A couple questions. Is your content working for you, or are you working for your content? Is your content posted with a specific goal in mind, or are you stuck just basically posting “filler” (because you've been told to keep your content “fresh”)? Does each and every thing you do online play a part in a grander strategy or vision?
Back in the early part of the 2000's (like about 2003 🙂 ), lots of internet marketers called themselves “Adsense publishers”. The idea was to find and publish content that would draw visitors in, and then hope that they click on Adsense ads embedded in the content.
Google and the so-called publishing “experts” explained it like this – publish keyword rich content on a particular topic or niche that people will view as instructive or educational. The embedded Adsense ads will look like additional resources or “for more information” links (or possibly images). Or, at least that was the basic idea.
Google even recommended a “blending” strategy that made the ads appear to be part of the article itself, with the hopes that that would lessen the visitors natural hesitance to click on a link. Some publishers got so good at blending that you literally could not tell what was an ad and what was not. Those publishers “cleaned up” (a euphemism for “making a ton of cash”).
Eventually, nearly all of these publishers, and publisher wannabes, were just throwing any and all content they could find at the wall, hoping something would “stick”. 99% of it was pure, unadulterated crap.
Then, Google decided that blending “too much” was unfair to their advertisers because most of the “clicks” were either not intentional or the visitors felt victim to a form of “bait and switch”. Publishers, who had been doing things like they thought Google wanted (me included), were terminated from the program right and left (without explanation), and had to find another means of monetization.
Now, in the latter part of the 2000's (like about 2012 to current 🙂 ), Google tells us they want “engaging” content – which is really just a code word for “audience participation”. In other words, content nowadays has to excite the visitor and make them want more, or perhaps make them want to do something – to interact.
Or, at least that's how I interpret it.
Google (and other search engines) is measuring this engagement by what kind of response a piece of content gets in the social media realm. Content is considered “good” if it is talked about on Facebook, or Google+, or tweeted about by people who are not the original publisher of the content.
(I emphasized a key point here. Some publishers believe all they have to do is post stuff to Facebook or twitter and everything will just be hunky-dory. Unfortunately, the content really needs to be reposted or retweeted by someone else – and probably many different somebodies – that's what Google is really looking for).
Enter what I call Purposeful Content. It is content that is part of, or possibly is, a strategy. Purposeful content should always attempt to produce some sort of action or response from a visitor – and nowadays, all you content should serve such a purpose.
Purposeful content can be divided into two different types – “primary” content, and “supportive” content. Primary, in this case, means invoking a “major” response from the user. Like buying something, joining an email list, or contacting you directly.
Supportive Content is content posted specifically to help, or support, Primary Content. This content can also produce a response, but should focus on building a better response for its related Primary Content. There should be a many to one relationship between Supportive Content and Primary Content.
Supportive Content posts should always link back to the original Primary Content post. Do not make them search for the original content.
Primary content: Buy this.
Supportive: Did you see the great deal on (primary content)? Go check it out.
Supportive: Last week I posted about (primary content). Here's some more information.
Supportive: Hey, we are running a special 24 hour discount on (primary content). Use this discount code.
And so on…
Primary content: Join my list for some special offers.
Supportive: Last week I offered (primary content). Here it is again.
Supportive: So far 500 people have (primary content) and have thanked me. Why not you?
And so on…
Many of you will “get” that this sequence of Primary Content followed by Supportive Content is very similar to your standard email campaign. The only difference is – it's all online. It's entirely possible someone may “find” one of your supportive posts, which will lead them back to the primary post, and you'll get a sale or signup from that. Very, very powerful.
Of course, you may want to “specialize” in Primary Content (with a purpose). That's fine. You can still keep the Supportive Content model in play with the occasional short post pointing to one or more Primary Content posts. A good strategy would be to do a “wrap up” of this week's (or month's or year's) Primary Content posts.
Here's some ideas for a Purposeful Content strategy.
1. Product or service introduction. If you hear about a new product or service, especially if there's a “wow” factor involved, introduce it to your audience. Then, inform them where they can find it (affiliate link).
You can add Supportive posts later keeping them informed of any new developments like sales, discounts (or problems – think “automobile recalls”).
2. Product or service review. For an existing or known product or service, reviews are a great strategy. Be as truthful and objective as possible. Talk about both positive and negative aspects of the product or service. This review is not a sales pitch – you want to be sincerely helpful. Again, tell them where they can get it (affiliate link), but tell them it's to get more information or “learn more”.
Supportive posts might let the audience know if your opinion or rating has changed and for what reason.
3. Product comparison. This is the same as a product review, but it is for multiple, similar products or services. The review is shorter – more like a blurb – and it should provide more information about what others think of it. A good example is comparing hosting services or similar lawn mowers. Emphasize that the reviews are incomplete and they should visit the (affiliate) links to learn more.
Supportive posts might let the audience know if a rating has changed and why.
4. Product or service instructions or user guide. This is great if you have experience or knowledge about a particular product. Oftentimes people will search the web for an instruction guide for a product hoping to find out if the product is “easy to use” or “worth the time/cost” to solve their particular need. You can really sell the product over its competitors, and even offer to help if they have issues.
Supportive posts might answer questions or add details left out in the Primary post.
5. General educational content. This will depend on your website's niche and your audience, and may be best utilized as email subscription bait. It really depends on your circumstance. If done right, it can be used to sell certain products (very useful for Amazon, eBay, or product affiliate networks) by referencing a product in your educational post and (affiliate) linking to it. For example, if your post is about Solar Landscape Lighting, you might provide detailed instructions how to install a hanging solar lantern. The reader might then click on the link to see what lantern(s) you're using as a reference, see one they really like, and buy it. Cha-ching.
By the way, some very good “how to” writers and “explainers” earn big commissions doing nothing but this kind of post. You really have to gain a certain reputation as an authority, and you definitely need quite a bit of traffic, but it's a strategy to consider.
Educational content could also be used as Supportive posts for any of the Primary Content types mentioned.
6. Solve a problem. This is generally a true sales-pitch strategy. Ask if someone has a particular problem. If they do, then here's the solution and here's how to get it. No fuss, no mess – just a straight-up sales message.
Use supportive posts to make the problem seem worse (and point back to the Primary post solution), or suggest a time dependent scenario (solve your problem before it gets worse).
7. Observations or news. This is similar to the General Educational Content listed above. The difference would be that you're not “teaching”, you're merely informing (which could be educational, depending on the topic). These posts are generally friendlier, although they could be very opinionated.
Political blogs like Newsmax do this a lot, and sell a lot of politically oriented products and merchandise to essentially “pre-sold” customers.
Supportive posts could be “new flashes” relating back to the Primary post.
Well, I'm kinda burned out on ideas here. If I think of anything else, I will add some Supportive Posts 🙂 and reference back to this post. And, so you don't miss out, go ahead and sign up for updates (it's at the very top of the side bar). Oh heck, here's a link too.
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