In my spare time I clamber around in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. And I’m not talking about 20-minute jaunts to pretty waterfalls. I mean multi-day adventures with one of my children and all our gear on my back. Now, New Hampshire’s mountains are smaller than most peaks around the world, and even the most remote peaks are no more than a half-day’s hike from a road complete with restaurants, hotels, and gas stations, but what they do have is extreme weather.
According to Not Without Peril by Nicholas Howe, three major storm systems gather over Mt. Washington, New Hampshire’s highest peak, throughout the year, causing sudden thunderstorms and whiteouts. The wind, which can be gusty on the best of days, is a major factor, because it robs you of warmth, your breath, and will. People who lose the trail in a whiteout are immediately on their own, with no chance to be heard.
It reminds me of content marketing (Bear with me here).
In the past few years, content marketing has grown exponentially along with social media, which is based on the constant churning out of content. More and more of this content is showing up as blog posts, articles, slideshows, infographics, webinars and white papers, and of course, online video. Because it is so important to repurpose written content into video to appeal to more people, it is growing even faster.
This means there’s a lot of content in the air, and it’s risen like a sudden mountain tempest. Every day there are new ideas from thought leaders and new methods to follow. If your material is getting lost in the content marketing storm, here are the ten essentials for getting your content noticed:
- Ideas: This is the water that powers your content strategy. For hikers, water is ultimately the most important item on the list, and it’s true for ideas as well. Ideas should flow just like water if you’re going to survive the content maelstrom. Ideas will sustain a marketing strategy of any kind, and you should bring plenty with you when you start out. Ideas can come from anywhere around you, including the storm itself, and from your audience, like gathering water from a wellspring. Don’t be afraid to be inspired by something your readers and other thought leaders have said.
- Solutions: The next item on the list is like food. Solutions make up the fuel that drives a robust content strategy. You can write all you want, but if your ideas are not supplemented by a steady diet of real solutions, your content strategy will quickly lose energy and coherence. You should be trying to solve a problem for your audience. Make sure to carry plenty of solutions that will keep your content strategy going and help you sustain long enough to be noticed.
- Planning: You need a detailed map that shows you where you need to go. There are a lot of ways to get lost on a mountain, and forgetting a map is one of the best ways. People will be looking for you on a marked trail, preferably the one you told people you would be on. That means you must stick to a long-term brand message and content strategy that defines you and your organization. A content plan means you will be in the right place to be found.
- Metrics: Smart hikers carry a compass (or GPS device) that tells them exactly where they are headed. In conjunction with a map, meaning your content plan, the ability to track and analyze where you are will help you decide where you need to go. You must make course corrections if you travel in the wrong direction, and your metrics help drive your decisions. If you see that interest is waning, and hits and clicks are falling, it’s time to fix your bearing. Not being a GPS guy, I carry a plain ‘ol analog compass, btw.
- SEO: This is the ability to send a signal to anybody looking for you. A hiker carries a mirror and a whistle, and this is also why you always see mountaineers wearing bright colors from head to toe. SEO is how you get found, whether you’ve produced a website, written articles and blog posts, videos, or slideshows. Your keywords are like a mirror that flashes in front of the search engines, alerting them to your location. The long-tail keywords, titles and descriptions help narrow the focus, the way a whistle helps people find you at close range.
- Social Media: It is essential to be able to light a fire that will keep you warm and also act as a signal. That’s a lot like social media, which is aboutbuilding relationships and maintaining them by generating opportunities for engagement between people, the way a fire ignites and converts stored energy into heat and light. People find your content on Facebook and share it to Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest. Your content should have the ability to drive activity that spreads as it generates interest from one person to another, which helps you get noticed in the storm.
- Research: Every hiker carries a flashlight or headlamp for seeing in the darkness, which is a lot like research that helps you see your way through the darkness of an industry. You need to see the direction of the path ahead, and uncover any pitfalls and obstacles that might trip you up. This means always scanning industry news for trends, and reading into customer and competitor activity. Surveys and studies will also shed light on where your audience is headed, so you can get there, where you can be found.
- Design: In bad weather, you need shelter and extra warmth. The wrapper for your website, blog, videos, presentations, newsletters, shopping cart and other materials should be optimized to help you get found. This means a website layout that helps highlight the content, titles, descriptions, images and related tags so that search engines and viewers alike find it attractive and inviting. The people who land on your site and click around will drive the all-important traffic statistics that search engine algorithms like Google Panda are looking for.
- Technology: The technology you choose to support your content strategy is like the toolkit you carry on the trail. A knife or multi-tool can help get you out of difficult situations, and in the case of content marketing, the right technology will help streamline your efforts. Make sure to use a good content management system, customer relationship management tool, e-commerce software, social media management, and content collaboration application to help you create, store, publish and share your materials.
- Support: Last but not least, this is a lot like the first aid kit that every hiker carries. It doesn’t matter how much you write or record if you send hordes of viewers to your site and it happens to be down. You need technical support to sustain a powerful content strategy through the inevitable breakdowns that may occur. It’s difficult to know the ins and outs of all the platforms you may need to administer, so having another set of hands is like having the right gauze, splints and blister protection.
Some of the the ten essentials are meant to be used constantly, like water and food, which means you always deliver quality content, and the map and compass, which is like planning and tracking your content, while the rest are things you use to make sure you stay out of trouble. But the rules are very similar to a successful mountain trip; they will help you stay on the right track and get noticed in the content marketing storm.