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Content Rules

How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business

By: Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman

Reviewed By: Ramona Sukhraj

Content rules. No seriously, it does.

Having quality content and a comprehensive strategy that can serve multiple channels, is critical to success in the digital age -- and quite frankly, it rocks my socks.

Unfortunately, developing and executing such a strategy isn’t as simple as just writing a few blog posts and crafting a few Facebook posts.

Figuring out everything needed can be a daunting task for business owners who already have enough on their plate. Fortunately, content masters, Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman have you covered with Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business.

In this book, the duo has developed a content marketing framework that works for businesses of all sizes in all industries and you can rest assured, these content rules will makes sure, well, that your content rules

To truly succeed with content marketing, every business owner and marketer needs to have a firm understanding of what makes quality content and the process of publishing – whether that be blogs, videos, social media, videos, eBooks, or any other format.

No matter how much (or how little) experience you have to start with, after reading Content Rules, you’ll be able to plan, create, and publish content like a professional media company -- but on a fraction of the budget.

As marketers, we aren’t publishing content because it’s the latest trend; We’re doing it for the same reasons we do anything – to generate more business.

Handley and Chapman are in the same boat and rather than simply sharing a set of instructions, they help you understand why publishing content matters and how to do it most effectively. 

A Simple Game Plan for Creating Great Content

Before you start creating new content, you need to research who you’re going to be targeting with your content. After all, you can’t provide value to your potential customers if you don’t know what kind of content they find valuable.

Once you understand who you’ll be targeting, you can decide what the overall theme of your content will be – the message you want to send, the problems you want to solve, etc.

1.Organize Existing Content in a Spreadsheet

To begin, the authors suggest starting with a full inventory of your existing content if you have any. (It’s easier when you aren’t starting from scratch, but it’s no big deal if you haven’t created any content yet.)

Create a simple spreadsheet with the titles, URLs, and topics discussed. It’s also useful to make note of which content is driving traffic for your already.

Once you’ve got a clear picture of your existing content, you can keep the quality stuff and delete the content that doesn’t serve any value – you won’t be needing it anymore.

2.Create Your Publishing Schedule

Now that you’re a professional content publisher, you need to have an editorial calendar.

Here are IMPACT, we use HubSpot’s built-in Content Calendar, but yours doesn’t need to be anything complicated.

Handley and Chapman suggest thinking of your content frequency as 1-7-30-4.

  • 1 = Daily – Social media updates, comment responses, email replies, etc.
  • 7 = Weekly – Blog posts, email newsletters, website updates, videos, etc.
  • 30 = Monthly – Interview, podcasts, e-mail newsletter, guest posts, case studies, etc.
  • 4 = Quarterly – White paper, eBook, webinar, etc.

In this article, we outlined a simple way to create your first editorial calendar or you can also check out this free template from HubSpot

3.Work in Small Batches

You don’t need a full-scale campaign from the start, especially if you’re doing everything yourself. Handley and Chapman suggest starting with small chunks, gauging the reaction from your audiences, and then moving forward when you feel ready.

4. Maintain Variety

Variety is the spice of life, so try to switch up the type of content you publish by length, format, and subject matter. For example, in one week you might publish two blogs related to trending topics, an infographic, and one long evergreen post that serves as an “ultimate guide.”

5. Repurpose, Don’t Recycle

Repurposing content is a tactic that pays huge dividends. Consider taking a series of blog posts and formatting it into an eBook and quoted in social media posts. Instead of simply repeating the content, look for ways to update it and make it work for other platforms or audiences.

Treat Your Blog as Your Online Content Hub

All of the content you publish online should aim to bring prospects to your website and into your contact database. While you might publish content away from your blog, you always want your blog to remain the hub.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Unlike social media networks or YouTube, you have full ownership of your website.
  • You have more control over your website and how you can market to people than you do on external platforms.
  • You can collect significantly more data from users being on your website

In order to turn your blog into an effective marketing hub, you want to make it attractive and valuable to your ideal customers.

Below are some guidelines to help accomplish this:

6. Design Matters

Generally speaking, the quality of your content is most important, but design is also critical to delivering a great user experience. Your blog should have a design that reflects your brand, it should be easy to navigate, and it MUST be mobile-friendly.

Here are several must-have features suggested in Content Rules:

  • A CTA for your email list
  • A search box
  • Social sharing icons (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on)
  • An archive of past posts

Note: If you think your blog may be coming up short in these areas, check out our new blog optimization services. With them, you can get the exact same design that we have on our blog, but for a fraction of the cost of most redesigns.

7. Write How You Speak

You don’t need to be a great writer to be an effective blogger. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes people make is treating a blog post like a college essay.

While you do want to use proper grammar, for the most part, the way you write should be similar to the way you would actually communicate with your audience in person. This will most likely resonate best with your audience and most effectively showcase your personality.

Don’t try to use buzzwords, jargon, or technical terms just to impress readers. This will only come off as robotic.

In general, your tone should be clear and casual, but this will depend on your industry. As long as you are conveying your value in a professional, friendly way, you will connect with readers.

8. Don’t Overthink Things

Content marketing can get extremely technical, but it doesn’t have to be. Start small. By the time you’re ready to get technical, you’ll have a much better idea of what you’re doing or you’ll know what you needs to be done by someone you hire.

When you’re first getting started, just focus on providing value to your readers, optimizing around your keywords, and forming a genuine connection. If you follow the guidelines in Content Rules you’ll already be executing at a much higher level than the average business.