When it comes to creating content that you know your audience will love, it’s easy to play it safe. It’s natural to stick to formats that are the easiest to consistently produce (and produce well!), and to set up a cadence of posting article after article, listicle after listicle or blog after blog. Your organic search traffic may begin to grow, but ask yourself this question: are you serving that new-found audience the very best content that you can?
Don’t despair if you’ve found yourself in a rut of producing less-than-memorable content. Though there are plenty of ways to take your content to a magazine-like next level, making an impact with your audience can be as easy as switching up the format. Take a look at your editorial calendar—it’s likely you have content ideas in there that would make for a beautiful feature instead of a run-of-the-mill listicle or an off-the-cuff Q&A instead of a cut-and-dry article.
Here, we break down the benefits of incorporating these two formats, along with interactive quizzes, into your content marketing mix.
Though they can seem daunting, features are a great place to start for those who’ve never ventured outside the safety of a typical article or listicle. For starters, longer content can be an SEO gold mine. Though the exact length that the Google gods favor has fluctuated over the years, it is commonly accepted that longer content is more likely to rank on the first page of most search engines. And a survey of 1,000 bloggers conducted by Orbit Media found that most bloggers routinely write posts that push the 1,000-word mark, and that those who do see greater engagement from their audiences.
That said, long content doesn’t automatically equate to good content. If your feature reads more like a philosophy textbook (or worse, a rambling diary entry) than a magazine article, you’re in trouble. The key to creating a feature that will blow your audience away is to think about what they really want. Are they looking for the most in-depth breakdown out there of your industry? Or do they want to connect with your brand or products on a more emotional level? Figuring this out will give you laser focus as you narrow in on the specific angle and tone the feature will take. Which in turn will help you avoid becoming the long-winded uncle everyone hates getting trapped into conversations with at parties. Never be that guy.
Ask a magazine editor and they’ll tell you that the Q&A is a publisher’s best friend. Not only are they (relatively) quick to produce, but they also provide a priceless evergreen opportunity to let those behind a brand speak for themselves and connect directly with audiences. They key here is to leverage the Q&A to provide readers with information they wouldn’t already know. Now is not the time to repeat the founder’s story you have splashed all over your website or overly plug your product. Instead, have the subject of the story answer quirky or off-the-cuff questions that put your their personality on full display.
Q&A’s also provide a rare chance to align your brand with another, either directly in your industry or in a related space, that you admire. Like with everything in content marketing, however, you need to consult your strategy before you go down this road. Make sure the brand you’d like to partner with is a logical extension of the content you’re already creating and the lifestyle you’re building around your own company. Ask yourself: do you share similar values? Is this brand another local business in your area? Do they service the same core customers as you do? If the answer is yes, then you should be in the clear. Bring on the back-linking good karma.
Though quizzes are by far the hardest on this list to actually produce, they’re also one of the most effective content marketing strategies you can employ. According to a study conducted by Buzzsumo and a case study done by Content Marketing Institute, the average quiz gets shared on social media 1,900 times and can generate 4,800 leads. Read that again: The average quiz gets organically shared to almost 2,000 people and can capture nearly 5,000 emails. If you can do better than average, a quiz can easily be the powerhouse behind your organic traffic growth.
What makes quizzes so effective is that they gamify the content consumption experience. There’s inherent value in learning which celebrity you’d be in another life or just how much you really know about Harry Potter. The best quizzes teach the taker something about themselves—and in return, teaches you something about them, too.
So keep fun in mind when you’re creating that personality test or knowledge quiz. Quizzes are the time to loosen up, let your content marketing hair down, and keep the product pushes to a minimum. That way, when that email capture form pops up, you’re quiz takers will be more than happy to fill it out - and you’ll have hit the content marketing jackpot.
There is no denying that building out a deep library of articles, listicles and blogs will start you on the road towards content marketing success. But don’t let that clearly defined path stop you from kicking your content production efforts into high gear with more involved formats like the three we’ve just discussed. If you pull them off, they’ll help expand your reach and will keep your existing audience coming back for more.
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Phoebe is a Content Editor at Hawke Media. When she’s not strategizing content for clients, you’ll find her nose deep in a book or magazine.