For more than a decade, content marketing has been a favorite marketing strategy for businesses of all sizes in nearly all industries. It’s straightforward, it’s cost-efficient and it has the potential to scale almost indefinitely, so its popularity is neither a surprise nor a secret.
Entrepreneurs and marketers are often eager to begin a content marketing strategy, especially because it often takes years to see the full fruits of your labor. But there’s a problem.
Content marketing’s popularity has turned into its greatest weakness — or rather, its most challenging aspect. When you enter the content marketing field for the first time, you’ll be directly competing with brands that have spent years, or even decades, cultivating their reputation, dominating the search engine results pages (SERPs) and cementing their authority and thought leadership.
Even if there isn’t such a juggernaut established in your industry, you’ll have to contend with sheer numbers. There are an estimated 600 million blogs currently running, with more than 1.7 billion websites in existence.
How are you supposed to increase your visibility and reach in such an environment?
You can generally find success in one of three different routes:
Of course, to be successful in any of these approaches, you’ll need to adhere to a handful of important principles as well.
For starters, you need to understand that quality always trumps quantity in the content marketing space. If you’re going the “brute force” way, you can’t beat your top competitors simply by writing more. If they produce three good posts each week and you produce five mediocre posts each week, they’re still going to see better results, all other factors being equal.
If you’re going the “differentiation” route and targeting a different audience, you still might not generate the momentum you need unless you’re giving people content they truly love.
The best approach here is to invest as much as possible into the work you produce. Depending on your access to resources, that could mean hiring better content writers, spending more time researching your chosen topics or enlisting the help of photographers, illustrators and videographers to flesh out your work with multimedia content.
It’s also important to provide your best work with ongoing support. You might have the best-written whitepaper on the web for a given topic — but it won’t mean anything if people don’t know it exists.
Your first line of promotion is social media. Build out your social media profiles, and share your best work when you publish it. As you gain more followers, this action will become more and more valuable to you. Additionally, you can re-share your post again in the future, circulating it periodically to generate new attention for it.
Beyond that, one of your best options is link building. With link building, you’ll establish inbound links pointing to your best work. This will simultaneously generate referral traffic, guiding people to your site directly and boost your domain and page-level authority so you can rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This is a tricky strategy to try on your own, because “bad” or spammy links can get you penalized in Google, but with the help of experienced professionals, you’ll stand a much better chance of getting the results you want.
Paid advertising is also an option, especially if you’re looking for reliable, immediate results. Pay per click (PPC) advertising is available on a wide variety of modern platforms and is reasonably cost effective.
Even with the strategic approaches outlined in this brief guide, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter issues when trying to compete with an established competitor in your chosen content marketing space. That’s why one of your best assets is going to be your adaptability.
It’s important to experiment, try new tactics, measure your results and alter your approach to favor your most successful efforts. As long as you’re willing to continue evolving and changing, you’ll have a chance to see the results you want.
Originally appeared in Entrepreneur