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The 10 Commandments of Content Marketing

The 10 Commandments of Content Marketing

In a dark cave called Google labs, 600 mathematicians with PhD’s who live on a diet of corporate provided designer food and who hang out in an office disguised as a playground flicked a switch.

They let the Hummingbird update to their search engine algorithms loose.

Their goal?

Make finding information with their search engine a great user experience for billions who use their search engine to find “content” that excites and salivates the senses.

Content is the lifeblood and cornerstone of the knowledge web that is driven by search and social networks. It doesn’t matter if you are are focused on social media marketing or search marketing, contagious content needs to be woven into your overall marketing strategy.

Content marketing evolves

Many became distracted by Facebook but savvy social media marketers had a light bulb moment while on a love fest with Mark Zuckerberg’s toy. They realized that they couldn’t just keep chasing Facebook likes in ever decreasing circles and realized that adding awesome content was need as a key tactic in their marketing arsenal.

This came together and started an online trend and tsunami of content creation and curation. Content marketing is now being woven into the DNA of digital marketers who understand the power of content to attract and sell. Let’s have a closer look at the key principles of content marketing.

Here are the 10 commandments of content marketing.

1. Create the best content you can

Easy said but hard to do. Making your content memorable and sticky is a craft that has many parts. A good place to start to help you do that is with the 6 key concepts that are contained within the book “Made to Stick”

Here are the 6 principles to guide your content creation.

  1. Simplicity
  2. Unexpectedness
  3. Concreteness
  4. Credibility
  5. Emotions
  6. Stories

If you can weave some of these principles into your content creation then you are well on your way to awesome content. You can read more at “6 Ways to Make your content Sticky

2. Write awesome headlines

In the past people had to buy a book, purchase a magazine or a newspaper to obtain information. That purchase was a financial commitment no matter how small. You bought it and you were committed in some small way to keep reading..

On the social web that offers so much content for free if that headline doesn’t grab you or the first line doesn’t touch your heart or your mind it is discarded and you are on to the next snippet.

Nanoseconds and fleeting web surfers are a challenge for content creators. You have only moments to capture attention and get that click on your link whether it appears in a tweet, a search engine result page or a Facebook post.

Learn the art of writing headlines.

3. Create focused content

Successful businesses know their customers. They understand their problems, their wants and pain points. Content needs to be focused around that ecosystem of topics that provides answers, meets their deep desires and solves the customers pain.

Content needs to be kept on a tight leash. Always be putting yourself in their shoes and asking the questions “Is this something my customer needs to know?” or “Would they find this information fascinating?“. If you know your topic and are passionate about your industry then you know what those answers and topics are.

4. Give content coherent structure

We are a time poor society that is bombarded with messages, ideas and information that is often overwhelming. The avalanche of data keeps coming. The challenge is often not what to read but what “not to read”.

Walls of text without structure are a turn off . The key elements to well structured written content are:

  • Short sentences
  • Short paragraphs
  • Subtitles
  • Bullet points
  • Lists

Don’t serve up an article that screams at the reader “I dare you to find the key points within this vast wall of text

5. Make it easy to share

Content needs to flow. It needs to be liquid and designed and built for the social web.

Social sharing buttons that are prominent and easy to find are a war you must win with your web designer. I often see greyed out sharing buttons that only an eagle could spot. What is also often overlooked are buttons without social proof  (not showing how many times the article has been tweeted on Twitter or shared on Facebook).

Sharing buttons with social proof

Even prominent publications such as the online New York Times get this wrong.

New York Times showing no social proof

Sometimes function needs to overwhelm design sensibilities.

6. Optimize for search engines

Facebook and Twitter are maybe sexy and in fashion but Google isn’t to be forgotten. Before hitting that publish button on your blog make sure you have made it easy for search engines to index and crawl your key words, phrases and content.

There is no excuse to not do this with free plugins available for WordPress that make this easy and efficient.

See the screenshot from my blog showing how Yoast helps you optimize your site for search engines.

Optimize content for search engines

This tool will guide you in making your content and blog articles “visible” to search engines. This is based upon optimizing your keyword phrase in the content of your article/post on your blog.

7. Give it a brand voice

Each brand whether personal or corporate has a certain voice. It may be edgy, adventurous or even conservative. This personality or “voice” should be woven into your content DNA.

Corporate brands such as Coca Cola calls this “linked” and “congruent” content that matches the brand mission and purpose.

Want to see a brand that gets this. Checkout Red Bull’s content.

Personal brands are not immune from making this part of their content creation. Read more about this in “7 Tips to Finding your Writing Voice

What is your brand personality?

8. Make content multimedia

The power of words should not be underestimated but the “Visual” web demands more. Create and publish your content into a range of multi-media.

Same message but in a variety of formats.

There is also another principle at play here around the retention of information and learning. The more senses involved, the higher the retention rates. Here is Edgar Dale’s “Learning Pyramid” showing the increased retention rates when you involve multiple senses and multi-media.

Edgar Dale Cone of Learning

Source: National Training Laboratories, Bethel, Maine

Create and publish videos, podcasts, images and infographics and that’s just for starters. Don’t forget whitepapers, ebooks and transcripts. Some like to read and others love to watch.

9. Distribute onto multiple social networks

Don’t assume that your audience is only on Facebook. Everyone has their social network preferences. Some like Twitter, others love Pinterest and YouTube has 1 billion unique visitors every month.

Same content different networks.

So once you have hit the publish button then it’s time to distribute your content far and wide. Ubiquity is the goal. This builds trust, grows brand awareness and credibility.

10. Convert readers to buyers

Content without a goal is a waste of time and money for business and brands. The goals of content marketing can include obtaining subscribers for your email list, increasing Facebook likes and finally selling a product or service. Make sure your content converts readers to buyers. Content marketing needs a sales or “landing page” that converts.

According to Unbounce a sales landing page based on “Conversion Centered Design” should have seven key elements which are in the two categories of design and psychology


  1. Encapsulation
  2. Contrast & color
  3. Directional cues
  4. White space


  1. Urgency and scarcity
  2. Try before you buy
  3. Social proof

Here is how that would look in a sample design below.

Landing page 7 key elements

 What about you?

Is content marketing part of your digital marketing strategy?  Could you do better? What is missing from your tactics?

Look forward to hearing your stories and insights in the comments below.



Want to learn how to make your blog a success with social media marketing and contagious content?

My book – “Blogging the Smart Way – How to Create and Market a Killer Blog with Social Media” – will show you how.

It is now available to download. I show you how to create and build a blog that rocks and grow tribes, fans and followers on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. It also includes dozens of tips to create contagious content that begs to be shared and tempts people to link to your website and blog.

I also reveal the tactics I used to grow my Twitter followers to over 200,000.

Download and read it now.

Jeffbullas's Blog


  • Great post Jeff… I relate to your first and second point the best.
    I believe in giving my followers a dose of ‘Over-Deliver’ content as it
    is said in the network marketing world.

    I also spend an
    substantial amount of time tweaking my headline so it is powerful, yet
    attention-grabbing to trigger an emotional reaction that leads them
    deeper into my content. If your headline fails to magnetize prospects,
    the rest of your effort can be considered irrelevant because they won’t
    stay long.

    I also optimize my articles for SEO and make them easy to share.

    Thank You for the post…

    John Engle

    • Over delivering is very important.
      One of my mantras regarding content is “give till it hurts”

  • Really great tips, Jeff! Clearly, this is great, sticky content. 😉

    I think the most important part is how to convert readers to buyers, yet it needs to be the most tactful. Like you said, people used to make a financial commitment to content, where now they will find it produced by every brand on every channel (though not all brands post to each channel).

    It can be arbitrary in proving value or ROI of content, but tools help in proving the return of investing time in producing relevant industry news, advice or info.

  • Nicely done Jeff! Loved it 🙂

  • Extremely informative article. I have finished your book and I must say it was great. I am currently implementing a lot of the things I have learned. As a small young start up with no advertising budget we look for all the advice we can get. Your book and articles really deliver, it’s like having my own mentor.
    As of now we have a great PR, for such a young website, and our readership and membership are growing daily. Thanks for all the insights and information you share daily.

    • That is great to hear. It sounds like you are on track. Look forward to hearing more updates about your success! 🙂

  • Wonder where “Writing about” would fit on your retention pyramid? An in-depth article or ebook requires much thought and organization. Just a thought – maybe you could bring VAs up to speed quicker by giving them study topics and then have them teach you (visually or in writing).

  • KristiDroppers

    Big fan of yours.

    Only one issue/complaint that you reference in this blog re: “Make it Easy to Share.” Why can’t I share you blog via email? Often I am reading your blog and I want to forward to a colleague and I can’t do that via your share buttons. Why not? I have pushed more colleagues to follow you but it takes more effort then I care to spend copying the web link into a new email getting them to open it, etc. I want to send them a specific message in context to your content (they work for me) and I don’t want to do it via social media, but instead via our business communication vehicle.

    Interested to hear your response.

    • Thanks Kristi for that heads up on the email sharing I will look at getting that done. Jeff 🙂

  • mabredl

    I like this article. Nothing is really new, but it is perfect written. We have to say the truth about content marketing over and over again. And each time what we say is getting better and better. So lets go on!

  • Yes, it is all becoming “media”. Social is being woven into a;; aspects of media

  • Sarah Bauer

    Great point, Ann! Can’t forget about mobile content consumers. Structuring any piece of content with Jeff’s point about short paragraphs, short sentences and bullet points in mind definitely makes a difference.

    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  • Tim Blankenship

    Good reminder of how to do content marketing the right way. Easy to get lazy and skip steps…

  • Great article Jeff! Having in mind the importance of content marketing, these article is an excellent resource for all of those wondering how to improve their marketing strategy.

  • Hi Jeff. I totally agree with #9. Content marketers always need to keep in mind the 80/20 rule! I’m using Buffer to plan out our calendar in advance, which saves me a ton of time. I know that you’re using Socialoomph for your Tweets. Are you using any other scheduling tools?

  • Steve Jack

    Clear Crystal Explanation about Content Marketing. I love it 🙂

  • One of the biggest challenges surrounding content marketing for most
    brand owners is understanding that content is not just “stuff”, and that
    if you want to really engage your target audience, your focus has to be
    on quality.

  • shubhangi srivastava

    Great article Jeff!,

    i am going to start content marketing and this is very helpful for me

  • Jason Lancaster

    I also think it is important to incorporate a “to be continued” type of attitude. Provide your users with valuable content that they need now and can use instantly. But also, let them know “Hey, there is more to come”. This keeps them coming back for more.

  • I know I need to be more conscious of number 4.

    Sometimes I dare people to find the nuggets instead of just making them un-missable.

    I also write some long ass pieces. One thing I think I’ll do is start making a bulleted list of the “major takeaways” from my piece at the end of my piece and have a prominent link to it at the very beginning of the post for the people who get freaked out by seeing a mile of scrollable page when they look to the left side of their screen and just want the fast pass to the “good stuff”.

    Thank you Jeff for encouraging me to think about this. Your nudge is greatly appreciated. 🙂

  • Ellen Butler

    Re: point 4:

    This is what I really don’t get about Apple’s decision to make visual changes to their utility apps in the iOS 7 update. A calendar that I loved because it was intuitive is now ruined, in more ways than one, but especially because it’s all one frickin’ color and my eyes run all over the page looking for something to grab onto. I spend at least twice as long trying to input information in my calendar as I did before, and all because it’s no longer visually structured.

    I edit a lot of other people’s writing for online use, and each time I end up editing paragraphs for length, separation and adding subtitles. Makes all the difference.

    Helpful article, great points, as usual! Thanks.

  • disqus_W4KjfaOksA

    Great post, Jeff. Content marketing is my strategy. I try to write a blog once a week. I’d like to write more, but as a sole trader that’s all I can find time for. An area I could improve is re-purposing content. I do include blog summaries in my newsletters, but, as yet, I haven’t converted them into infographics or slide shares. I’ll get there one day.