18 Foolproof Content Marketing Tips for Overcoming the Attention Economy

content marketing tips

I don’t have kids, but I was one. And I know I was totally guilty of finding creative ways to get people’s attention.

You might remember Stewie Griffin from the sitcom Family Guy showering his mother with love with a repeated chorus of “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mommy. Mommy….”

That aired in 2006. I was born in 1992. I think he got that from me.

Truthfully, content marketers are not all that different from a child in that way. We all want your attention to be focused on us, and we will be as creative (and occasionally annoying) as necessary to get it (and keep it).

Don’t worry though. As professional marketers (and adults), we are a little more creative than a child tugging on their mother’s sleeve to the beat of the world’s most annoying chorus.

Attention is one of the hottest commodities to marketers and advertisers (it’s practically a currency). It’s such a popular commodity that a name has been coined for it.

The attention economy.

If you’ve heard of this before, great! You’re about to get a review. If not, you’re about to make this face while going, “Ooooohhh. Yes, this is totally a thing.”

Content marketer “bing!” moment is coming.

Yes, it’s a thing. But why is it an important thing for content marketers to know?

Attention leads to more website traffic, more content consumption, and more lead generation and more lead conversion.

Cool? Cool. But I’m not done yet.

Content marketing is competitive and the competition is FIERCE. It’s time to get creative and figure out how you will get the attention of the customers you want. And to help you overcome the attention economy, we have a few content marketing tips.

When you are finished reading this post, you will know:

  • What the attention economy is (it’s not just a rumor like a Bigfoot sighting)
  • 18 content marketing tips that get results – you’ll be a pro in no time

Get ready for the best content marketing tips ever.

What is the attention economy?

“Now when we speak of an information-rich world, we may expect, analogically, that the wealth of information means a dearth of something else — a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes.

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”
Herbert Simon

Herbert Simon was an American economist, political scientist, and Nobel Prize winner, and he perfectly defined the attention economy with his famous idea that “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

But I’m going to put it into slightly easier terms.

The attention economy is the idea that a consumer’s attention is a scarce commodity and a resource for survival. The more attention you get, the better chance your business has to thrive.

And how do you get consumers’ attention? With content, of course.

So, go do that. Lesson over.

content marketing success

HA! Gotcha. I wish getting customer attention was as easy as just creating content, but it’s not. Remember, it’s a scarce resource. As Matthew Crawford put it, “attention is a resource – a person only has so much of it.”

Content isn’t scarce, but attention is. Humans only have so much mental capacity to be receptive to information, and they have to filter who gets what attention (and how much).

Only really great content and solid content marketing efforts are going to have a shot at standing out among the ridiculously high volume of existing content (which is growing every single day).

Great content needs to:

  • Grab attention
  • Keep attention
  • Be easy to find
  • Provide value, educate, or solve a problem
  • Be personally relevant

63% of marketers cite generating traffic and leads as their #1 challenge.

So, how do you compete?

content marketing formulaMath: it’s not totally useless. (Source: Vidyard)

I need to stress that following this formula is only a general guideline. How a customer feels or thinks isn’t something that is perfectly measured, so what draws their attention one day might not the next.

Competing for attention in a saturated content environment is easier said than done, but you can start with these tips that get results.

18 tips for great content marketing that stands apart in an attention economy

This list is probably why you’re here in the first place, so I won’t waste time writing a long intro to this section. Without any further ado, here are 18 tips for great content marketing to get you all that customer attention.

  1. Don’t create content just to create it. Make sure your purpose is clear
  2. Make your content personal
  3. Consider creating evergreen content
  4. Make a content strategy. Flying blind results in crashing planes
  5. Consider longer content over shorter content
  6. More content doesn’t equal good content
  7. Build influencer relationships for mutual link sharing
  8. Repurpose or redo old content (or get rid of it)
  9. Don’t get intimidated by what others are doing; get inspired
  10. Show your appreciation and get retention
  11. One keyword does not an SEO strategy make
  12. Ideas don’t have to be original, but your interpretation should be
  13. Silence is golden, not a red flag for bad content
  14. Focus less on an audience and more on solving problems
  15. Don’t be a slave to a schedule. Editorial calendars are not the key to content success
  16. Don’t forget who you are really writing for (hint – it’s not your boss)
  17. Create a chain of great content with internal linking
  18. Make your content interesting (and I’m not just talking about the copy)

#1 Don’t create content just to create it. Make sure your purpose is clear

You don’t see a movie just to see it. There’s a reason why. You see it because there’s a story or a cast or something else that is driving you to know more about it.

You need to know why you’re writing whatever you’re writing. If you don’t know that yourself, then how do you expect your customers to get anything out of it?

Often marketers will create content for these reasons:

  • To stick to a schedule
  • To meet a manager’s expectation for X amount of content published weekly
  • Just to look better

Any of these not-great reasons will be totally transparent to a customer and give way to the fact that you don’t have goals for your content.

This is often referred to as thin content (and it does nothing to help your brand).

 thin contentSo thin customers can see right through it.

Content without a driver is going to fall flat, even if it’s got good information. Spitting out statistics and good examples and quotes will make you sound like Google or a robot. Providing context makes you sound like a trusted resource.

The best way to do this is to consider searcher intent.

There are 4 types of searcher intent:

  • Commercial
  • Transactional
  • Navigational
  • Informational

What you should pay attention to will depend on the content you’re creating, but it’s likely that informational is a common one for content marketers.

Informational intent is looking for content that has the what, but that also has the all-important why. As a content marketer, you need to make sure it has one and not just for your customers, but for you. Ask why this content will help your customer and your brand.

Ask yourself:

  • Does it fit into your content marketing goals?
  • Is it relevant to your target audience?
  • Does it provide value?

#2 Make your content personal

The place for stiffer, more formal language, a bunch of technical jargon, or big, important-sounding sentences that sound like everybody else isn’t in your content.

Your content should make customers feel two things:

  • That they know you
  • That you know them

Targeting people’s individual needs, traits, problems, likes, dislikes, and everything else will help build a stronger connection between you and them.

And it doesn’t even have to be anything groundbreaking or life-changing.

I published an ActiveCampaign blog about targeted content. Part of it goes into depth about knowing your audience, and I used a personal life story to be an example and get a point across.

Guess what it was about?

No, it wasn’t a life-altering travel story. And no, it wasn’t about the last time I got mad (my WiFi broke and stopped my Netflix streaming, in case you were curious).

None of those.

Give up? Well, the answer is…

My vacuum cleaner.

know your audience
WHA- wait, a vacuum?

That’s right, my vacuum cleaner. I recommend you read this blog, it’s a riveting vacuum story.

Do you know why that particular personal story worked for that blog (probably better than any heavy personal story)?

Because it was relatable, something many other people who were looking for the same solution I was had probably also experienced.

Bottom line: you don’t have to share your private journal entries (probably too personal) but sharing a bit of your personal self makes your content and your brand that much more connected.

#3 Consider creating evergreen content

Of course, you will still want to write about specific, industry-related topics or trending news, and you should.

But that may not be the only thing you should stick to.

Ever thought about evergreen?

It’s content that has long-lasting relevance and can be updated when needed. You get a lot of mileage for less work, and it can offer another view of your brand.

It delivers traffic, leads, social shares, and can hang onto valuable positions in the search rankings for an extended time after the publish date.

Your industry-specific content now shows that you are an expert in your business. But what about:

  • Business in general
  • Leadership tactics
  • Organizational strategies
  • Keeping up company culture and morale

All of these and other evergreen topics are relevant to business, and they are definitely relevant to your business. Content like this can provide a well-rounded content experience for your customers.

Plus, you can still create evergreen content about your specific industry topics, as Single Grain does.

 evergreen content marketingPeople can reference this to choose a digital marketing agency for years to come.

They can read it the day it’s published. And a week later, and 6 months later. And a year later. And it’s still a solid piece of relevant content that YOU made.

Evergreen content results in compounding growth. That is, if a piece of content lasts a while, the next piece of content can deliver performance ON TOP OF that previous success.

Venture capitalist Tomasz Tunguz shows a hypothetical example of an evergreen content strategy’s compound growth vs. a temporal content strategy.

evergreen content compound growthEvergreen content compound growth. (Source: TomTunguz)

Each evergreen post generates about 150 views on day one, and about 20 each subsequent day. A year later, you can see the compounding effect with more than 250k visitors per month.

temporal content compound growthTemporal content compound growth.

As you can see, both have declined over the course of a year (which is natural and expected as new content is produced over time). But the evergreen content decline is noticeably less aggressive than the temporal.

In a world so saturated with content that’s often a repeat of 20 other content pieces, evergreen content can be one more thing to set you apart.

#4 Make a content strategy. Flying blind leads to crashed planes.

Who wants their plane to crash? Any answer other than “not me” is wrong.

And that counts for your content “plane.”

Imagine putting in weeks or months of work on blogs, videos, and other content. You’re ready to watch it all takeoff, ascend 30,000 ft and land with the right people. And it does…not.

Why? You created all that content and it’s great!

The problem is that you let it take off with no direction. It didn’t know where to go, so it didn’t go anywhere OR it flew, realized it had no fuel and crashed where no one will ever find it.

content strategyHave you thought about where your content will land?

Planes don’t just take off and land successfully without a plan. There is coordination and consideration of a million things before they go airborne.

You get the idea. Your content won’t be successful if you don’t have a plan to get it off the ground, stay airborne, and successfully land with the right audience.

You need a content strategy. But don’t mistake this with a list of goals or tasks.

Richard Rumelt said this about strategy:

“A good strategy has an essential logical structure that I call the kernel. The kernel of a strategy contains three elements: a diagnosis, a guiding policy, and coherent action.”

It’s not about a list of one-off tasks. It’s a thorough, coherent set of analyses, concepts, policies, arguments, and actions that line up with a challenge.

Plan how you will distribute your content, how you will optimize it for SEO, who you want to see it, and the impact goal you have for it. Then you can measure that against its progress and learn what did and didn’t work for the next time.

#5 Consider longer content over shorter content

Long-form and short-form content both have their uses, but it’s a popular opinion that bloggers who write longer posts are far more likely to report strong results.

In their 2018 Survey of 1000+ Bloggers, Orbit Media found that the length of a blog post has increased 42% over the last five years.

length of a typical blogThe average length of a blog post now is about 1151 words.

More than half of bloggers who write 2000+ word articles said they got strong results.

(In case you were curious, the end of this sentence is the 2,428-word mark for this article).

Writing thousands of words for a single blog post may not sound appealing to you, but think about it this way:

Why skimp on information and make people look somewhere else – when you had the answers all along??

Sure, you could write a lot of short blogs and link them to one another so that readers can go through them one at a time. BUT, you can’t guarantee that they will stick around long enough to do that.

One big benefit of having all of the information a customer needs in one place (like a long-form blog) is that they won’t go looking somewhere else (like perhaps a competitor blog) to find any missing pieces.

#6 More content doesn’t equal good content

More is not always better (unless it’s pizza).

It’s easy to look at competitors or just other sites in general, see them producing multiple new pieces of content a day, and then look at your own content that’s nowhere near that level of production.

Remain. Calm. This is ok.

In fact, it might even be better for you.

Remember, the attention economy is already oversaturated with content. People don’t need a high volume of content from you, they need high-quality content.

There is no formula that says, “you have to produce X amount of content per day to be successful.”

Marketing is not linear like that because the customer journey isn’t linear.

customer journey content

If it were, I would probably not have a job devoted to writing marketing advice for you. You wouldn’t need it. In an Expectation world, content marketing would work the same for everyone.

But it doesn’t.

So, reality means you need to remember to prioritize quality goals over quantity temptations.

#7 Build influencer relationships for mutual link sharing

“Quid pro quo.” “I scratch your back you scratch mine.”

Whatever you call it, the help of an influencer can bring you big wins for your content.

Influencer marketing is using brand advocates to drive your content into a wider view. It can be a godsend for your organic search. By including a quote or linking to an article citing an influencer’s expertise, you can increase your visibility and your authority.

For example, we like to quote people like Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media and Oli Gardner of Unbounce in our content a lot because they have great insights and opinions on SEO and content marketing.

In fact, we feature both of them in this blog about opt-in copy:

Hey, Andy.

oli gardnerHey, Oli.

The other reason? They also have a LOT of influence in the marketing world.

We link to influencers, quote them, and share their content. And then they do the same for us.

81% of marketers who have used influencer marketing judged it to be effective. You can pay for influencer promotion, but if you build up good relationships with influencers, you can also do it for free.

#8 Repurpose or redo old content (or just get rid of it)

Every spring, we hit refresh on our lives and spring-clean everything. And every once in a while, we need to refresh content in the same way.

In Andrew Tate’s post, The Science Behind 100,000 – View Blog Posts, he outlines five phases of growth that a post goes through.

  • A spike phase
  • A trough phase
  • A growth phase
  • A plateau phase
  • A decay phase

It’s a fact of marketing life that content which grew organically will eventually decay. Whether it’s due to irrelevance or oversaturation, it will happen. But this isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity.

Jimmy measures the effectiveness of a simple content refresh, and the results speak for themselves.

increase blog traffic

“The graph below looks at weekly traffic over a 66-week period. This piece shows the spike, trough, growth, plateau and decay phases clearly. The first spike is the initial launch of the post. The second spike is the result of a refresh and relaunch.

The blue line is the actual weekly traffic. The red dotted line represents estimated traffic had the content never been refreshed. It assumes a steady weekly decay at -1.21%, which is the average weekly traffic loss during the twelve weeks leading up to the refresh.”

Boom.

If you wrote a blog 5 years ago that still has good bones but needs some updating, get creative!

Update the info but also look at updating how you deliver that info. If you have a blog that is still relevant but isn’t driving much traffic anymore, try repurposing the content into a video.

If you have content that is just completely irrelevant to your business now, it might be worth your time to get rid of it and create content that is.

#9 Don’t get intimidated by what others are doing; get inspired

Imagine that you come across a really killer blog or a hilarious video. You look at who produced it and think, “God, how do they do that?”

I’ve been there. Every content marketer has.

But what happens after that thought shouldn’t be intimidation. It should be inspiration.

Ask yourself, how could that kind of content be valuable for your brand?

It’s not a bad thing to get inspiration from other people’s content marketing, but don’t let them intimidate you. Just because one business posts lots of new content every single day doesn’t mean you have to as well.

 content competitorsSomeone else’s great idea could be the inspiration you need for YOUR next idea.

In fact, you probably shouldn’t. Being a slave to a schedule will ruin your content strategy (more on this a little further down).

But I need to be clear: inspiration doesn’t exclude being realistic. If you’re here looking for content marketing tips for small business owners, don’t try to be “creative like Apple.”

Apple is Apple for a reason. They already exist. Don’t try to be Apple. Not only would this be really hard, but it’s probably a safe bet that Apple’s large target audience isn’t the same as a small business owner’s, so it wouldn’t benefit your customers either.

#10 Show your appreciation and get retention

Customer acquisition is the name of the game for many, but what about after that?

People don’t get married just to do it – and then ignore the whole “life-together” part. The work to stay together doesn’t end.

Retaining your customers is just as important as acquiring them, and it takes work. How you go about it can set you apart from competitors.

I subscribed to Productivity Game, which emails me book recommendations and YouTube videos to inspire good productive habits. Not even a week into joining, I got a different email than the ones before.

They emailed me a thank-you for being part of the community and offered me an extra free ebook download.

I had barely been a subscriber for a week and already they were making sure that I didn’t leave.

customer retentionIt was a nice touch.

It’s one thing to deliver everything that they were promised when they subscribed with you, it’s another to thank them for sticking around. Why do you think married couples celebrate anniversaries?

A little acknowledgment goes a long way.

#11 One keyword does not an SEO strategy make

Don’t let your content live and die on the hill of one keyword. Search doesn’t work that way anymore.

Sure, you can search a term or key phrase and get results that match it. But SEO parameters have broadened over time.

Today, search rankings aren’t just about choosing and using a target keyphrase. It’s about the broader meaning of that phrase and the searcher intent.

This is where semantic SEO will make a world of difference for your rankings. Andy Crestodina (remember him?) has a great step-by-step process for doing semantic SEO, which you can find here.

But to put that concept into an example, here’s a hypothetical for you.

Imagine someone searches the term “best tropical vacation spots.”

 semantic SEO keywordsIf only getting there was as simple as searching it.

Now, you could create a piece of content that was a straightforward list of tropical places to go and rank for that keyword phrase. Cool.

But that is definitely not all they were looking for with that phrase.

The intent behind that search wasn’t just about finding the place, it was about finding what makes that place the best for them to visit.

They are probably looking for things like:

  • Good food recommendations
  • Fun activities to do in those tropical places
  • Best hotels and accommodations
  • Good times of the year to go somewhere tropical
  • Places that are good for couples, families, or singles
  • Good places for budget travel

Using semantic SEO could take that original boring list content that only ranks for one term and turns it into something that ranks for multiple searcher intents.

Want proof? Look at what related keyword suggestions show up upon searching that original phrase:

http://screen.ac/a59eeeadeb25

One piece of content per keyword not enough and one keyword per piece of content will not get you or content seekers anywhere. Not on Google’s first page, and not to any tropical island.

#12 Ideas don’t have to be original, but your interpretation should be

As Jimmy Daly says, “Do it better or do it differently.

What makes a piece of content great is making it hard for others to replicate. But doing that is really freaking hard.

In such a content-saturated world, it’s hard to be original or find a new angle for a blog that is different than what someone else has already done. It’s a hard balance between being unique and creating something that matches searcher intent.

One way to find the best angle for your content is to start with the obvious and make a list of truisms.

What is a truism?

A truism is a statement that is obviously true and says nothing new or interesting.

Basically, make a list of everything that’s obvious about a topic. Everything that a bunch of other people have already made content about.

And try to poke holes in all of them.

unique contentEnough said.

Instead of just trying to come up with something brand-new on the spot, start somewhere familiar and consider what other paths could be taken with them. The idea is to poke holes in each of the truisms and find the gaps that your content could fill with a new angle.

Whatever points stick out to you the most are your new angles. Now interpret them in your brand’s own way.

#13 Silence is golden, not a red flag for bad content

There’s a lot of noise online these days.

Everywhere you look, something is being liked, shared, going viral, or inspiring a litany of comments.

And when your content isn’t a part of that noise, it might make you feel a little panicked.

But you don’t necessarily need to be, because attention doesn’t automatically equate to conversions.

There are blogs that rank less-than-ideally in terms of organic traffic but that convert measurably better than those who receive a lot more attention.

Look at this site example’s newsletter sign-up conversions from blogs:

blog trafficNotice anything?

You’ll notice that the site’s top blog post has a pretty decent conversion rate. But the number two blog post (measured by traffic) doesn’t.

In fact, the highest converting blog post is actually #12, and it doesn’t bring in nearly the amount of traffic as the others. Now, this could be an opportunity for you to optimize blogs to perform better in terms of traffic AND conversions, but less attention is not a reason to worry.

If your content is well-written and optimized for organic search, you don’t have to worry about the fact that it’s not getting tweeted. Likes and shares are fine, but they don’t have a great impact on whether your content is going to convert customers.

Be content with silence. Silence is golden.

#14 Focus less on an audience and more on solving problems

If there’s one thing you remember from this section, I want it to be this idea: pain-point SEO.

Remember that concept of searcher intent? I can’t stress the importance of it enough. A searcher’s intent will tell you everything you need to know about what your content needs to target (and usually, it’s not targeting a specific type of person).

Having an audience isn’t a bad thing. Robert Rose, of the Content Marketing Institute, argues that the value of content is building a “subscribed audience,” because just traffic isn’t equal to an audience.

But your target should aim deeper than just who they are, at what problems or questions their searches are targeting.

In other words, target their pain points.

target audienceIt’s not as mean (or painful) as it sounds.

They already know who they are, so your content doesn’t need to be tailored as much to that. What they don’t know is how to solve their problem. That’s what your content needs to do.

Helpful content will educate and help solve the problems that are behind a wider searcher intent (not just one target audience). There will be the same and new problems to help with every day.

“You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade…An advertisement is like a radar sweep, constantly hunting new prospects as they come into the market. Get a good radar, and keep it sweeping.” – David Ogilvy, “Confessions of an Advertising Man.”

#15 Don’t be a slave to a schedule. Editorial calendars are not the key to content success

I personally cannot stress this one enough. I’ve lived and learned and now I’m telling you: don’t become a slave to an editorial calendar.

Before I saw the light, I tried to create a content schedule that looked good and balanced organic SEO keyword needs with relevant topics.

So I created an editorial calendar with a goal of 3 new content pieces a week minimum.

content scheduleBahahaha yeah, right.

The editorial calendar ended up causing more problems for me. I was so hell-bent on sticking to my 3x per week schedule and stressed when I wasn’t able to that in lieu of other projects popping up that I felt the quality of my work beginning to slip (along with my sanity).

Long story short: I ditched the harsh scheduling in favor of focusing on the content, not the calendar.

Now don’t get me wrong, calendars are still great for organization. Just don’t treat publish dates like they are mandates from the marketing gods.

Commit to publishing great ideas, not publishing on a strict cadence.

#16 Don’t forget who you are really writing for (hint – it’s not your boss)

It’s really easy to try and fit the mold and do something the way someone else would, but that’s hardly ever going to serve you (or your content subscribers) well.

“Behind every piece of bad content is an executive who asked for it.” – Michael Brenner

As a journalist or TV broadcaster or a content specialist like myself, you might be putting pressure on yourself to create something that your boss or editor will like.

Yeah, you should hope that they like it, but that’s not the ultimate goal of your content. You aren’t creating this for one boss, you are creating it for an entire audience who will be reading it a LOT more than your boss will.

In fact, they probably aren’t even thinking about whether they will like it themselves. They are looking for what it does for the people who will actually be reading it.

So, worry less about what your boss thinks and remember to write for your readers first. And honestly, it’s probably something that you’ll have to consciously remind yourself of.

#17 Create a chain of great content with internal linking

What is an internal link?

Internal links are links that go from one page on a website to a different page on the same website.

Typically. these type of links are used for three reasons:

  • Website navigation
  • Establishing an information hierarchy
  • Spreading link equity (ranking power) around websites

And, it can also help visitors find a lot of your content.

Internal linking is extremely important to organic rankings. Google uses links to find out what content on your site is related and determine the value of that content (i.e. where it will end up in rankings).

The more internal linking you have, the higher Google can rank your domain. Internal links will also keep customers moving through your content with internal links to other content.

#18 Make your content interesting (and I’m not just talking about the copy)

Jimmy Daly said exactly what I would say about this, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. Here’s what he said.

Great content has texture. Words, rich media, subheads, and quotes are neatly arranged to keep readers moving through the piece.”

One way to do this is breaking up the side margin.

Have you noticed that throughout this post there have been subheads, centered images, single sentences, and bulleted or numbered lists?

That’s intentional, and not just because the copy flows well that way.

It’s because I know what would happen if you came to this blog and immediately saw endless blocks of text to scroll through. You didn’t sign up to read a textbook when you clicked this link, and I wouldn’t have blamed you for leaving a post that looked like one.

Which is why I didn’t do that. I did this instead:

blog formatting best practicesBreaking that margin with bullets.

Readers will judge your articles at a glance. Humans process information visually much faster than they can process text, which makes article structure and design critically important.

There are no perfect content marketing formulas that will guarantee success every time, but having these 18 helpful tips in your back pocket will steer your content towards high engagement.

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