The Content Marketing Manifesto
Content Marketing has become a very powerful marketing tool and is only going to gain momentum in 2013. 90% of marketers expect content marketing to increase in importance this year, according to a report by Outbrain and Econsultancy.
At Byte9 we have been working for over a decade with B2C and B2B publishers and companies wishing to exploit the content marketing opportunity that exists, using cutting edge content management, editorial analysis and management tools, like our Blaze Content MAnagment System (CMS).
Here is a 7 step checklist designed to help optimise your digital content marketing strategy:
1. Create quality written content
Content can be realised in many forms; video, blogs, infographics, news and articles to name a few. This article will be focussing primarily on written content, but there is a great case study of Red Bull by Mashable that includes all aspects of their multi-media format content marketing strategy.
Quality content is the foundation of any progressive content marketing campaign. Content marketing is increasingly regarded as invaluable to businesses hoping to increase targeted and valuable online traffic, generate prospects, actionable business intelligence and optimise conversion.
The ‘freemium’ content model, for example, provides premium content, like a best practice guide, served without cost to the customer but requiring registration before it can be viewed. This facilitates collation of valuable marketing data as known users interact with your site and content, allowing for valuable marketing intelligence to be injected into personalised direct marketing activity and shared with sales teams to increase prospect conversion.
There are several factors to consider when creating content. Firstly, know your audience. Content that not only demonstrates requisite expert knowledge but relates to the demographic you need to reach will have a far higher level of audience engagement. Secondly you must determine actionable information about what the customer wants to receive and how they want to receive it and also how to store and report this information for sales and marketing teams to act upon. The combination of these factors results in optimal content, maximising the credibility of the business as ‘thought leaders’, the audience perception of authority on the subject and their consequent engagement.
Here at Byte9 we use our Blaze CMS editorial assistance tools to aid in the creation of great new targeted content. News and social media monitoring and content curation tools allow editorial teams to monitor industry comment as it evolves, allowing for the creation of timely, relevant and searched for content of any type.
2. Keyword analysis and editorial assistance drive search
Content drives marketing. However, content and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) do not equate to the same thing. SEO concerns rankings and the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are defined by content, original content. Every page of original text adds search engine ranking page strength, therefore increasing the likelihood that your page ranking will be higher, given the quality of the content and other websites propensity to ‘link’ to it.
Content quality and links from authority sites are key determinants of search position. The primary step in effective SEO is to decide on keywords that relate to the kind of copy you want to produce, the subjects they cover any other relevant corresponding topics that reflects the language being used by your target audience to search for it (primarily via Google). It is essential to research and validate the keywords using 3rd party and in-house tools and methodology. Establishing search volumes and identifying niche opportunities within topic areas is the goal. Tools like the Google Keyword tools, Google Trends and Ubersuggest will help.
Leading content management systems include content & keyword analysis tools that help authors and editors to understand the relevance of the content they are authoring against the preferred language, used by the audience. A spread sheet could serve as a good starting point to help determine what language and keywords should be included in your content depending on the identified subject or topic.
Element to consider: How the Google 'Penguin' update of site-wide ranking will affect your SEO
This 2012 Google algorithm update favours those with quality content and strong audience engagement. The emphasis now placed on quality means those not adhering to Google’s webmaster guidelines for SEO (using questionable techniques like keyword stuffing, volumes of poor quality content and aggressive exact match link / anchor texts) will be penalised. To maximise your content marketing opportunity, tools like Blaze CMS allow monitoring and scoring of content and provide relevant web analytics to authors. Blaze allows Keyword density and content mark-up within the content to be scored and monitored, as well as allowing dynamic content relationship (i.e. tagging and taxonomy) which help to classify content and signal the relationships between your content types site-wide. This increases time spent by visitors on-site as they are directed to relevant, related content, the same holds true for search engines, which will rank content better.
3. Leverage the Crowd
Creating great content requires skill, particularly when writing specialist content. Many companies allocate too little of their budget to content creation and instead focus on advertising, pay per click and other mediums to generate revenue, which can create comparatively expensive ‘quick wins’, but do not build long-term cumulative value. If you do not have the in-house editorial capacity then a content led marketing campaign can be achieved by outsourcing content creation (i.e. to freelancers or bloggers).
Outsourcing can prove cost and time effective, particularly within specialist subjects. It also allows you to connect the right writer with the right subject. Community engagement can also generate ‘crowd sourced’ content (expert comment, interviews, webinars etc.), most industries have a community of consultants who will engage in conversation, creating content around their niche expertise if you provide the platform, profile and relevant audience. Good content management tools allow for the management and moderation of this content and its distribution across multiple devices and media.
4. Measurement and Analytics Drive Success
There are several indicators to consider when creating effective content and measuring success. Byte9 advocate having measures in place before any content marketing activity is undertaken, so that return on investment can be demonstrated from the outset, to underpin and validate a long-term approach.
Firstly editorial assistance tools can help authors to understand the value of content using factors like mark-up and content style, keyword density and link equity. This will enable them to author content that will be more visible and effective in driving conversion.
The business, marketing managers and board members will primarily be interested in indicators such as; leads, sales, cost savings and customer retention.
Other, business Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are equally as important. Google Analytics, a free and powerful tool, can be used to measure aspects of content management success. The E-Consultancy Content marketing survey report found that the top three metrics used to measure performance by publishers were: unique visitors (88%), Page views per visitor (76%) and Page views (71%).
Additionally Byte9 would advocate that measures of site conversion (sales, subscription or newsletter registration conversion etc.) were measured to understand which type of content attracts the highest converting prospects. Monitoring traffic can identify areas of interest of customers and also indicate content that is less appealing. Analytics should form the basis of any content marketing strategy and should be used in conjunction with a CMS that offers editorial assistance and content monitoring tools like Blaze CMS.
5. Your Content Marketing Checklist & Strategy
Velocity B2B Content Marketing Agency has assembled a great guide to creating your content marketing strategy which can be found here. The aim of the e-book is to help create the foundation for a successful online Content Marketing Program, through an extensive checklist that any marketer or content producer can follow and designed to make you think about your content strategy along every step of the way.
The first step before you create your content is to ensure ample preparation; the definition of business goals and marketing goals, being able to identify and summarise your target audience, an audit and evaluation of your existing content to identify theme and topic gaps and the creation of a structured editorial calendar.
The second part of your strategy should be concerned with the production of new, targeted content, providing your audience with content that is of benefit to them, not what you want to say. This involves; topic generation that relates to your target audience, deciding which medium is best for your content (according to the size and scope of your topic), the sourcing of authoritative information and a target tone and style that is suited to your brand.
Finally, the last step is the promotion and review of the content you have created (in the form of a post-creation checklist). Promotion is achieved through selecting the appropriate channels or influencers to promote your brand in the appropriate way. Velocity also recommends that you create an ‘atomisation’ plan, i.e. spin-off articles that relate to the main piece and link to the original anchor text, to create a portfolio of content that can be linked. The final step in any content marketing checklist is measurement and testing, which we have just discussed above.
6. The right Content, the right device, the right time
Once quality content has been created, the distribution of this content is then a key factor for consideration. Recently, there has been a distinct shift towards browsing on mobile devices. In fact, some Byte9 sites are experiencing over 50% of traffic from tablet and mobile devices. To fully optimise user experience, content must be accessible on the right device, in the right format and at the right time. Responsive Design is a design technique that allows for the delivery of content to different device screen sizes in an optimised way, ‘adaptive content’ can also be achieved by marking up appropriate content for the device within the CMS. Typically, an improved user experience will result in increased conversion rates and quality content delivered in the right format will help with this.
In addition, integrated & automated e-mail broadcast tools (such as Mail Chimp) that use RSS conditional formatting allow for user specific content personalisation. This means automated email alerts can be built up from existing site content and personalised based on a user’s profile and preferences. This means that you can deliver the right data to the corresponding user on the correct devices at the optimal time.
7. Leveraging the Community and Social Channels
Once you have created quality content, it is about getting your customers to engage with it. Customer engagement must lead to value for the stakeholder for them to invest their time in interacting with your content and it should also be tied to your business goals.
One method that can be used is known as ‘Blogger Outreach’, which allows you to engage with the wider blogging community. We would broaden that out to include trade, press and PR, specialised writers on certain topics as well as bloggers within the industry. This practice will help to establish your content's presence on the web. The value of this method is that you can drive traffic back to your site, develop your online presence through association with authority writers on certain topics and tap into a highly engaged group of readers who are looking for quality content and brands to align with. Establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with influential and quality bloggers boosting quality content around the topic or, original content and provide your users with content that is valuable to them with the aim of forming a returning customer relationship based on interest.
Social Media Engagament
Engagement with social media by itself is unlikely to qualify as a sole ‘strategy’ in your content marketing mix. Engagement holds value for businesses when it can capitalise on business goals (i.e. new registrations, sales, recruiting or investment etc.) and lead to interest and value for stakeholders.
The questions you should ask yourself as a business when considering using social media channels:
1. Does Social Media usage align with our business goals/Strategy?
2. Is this the correct channel for our target audience? Do they actually spend time there?
3. Is our content appropriate to share there?
4. How are our competitors using Social Media if at all?
5. Do we posses the resources to maintain this channel of communication?
6. What do we see as success within Social Media?
Once you have established answers to these questions, you can begin to evaluate which Social Media Channels are appropriate to your brand, will add value in the long-term and not be a drain on your resources.
Content is rapidly becoming a prominent factor in the marketing mix, There are significant, long term advantages to be gained from on-going investment in quality content production and audience engagement.
Overall, content marketing’s success depends on a mixture of factors; quality content, successful deployment, measurement of content engagement and appropriate analytics. After this mix has been established, you can focus on conversion and driving up value in your business.