Is Your Content Marketing Helpful?

Content marketing, the practice of creating content to stimulate interest in your brand, needs to serve a purpose for the reader. Google has even told us that your content should be helpful!

That may seem obvious to some, but then why is there so much crap content out there? Yeah, I said it!

We’re spewing out more content every hour of every day than at any point in history. The amount of audio, video and written content being created is overwhelming.

Instead of creating more noise, your content should serve a specific purpose for your target audience. And it’s more important than ever with Google’s “Helpful Content” update announced on August 18, 2022.

Here is the helpful content checklist from the Google Central Search Blog. If you answer yes to all of these, you are in good shape. If you answered no, it’s time to rethink your content marketing strategy…

  1. Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
  2. Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
  3. Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  4. After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  5. Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?

When in doubt, ask your readers, i.e. target audience…

Questions That Inform Your Content Calendar

The best way to ensure your content is helpful is to answer customer questions. Asking questions is how some of the best ideas come to life.

Your content should answer questions for your target audience. What are these questions?

  1. What problems will my target audience face today and tomorrow?
  2. How can my company help my audience overcome these problems?
  3. What makes our company different in a way that matters to them?

Content that answers a question in a helpful, unique, and informative way is rarely boring. Why? Because the reader is coming to you with a need. Your content is filling that need, e.g. they will be engaged, almost out of necessity.

Problem Solving Content

Anyone can tell you to create problem-solving content. And anyone can write problem-solving content. That’s what this post is. But so would a post on how to effectively pick your nose.

Sure, who wouldn’t want a better way to pick… lots of people. What’s my point? Just because you write it and it solves a problem, doesn’t mean it’s the problem your target audience needs to solve.

What Problem Am I Trying to Solve with This Blog Post?

Back to this post, who is my audience, and what problem am I trying to solve?

  1. Target Audience: My audience is marketing professionals who manage internal and external marketing teams. They sometimes need to create content themselves or they rely on a digital marketing firm or freelancer to come up with topics and write that content. These are usually marketing directors in a small company ranging in size from 20 employees to 50 or more. And their annual revenue is in the ballpark of 5-50 million.
  2. Problem to Solve: Their problem is that they rely on good content to engage their social media audience, to give their site SEO value, to show a prospect that they know their stuff, to also show that prospect that they want to help, and to support the salespeople with content targeting various parts of the sales funnel. The content is a need but they struggle with what to write about.

So, as you can see, I’ve given this some thought. I didn’t just pick this topic out of thin air. I literally just spoke to a handful of clients in the past week or so who were struggling to come up with content ideas.

Clients, Prospects, Salespeople, and Customer Service, Oh My

Talk to your clients. Talk to your prospects. Ask them what they’re worried about, they want to tell you and they need you to help them with it.

Also, talk to your salespeople and find out what prospects are telling them. I have it easy because I do sales and create content. So, I have a built-in content idea resource in that I am talking to prospects and clients every day.

If you are not closely aligned with the sales team, you will struggle with creating this kind of content. Make sure to have regular conversations with sales to see what concerns and problems your target audience has.

And talk to your customer service people. I talk with our PM and support staff here on a regular basis. These are the people whose sole responsibility is to make sure that our team delivers quality and results for our clients.

The ideas I get from talking to them are priceless.

Become Their Hero with Your Content

Once you get to know what their problems are, write content that helps them solve those problems. I like to call this Utility Content. This is content that serves a specific purpose. It could be one of these…

  1. How-to blog posts with clear and easy-to-follow instructions
  2. Infographics that break down research or processes in an easy-to-understand way
  3. White papers and eBooks that offer solutions in greater detail and can be downloaded for easy reference
  4. Video and podcast interviews with experts who offer useful advice, like, say, the Wellspring Digital Chat Series
  5. How-to videos that give easy-to-follow instructions and are posted to YouTube, your blog, and social media
  6. Webinars and masterclasses that educate in a problem-solving way

You get the idea. Think about some of the content that has helped you out of a jam. What did it look like? What about it made it memorable? Would you go back to it for a refresher? Have you referenced a piece of content more than once? Why?

Evergreen content, the content that holds SEO and user value over time, is quite often utility content. Not all content has to be evergreen, but all content marketing efforts should feature some evergreen content.

And revisit old content to make sure the advice or directions in it are still valid.

For any of this content to really work well, the audience must feel like they know you and can trust you. Now, this is normally when I go down the Google E-A-T rabbit hole but we got posts here for that.

Instead, I will just ask you “what makes your company unique?”

How Is Your Company Different in a Way that Matters to Your Audience?

Wow, that’s a really long heading. Sorry about that. Anyway, there was a movie in 2006 with Owen Wilson that was pretty goofy, except for one part.

He has this whole thing about your “ness,” specifically in this scene he is talking about his friend’s “Carl’ness.”

Why am I showing you a cheesy clip from a cheesy movie? Because I want you to find your company’s “ness.” What makes your company unique.

I’m not talking about all the stupid boilerplate crap that every company spews forth. I’m talking about core values and company culture.

For example, there are two things that set Wellspring Digital apart from our typical competitors…

  1. Our Core ValuesIntegrity, Transparency, and Results. Everything we do runs through this filter.
  2. Our Experience – The core group of professionals at Wellspring Digital has 20+ years of experience. We’ve been doing this digital marketing stuff since the 90s!

But here’s the thing. I can tell you that until I’m blue in the face and it probably will not mean a huge deal to you. We need to show you this.

Are you picking up what I’m laying down here? It’s time to get human. Show your vulnerabilities, own your mistakes, and create content that means something to your target audience.

Don’t just create content that solves a problem. Do it using your “ness.” Your content should be uniquely yours. And it should relate to the reader that you truly care about their problems.

This might take some work. This exercise on establishing your core values might help. If you already have them established, make sure they mean something to your target audience. And make sure that all content you create is done with those core values in mind.

Don’t overthink content marketing. Instead, think about it through the eyes of your target audience. I’m talking about empathy. Don’t believe me? Well, maybe you’ll believe Ann Handley, Scott Monty, and Jay Baer!

Do you need some help with your content marketing? Let us know!

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Jon-Mikel Bailey Avatar