Search Marketing Standard has just published the following:

12 Best Practices For Content Marketing

Getting The Most Out Of Editorial And User-Generated Content

1.* Keep It Simple

Don’t weigh your content down with hefty words. Instead, try to use simple words, such as “see” instead of “observe.” Doing so not only makes content easier to read, but also creates more matches in search, where people tend to use simple terms in queries. Also keep in mind that people tend to scan content rather than read it, so keep sentences short, clear, and to the point. This approach will also boost the viral quality of your content.

2.* Secure Your Resources

Before you start planning a robust content program, get a handle on the resources available to get the job done. It is important to have qualified and dedicated people in place to develop your material. Avoid relying on other internal employees for this effort, as they already have a full workload.

3.* Make A Statement

Show your passion and let people know you have strong feelings about the topic at hand. Express your opinions clearly and directly, and demonstrate that you have the knowledge to back it up. When people sense that you know what you are talking about, they are much more likely to engage with you and/or share the content with others.

4.* Cherry-Pick Your Material

When adding user-generated content to an editorial product such as your website, think about how the material can add the most value and how it will impact the user experience. Don’t make the mistake of including user-generated content just because it’s user-generated content. For example, don’t include all 350 user comments extolling the heavenly scent of your new laundry detergent — instead, be choosy. Cherry-pick the specific pieces of content that best tell the story you are trying to relate, and those that help you to provide a great user experience.

5.* Remember That Variety Matters

When planning content initiatives, strive to create variety. Aim to not only cover various topics, but approach them from a variety of angles. In addition, try to create variety in the treatment of each effort. Some should be quick hits, maybe just 300 words, while others should be much longer. Remember the role of format in creating variety. Don’t limit yourself to just narrative content for your site. Instead, embrace other format options such as podcasts, infographics, slideshows, and videos.

6.* Share! Share! Share!

More than ever before, you have the ability to push your content into the marketplace by tapping into social outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Be sure to get your content into your networks, and those of your employees and partners, so they can share it as well. But make it easy for them — add social buttons to all your content efforts. You can also achieve considerable reach if an authoritative source publishes and shares your content.

7.* Don’t Sell

Your goal is to create content that will educate and entertain your audience, thereby providing them with value. In the process, your company establishes itself as an authority on the topic, ultimately becoming an important resource your audience will want to consult time and again. But your content should not pitch your product/offering. Leave that for the appropriate portion(s) of your website.

8.* Customize Your Content

Many marketers think they can engage an audience with one-size-fits-all content. However, to truly connect with your target audience, you need to know who they are. Take the time for some research and examine your audience, build personas, and evaluate what these different groupings need. Once you have that information, you’ll be able to develop content that will appeal to their needs and interests, allowing you to engage on a very personal level.

9.* Create A Multiplier Effect

Because user-generated content is inherently social, it is the perfect tool for increasing the reach of your editorial products. To make this work, select some points from an editorial initiative that you would like to create buzz around, and then push them into the community and ask for user input. This approach will multiply the reach of the original editorial effort.

10.* Close The Loop

While user-generated content is very social and has the power to amplify editorial initiatives, it can’t exist in a vacuum — it needs to be fed. Editorial initiatives are the perfect fuel. Be sure to tap into them for ideas that will generate discussion within your online communities and drive more user engagement.

11.* Tell Success Stories

Customer testimonials can add richness to your content efforts and boost their effectiveness. In fact, research shows that content sourced from real customers works best, primarily because it usually contains user-oriented keyword phrases that reflect how your audience thinks. Such language helps readers identify with the customer in the story and creates trust. So stay informed about how your organization is helping customers be successful, and include those stories in your content line-up.

12.* Be Provocative

If you are looking to generate a social response and get the community talking, stoke the fire a bit with a challenging question or provocative statement. Another approach is to take a view contrary to the majority’s take on the issue — nothing sparks user engagement like controversy!

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