Content marketing is a critical component of effective B2B marketing programs, and B2B search engine marketing in particular.
According to data from the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Report, a coordinated effort between MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers are spending 33 percent of their marketing budgets on content marketing, up from 26 percent last year. 91 percent of B2B respondents were engaged in content marketing in some capacity. In other words, if your organization is not invested in content marketing, you are well behind the curve in today’s B2B marketing environment.
The B2B SEO needs content marketing to provide destinations for keyword strategy and a means for acquiring links and social media visibility.
Quality content is more important than quantity. Based on the report, one potential issue B2B marketers might face is the notion that “producing enough content” was more challenging than anything else (albeit producing “quality” content did not seem to be a direct response option).
It is difficult, if not impossible, to gain good links and measurable social media visibility with average content. It needs to be excellent to stand out. For B2B SEO, content needs to be relevant to search results as well.
How do you do this? As I reflected on the issue of quality versus quantity and the factors that have made our clients (and others I have observed) successful, five key components of effective B2B SEO content marketing programs come to mind.
1. A Method for Aggregating Information
In the midst of a sea of information, B2B search engine marketers need to streamline their focus in order to capture the best resources possible. And it is not just setting up a series of “subscriptions” (email lists, social media lists, etc) but immersingyourself in the information, in order to establish patterns of success. B2B marketers should also consider eliminating the use of resources that don’t fit well with your learning style, even if they are generally popular or even influential.
A short list of information gathering resources I keep at hand:
- A Twitter Influencer List – no more than a dozen really important Twitter feeds about the particular industry at hand.
- A Small Set of Google Alerts – focused on blog and news resources primarily, because of their time-sensitive nature.
- An RSS Reader of Key Publishers – this RSS list helps supplement what I find on Twitter and in Google Alerts. An RSS Reader helps to support new topics by proof checking relevance in trusted publications.
- A Small List of Email Newsletter Subscriptions – which mostly aggregate industry news and act as another backup for data and information in supporting research.
2. The Ability to Perform SEO / Content Marketing Competitive Research
B2B SEOs need to understand the competitive landscape, from a content marketing and search perspective. The usual suspects related to SEO are important. Examples include:
- Keyword visibility.
- Links acquired and relationship to keyword strategies.
- Visible social media metrics such as tweets, likes, shares, etc.
But focusing on content marketing requires a look at related but slightly different measurements as well. Important factors include:
- Types of content assets available on the competitive website (examples like blog, news, case studies, video, etc.).
- Frequency of asset development (per asset type and overall, and in relation to what keyword strategies).
- Design, layout, and structure of content assets.
- Conversion actions associated with content assets.
- Competitive social media profiles, their activity, and messaging tactics.
- Type of content assets frequently found in search engine results for targeted keywords.
A lot of competitive data can be realized simply through manual site auditing and review. For search engine marketers with a greater financial budget for commercial software, Searchmetrics and SEOmoz (Open Site Explorer and FollowerWonk in particular) are good tools for evaluating competition.
Screaming Frog is a good application for crawling competitive domains for to review overall website structure. Spyfu is a lower cost alternative for keyword-specific competitive data and Compete and/or Quantcast can also be effective for free traffic estimates and demographic overviews as well.
A Repository for Developing Content Marketing Ideas
You have your information sources, now you need a place to build out ideas. A common struggle B2B marketers face is in putting “pen to paper” in an effective manner. Often times, we get writer’s block or struggle with the execution of a good idea or concept. In other cases, distractions and the environment play a part.
Note taking and content curation play an important role in building out the content development process. If you can get in the habit of keeping a repository of ideas as they come to mind, it becomes easier to generate the content needed when deadlines arise. B2B search engine marketers need ways to organize ideas and keep track of information, in order to maintain the build out process.
- Evernote is good for keeping track of ideas and draft notes based on content and strategy discussions
- Basecamp and Google Drive are important for collaborative content development, particularly when the material is focused around multiple milestones and deliverables.
- We have begun exploring the use of more “end-to-end” content development solutions like Shareist for developing, organizing, and keeping record of content ideas as well.
A Link / Social Media Prospecting & Management Solution
The secret ingredient to building successful content marketing initiatives is in how well a network has been developed, designed to communicate visibility of the content assets created. This component needs to be started no later than campaign inception and often times well before that.
The question is how does the B2B search engine marketer organize the process and keep track of contact details and the communication activity?
- RavenTools CRM and Link Manager tools and Buzzstream offer easy to use methods for aggregating contact information and connecting the success rates in link acquisition in particular.
- Traditional CRM solutions like HighRise or Google Contacts could be considered. The challenge in these types of options is the lack of direct connectivity to link outreach and social media activity however.
The practice of link building or SEO is evolving into a more comprehensive process of relationships building and communication strategies with direct connectivity online (think links, social mentions, network connections, etc). Instead of focusing on just the link, we need to focus on the individuals in charge of managing or working with the sites, social media profiles, and publications we’re targeting.
A Method for Evaluating Performance
It seems obvious but often times B2B marketers don’t have clearly defined benchmarks and goals for evaluating the performance of their content marketing campaigns. Even if benchmarks have to be established over time, a starting point should be agreed upon, recognizing criteria might change as a result of further analysis.
Unfortunately, it is hard not to generalize in a column like this. Every organizations mix of measurement criteria and goals will be different, based on the current situation and needs. Here is a snapshot from the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Report on criteria B2B marketers indicated they look at when measuring B2B content marketing effectiveness:
Successful content marketing campaigns are built through experience. It is unreasonable to expect to be “hitting the home run” the first time a program is executed but the focus on quality over quantity cannot be understated.
If B2B SEOs place greater focus on volume requirements, sacrificing quality, success metrics are much less likely to be realized. If that is the case, B2B marketing budgets begin to tighten and the ability to create great content gets that much more difficult.
What components of the B2B content marketing process have you had the most success or challenge with? I would love to read your feedback via comments below.