortunate events – and a lot of brain strain, says @Kimota via @CMIContent Click To Tweet

Reading time: 7 minutes

Author: Ann Gynn

Why read (or reread) this now: Summer isn’t the only time your content program slows down while everyone’s on vacation. If you’re one of the only people in the office this week or next, revisit Ann’s suggestions for using the lull to work on things you know will pay off but rarely have time to focus on.

Tempting tidbit:

You probably write alt text for your images, use Pascal case for your hashtags (#SummerLull, not #summerlull), and provide captions for your videos. (If not, start there.)

But have you ever experienced your content as people who are blind, deaf, or have vision or hearing impairment might? Take the time to do it now.

Download text-to-speech software and feed your most popular written content assets into it. How is the listening experience? Are there commonly used acronyms, terms, or phrases that don’t translate well to the ear? Are there other glitches you could remedy by editing the content or avoiding them in the future?

Download speech-to-text software or read – word for word­ the assistance you already provide (i.e., video captions and transcripts). Are the spoken words easily translatable into text? Do the terms you use have multiple spellings that could cause confusion? How is background sound translated or disclosed in the text?

Review a few pieces of content in each format, then note and share potential trouble spots with your content creators. That way, they can avoid them in the future.

Read the article for more tips on how to have a productive slow season.

Have you experienced your #Content the way people with vision or hearing impairments might? Use seasonal downtime to try it, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Reading time: 7 minutes

Author: Lakshmi Padmanaban

Why read (or reread) this now: End-of-year analyses tend to uncover a few mysteries. If an underperforming landing page is one of them, you might want to investigate. In her first article for CMI, Lakshmi explains the curious phenomenon of stagnant conversions – even when traffic increases – and what to do about it.

Tempting tidbit:

If much of your traffic comes from search engine results, your page’s content, especially its keywords and key phrases, could be the top suspect.

Google and other search engines like categorize and rank your content differently than how you intended. Let me break it down with this example:

Let’s assume you create a landing page designed to convert visitors interested in your air conditioner maintenance services. The target keyword is “air conditioner maintenance.” You include product names and key phrases mentioning buying options. 

When the search engines crawl the page, they interpret it as a page selling air conditioners. People who click on the ranking result intend to buy air conditioners. Instead, they find content about how to maintain them after they buy.

Now you can see why visitors who land on the page don’t convert.

Read the rest of the article for other reasons more traffic didn’t lead to more conversions.

If search engines misinterpret your #Content, search-directed visitors likely won’t convert, says @Lakshmi_writes via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Reading time: 6 minutes

Author: Dennis Shiao

Why read (or reread) this now: Many content teams feel stretched to the limit, but economic uncertainty may put a big chill on hiring in 2023. Even if your team is adequately staffed, a standby freelance network can help during employee turnover, illness, or other unexpected events. As a marketing agency owner (and former accidental freelancer), Dennis hit on an easy way to develop and test his freelance network– and explains how you can, too.

Tempting tidbit:

I didn’t want to ask people for their writing samples or lowball them on a “let’s get to know each other” project. Even though I didn’t know them, I took a leap of faith and hired them for a paid gig.

I needed to decide what they would write and thought of two opportunities at my disposal – my agency’s newly launched blog and the Bay Area Content Marketing Meetup I help organize.

I gave a paid assignment to every writer who contacted me on Twitter: Craft a summary of a presentation chosen from the meetup’s playlist. Based on the length and subject of the recording, I gave a target word count, typically in the range of 800 to 1,200 words. 

… The full-length article appeared on my agency blog. (If writers requested, I added a link to their websites or LinkedIn profiles.)

This first paid assignment was essential to helping me build a network of outsourced writing talent.

Read the rest of the article to learn Dennis’ method for building a freelance network.

Don’t assess a #freelance writer as average or excellent. Get specific enough to know what type of assignments they’ll excel at, says @dshiao via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Reading time: 7 minutes

Author: Robert Rose

Why read (or reread) this now: Twitter’s acceptance of Elon Musk’s takeover bid prompted Robert to reflect on this content marketing advice: Don’t build your home on rented land. With high-profile people loudly quitting the platform (and the wait-and-see or quiet exit of many others), this column seems prescient.

Tempting tidbit:

Renting isn’t a bad thing. Finding your audience on rented platforms is critical for content and marketing strategy. But think of these platforms as rivers, not lakes. Use them to flow users to your own home (a website, resource center, email newsletter, etc.). 

Think about how to encourage visitors on a rented platform to visit your home. Remember, a social media platform’s goal is to get you to help build its audience. Your goal should be to use a social media platform’s audience to help build yours.

You can (and should) build on rented land, as long as you only build what you’re willing to lose or can easily transfer, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Read Robert’s entire column to understand when and how to use rented platforms (like social media) in a way that won’t jeopardize your content strategy foundation.

Take another look at the quiet ones

I hope these articles sparked (or renewed) your interest. Now it’s your turn to reflect on your year in content.

When you do your review, which content stands out? Most people investigate the best and worst performers. Figuring out the why behind their performance can help you repeat the success or avoid future duds.

What about your serviceable performers? How do you resurface those to an audience that might have missed them the first time around?

Let me know in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts

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Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts


Every year, we see new trends entering the world of email marketing.

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

Who doesn’t like to have a good experience consuming content?

I know I do. And isn’t that what we – as both a consumer of content and a marketer of content – all want?

What if you create such a good experience that your audience doesn’t even realize it’s an “experience?” Here’s a helpful mish-mash of easy-to-do things to make that possible.

1. Write with an inclusive heart

There’s nothing worse than being in a conversation with someone who constantly talks about themselves. Check your text to see how often you write the words – I, me, we, and us. Now, count how often the word “you” is used. If the first-person uses are disproportionate to the second-person uses, edit to delete many first-person references and add more “you” to the text.

You want to let your audience know they are included in the conversation. I like this tip shared in Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations by Content Marketing World speaker Ruth Carter: Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns.

Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns, says @rbcarter via @Brandlovellc @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

2. Make your content shine brighter with an AI assist

Content published online should look different than the research papers and essays you wrote in school. While you should adhere to grammar rules and follow a style guide as best as possible, you also should prioritize readability. That requires scannable and easily digestible text – headings, bulleted text, short sentences, brief paragraphs, etc.

Use a text-polishing aid such as Hemingway Editor (free and paid versions) to cut the dead weight from your writing. Here’s how its color-coded review system works and the improvements to make:

  • Yellow – lengthy, complex sentences, and common errors
    • Fix: Shorten or split sentences.
  • Red – dense and complicated text
    • Fix: Remove hurdles and keep your readers on a simpler path.
  • Pink – lengthy words that could be shortened
    • Fix: Scroll the mouse over the problematic word to identify potential substitutes.
  • Blue – adverbs and weakening phrases
    • Fix: Delete them or find a better way to convey the thought.
  • Green – passive voice
    • Fix: Rewrite for active voice.

Grammarly’s paid version works well, too. The premium version includes an AI-powered writing assistant, readability reports, a plagiarism checker, citation suggestions, and more than 400 additional grammar checks.

In the image below, Grammarly suggests a way to rephrase the sentence from:

“It is not good enough any longer to simply produce content “like a media company would”.

To:

“It is no longer good enough to produce content “as a media company would”.

Much cleaner, right?

3. Ask questions

See what I did with the intro (and here)? I posed questions to try to engage with you. When someone asks a question – even in writing – the person hearing (or reading) it is likely to pause for a split second to consider their answer. The reader’s role changes from a passive participant to an active one. Using this technique also can encourage your readers to interact with the author, maybe in the form of an answer in the comments.

4. Include links

Many content marketers include internal and external links in their text for their SEO value. But you also should add links to help your readers. Consider including links to help a reader who wants to learn more about the topic. You can do this in a couple of ways:

  • You can link the descriptive text in the article to content relevant to those words (as I did in this bullet point)
  • You can list the headlines of related articles as a standalone feature (see the gray box labeled Handpicked Related Content at the end of this article).

Add links to guide readers to more information on a topic – not just for SEO purposes says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

You also can include on-page links or bookmarks in the beginning (a table of contents, of sorts) in longer pieces to help the reader more quickly access the content they seek to help you learn more about a topic. This helps the reader and keeps visitors on your website longer.

5. Don’t forget the ‘invisible’ text

Alt text is often an afterthought – if you think about it all. Yet, it’s essential to have a great content experience for people who use text-to-speech readers. Though it doesn’t take too much time, I find that customizing the image description content instead of relying on the default technology works better for audience understanding.

First, ask if a listener would miss something if they didn’t have the image explained. If they wouldn’t, the image is decorative and probably doesn’t need alt text. You publish it for aesthetic reasons, such as to break up a text-heavy page. Or it may repeat information already appearing in the text (like I did in the Hemingway and Grammarly examples above).

If the listener would miss out if the image weren’t explained well, it is informative and requires alt text. General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text. That’s a short sentence or two to convey the image’s message. Don’t forget to include punctuation.

General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text, says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For both decorative and informative images, include the photo credits, permissions, and copyright information, in the caption section.

For example, if I were writing an article about Best Dogs for Families, I would include an image of a mini Bernedoodle as an example because they make great family pets. Let’s use this image of my adorable puppy, Henri, and I’ll show you both a good and bad example of alt text.

An almost useless alt-text version: “An image showing a dog.”

Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.

It wastes valuable characters with the phrase “an image showing.”

Use the available characters for a more descriptive alt text: “Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.”

It’s more descriptive, and I only used 112 characters, including spaces.

Want to learn more? Alexa Heinrich, an award-winning social media strategist, has a helpful article on writing effective image descriptions called The Art of Alt Text. @A11yAwareness on Twitter is also a great resource for accessibility tips.

Improve your content and better the experience

Do any of these suggestions feel too hard to execute? I hope not. They don’t need a bigger budget to execute. They don’t need a lengthy approval process to implement. And they don’t demand much more time in production.

They just need you to remember to execute them the next time you write (and the time after that, and the time after that, and the … well, you get the idea.)

If you have an easy-to-implement tip to improve the content experience, please leave it in the comments. I may include it in a future update.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

If you have an idea for an original article you’d like to share with the CMI audience, you could get it published on the site. First, read our blogging guidelines and write or adjust your draft accordingly. Then submit the post for consideration following the process outlined in the guidelines.

In appreciation for guest contributors’ work, we’re offering free registration to one paid event or free enrollment in Content Marketing University to anyone who gets two new posts accepted and published on the CMI site in 2023.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

Product marketing is essential, even if you only sell one or two products at your organization.

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