Overcoming Marketing Immunity with Killer Content

How many email marketing messages do you see in a day? How about ads on Facebook, Twitter and other social media streams? If you don’t use ad-blocking software, go ahead and add all the banner and sidebar ads you see during a day. Then consider all the billboards you see on your daily commute and the TV spots you watch while catching up on your favorite shows. What would you guess your number would be? Most people assume they see a few hundred ads a day, but that’s not accurate.

We see thousands.

Of course, not every ad makes an impression; most are incidental glimpses we catch while heading into the office or while fast-forwarding on our DVRs. Even those minimal exposures, though, lead to marketing immunity. Just as we tend to tune out constant background noise, we suppress the mental noise ads create. If you’re like most people, you decide within a second and a half if you’re going to open an email, save it for opening later or delete it unread. You take only a few seconds longer to decide whether to read an article or bounce off the page. That’s a tiny window for content marketers to hit – tiny, but not impossible. If your audience likes you, they’ll keep reading.

Your content matters because it’s the only thing that sets you apart in the long term. Your customers have become immune to most advertising gambits; they’ve seen the hype literally thousands of times before. Even if they give in with a click, they quickly move on if they feel they’ve been suckered in with a click-bait title or subject line. They stay only if they feel they’re getting something of value from what you’re serving them. Here’s how you can give your customers content that keeps them in place and sets your message apart from advertising clutter.

 Make It Easy

The best content goes straight from readers’ screens to their brains without getting snagged on poor grammar, bad spelling or ugly word choices. Your audience has limited patience for your content, and if they expend half of it just wading through awkward English and clumsy typos, they aren’t going to have much left over for listening to the message itself. Give your readers a break and hire content writers whose English skills don’t get in the way of the story you want to tell your audience.

Use Your Voice

Louis Armstrong and Lana del Rey couldn’t sound more different, but they have one thing in common: They’re unmistakably distinctive. Good content informs, but great content also entertains, and that’s what having a distinctive brand voice can do for you. Coming up with a content marketing strategy that reinforces who you are with a strong, memorable voice sets you apart in a large crowd of companies competing for a limited audience that’s increasingly immune to conventional marketing tactics.

Inform Your Readers

Too often, content marketing forgets the content and focuses on the marketing. The point of what you publish isn’t to disguise advertising as content but to give your audience useful information. Content marketing moves away from the old concept of positioning a product as the only solution to a problem described in the ad and toward genuinely helpful information that turns a blog into a destination site.

Respect Your Audience

You know advertising when you see it, and so does your audience. They don’t mind a plug or two when it makes sense and is honest, but they do object to feeling tricked. Some companies falter close to the finish line by developing useful, relevant content and later hiding advertising inside it instead of putting useful information available and clearly branding it. Content marketing is still marketing, and it’s fine to let your readers know who’s bringing them the information they want – but not if all you’re bringing them is a different kind of ad. Your dog might be fooled into swallowing a pill if you smear peanut butter on it, but your audience is smarter than that; be honest with them and don’t use content to conceal ads.

How Google’s Latest Algorithm Could Transform Content

For years, Google and other search engines have looked for signals of websites’ quality to rank them, and they developed a number of useful strategies. The problem is that black-hat site creators engaged in an arms race with them, changing their tactics with every move the search engines made and propelling low-value sites to the top of the rankings – at least temporarily. Site traffic, keywords, backlinks, semantic indexing, guest bloggers and social signals have all had their time as signifiers of quality, but Google’s researchers are looking in a new direction to add utility to their rankings: facts.

With Knowledge-Based Trust scores assuming a place alongside other signals, Google hopes to weed out the thin content and heavily padded writing that come from content mills and the writers who work for them. A site’s depth of research and verifiability will now count toward its page rank. While the new algorithm set isn’t ready to roll out yet, the search engine’s next major update will incorporate the Knowledge Vault Google’s been building for years as a yardstick against which sites will be measured for factual accuracy.

What does this mean for content marketing and SEO strategies? If you’ve hired content experts and professional writers to handle your content, you’re in luck. Verifiable statements, valid knowledge and quotes happen naturally in writing that’s based on even cursory research. Sites that have become knowledge repositories themselves after months or years of regular blog posts, white papers and articles are in even better shape as they may have had a hand in creating the Knowledge Vault. The biggest winners, at least if the fact-based algorithm works as intended, will be the most authoritative sites, many of which have .gov and .edu extensions.

Even large sites that regularly pop up in search engine results pages may be in for some surprises. Aggregate sites are only as good as the articles they curate, which could cost crowd-sourced answer websites vast volumes of traffic. Information on social media channels may likewise take a hit as they contain such an assortment of information that separating fact from fiction may be impossible.

The change also raises questions about what the Knowledge Vault contains and how Google assesses valid facts versus speculation, misinformation or outright falsehoods. Most Google users would agree, for example, that the Flat Earth Society’s geology articles should rank below the U.S. Geological Survey’s information, but not every fact is as clear-cut. Achieving consensus on hot-button political issues could be a challenge even Google’s team of researchers has trouble managing.

For B2B content creators, the story’s a little more straightforward. If you showcase your industry knowledge and facts about your product line, you’re probably in good shape – that is, unless your business involves selling maps of a flat Earth. You could be in trouble, though, if you’ve relied on inexpensive mill content or penny-a-word writers to handle your online content. No one who works for a few dollars an article has time for extensive research, and it shows. The good news is that it isn’t too late. Google doesn’t plan on rolling out their Knowledge-Based Trust scoring system for months, and that’s enough time to upgrade your content to lean more heavily on knowledge than on meeting a word count.

The most popular answers aren’t always the right ones, and Google’s trying to serve users the most accurate content instead of the most clicked content. While it’s a safe bet facts won’t be the sole quality index for search engine results pages, it’s something you and your content team should think about today to avoid scrambling to rewrite your blog in six months.

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