Lately, the universe has been bringing me multiple opportunities to assist my friends with their marketing plans and digital marketing efforts.

As I was going back and forth with one of my friends today, she encouraged me to turn the following rules into a blog post. So, here we are.

These are the five cardinal rules of content marketing as I see it.

Rule #1 – Don’t Overthink it

Analysis paralysis can attach itself to the smartest of folks, like a Headcrab from Half-Life.

Half-Life Headcrab

Image Source: Geek Alerts

What’s going to work? What should I talk about? Where should I film my videos? What gear do I use? What time should I post?

I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll say it again – even your heroes sometimes make it up as they go.

Even your heroes sometimes make it up as they go. Click To Tweet

I have thousands of published blog posts and articles across the internet. The only reason I know what works for me is because I have the stats.

Even then, I don’t always know what works, and the stats are deceptive, because I’ve written plenty of great works that should have gotten more attention and for whatever reason didn’t catch fire as they should have.

That’s content marketing. Sorry to say, it’s not all within your control. If in doubt, start publishing. You’re probably oversaturated with information already, like a drenched sponge. You can figure out the best automation tools later.

Rule #2 – Be Consistent

Look, things sometimes slip through the cracks. We all miss deadlines, drop balls, or mess up from time to time. It’s human, and it’s okay.

But without consistency, you don’t have a content marketing strategy. It just doesn’t work (also see Rule #5).

You want to generate and publish a specific number of content pieces that doll out at predictable times – especially as applied to bigger pieces of content like blog posts, podcast episodes, and videos. Basically, you want your content to roll out programmatically.

Generally, that means multiple times per week, weekly, once every two weeks, or once per month. Any less than that and you must be a genius like Brian Dean, but I think the odds are slim…

I blog daily. That’s something people can count on.

What’s your plan? Whatever it is, it needs to be consistent to be trackable.

Rule #3 – Always Include a Call to Action

Marketing guru Dan Kennedy says don’t do anything you can’t tie directly to profit.

Dan Kennedy

Dan is the man…

Image Source: ForbesBooks

Correct – but you can’t measure the effectiveness of anything you haven’t done! So, are we talking about the chicken or the egg? I’m not even clear…

You can’t measure the effectiveness of anything you haven’t done! Click To Tweet

You need to get your vehicle in motion and catch a bit of momentum before we worry too much about the payoff. So, fire up that Pinto and let’s get to cruisin’…

But do this one thing and you should see real business results. Include a call to action in every single one of your posts to sign up for your email list. And it doesn’t need to be salesy or in your face. Honestly, it might hurt your chances if it is.

If you’re committed to the regular publishing of content, and want to see real business results from it, prioritize growing your email list through call to actions. Your list is too small right now, and it needs to be bigger before you worry about income let alone other projects.

Rule #4 – Model, Model, Model

In other words, don’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, next time you catch yourself scrolling through Instagram (which I reckon is often) pay attention to what catches your eye. If it worked on you, chances are it’s going to work on others too, right? So, take the idea and make it your own.

Learn the essentials of copywriting, especially headline writing. The clues are everywhere – magazine covers, popular blogs, the emails you open every day… You’re no Steve Jobs, and you don’t need a new way of solving an old problem.

Whenever I’m making new graphics for my content, I don’t come up with original designs. I’m not that great of a designer to begin with. It’s just that my daily work requires I spend time inside Photoshop. So, I go and find designs I like and model them. Let someone else worry about color theory.

Keep in mind, though – modeling is not stealing. You can get in trouble for plagiarism, so don’t do it! You’ve got to put your own spin on it to make it yours.

Rule #5 – Track

Content marketing can feel like an uphill battle when you’re doing it sporadically, expecting specific results, and not even tracking what you’re doing!

I’m not asking you to invest in complicated analytics software. Go back to the first rule – keep it simple! We don’t need enterprise solutions to get results as content-preneurs.

No, but if, for example, you made three social media videos per week, and posted them to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, over the course of the next six to 12 months, you would see your following increase, even if only by a small margin. No arguments.

If you don’t track, you won’t know. And you’ll be discouraged for no reason. So, no matter where you might be starting from, document where you are now, and return to those numbers in six months (in the meantime, don’t obsess over the stats). Again, you will see results!

Bonus Rule – Read Content Inc.

Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi’s Content Inc. is the best book on the subject, and it kicks off with a direct to bloodstream injection of espresso-based inspiration. Guaranteed or your money back (no, sorry, I can’t make such guarantees – but hey, it’s really, really, good).

Buy it. Devour it. Take notes. Then commit to implementing everything you learn. Return to the well for watering as needed.