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7 Secrets for High-Performing Content

January is a good month to reflect. It’s a time to think about what you did well the previous year and where you could improve the next

Keeping with this theme, I decided to see which of my articles performed the best last year and which ones were subpar. The list at the bottom of this article includes my top 10 articles of 2015. As I assembled the list, I started to notice reoccurring qualities that I believe drove reader engagement. So, here are my seven secrets for content marketing success.

1. Experiment with humor.

My editorial colleagues may have thought I was a little crazy when I wrote a blog post that linked marketing to cheese. However, the article ended up being one of the top articles of the month and one of my best-performing pieces for the entire year. I even had readers send me their own spin-offs. 

As exciting as data and analytics can be, sometimes marketing coverage can, admittedly, be a little dry (and, thus, not so shareable). While it’s essential to write about the nuts and bolts of marketing, I also believe that getting creative and occasionally taking a lighthearted approach is critical to getting your content to stand out.

So the next time your team is writing an article about a stodgy topic, brainstorm ways you can approach it from a new angle. Just think: If you saw this article in your feed, would you click on it?

2. Don’t be afraid to reveal something personal about yourself.

Whether it’s my love for the Green Bay Packers or reality TV, I’m not afraid to give readers glimpses into my personal life. I believe that it helps define my writing voice and makes my posts more relatable. For instance, the article “The 3 Emails I Fell for This Fall” gives readers a peek into my personal inbox. Writing this piece, in my opinion, proved to our readers that I not only approach email marketing from a marketing or journalistic perspective but it’s also something that I experience as a real consumer.

I also find that consistently sharing bits and pieces of my personal life provides context. I knew, for example, that by the time I published “6 Marketing Lessons from the Packers-Cowboys Game,” our readers wouldn’t be turned off by my Packers bias because I had written about my affinity for the team and Wisconsin several times before.

Of course, you should always be cognizant of oversharing. I try to think about how revealing something personal could affect my personal and professional brands, as well as my relationships. To find a good balance, I remember that my boss and parents are reading these pieces, and if the content isn’t something that I would be comfortable sharing with them, then it’s probably not appropriate to share with our readers. Marketers should also follow this advice and consider how their content reflects their brand and impacts their relationships with their consumers and vendors.

3. Be relatable.

The best way to connect with someone is to find something that you have in common. When I wrote “6 Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Childhood Fables” and revealed my favorite children’s books, I tried to develop a mutual sense of nostalgia with our readers. Tapping into these childhood memories clearly worked because the article was one of my top blog posts of the year.

When marketing to consumers, try to find common ground; however, this connection must be genuine. Consumers can spot a phony from a mile away, and appearing fake can hinder trust in the future.

4. Know what’s going on in the world.

When I wrote “5 Marketing Lessons We Can All Learn From Pixar,” Inside Out had just debuted. I knew that people would be searching for it and that it would be trending on social and in the media. I wanted to insert our brand into these existing conversations in a natural way. So, I wrote a blog post about lessons marketers could learn from the famous movie studio. Using tools like Google Trends can help marketers find inspiration for relevant content topics.

Granted, marketers can’t always anticipate what’s going to be trending.  But it’s important that they plan for content opportunities when they can. For example, I knew that 50 Shades of Grey was coming to theaters last Valentine’s Day. So the week before the film’s release, I emailed several marketers and asked them to identify areas of vagueness or confusion for my blog post “50 Shades of Grey Area in Marketing.”

The bottom line: Marketers need to address real-time events and create content on the fly; however, they also need to anticipate and plan for popular events.

5. Understand your audience’s preferences.

Email is a favorite topic among Direct Marketing News readers and whenever we post an article about the channel it usually does well.  Knowing this, we try to produce email content frequently to encourage marketers to revisit our site. We also know that list articles perform well and are easily digestible. So, writing an article called the “4 Factors That Impact Your Open Rates” was a no-brainer.

When producing content, marketers need to understand the types of content their audiences prefer, the forms of content they enjoy (e.g. video versus analysis), and the channels through which they consume content.

6. Be informative.

One of the biggest lessons I took away from interviewing BuzzFeed’s VP of Creative Services Melissa Rosenthal back in May 2014 is that great, shareable content offers readers some sort of “gift”, like humor or nostalgia. Educating consumers and offering them thought leadership provides tremendous value. That’s why I try to stay on top of recent studies and cover them, as I did in the article “The Millennial-Baby Boomer Divide.”

Also, marketers shouldn’t be afraid to take an authoritative stance on areas where they possess expertise, just as how Retention Science’s Jerry Jao did in the article “How to Send the (Almost) Perfect Email.” If they’re truly knowledgeable about a particular field, and can prove it, then sharing their insight with others can help them develop a devoted following.

7. Resurface evergreen content at opportune moments.

I originally wrote my Star Wars-themed article “5 Ways B2B Marketers Can Channel the B2C Force” in August for our September issue. But when Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters in December, I knew that I could resurface the article and promote the piece by including trending Star Wars hashtags in my social posts.

Content rarely has a lengthy lifespan. So it’s vital for marketers to look for opportunities (e.g. anniversaries, pop culture events) where they can bring old content to light. Doing so will help save them time and resources.

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