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12 Brutally Honest Answers to Your Content Marketing Questions

content marketing brutally honest answersYou won’t dig this piece if you’re thin-skinned. I’m not going to pull punches. You should go now. Really, just a few clicks from now you’ll find a warm, sun-shiny story to bask in. Happy trails.

Staying put? Alright. Perhaps we can still be friends afterwards. Maybe you’ll find me to be an acerbic (blank)head, but respect my brutal honesty. Fine by me.

So, I found this content marketing survey report...

Yummy. Fresh research in my wheelhouse. BusinessBolts put it together in an effort to uncover trends in content marketing. I’m not going to get into the questions the participating small business owners and marketers were asked. Nor will I get into their answers (but you’re welcome to). I’m going to get into the questions they wanted answered.

Yes sir. Before the survey findings are presented, it gets into the questions swirling around the brains of aspiring content marketers. Some of them are decent questions. Many are very much open to interpretation. Some are painfully idealistic. But anyway, twelve of them screamed, “Barry, hit me with your best shot.”

How can I not? Answering questions to help your customers is, after all, the point of content marketing. Here goes. You were warned. 

Which form of content marketing gets the best SEO boost?

The written form. You feed a search engine words. It finds them. If you want “the best SEO boost,” which I must assume translates to inclusion in the results, you need to create written content.

But, but, but… what about video, audio, and images? You’ve read how much web folks eat ‘em up, right? Sure, but search engines don’t. Your discovery of these content types could come from a search engine, but it’s more likely to come from a search within a specific site. If Google serves you a video, podcast, photo or infographic, it’s because it was accompanied by a transcript and/or was properly tagged with relevant keywords.

If you're not worshiping words the way you should, you might want to check out Brian Clark's "The Writer Runs This Show." 

How do you best use keywords in content?

First answer: you put them in the headline. The headline or title is what Google’s looking for first. It’s what will you’ll be shown first. Put them in the metadata too. It’s what you’ll see under the headline and likely to become the factor that determines whether or not the content gets the click.

Second answer: you use them authentically. So, write a piece about those keywords—not excessively and not deceptively. If you should keyword stuff and get away with it, you might earn a click, but not a customer.

Where can I find high quality writers?

Online. Search for the type of writer you seek. It’s probably fair to say the writers you find ranked on pages one and two know their way around SEO. Great sign, right? Don’t settle yet though. You can achieve high rankings and not be a highly skilled writer.

Read their websites, blogs, bios, portfolio samples, profiles, and tweets. The first line of everything they write, the headlines, should seduce you. What follows should engage you. If you get to the last line, that author did some admirable word slinging.

A clean plate suggests the chef created something you liked. Same goes for writing. You’ll gobble up every bite of the good stuff and want more.

In the real world, the tastiest stuff tends to get devoured.

How can I create high quality content easily and quickly?

You can’t. Think about your favorite book or album or movie. Was it created easily and quickly? Please.

Creating high quality content takes hard work and time. Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of it. There’s no magic button you press where great content comes out the other side. Sorry man.

There is something you can do though. Plan. Get a content strategy and plan together before you get into it. Assemble a team. Create an editorial calendar. With the pieces in place, you will indeed accelerate the process, capitalize on repurposing opportunities, and increase the quality and continuity of the work. Maybe this is what the question really was about. I’d like to think so.

Where is content going? Video, audio or images?

Two part question. First answer: it’s going everywhere—wherever your customers go, content goes with them. Second answer: yes video; yes audio, yes images. Pulling one out of the mix strikes me as saying only one of the food groups matters. Different markets, customers, behaviors, and tastes will inform your media choices, so you need to do the research, experiment, measure and respond.

If you’re insisting on a practical starting point, a blog should be your content cornerstone. Next, if you know it’s time to diversify and you don’t know what your customers crave (shame shame), go with the media you believe you can do well and make an impression with.

How do I make my content stand out?

Grow a pair. Have an opinion, a point of view. Write or produce something that hits a nerve. Make your audience feel something. This is how you get noticed, remembered, and talked about. Trod down the middle of the road and you’ll be roadkill. It’s powerful to be unpopular. Unpopularity is the common denominator of legends. (Shout out to the brilliant and brash Erika Napoletano.)

How can I keep the visitor’s attention?

By relating to him or her. It’s really that simple. Of course, I don’t mean to say the skill of being highly relatable is easily attained. You need to understand your audience or audiences—intimately. Feed their need to succeed. To do this requires a keen understanding of what troubles them. Find out what that is. Then teach them what they need to know and you’ll get more than their attention. You’ll get their loyalty.

What are the most effective content marketing methods?

I can’t answer this one. Only you can. If you can’t, you should stop everything you’re doing in the content marketing realm right now, backup, and do the things you should have done to begin with:

  • Define your overall objective(s) and specific objectives for each marketing channel. You now know what effect you want to affect. In other words, you can use actual data to determine what is and isn’t “effective.”
  • Determine which metrics will serve as meaningful performance indicators. “Clicks” is a reasonable metric, but “conversions” is likely to be more meaningful. Again, it’s up to you to define “effective” and in this case, “conversions” too.
  • Put analytics tools in place to measure the effectiveness of your content marketing and use them. Summarize the findings and share them with the team members capable of improving them.

You with me? This is rocket science. The science part involves defining and quantifying effectiveness. The rocket part is about using the power of business intelligence to perpetually thrust onward and upward.

Is posting once a week good enough or sufficient?

Yes, if you’re hitting your marks. No, if you’re not.

According to the annual study by Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, marketers claim their greatest challenge is producing “enough” content. But what’s enough? Do you have enough money? Do you get enough love?

Had enough of all this enough stuff? If you’re getting the results you want, it’s possible you’re not creating enough content, but I suspect you have a different problem…

You’re not creating great content.

How do I find topics to write about?

Raise your antennae and tune-in. Who’s supposed to consume your content? What challenges do they face?

Don’t know? Well, find out. Don’t know how to find out? Three quick tips: (1) ask them, (2) “listen” to the questions they’re asking across social media, and (3) stay abreast of the topics the influencers in your field cover.

What are the best places to put content other than your blog?

Where your audience is. 

For video, YouTube reigns. For podcasts, iTunes. For presentations, SlideShare. For images, well, that’s a long and growing list, but I’m probably not helping you here by pointing out the obvious. I am, however, making a point…

These websites and services are free-for-alls. They’re free and all can contribute and consume. There are no bouncers outside their doors. Take advantage of this and share your content with their audiences.

Now, for your written works, there are also a shitheap of places with no or low standards, but they’re not nearly as helpful to your cause as those with high standards. So the best places to put content other than your blog is on the best blogs.

And those are? The best blogs are the ones that not only reach, but also touch, your target market—frequently, with clarity, with poignancy, and with purpose.

You will find gatekeepers at these publications. Introduce yourself to them and politely request permission to enter their domain and publish your content. If you get rejected, don't stay away forever more. Turn your mediocre content into a master work they’d be crazy not to publish.

I’m done now. 1500 words. And you’ve put up with every one of them. Perhaps you needed a few good punches upside the head.   

Any further questions about content marketing?

[Want to learn more about content marketing and how it fits into an effective online marketing program? I wrote the eBook, "The Plan to Grow Your Business with Effective Online Marketing" for you and offer it free here.]


Join The Conversation

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  • Feb 8 Posted 4 years ago Peter Abbott

    Hey Barry, 

         Very insightful article for any content marketer in any niche. I especially agree with that fact that it is essential that your content be fresh and seductive while remaining consistent with a particular narrative. I just wanted to add to your section about "How do i make my content stand out?" Growing a pair and being bold certainly helps, but with the fragmentation of channels and platforms by which customers consume content I firmly believe that the creation of highly visual content can help "seduce" your audience and engage them emotionally. It is very difficult and time consuming to create content that succeeds in enticing consumers across platforms so creating a visual post or link that is optimized for the majority of platforms can make things easier and effective. We are highly visual creatures and technology is only exacerbating this fact, so being able to grab someone's attention visually and tell a story through images is a very powerful tactic. Build that visual content consistently and you build an indelible asset. 


  • FeldmanCreative's picture
    Feb 1 Posted 4 years ago FeldmanCreative

    WooT! First time I ever typed that word. I swear.

  • AugieRay1's picture
    Feb 1 Posted 4 years ago AugieRay1

    I really enjoyed this.  Too many people fail to appreciate that content marketing is hard, takes commitment and requires a willingness to make a statement.  So much content is bland, brand-focused and uninteresting--and it fails to deliver the goods.  You're right--it's time to "grow a pair."  Thanks for sharing this.

  • FeldmanCreative's picture
    Jan 31 Posted 4 years ago FeldmanCreative

    Nicely said Kathleen. Your algo talk is amazingly synching with an article I'm working on now about "HEO," heart engine optimization.

  • Kathleen Hanover's picture
    Jan 31 Posted 4 years ago Kathleen Hanover

    Thanks for the brutal honesty, Barry, but you're probably preaching to the choir.  ;) 

    Back in the day, I used to be a "marketing copywriter" but nowadays, I'm more often contacted by potential clients looking for a "content creator." I don't mind, except for the fact that too many would-be employers think they should be able to buy a 1,000-word sales letter for five bucks.


    I do hope that the days of gibberishy, bot-spun articles are numbered. Although I have a love/hate relationship with Google's hourly algorithm changes, I'm in favor of any numerical magic that boosts human-created content over the "mechanically separated" chicken guts that pass for blog posts in SEO-land.

  • FeldmanCreative's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 4 years ago FeldmanCreative


    Please contact me via my website and I'll give you some suggestions on this. 

  • Bryce Coffin's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 4 years ago Bryce Coffin

    Barry I enjoyed reading all 1,500 of these words. I just graduated from college and this is the brutal honesty that will help me learn the most efficiently in the marketing field, so thanks! I am trying to work my way in the content field as we speak; where would you recommend someone with a relatively new venture go to find acceptable sources to contribute?

  • LizWainger's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 4 years ago LizWainger


    Nice post but I didnt' think your lead matched the rest of the piece.  There was nothing in your comments that would offend or cause folks with thin skins to feel bad.  You got me reading the piece to be sure.  The content was informative but not anything that I hadn't heard before.  You presented it well and in that case is a good example of how to get noticed.   

  • Jan 28 Posted 4 years ago RankWatch

    I must say. Very honest with in-depth analysis. The need of the hour is content creation, promotion and a great compiled content strategy will reap great results.

  • Kent Ong's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 4 years ago Kent Ong

    There are a lot of freelancer websites have a lot of high quality writers.

  • pruneau's picture
    Jan 27 Posted 4 years ago pruneau

    Excellent post Barry.

    With the power of self publishing now in the hands of so many, Content Marketing appears to have been tagged as the online marketing panacea by gurus and businesses alike.

    Yet, before any brand can become a continuous publisher of content that their prospects and customers will find relevant and valuable, a step back to consider what success in this emerging discipline might actually take would be a good idea. (more here: http://ow.ly/haBke )

    As your post so ably points out, adding the new requirement and responsibilities of “publisher” to your title may be outside of the competencies and abilities of many. And with the rising demand to consistently create "great" content, I suspect few will be able to step up and meet this challenge.


  • FeldmanCreative's picture
    Jan 27 Posted 4 years ago FeldmanCreative
  • Jan 27 Posted 4 years ago treb (not verified)

    Great post... I had a great time reading your post... It is really informative...

  • JasonHJH's picture
    Jan 27 Posted 4 years ago JasonHJH

    I got say, this piece is just brilliant. Thanks for making my day.

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