Today, every business is an information business. In their book The Language of Content Strategy, Scott Abel and Rahel Anne Bailie describe content as a “business asset that we use to communicate with our customers, prospects, and investors.”
If you want a core asset of your business to function at its optimum level to target a variety of stakeholders, it follows that you must play close attention to how you conceive and execute a content strategy. Not only that, your content must be closely aligned to your brand messaging as well as cross-channel marketing and advertising efforts.
Because almost all customer journeys begin with content. A Forrester report found that the average customer consumes at least 11 pieces of content related to a product before they make a decision to buy it. Even when people are searching online for products, 86% of them conduct non-branded queries, which means that organic content is a potent force that drives them down the marketing funnel.
It follows that you need a foolproof content strategy if you hope to succeed at making perfect branding strategies and marketing your business on digital channels. Content Marketing Institute (CMI) recommends asking yourself some critical questions while building the business case for content marketing within your organization:
- What is the need?
- What do we hope to accomplish with our content marketing?
- How big of a need is it? Do we have a big enough audience to justify a plan?
- What is the business model? How does it work? What do we have to do?
- What is our differentiating value? Why is this more important than other things we could spend time on?
- What are the risks? What’s in our way of success? What happens if we fail?
So, how do you develop and execute a comprehensive content strategy that answers all of the above questions for you? What are the factors you shouldn’t overlook while you market your content? Let’s discuss.
Firm Up Your Content Lifecycle
A joint study conducted by SEMrush and CMI found that even with processes and automation in content marketing, there are a ton of tasks and activities that are carried out manually, or which require constant human input and attention. Content writers, editors, marketers, as well as PR personnel feel that there is a lack of scalability and cohesion in content strategies.
The most effective lifecycle – owing not in the least due to its simplicity – is a four-step content strategy: Plan > Create > Distribute > Track
Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor at CMI had this to say:
“New research finds that consolidating the content lifecycle through data, tools and better collaborative workflow may be the most important part of a digital content marketing strategy.”
Note: Robert’s emphasis on data and tools. Although there is a lot of creativity and human input involved in content planning, creation and optimization, the importance of access to data and specialized tools that help marketers remove guesswork, structure the content according to the audience’s preferences, and conform to technicalities such as SEO requirements is undeniable.
This means that marketers need to go beyond traditional keyword research and writing “SEO content.” They need to create content that-
- solves the problems of the target audience
- provides more information on trending and interesting topics
- maintains a balance between the creative element and optimization for search engines or other digital platforms
- stands out from the competition
- brings ROI and meets conversion goals
To do this, they need to find tools and techniques that can mine the internet for topics and themes that appeal to your audience in the moment. The Topic Research tool from SEMrush, for instance, will help you find terms related core search terms in your industry, including long-tail key phrases people are googling, headlines of posts that are capturing their attention, etc. and present them in the form of mind maps or topical cards to help you decide what areas you’ll focus on next.
You can then narrow down the keywords that you think you can target well with your content and start creating and optimizing content. Again, a tool like the SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant will help you make your content “SEO-friendly” by recommending keywords based on your competitors’ best-performing posts, as well as improve the readability of your content for a better user experience.
Don’t Miss Secondary Channels of Content Promotion
Your website – and by extension, your blog – is the central hub of your company’s content. However, not all your prospects, leads and customers will land directly on your blog. In fact, the bulk of them will find you through other sources, such as social media, email, forums or even word of mouth.
That is why you need to look at different ways and avenues of promoting your content. For instance, outdoor brand REI found that its customers do a lot of research online before buying their products, but those who did interact on other channels (including digital) where 40% more likely to make a purchase as well as spend 2x to 4x more.
So, they partnered up with National Parks in the US and created an app that provided guides and maps for the national parks. Once you find a park using the app, you have the option to share your experience on social media. You also have the choice to join REI’s community of outdoor enthusiasts and engage with their content. Ultimately, this creates a strong brand association with their products in the minds of consumers.
Let’s look at another example: LEGO, one of the most recognized brands in the world, crushes it on social media with their videos. What’s more, they encourage their users to “show off” by encouraging them to think of new ideas. This results in an endless stream of user-generated content (in the form of images, videos and project guides) for them, which in turn leads to even more brand exposure. LEGO is also quick to leverage the best of this UGC to foster engagement and brand loyalty.
Measure the Success (and Failures) of Your Content Strategy
There are a ton of ways to track the performance of your content online. And unfortunately, there’s no right or wrong way. Most companies still judge the success of their content by basic metrics like likes, shares, views and bounce rate.
However, there’s a lot more to content analytics than that. Therefore, I will refrain from commenting on the precise metrics that you should be monitoring, because there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to measuring the ROI of content marketing.
That said, here are some core metrics that will hold you in good stead if you want to attempt to gauge the true ROI your content might be bringing you:
- Cost of producing content
- Cost of distributing content
- Reach (channel-specific; impressions, views)
- Viewing time
- Engagement (channel-specific; clicks, likes, shares)
- Organic traffic
- Referral traffic
- Conversions (micro conversions are downloads and subscriptions; macro conversions are leads and sales)
- Customer lifetime value (CLTV)
- Brand sentiment
While marketers are quick to measure reach, engagement and conversions, they frequently neglect to take into account the full costs of creating and promoting content. You need to stay on top of your budget at all times by tracking these costs. A calculator like this might help you identify your resource gaps and implications of scaling your content marketing.
Further, when it comes to measuring the performance of individual pieces of content vis-à-vis reach and engagement, and comparing it to the traction your competitors are getting, SEMrush’s Post Tracking tool comes in handy too.
Over to You
Remember, whatever form your content strategy takes, it should be developed and executed on the back of fresh and accurate data. Simply creating and publishing content without a cohesive, goal-based strategy will take you nowhere and probably end up harming your brand reputation. You must readily access top Content Marketing Tips every marketer must know.
What approaches or tactics have served you well in your content marketing efforts? How do you set and track goals for your content? Let’s discuss in the comments!