The buzz at Affiliate Summit West seems to support Brafton's earlier reports that content marketing will be key to catching clicks in 2011. In a session themed around dominating niche...  <a class="excerpt-read-more" href="" title="Read Affiliate Summit West 2011 experts suggest targeted content key to branding">Read more »</a>

The buzz at Affiliate Summit West seems to support Brafton's earlier reports that content marketing will be key to catching clicks in 2011. In a session themed around dominating niche markets with blogger outreach, experts highlight the value of unique and targeted content in catching traffic.

The first and foremost step in blogger outreach (and content creation) is targeting. Johnathan Volk, CEO of Surge Marketing, reminds marketers that reaching the right audience is more important than reaching a massive audience.

Volk indicates that blogger outreach is more meaningful when brands get endorsements from industry bloggers who already cater to key demographics, even if their niche targets translate into fewer fans or followers than other potential blog advocates.

The same might be said for optimized content published on brands' sites. While it may be tempting to use far-reaching keywords, more targeted key phrases can help businesses attract relevant traffic.

The experts agree that profiling a target audience will help brands generate the content that will convert readers. Greg Rollet, CMO of Cognitiv, says, "the reader should be the top focus." He suggests this strategy will help ensure that content has link value and can generate retweets and online conversations. John Chow, CEO of TTZ Media concurs, suggesting that targeting should the No. 1 priority when building brand content on the web.

Chow also emphasizes that content must be tailored to fit a brand. Yet, he and other panelists remind marketers this does not mean content should be limited to press releases. Many of them agree that it’s more helpful (and profitable) when content shares a unique perspective on various relevant issues, making readers feel they are getting exclusive insight.

For businesses looking to develop content on their sites, this indicates that articles should be developed as a testament to thought leadership on an industry instead of simply as promotions for specific products or services.

Eric Schechter, social media manager for Carnival Cruise Lines, support this notion, advising marketers not to "push products." He reminds Affiliate Summit West attendees that content gets more responses when it is original, interesting and relevant to prospects.

Volk advises marketers to follow a formula for ensuring their content doesn't err on the side of being overly self-serving. He tells brands to give themselves a +1 for compelling non-ad content, subtract one point from the equation any time content contains an overt ad and maintain a score of at least +4 to ensure that content is credible. Volk's fellow panelists suggest his extremely high email newsletter open rates are linked to his ability to remain credible.

One way Greg Rollet suggests marketers measure whether blogger outreach is credible and valuable is by monitoring the comments and links built over time. "The archive is key," he says. He reminds marketers to track the longevity of branding from older posts – and this is a best practice whether the content is derived from blogger outreach or published and archived uniquely on a business site's news feed or blog.

For brands that want to develop archivable content on their own sites, generating articles about the latest industry developments and linking to previous, related stories may be a good way to increase the shelf life of content and increase visitors' dwell time on a site. This practice may also boost brand loyalty and generate word-of-web referrals from readers; as Brafton has reported, ongoing stories are the most frequently shared news content online.