Are you guilty of producing and publishing content just for that purpose?

You may once have been told that a surefire way to increase your presence on the SERPs is to regularly publish 500 word blog posts on the grounds that "Google loves fresh content".

On the flip side, you may have always produced as much content as possible, ticked a box against a requirement from above, and focused more on the number of pieces published than the quality.

If this sounds like the scope of your "content strategy," you need to take immediate action.

Stop it now!

Why?

Because at best you are wasting your time.

There's a good chance that producing content without a clear goal means very little to your brand.

There is also every possibility that much of it could be classified as thin content with no clear value.

The good news?

It's easy to change old habits.

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You just need to understand how to give a purpose to any content you create.

The purpose of the content

Ask yourself a question:

"Why do you produce content as a brand?"

Seriously. Write down your answer (s).

What did you come up with

Hopefully you have a list of different uses.

Some common answers are:

  • So that our blog stays active.
  • Google likes to see content regularly.
  • Our director wants five blog posts to be published everyone Week.

If these are the types of answers you would give, produce content only to get it done.

There is no real purpose behind the content you produce, and there are clearly no goals.

This is a massive mistake. This can lead to a significant waste of resources.

Every single piece of content you produce has to have a purpose.

Your content should work towards one or more broader marketing goals.

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You should be able to justify to everyone why you made the decision to write this blog post or to design this infographic.

What then can the purpose of a piece of content be?

4 Simple content purposes

Typically (and there are always exceptions) content is created for one of the following reasons:

  • Earn links.
  • Rank on the SERPs.
  • Educate an audience.
  • Promote social engagement.

It's about understanding what certain content can do for your brand.

  • How can it work hard towards broader marketing goals?
  • Is it good enough to actually achieve one of these?
  • Does a certain format have to be used for this?

Here's a closer look at these four content purposes.

1. To earn links

Perhaps you are using content marketing as a link building tactic to create story-first content that is then covered and linked to high-ranking publications.

This is likely to be produced in a way that is accessible to journalists:

  • Data-driven infographics.
  • Interactive tools.
  • Survey results.

Think of "Linkable Assets" and you are somewhere in the right direction.

However, this is certainly not exclusive.

Common types of content created with the intent to earn links include:

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No content format deserves links, and that's fine.

You are not expected to stick to any type of content, but rather understand during the strategy and planning phase of a campaign that links are the target.

As a rule, these are not guides with 10,000 words, but something linkable that gives a topic a fresh, data-driven value.

With this in mind, we know that links are one of the most important ranking signals from Google.

Without great links, you will struggle to gain visibility.

Hence, regardless of whether it competes as a brick and mortar store locally or is an e-commerce giant, every brand needs to produce content in order to get links.

Content that deserves links has to be amazing.

Not all good.

Not good.

Amazing.

Link building is becoming more and more difficult. However, with the right ideas and an understanding of the goals, both brainstorming and production can be aligned to provide content that is intended solely for that purpose.

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2nd rank on the SERPs

If you want to get traffic from organic search, you have to be at the top.

As simple as that.

Long gone are the days when you could maneuver with garbage contents. Panda put an end to that.

If the purpose of the content you produce is to evaluate and earn organic traffic, chances are you're going to be creating something very different than looking for links.

That is also absolutely fine. It's about realizing the purpose of the content and aligning the format and production with the goals.

Let's look at an example.

When you've done keyword research and determined that there is the potential to get high quality traffic by ranking top for the term "Free Things to Do in San Francisco" (let's say, for a moment, you're marketing a travel brand).

If the purpose of the content is to rank it, it has to be the best piece on the subject.

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By following this principle, you will be miles ahead of many competitors, but this is one of the areas that marketers often fail in.

Do you remember our discussion above about writing 500 word blog posts that add no value to a topic?

Listen…

If you want to rank in prominent organic positions in your "San Francisco free things to do" search, unless you are able to create that, you're going to be in trouble very best guide on the Internet.

Think about it.

Google, Bing, and the other search engines want to return the best and most relevant results for a query.

Why should they rate content that is not up to date?

It's easy. You won't do it.

We come back to the fact that it is easy to waste time and resources creating content if you are not properly aligned with goals and understand the purpose behind them.

To create the best content, you need to understand what makes one piece better than another. This is why it is so important to spend time analyzing the SERPs for terms before starting production.

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This can help you try to identify the similarities between the first page rankings and how to improve the rankings already placed above.

It is a common misconception that simply increasing the length can throw off a result from the top spots.

If only!

Creating the best result for a given search query goes way beyond that.

It is important that you consider search intent (what is the user doing? indeed reading and engaging with it), user experience and other factors.

Think about it like this:

When there are 100 free things to do in San Fran, who really wants to read through a bulleted list? This is by no means the best format for a # 1 ranking.

What better suits the searcher's request and intent is a filterable guide that lets you sort by the type of task – for families, couples, solo travelers, etc. – with specific location information, contact details, pictures and reviews, and a summary.

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See the difference

If the purpose of your content is to rank you, then instead of falling into the trap of making blog posts with below average 500 words, you need to focus on what will result in it.

3. Educate an audience

Content is usually created as marketing material.

That said, there will always be content that is meant to educate an audience – with the aim of getting potential customers and customers through the sales funnel.

In many cases, there is a lot of overlap between content created with the aim of ranking and the content that provides education. However, there are also cases where these are carried out in a silo.

For example, an e-book or white paper that normally does not stand on its own under competitive conditions, but has a certain place in the overall marketing strategy.

Take the time to understand the questions your audience is asking and do a detailed analysis of the content gap versus competitors.

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It's about ensuring that:

  • When a prospect is looking for information about the products or services you offer, you've created content that answers their questions – and ranked it.
  • Once that user lands on your website, there is more content to guide them through the sales funnel.

Bottom line: Such content can take many different forms.

Content doesn't necessarily have to be created solely for ranking or collecting links, as long as you have the justification for how it plays a part in the larger strategy.

4. Promote social engagement

You can't ignore social media.

For many brands, it is a powerful platform to increase brand awareness and engagement.

However, from a content perspective, all you need to do is produce content to drive social engagement to achieve real success. This again shows how content needs to be created with a specific goal, not just to achieve that goal.

We are all aware that videos work well on social platforms, as do pictures, quizzes, and other fun, interactive formats.

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When this is the case, brands need to focus on creating something.

A 5,000 word guide written with the aim of ranking in the SERPs is likely to be posted on social media.

It's just not what the social audience wants to consume (unless it has something very special in it that can generate shares, likes, and buzz).

However, a quiz or competition can only be conducted on a social level.

However, if you're producing content with a purpose, that's perfectly fine. As long as it achieves its own goal, no problems.

Definitely understand the value of the social (you'd be crazy not to do it).

However, do not try to use content for any other purpose if it seems difficult.

Focus on getting great results from the main goal and create a different type of content to achieve different goals.

Not all content meets all criteria

There is often a tendency to balance a single piece of content with multiple goals and try to produce something that deserves links, tops the SERPs on high volume terms, educates audiences, and encourages strong social media engagement.

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Sorry, this is unlikely.

Just as it is a mistake not to have a strategy and produce content for that purpose, it is also not advisable to tick too many boxes in a single piece.

Think about it.

Content requires a significant investment in both time and often financial resources if done correctly.

As a brand, it is important that it is part of the broader marketing strategy – be it to raise awareness, promote direct sales, or contribute to another channel (e.g. SEO).

If you make the mistake of specifying multiple purposes for one piece of content, you will end up making sacrifices somewhere.

You may need to get more verbose to rank up if you want to keep it simple and visual for social sharing.

Maybe you really needed to earn links, but you also opt for long form to rank …

It's going to be messy, isn't it?

This approach results in content that underperforms and that is really a waste of time and resources.

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You are far better off focusing on a single purpose for content and carrying it out to the best of your ability.

Sometimes there is a crossover between different purposes. However, always look for a single reason why you are producing each piece of content.

Nobody expects a single piece of content to achieve everything for a brand. Because of this, you need to focus on achieving goals and KPIs related to the main purpose. Everything else is a bonus.

Take the time to train your wider team and make sure everyone is on the same page. Understand the goal of each piece of content to drive success and make sure that no resources are wasted on content that in reality nothing is being done for a brand.

Selected image source: Paulo Bobita

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