A new year, a new chance to develop a successful content marketing strategy and catapult your digital marketing campaign to success. Online content — blog posts, videos, and social media campaigns — is one of the most powerful tools you can use to reach your target audience and drum up interest in your product, improve brand recognition, and build trust with your audience. Read on for the most important things to know as you plan your strategy for content marketing in 2024.
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What is content marketing, and what's the key to success?
Content marketing is simply the practice of producing written and visual content engages consumers and — directly or indirectly — helps you sell your products or services.
Historically, content marketing trends have been heavily focused on search engine optimization, or SEO, which (in short) is the practice of gussying up content to make sure Google and other engines can find it. The content will (hopefully) end up on the first page of the search results page, known as the SERP, where more people will see it and (hopefully) click on it.
While this SEO-first content strategy worked great for a while, the search engines didn’t appreciate that so much of the content being produced was obviously written for the sole purpose of ranking well, reader be damned.
The result was that content ranked well, but it didn't provide the quality of information the audience was looking for. The SEO gurus had practically cracked the code — and in doing so, unwittingly exposed the cracks in the algorithm.
So in 2023, Google patched those cracks with a helpful content update that changed the game. While optimizing for the search engines is still an important part of creating content, it’s no longer the focus. At least, it shouldn’t be if you want to rank well.
Today, the number-one most important aspect of creating high quality content is producing work that is, first-and-foremost, authentically helpful to the reader.
In this guide, we’ll cover the 7 most important things you need to know for successful content marketing in 2024.
1. Create content for people — not engines
When a consumer types a search term into Google, they do it for a reason: maybe they want to find a particular product (like vegan lipstick) or they want to know how to do something (like replace their thermostat.) Maybe they have a problem (like lawn grubs) and need to know how to solve it.
Whatever the search intent, you want to make sure that if they click over to your website, they get the information they’re looking for. If the primary concern for your content creation is that it hits all the right keywords, there’s a good chance it’s going to miss the mark — and raise more questions than it answers.
And that means that if you have an SEO agency that's also creating content for you, there’s a good chance that while it’s highly optimized, it's mediocre content and not fundamentally helpful to begin with.
That's because these agencies often create briefs that are heavy on SEO direction but leave a lot to be desired editorially — they don't tell a story, they don't take the reader on a journey. They don't leave room to ask questions beyond what's in the brief. It's about keywords and word count — not content quality.
And it's all mostly for naught: Google warns us that standard SEO efforts only work on people-first content that's fundamentally helpful to begin with.
2. Know your audience
You can focus your content marketing efforts on more than audience, but you need to be crystal clear on who each segment is and how to best talk to them.
Many marketers find that creating customer personas is the easiest way to understand who you’re talking to — and impart that information to everyone involved in your content creation.
Your customer personas can be sprawling, sparkling documents or they can be short, descriptive paragraphs — or bullet points, even. They can be highly scientific, based on multiple data points, or you can create them based on what you know viscerally about the people who use your products or services.
Here are a few ways you can get info to create your personas:
Send out surveys to your customers to gather relevant information like demographics, education levels, interests, buying habits, preferred social platforms, and pain points.
Analyze your website traffic — how users interact with your site, the content they engage with, the path they take across pages, where they end up.
Examine consumer behavior — how social media users interact with your brand, what they say in reviews, and what type of feedback they send via email.
3. Know the sales funnel positions and the best type of content for each
The best-performing content marketing strategies take into consideration the consumer’s buying journey, which is typically represented as a funnel — you’ve got the top of the funnel (TOFU), the middle of the funnel (MOFU), and the bottom of the funnel (BOFU).
TOFU: The Awareness Stage
At the top of the funnel, your audience doesn’t know who you are or what you offer. Here, they’ve realized they have a problem, and they’re looking for solutions.
Content marketing aimed at the TOFU should address an overarching problem or question and provide high-level information that gives your audience a jumping off point for digging deeper. Lawn grubs: What are they, what do they look like, why are they bad, and how do you get rid of them?
Ideal types of content for TOFU include informational or educational blog posts, how-to guides, infographics, and videos.
MOFU: The Comparison Stage
Here in the middle of the funnel, the consumer is aware of your existence and wants to know more about what you offer. They’re probably looking at other brands, too, so in the middle of the funnel, you want to convince them that you’ve got the best solution — Acme Lawn Grub Traps!
Effective MOFU content marketing should focus on your unique selling points and how your product addresses what ails them — and the best way to do that is with case studies, buying guides, expert interviews, ebooks, white papers, and webinars.
BOFU: The Decision Stage
At the bottom of the funnel, your audience is getting close to making a decision — they just need that little extra push. Here, they’re looking for information to support their decision to buy your product — the nitty gritty info that seals the deal.
Effective BOFU content includes user-generated (“I tried it!”) content, blog listicles (“10 Festive Ways To Use Acme Lawn Grub Traps In Your Home”), inspirational social content, testimonials, and videos.
4. Understand what your consumers want to know
Helpful content is the key to good rankings — so you need to know what your audience needs help with. Once you find out what their pain points are and what questions they’re asking, the content marketing calendar practically populates itself.
Here are a few ways to find out what’s relevant to your audience:
Look at the PAAs: “People Also Ask” (PAA) is a Google SERP feature that shows up below the first few results. Google your overarching topic to see what questions show up in the PAAs, and create content that fully answers those questions.
Do keyword research: Most content marketing trends involve some form of keyword research, and you don’t have to be an expert to do a quick, cursory search for keywords on a topic to see what people are Googling about it.
Draw on your own experience: What are customers and potential customers asking about in their correspondence with you? What do you see them asking about on your social media platforms? What are some pain points you’re seeing in customer reviews and feedback?
5. A multi-pronged approach to content marketing is ideal.
Different types of content attract different audiences in different places — there's no single marketing channel that's best for every type of content. Most content marketing teams choose a variety of options:
Blog posts provide information and education that help establish your brand as an authority. They gather valuable insights that can significantly boost your SEO and engage your audience.
Infographics simplify complex information and make it visually appealing. Use them on your website, in your blog, or on social media.
Short-form videos tell compelling stories, engage viewers, and improve overall content marketing performance. Post short-form video content on your website and social channels, or send via email.
Case studies provide in-depth evidence of the effectiveness of your products or services. Include them on your website, and use them in email marketing or other targeted outreach.
Social media posts are short ‘n’ sweet missives on various topics, meant to educate, inspire, or spark thoughtful discussion.
Gated content, like an ebook, newsletter, white paper short form video, or other lead-generation asset, is accessible to the user once they enter their email address — a warm lead!
Interactive content like quizzes, games, and calculators are fun and engaging — the interactive elements make them great for blog posts and social media.
User-generated content provides readers with first-hand experiences with your products or services, written by customers or writers who try the product or service.
Email campaigns, which are sent as a sequence of several messages, help generate brand recognition, establish authority, and lead potential customers through a series of calls to action.
6. Know who’s producing your content.
Content marketing trends come and go, but one is here to stay: You’ve probably come across the acronym E-E-A-T, which stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. E-E-A-T is an important factor in search engine rankings.
If content is to be helpful, it’s got to provide real value, which means it needs to be accurate and trustworthy — especially if it's long-form content and the topic might impact the health, safety, or legal or financial wellbeing of the reader.
According to Google, when it’s clear who created the content, readers intuitively understand whether it’s authoritative and trustworthy. If there’s no byline, or the author is simply, “Staff” or similar, it could have been written by anyone — including someone wholly unqualified to write on the topic.
Google asks content marketers to ask themselves these questions:
Is it evident who wrote your content? If not, the reader will have no context as to the qualifications of the author and may not trust the information provided.
Do your articles have a byline where it might be expected? If it’s content related to, say, gallstones, taxes, fixing your car, or writing a will, a reader might expect to see that the content was written or reviewed by a doctor, CPA, mechanic, or lawyer. Otherwise, why should they trust the advice therein?
Do the bylines lead to an author bio? A link to an author bio (or a bio at the end of the article with a link) provides more insight into the experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of the person who wrote it.
Trust is everything in the content marketing world, and yet many brands who otherwise painstakingly curate their image and messaging leave it to their SEO agency to populate their blog — sometimes with virtually no in-house editorial oversight. And since SEO agencies generally outsource content production to the lowest bidder, and the briefs are generally SEO-focused, the quality of the content is hit-and-miss (usually miss.)
Know who’s writing your content. If you use an SEO agency, ask who the writers are and what qualifies them to write on your topics. Can you meet with the writers to provide feedback or guidance if you wish? Or are they hidden behind a platform?
7. It’s a good idea to revisit your existing content, too.
You’ve got your content marketing strategy for 2024 all ready to go — but what about the content you produced in 2015, or 2021? If you’ve got a ton of blog content, product descriptions, or category page copy on your website that spans many years, countless algorithm changes, and (possibly) a revolving door of SEO agencies and content directors, it's likely all over the map.
Old blog content can tank your overall rankings, especially if:
- It’s got outdated or incorrect information
- It doesn't adhere to current brand guidelines
- It contains broken links
- It doesn't speak to its intended audience
- It was written with keywords — not people — in mind and is not particularly helpful
- It’s culturally outdated, using terms that are no longer deemed appropriate or which don’t align with your current brand values
- It’s evergreen content but heavily angled to the pandemic era
Part of your content marketing 2024 strategy should include a good, old-fashioned audit to help you identify blog posts and other content that needs to be updated (or completely rewritten).
Even making minor changes to an older blog post can help “refresh” its position in the SERPs — the low-hanging fruit of refreshing outdated posts for a quick SEO boost is like a magic wand for content marketers.
Stretch can help you flex your marketing budget in 2024
Got a budget but not enough hands on deck to use it effectively? As your collaborative and infinitely flexible partner in all things content marketing success, Stretch can help put you on the map in 2024.
We create people-first, relevant content of all types and can help out with your SEO strategy, editorial planning, social and email marketing calendars, video content strategy and production needs, and more. Schedule an exploratory call with us, and let's see how Stretch can help you stretch.