There are a lot of content marketing rules out there.
These rules range anywhere from telling you how many words should be in a blog post, to the correct procedure for dealing with a marketing crisis.
And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with rules, there is something wrong with a business that is so rule-bound that they can only ever be average.
So here’s the thing with rules: Truly great businesses rarely follow them.
To be great, you have to take risks. And to take risks, you sometimes have to bend (or break) a rule or two.
Great businesses tend to view rules as more like guidelines. Sure, they can help steer a business in the right direction, but when the times calls for it, they’ll create their own course of action.
The following content marketing rules are ones that I see businesses adhere to time and time again, even when it’s clear that it’s not working for them. I see businesses cling to these rules like comfort blankets, telling themselves that as long as they stick by them, they will succeed.
But in fact, these rules might very well be hurting your business.
Here are 5 content marketing rules that you should definitely break.
1. SEO is Crucial to the Success of Your Business
What? I don’t have to focus on SEO anymore?? Is it really dead now???
SEO isn’t dead, and I highly doubt that it ever will be.
SEO is extremely important and I’m in no way suggesting that you don’t focus on creating content that is optimized for search engines because it’s absolutely ludicrous.
Imagine you own a brick and mortar clothing store. Of course you’ll organize the clothes and accessories so that they’re easily accessible for your customers, right? You won’t hang them extremely high, you will ensure that they’re organized and tidy and that your customers have a relaxing and enjoyable experience while shopping with you.
SEO is like organization for the internet, it’s just common sense and ensures that traffic is driven to your website. It’s simply about ensuring that your potential customers can find you easily.
But SEO should not be the sole purpose of creating content.
Just like organizing the layout of your clothes racks is not the sole method of your retail store succeeding.
SEO helps drive traffic to your website, and for that reason, you should ensure that you have a good understanding of what elements you can add to your content that will allow for people to find it when they’re searching for it.
However, the focus of creating should be on your reader first and foremost. What do they want to read? What are they searching for? What questions do they need answering? What problems do they have that you can help them with? Focus on answering these questions when creating your content should be in the forefront of your mind, and then you can work on the SEO bit.
In summary: Put your readers as #1, and Google as #2.
2. Be Active on Every Social Media Platform!
Social media is an essential way to increase your visibility online. You share content, people read it, they share the content, others read it and they share the content etc. For this reason, it’s really important to be active on the social media platforms that your customers are active on.
But not all platforms are relevant to your customer base.
Selling jewellery? LinkedIn isn’t for you, but Instagram is!
Selling SERP services? Yelp is a little irrelevant, but Twitter and Facebook is your place to shine!
Knowing what platforms to focus your attention on is extremely important. It focuses your time, energy and money on platforms that are more likely to show you a decent ROI.
In order to hone in on the right social media platforms for your business, it’s important to know and understand your buyer personas and where they hang out online. Some research online will help you figure this out relatively quickly.
A quick cheat to figuring out where your buyer personas are most active is to look at who the key influencers in your industry are and see where they are most active. You can find influencers using Buzzsumo‘s “influencer” search.
Key influencers are people who your buyer personas listen to closely for advice, recommendations and information. Where those influencers hang out, you’re likely to find your buyer personas too.
3. You Should Tweet Or Post A Certain Number Of Times Per Week
Every single time I read (or write) about this “rule” I almost want to add a disclaimer along with it.
Because how and what content you share, how often and when, is very much a case-on-case situation. Not every business is the same.
These types of rules, along with how long a blog post should be, whether you should include images, whether you should answer every comment on your blog, or thank people who retweet and favorite your content, are all there as guiding posts for people who aren’t sure where to even start.
There is no harm in utilizing these rules to give your content sharing, distribution and creating some semblance of structure and regularity, however, it’s not the end all and be all of content marketing.
Following these arbitrary rules won’t bring you success, just like not following them won’t bring you failure.
Your best bet is to follow these rules, measure their success, and tweak and play with the rules until you find out what works best for your particular business. But most importantly, don’t share for the sake of following someone else’s rules. Remember: Everything you do should be focused around adding value to your customer, so if it doesn’t, don’t post it.
4. Content, content and more content!
Even though there has been a shift away from quantity over the years, we’re still not out of the woods completely. Quantity has become less important as quality becomes more important, but both quality and quantity play a vital part in content marketing.
The general rule of thumb is: Creating a high quantity of content will get you more visibility online.
But the rule ignores the fact that content marketing is a slow and steady process, that can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to really start to flourish. Creating lots of content quickly won’t yield the rules you hope if you can’t keep up that pace.
Find a content creation schedule that you can consistently employ in the long run.
Remember: It’s the tortoise that wins the race in the end, not the hare. This race is all about stamina and follow-through, so be sure that you have a realistic schedule in mind.
If you can only blog once a week, then do it! But do it consistently.
Even if you’re competitors are blogging more than that, it won’t matter as long as you ensure that your blogs continue to add value to your prospective customers lives.
5. Develop a marketing plan and stick to it
In order to be successful at content marketing, developing a marketing plan is essential. It’s a fantastic way to keep you and your team on track with your goals, encourages growth and is a great way to track and measure results.
Even expert chess players always go into their games with a solid plan in place. But then the game inevitably starts, and maybe their opponent makes an unpredictable move, and their plans change.
To become a truly great chess player, one has to learn to adapt and change their plans so they can defeat their opponent.
Likewise, if your marketing plan isn’t working, change it.
The value of a marketing plan is that it helps you in analyzing where you are, who you are, who your customers are and what you think they want.
But people change, your business changes, customers change, what customers want changes, Google changes… Life is in constant flux. Not allowing for flexibility in a marketing plan is asking for failure.
The key is learning how to be nimble without being fickle.
Being fickle isn’t reactionary, it’s changing your mind on a whim and not in response to something specific. However, being nimble is making changes in response to a specific occurrence.
Rules don’t make the marketer, the marketer makes the rules.
When you learn to react to unexpected changes, to bend the rules to suit you rather than bend to suit the rules, when you learn that the customer is central, and everything else is obsolete, that’s when you’ll truly become a content marketing king.
Can you think of any other content marketing rules that you should definitely break? Please share!