Return of the Content Marketing Know-It-All

Image of the chemistry cat meme

Yes, it’s back again! The Content Marketing Know-It-All is here to answer your questions.

This time, we’ve taken a few questions from recent comments here on the blog, a few from the comments on the earlier post, and one from the forums inside Authority, our brand-new education and networking community for content professionals.

As always, all answers reflect my own biases, strong opinions, personal pet peeves, and individual business experience.

Since this is not paint-by-numbers, the answers for your business will always come from you. But these questions may point you in a useful direction.

We’ll kick off with a question from Amandah.

Is there a formula for going viral?

From the comments on our last Content Marketing Know-It-All post, Amandah Blackwell of Savvy Writer asks:

I’d like to know the Number One way to make your content go viral besides writing awesome content. Is it guest blogging? Is it commenting on blog posts? PPC marketing? Local networking? Social media? Other?

Sonia Simone:

There are a lot of elements that come together in a piece of content that goes genuinely viral. Awesome content is a big one, but it isn’t the only piece of the puzzle.

One of the most important is getting into a juicy, emotionally-driven conversation that’s already building up steam. For example, late last year I wrote a post about whether or not content marketers should give up on Facebook. Businesses were furious with Facebook and there was lots of heat being generated. And I was able to use that heat to create some good traffic for the post (and deliver a relevant business message while I was at it).

As always, you need to have a headline that’s going to capture reader attention. You need to have enough traffic to get some momentum, which is where PPC, guest posting, and social media can help. And for your content to serve a business purpose (and not just make fun of the latest train wreck) you’ll want to include some useful advice as well.

Maybe most important — a truly “viral” post may not do you as much good as a well-shared post that speaks directly to your prospects.

Thoughts on cornerstone content

Alexis of Troublesome Tots asked:

How do you maximize the value of your cornerstone content in terms of engaging new readers, subscribers, etc? Or do you simply treat it like any page on your site with the standard sidebar signup form, comments, etc.

Sonia Simone:

The great thing about a flexible publishing system like WordPress is that you can tailor every page or post to serve a specific purpose.

We’ve had cornerstone landing pages that led to product information or to calls to action to subscribe to the blog. These days, we’re using all of our cornerstone pages to build participation in MyCopyblogger, where we can give new readers the highest quality experience (for free). It takes everything we’ve published over the past seven years and distills it in a more reader-friendly format.

So your answer today doesn’t need to be your answer forever. For many of us, the best use of cornerstone content is to build your email list, at least in the beginning. But as your business evolves, stay open to creative new ways to use these valuable pages.

Email newsletter or blog?

Yesterday, Chase of Chase Canyon Copywriting asked,

I’ve asked this question to a number of marketers and gotten a variety of answers: Which is better, e-newsletter, blog or both? With the combos of linking blog posts in emails and whatnot, the purpose of each gets a little muddled. What do you think?

Sonia Simone:

Email marketing and a blog serve different purposes, and a smart content marketing program will usually include both.

A blog serves to attract the attention of new prospects, as well as building your reputation in your topic. A blog is a place to be publicly seen — to show your expertise and your passion for your subject. They’re ideal for meeting new people, and giving those people an easy way to find out more about you and what you do.

An email newsletter is about deepening the relationship. It’s about moving from the Attention phase of the marketing relationship and on through Interest, Desire for the product, and Action — a purchase.

Without getting the attention of potential customers, you have no marketing program. But if you never do anything with that attention, you have no business. They work together.

Should we write headlines for humans or search engine bots?

On May 21, Eddy at the Ignite Spot blog asked,

I try to write for my audience instead of SEO, but I want to be found as well so I use Scribe and Yoast’s SEO tools to help me out. Yoast tells me to put my keyword in the blog title, which often kills the pow. How necessary is it to have the keyword in the title? What do you guys do?

Sonia Simone:

If your keyword phrase is killing your headline, think carefully about why. Your keyword phrases are the expressions people are using to find what they want on the web, so they shouldn’t be “unnatural.” Sometimes when it’s hard to get your keywords in the headline, it’s because you’re being “clever” instead of straightforward.

Other times, though, it just doesn’t quite work. If that’s the case, put them in the title tag, not the headline, as part of a clear, reader-friendly title. (They should be in the title tag either way.)

We have lots of headline advice for you in our Copywriting 101 ebook, and it’s free. :)

Duplicate content for your cornerstone?

Recently in our member forums, Jordan from Authority asked us:

When creating Cornerstone Content, is duplicate content bad? On my site, we create a lot of educational content, both in the form of permanent guides on the site and as blog posts. As explained in this post, it is important to turn key blog posts or series into cornerstone content, and I completely agree. Can it hurt your SEO, however, if you are duplicating the content from your blog to a permanent page? Is it better to have original content on both, possibly a brief synopsis on the blog that links to a longer article on your site?

Sonia Simone:

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to explain a bit of the tactics behind the cornerstone page strategy.

There are a number of ways you can handle these pages. One of the simplest is to corral some of your most valuable posts onto a single page, with links (and interesting descriptions) back to the original posts on your blog. You’ll often also want to include a few introductory words about why this topic matters to your readers. This lets new readers easily find the material you’re most proud of.

In this case, there’s no duplicate content penalty because the cornerstone page has links and descriptions, not duplicated articles.

If you do want to aggregate your “best of” posts together, you can handle that nicely by turning them into valuable ebooks, which we’ve done with MyCopyblogger. That allowed us to edit and update the material and make it available in an easier-to-read format.

By the way, if for any reason you do find it useful to publish information in two places on your site, that’s not a problem. You can use a “canonical” tag to let Google know which page you’re considering the primary one, and which are simply quotes of the original.

Over to you …

Got a question for the next edition of Content Marketing Know-It-All? Leave it in the comments, and you just may get chosen for the next round.

Editor’s Note: Yes, I know this is a complete bastardization of the Chemistry Cat meme. Forget it, Jake, it’s the Internet.

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Reader Comments (39)

  1. says

    When it comes to “going viral” I think it’s important to stress that viral is relative to your usual success. Very few of us will ever crack the top ten YouTube video list. But if your content normally gets 50 readers and one post got 300 I’d consider that a viral success! Usually see 12 Facebook shares and this time there happened to be 45? That’s pretty viral!

    • says

      I agree. Viral is a relative term. I’d give up on it It’s unrealistic to think a tweet or whatever is going to get 100,000 hits if you’ve got a following of hundreds or a few thousand. I didn’t even post my most viral tweet. A journalist I’d picked on in a blog tweeted to a friend of his after he got a ping from my blog. She replied, others joined in and pretty soon my blog traffic soared – temporarily.

      • says

        It can happen, if what you create gets picked up by someone with a big enough audience.

        The thing to remember is, one viral piece won’t transform your business or your life. It’s a nice chunk of traffic, but it’s one event and the traffic spike tends to subside fairly quickly.

    • says

      I think you can only go viral with social media….. Because organic traffic always come slow and steady but social media traffic gives a peak of traffic to your blog which soon dies…..

      But we can never ignore the importance of social media as well… Once you start getting viral… That means you are going to get to a big big hit…:)

  2. says

    What a great post :) Good questions by these people. To help you out let me answer a few.

    The 1st one: Is there a formula for going viral?

    Find one strategy (which ever) and master it then you’ll be able to make anything go viral because you have the formula and you mastered it.

    It’s not worth it to tell you Guest Blogging is the best way because it might work well for me but not for everyone.

    The 3rd one: Email newsletter or blog?

    I would say use both, I don’t see no reason for not using both of them. I get my leads via my blog content, yes I do buy Ads but haven’t done it in a while.

    If I get a subscription from my blog I know it’s highly targeted because no one convinced them to do it. They read the post and go “damn I want more” then I give them more.

    The point is, blogs are powerful & the leads it brings are really interested people who can easily become customers.

    A really great post Sonia, hope the people who asked the questions find it helpful like I did :)


  3. says

    Great questions. And great answers Sonia: always pushing things a step further, digging a bit deeper, finding a new angle.

    My question relates to optin lists, and specifically how to think about the most general of lists – the sign up for blog updates list.

    My site has an optin form on every post encouraging people to sign up. But as I cover different subjects on the site (it’s an AgentPress site focused on a particular location, but addresses a wide range of topics), the result is not a particularly targeted list. I don’t have an automatic broadcast set up for this reason and I find my self second guessing what to send to these subscribers, and don’t feel my choices satisfy all of them all of the time.

    Mentally I think I’m more comfortable with having several targeted, smaller lists where I offer and deliver tighter information. So I find myself planning the demise of this general list. Of course every business is different, but I’d love a gut check on this.

  4. says

    For organic traffic purposes your keyword should always be applied to an article headline, if at all possible.

    Blogs are structured in H tags and a post title is H1 in most cases. So, mentioning your keyword there gives the search engines a pretty good idea – along with your page title and URL – what the post is about.


  5. says

    Great post, Sonia! Glad to see you trumpeting email marketing and building your email list early. This is something my team and I DIDN’T do, and it’s now become one of our core focuses, even as much as our first product development. Also – loved the process of “deepening the relationship”: interested > desire for a product > taking action (purchase). I’m going to share this with my team – what a great framework to filter our decisions through. Thanks!

    • says

      For my copywriting business (before I joined Copyblogger) I had an autoresponder with Aweber in place before I finalized my site. It served me in great stead when I got an early link from Seth Godin and got a viral-level traffic spike, because it allowed me to capture all of the traffic that was interested in what I had to say. Many of those folks are still on that list years later.

  6. says

    In your opinion, is there any SEO benefit to including a podcast transcript on the same page your episode is playing on? Or is it just too many extra words for search engines to handle properly?

    • says

      There’s definitely an SEO benefit, but you also have to weigh that against a good reader experience. I’d include a 100-word summary of the podcast with some important key features (maybe in a bulleted list) below your replay, and link to the transcript on a separate page. Good for readers, good for search engines.

  7. says

    This is a new idea to me so let me know if I’m getting it. I have a series of 23 Timeless Gardening Tips which are blog posts. They are published once each week and will be all out by August 9. So once they are all done, I could have a cornerstone page listing all the posts with a link to them?

    How do people find that cornerstone page? Do you put a tab in the menu bar for cornerstone content and then list those various pages? Or even have a page listing all your conerstone pages that go to cornerstone pages with the links to your original posts?

  8. says

    Hi Sonia,

    Thank you for featuring my comment!

    I’m on the right track because I guest blog, use social media, and dabble in PPC marketing (have to work on headlines and perform another A/B split test) to boost my online presence. I want to provide readers with useful information that has a positive impact on their businesses/personal lives.

    Question for the next Content Marketing Know-It-All

    How does web design relate to great content? Does the design of your website and content) impact whether or not your content is shared and commented on?

    Thank you.

  9. says

    Its a well written post by Sonia Simone and its true saying that never copy and paste the content i.e. duplication of content. Be very genuine in it. Originality pays

  10. says

    Excellent post! I especially like your suggestion to combine blog and newsletter. It’s important to know how to change your writing according to the channel, you use, and also to use a variety of channels to support your communication needs. Blogs are great for getting fans, newsletters are great for turning fans into customers.

  11. says

    I feel I should have something thoughtful or profound to share but really all I have is:

    “Holy Sh*t I just got mentioned on Copyblogger!!!”

  12. says

    I read something somewhere a couple days ago about blogging the news. You always have a fresh set of material that is relevant and interesting to a wide audience.

    I think this is where a lot of bloggers misstep. Too many blog on what interests them instead of what is interesting to the masses at the time. Getting relevant material out when it is being sought after is the key. This is how it goes viral.

  13. says

    A great post overall, but my favorite point was that how you use your cornerstone content, and the goals behind it, can change over time. It’s easy to get caught up in our “future plans” and forget that we need to make our websites work for us today, too. :)

  14. says

    What do you think about trading ebooks for email addresses? Personally, I dislike it when a company asks for my phone number or email as “informational” then uses it to market to me later. I’ve promised my readers I’d never ask for their email addresses in exchange for anything disguised as free.

    • says

      That’s a big part of what content marketing is, Dan. Giving something of value in exchange for the ability to contact people over time.

      You should read Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing if you haven’t. Puts things in the proper perspective about how online marketing works.

  15. says

    Sonia, I like your answer about how to market cornerstone content. The idea of getting all your great pages and delivering them to new readers is a super way to re-purpose your best content. And the idea of using it as a landing page to gain extra subscribers is one killer technique.

    I have no questions at the moment Sonia, just ideas. I learnt a lot, Great Post :)

  16. says

    This is a great idea! You’ve answered many of the questions I’ve had for a long time!

    I have another question for the next Content Marketing Know-It-All –

    How can you write content that makes a reader want to comment? A closing sentence along the lines of “If you have other ideas about […], please let us know through the comments below” seems lame. Also, would you do this differently on your own site where you have some sort of a rapport with the reader vs. on a guest post where you are introducing yourself to the audience for the first time?

  17. says

    Hi Sonia,

    I really like your response to the human vs seo headline question.

    Its a fine balance that you need to maintain. I usually write headlines in 2 steps. First from a human perspective and then a natural tweaking for SEO requirements. But you need to look natural


  18. says

    I’ve been thinking about content that goes viral a lot too.

    An emotionally charged story….I think that’s important, but even more than that, I think the content needs to have an “unexpected” factor to it…

    There’s something about it that must make us curious…but then a truly viral piece of content with defy your expectations in some way. Examples:

    A shocking unexpected twist to the story…
    A sensational, “WOW! I never thunk or seen that before” angle…
    Scandal! Like the mayor of Toronto seen smoking crack on tape!
    Bizarre! Like the Nyah Nyah cat video…

    These are just a few…

  19. says

    Great article. I think that placing your keyword phrase in the header actually makes it a lot more relevant for users. If some one is looking for a blue widget and the header contains this same thing that he was looking for–he is much more likely to click! So your are both more likely to get found and more likely to get clicks.

  20. Archan Mehta says

    Great post. Enjoyed reading it, but I’m still a newbie and trying to figure out how all this works. Don’t know much about computers, so a lot of the material is like a bouncer from Michael Holding: went over my head, but thank you.

  21. says

    The best way to solve “Duplicate Content Issues (internal)” while serving “Cornerstone Content” which resembles few of your previously published blog posts is by –

    Making the Cornerstone Content ‘noindex.’ In this way you are pleasing both your audience as well as the search engines.

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