How many kinds of content exist on the internet? Content types can be sliced and diced in myriad ways. For example: Owned, earned, and paid content. Another way to segment content is into evergreen content (stays fresh) and short term content (news, statistics, etc.). Some content is more effective than others. We'll outline some of the most popular content types here.
There are a lot of facets to a successful digital marketing campaign (think social media, email outreach, backlinking, and collaborative partnerships), but perhaps none so varied and effective as that of content creation and sharing. It seems like there are whole new ways to use content being created on a weekly basis. Good content has the power to travel widely, bringing eyes to your site and awareness to your brand. But choosing the right types is key.
Building great content doesn't necessarily mean they'll come
Year after year, the leaders in content marketing experience 7.8x higher growth in site traffic than those whose campaigns are less effective. Successful influencers know what content connects with people and inspires them to share and engage, and they pay attention to what other content marketers are doing and succeeding at. Most importantly, they put time, money, and effort into creating the types of content that work best for them. But just because you put a ton of time and energy into building great content doesn't mean they'll come, but marketers need to start there anyway - right?
Wait... No, That's Not Right
Actually, marketers should not start with content. They should start with thoroughly understanding their audience. The audience is the first priority. Only once a marketer or content creator understands the user's problem they are trying to solve should they pick up their quill pen and get to work.
Content should be designed to intersect with users at various points in their decision cycle (sales funnel). But to know where to interact, we must know who we are interacting with first.
Making Content an Important Second Priority
Most companies use content as part of their digital marketing strategies, spending more than 25% of their budget on developing and sharing original content. Due to the relatively organic nature of how content is consumed online, content marketing tends to cost organizations less than traditional marketing, while being markedly more efficient.
The best content is designed to appear seemingly by magic at exactly the time the prospect needs it
Good content (that is, content that is original, creative, and well done) keeps readers attuned to your brand, building awareness and encouraging interactions and sales. The best content is designed to appear seemingly by magic at the time the prospect needs it. It’s a way for consumers to learn about and engage with brands on their schedule rather than the company's. Consumers feel connections with brands in some of the ways they feel them with other people; the more you can reinforce your value, authority, and likeability, the better you can nurture and strengthen that important relationship. Great marketers do that by creating content that is helpful and timely.
Great marketers create content that is helpful and timely
Types of Digital Content
There are over a hundred different types of proven effective content types, and surely many hundreds more that have yet to be created. Though this may seem overwhelming at face value, the varied nature of online content means that companies can target what makes the most sense for their brand and their audience. While it’s unlikely that any one organization could successfully utilize all the different types of content formats - Google does - many make use of an assortment of tactics.
When constructing and executing your content marketing plan, consider who your audience is and what your competitors are doing that’s successful, and constantly analyze how your content is performing so that you can do more of what works and stop wasting time on what isn’t working. Above all, focus on creating content that solves a problem. Often this means it is entertaining (and therefore shareable), educational (a boon to your brand’s authority), and conversional (may lead to a reader seeking out more information about you).
Here are 12 popular types of content for you to test out with your brand. While by no means an exhaustive list, this overview will help give you a good idea of where to start.
1. Videos. Video content is easily consumable, fulfilling what many people want out of the content they view—a momentary and entertaining distraction. Search engines love videos too, and consider them favorably when deciding your website’s overall ranking. And you don’t need to have your own Steven Spielberg on staff to create a video that connects with an audience. An effective video can be something as simple as an introduction to your employees, an unveiling of a cool new product, or an exposé on your office pet.
- The words you say are just as important as the images you portray. To make sure everybody gets the most out of your video, include captions for when someone is watching without sound.
- Host your videos on your website to gain favor with the search engines, but also host them on YouTube and Vimeo. The more places your video lives, the greater the chances of it getting seen.
- Try to keep your videos under three minutes. People have a short attention span, and you don’t want to lose them before you get your message across.
2. Infographics. Infographics are excellent marketing tools because they cut right to the chase. Information is conveyed concisely and in a graphically-pleasing way, leading to more readers and more shares. Infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than text-based articles, and require less work on your part. Simply select a topic, gather reputable facts on it, and put your designer to work on creating a graphic that works with the facts to tell a complete and accurate story. If you don’t have a designer on staff there are companies that will create an infographic for you, though a good one isn’t cheap.
- Think of broad topics that can be shared on a number of different types of sites. Infographics make excellent content for guest posts because they’re incredibly easy to publish and they’re usually sure to bring in traffic.
- Make sure to include your logo. Just because a graphic is getting widely shared doesn’t mean attribution is as well. If your brand’s name is right there, that’s all people will need to make the connection.
3. Listicles. Listicles get a bad name for being relatively unserious in nature (think, “7 Reasons Hermione Should Have Gone for Harry Instead of Ron”), but they accurately align with the way that people want to receive content. Someone may not have the time or inclination to read a narrative-style essay on running shoes, but they’ll probably skim through a list of “x” number of ways to choose the right running shoe, or “x” number of ways you know you’ve chosen the wrong running shoe. Listicles work because they’re easily digestible for even the shortest of attention spans.
- If you have too many items in your listicle, you’re defeating the purpose. Try to keep the number at ten or less.
- The text associated with each item should be short too—about a paragraph or less. Use the accompanying text to link out to more information on your site. That way, when the listicle gets shared, those links will be shared too.
4. Blog posts. Think of a blog like a diary for your company. It’s a place to share lighthearted, personal content that speaks to who you are and what you do, and like videos, provides an opportunity to easily connect with your audience and increase your likeability. Topics are limitless, and blog posts don’t have to be as formal as research driven articles. Use the space to share industry advice, introduce employees, and highlight the things that make your company special.
- Informal doesn’t mean sloppy. Even though your tone can be more colloquial, the piece should still be professional (meaning proper grammar and backing up your facts where necessary).
- Work images into your text copy. Not only do these get you more positive votes with the search engines, they make your post more engaging and personal.
5. Resource guides. Resource guides pack a double punch, because not only are they useful and on point for those who are looking for such information, but those who are included in the guide are likely to share it on their end. You can have standing guides that live in a designated section of your site, or you can create and publish a resource guide the same way you would a regular article. Keep the topic relevant to your industry so that people trust coming to you for resource recommendations.
- Eliminate the need for people to leave your site and go to the search box by always including links to each resource’s page within the guide.
- If it’s contextually appropriate, create a logo that each resource can display on their site and link back to yours. Something like “As Seen In X” can be an incredibly effective way to garner backlinks.
6. How-to guides. A how-to guide is a detailed, step-by-step breakdown of how to make or achieve something. Think about what you’re an expert at in your industry, and then compose a guide that conveys that authority to others. Many people will likely find the content by directly searching for relevant keywords, meaning they’re probably fine with sticking around for a little bit to read all the text.
- Require users to provide their email address and/or register with your site in order to access the guide. This way, you can use the how-to guide to improve your email marketing campaign.
- Don’t cut corners. A how-to guide is valuable only so far as it the information it provides is accurate and easily understandable for your desired audience. Take the time to make sure the writing is clear and the guide is well-formatted.
7. Q&As. In terms of content marketing, a Q&A isn’t an interview you do with someone else, but an opportunity for you to shine and connect with your audience. Websites like Reddit and Twitter give you the ability to open the floor to anyone who might want to ask you something, and help make a brand-to-person relationship feel more like a person-to-person relationship.
- Compose a written follow-up to the original Q&A that displays all the questions and answers, with perhaps more details put into your responses. By giving the Q&A a place to live online, you extend its usefulness as a brand awareness tool.
- Don’t get flustered if people ask you personal questions—they’re a way to learn more about you and humanize your brand. And if you do want to keep it business-only, make sure to state that up front.
8. Newsletters. Email newsletters are curated bits of content that go out to a designated group of people. They can work in tandem with other types of content, acting as a foundation for sharing articles, videos, images, etc., as well as a place for you to cultivate a direct audience. Create a template that works for you and simply swap in and out the specific content that you want to share in a given newsletter.
- Don’t just add email addresses to your distribution list without getting permission first. By requiring people to opt-in (instead of forcing them to opt-out of something they didn’t want in the first place) you reinforce your trustworthiness.
- Be wary of frequency. Just because somebody likes your brand doesn’t mean they want to be bombarded with newsletters. Try a few different frequencies to see what works out the best for your open rates.
9. Memes. Memes hit all the important points of shareable content—they’re creative, original, and incredibly quick to consume. You don’t even necessarily have to brainstorm your own—just putting your own spin on an already well-circulated meme can be a great boost to your brand’s awareness. You probably don’t need to post the meme on your site, but do share on social media, including meme-happy sites like Tumblr and Reddit.
- Don’t overreach just because you want to hop on an already viral meme template. If you can’t come up with text that’s relevant or interesting, it’s probably better not to post the meme in the first place.
- No designer, no problem. You can easily create customs memes for free on sites like Quick Meme and imgflip.
10. Reviews. This is another type of content that plays off of your inherent authority in a given industry. Provide written or video reviews on products, services, other websites, books, or any other topic that lends itself well to the format. If you’re recommending something, contact the company that produces it so they can share with their audience as well.
- Share what you don’t like in addition to what you do like. Readers aren’t just looking for recommendations; they’re looking for information on what to avoid, too.
- Be descriptive in your review. Don’t just say that something is awesome or a flop—explain what went into your decision.
11. Quizzes. Quizzes pull in lots of readers because they’re quick, personal, and entertaining. They can be scientific (“What’s Your Personality Type?”), humorous (“What Breed of Dog Are You?”), or even ridiculous (“What Your Breakfast Choices Say About Your Love Life”). Readers enjoy getting to fill in information about themselves, and everyone appreciates a quick distraction.
- Make the final results easily shareable. By providing a “Share this on Facebook” option on the results, you increase the chances that someone will do so, thereby getting more curious readers to click on the quiz.
- Don’t stray too far off brand. If you’re a construction company, people are probably going to be confused to see a quiz on there about where they should travel on their next vacation. A quiz about what style house they should build though would make a lot more sense.
12. Giveaways. Everybody loves free stuff. Giveaways are an enormously popular way to bring people to your site and collect their information. Create an entry form on a site like SurveyMonkey, and then share widely on social media and in newsletters. You can require people to “like” one or more of your social media pages, interact with you in social media in some way, or just enter their email address to enter. If you’re going to add the email addresses to your newsletter distribution list, be sure to say so in a clear way before people submit their entries, or ask them to opt-in on the entry form.
- Partner up with other companies. You’ll be able to make the prize bigger and there will be more brands sharing.
- Make sure it’s a prize people want. It doesn’t have to be an all expenses paid Caribbean vacation, but a two-pack of shoelaces probably isn’t going to get much interest.
Ultimately, you’ll figure out the types of content work best for boosting your brand awareness and website traffic by testing out various types and seeing what works and what doesn’t. If you find that a particular content format isn’t getting a lot of interest, play around with when you post or how frequently you post. A few tweaks here and there can help your content get seen by more people and increase its effectiveness.