By Lucid Fusion

It’s official—everybody is hopping aboard the content marketing bandwagon.

72% of marketers cite creating engaging content as their top priority for the next year, and 76% say they plan to produce even more content than before. But this ever-increasing endorsement doesn’t mean content marketing is getting any easier; it’s quite the opposite. While 38% of marketers said they were effective at content marketing in 2014, that number dropped to just 30% in 2015. What’s going on here?

The fact is, more people on the bandwagon just makes it that much harder to pull forward. Now that so many others are amping up their content creation in an attempt to remain relevant and competitive, there’s a cacophony of content out there, making it even more difficult to be heard. It also means that creating quality content that delivers value to the right people at the right time is more important than ever.

If you want to earn your customer’s Facebook Like, Retweet, or email click-through, your content has to stand out above the rest and be resonant. Here are five content creation secrets to help make it happen.

1. Be relevant.

All of the content you create should be created with a particular person or group of people in mind—your specific audience. Not only does irrelevant content hurt your conversion goals by bringing in lower quality leads, it also drives away the ones that you really want. Did you know that 74% of people get frustrated with brands when they get emails that have nothing to do with their interests—and 67% would opt out if it happens more than once? Avoid this by ensuring that the content you create is important to your target market; do your homework to define who those people are and the communications that will be of value to them. Mapping your customer’s journey, creating a content plan, and segmenting your email lists are all sound ways to be strategic about content from start to finish.

2. Make it visual.

How many inspirational picture quotes, memes, or Oatmeal comics have you reposted this week? It’s okay, you can be honest—we’re just as guilty. The reason is that we’re all human beings who are hardwired to prioritize and process visual information. In fact, recent MIT research revealed that the brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds! It makes sense, then, that content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images, and visual content is more than 40 times more likely to be shared on social media than other types content. In short, take the time to consider and add visual elements to your content wherever applicable. Whether that’s articles, tweets, or whitepapers, pictures really can be worth a thousand words—take your content further by letting visuals do some of the talking.

Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.

3. Go long.

Speaking of a thousand words, who says people don’t like to read anymore? Recent research by the folks at Buzzsumo and Moz, found that articles in the 3,000–10,000 word range get twice as many shares and 3 times the amount of links back as content with fewer than 1,000 words. Creating content at this scale is a good lesson in quality versus quantity—while there’s value in maintaining a weekly cadence of new content, the long term value of long form content can often be worth the wait. After all, creating a 3,000+ word feature, research piece, or eBook might only be feasible a few times a year, but those pieces will be content-rich. This provides a wealth of shareable insights that can be referenced and repurposed for much longer campaigns than most one-off articles would support.

4. Give people feels.

No surprise here: people love to share amazing and surprising content. In an analysis of the top 10,000 most shared articles, awe was the number one invoked emotion—followed closely by laughter and amusement. This just goes to show that while connectivity is making the world smaller in many ways, it’s only increasing humanity’s appetite for wonder. Use this to your advantage by creating content that taps into people’s’ emotions! Inspire them, make them laugh, shock them, wow them, impress them with statistics—remember that you’ve got your own perspectives and insights that people have never heard before. By framing your content around this truth, you’ll be better positioned to provide that something extra people are looking for.

5. Optimize for SEO.

Optimization may be slightly less sexy than inspiring awe or creating visual delights, but it’s nonetheless a critical part of making your content as awesome and shareable as possible. That’s because people are out there looking for content (Google sees approximately 3 billion search queries every day), and there’s a ton of content to be seen—getting people to click on YOURS is a delicate balance between art, science, and technical chops; SEO is the technical side to great content. Make sure your title tags are the optimal length, you’ve identified and implemented important keywords, and you’ve taken the time to consider meta descriptions. All of this stuff will help your content be more enticing to the right people at the right time—which is the real key to more shareable content in the first place.

As content marketing becomes more popular and competitive, consumers will become increasingly more discerning about what gets their time and endorsement. Ultimately, it’s relevance that will win them over—substantial, image-driven, and emotional content is what will keep them coming back to you for more moments of value, and provide them with something worth sharing with others.

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