During 2015 we began to see signs of the content marketing industry maturing.
There has been a shift away from creating content for contents’ sake and a much greater emphasis on the value of creating content with specific goals for specific people. Brands have begun to see the value of using search and social intelligence to guide content marketing planning decisions.
When the world of content marketing first became popular, many companies set out to produce as much material as possible. They understood the value that the content could offer, but mistakenly thought that adding a few keywords into their material would be enough to see real returns from their efforts.
As the digital ecosystem becomes more crowded, brands must learn how to get their content heard above the noise. It is this competition that has forced brands to look towards intelligent content creation.
Many companies are still struggling to see real returns from their content marketing efforts. Only an estimated one in five companies are actually producing content that is read by their target audience.
According to the Content Marketing Institute:
- 86% of B2B companies are using content marketing
- Only 21% are successfully measuring their ROI
This gap even extends to differences between the content creators and the marketers. Although 93% of content developers say they are proud of the content they are producing, only 37% of marketers are extremely or very satisfied with the content.
Nearly a full 20% are not satisfied at all.
These gaps are all hurting the ability of brands to produce intelligent content that engages the right audience, with relevant content, at the right time.
In 2016, content marketing practices need to become more intelligent. Content marketers will focus on measurement and on creating content that reaches the target audience precisely.
Content is the key to building relationships. It should encourage readers to think deeply and it should invoke emotions. As much as people like to imagine that they base their choices on concrete facts, emotions and psychology are important parts of making decisions. People remember experiences, not text. Story’s resonate.
Creating content and stories that resonate with an audience is key to content engagement. Search and social data can help brands better understand what it is that customers are looking for and the types of content that create the best experience.
As brands better understand the content that their visitors want to see, they will be able to not only encourage engagement, they can also boost their brand exposure. This applies to multi device types also as engagement rates vary.
Engaged readers are more likely to share content with others and contribute positive quality metrics, such as backlinks and low bounce rates. This will help the page rise in the SERPs.
Search and social intelligence can also help solve the problem of gaps between the marketers and content creators. It can be an objective metric that lets everyone know what customers want to see and what is having the most success.
This will make it easier for everyone to work together and feel pleased with the content that is being distributed through the content campaigns.
Fortunately, brands of all sizes can learn how to adopt this intelligent means of content production. It might require developing some new processes, but taking the time to create them will give brands the tools they need to move into the age of intelligent content with confidence.
Below are a few tips to help marketers in 2016:
Create content that resonates with your target personas
Brands should have a firm grasp of their target personas. They should understand precisely who their ideal customers are and what motivates these people to buy.
They can then use search and social data intelligence to learn about what topics their ideal customers will appreciate and the types of content that will help form the basis of a strong brand-customer relationship.
Brands should begin by researching the keywords and topics that customers desire to see. Learn about the keywords that are bringing visitors to the site now and which topics are getting the most views. Look at competitor sites as well for more insight. Brands can also use local keywords and analyze the pain points of their customers to gain a more complete keyword list.
Brands should understand the types of content that their readers are connecting with best. This goes beyond identifying keywords. There are a variety of different types of content available, including videos, infographics and images. Knowing what people respond to can help brands effectively align content creation with their audience.
Match content creation with the types of material desired by the audience
Each piece should have a specific message for a particular target audience and should invite a certain action. The content should meet visitors at their current stage of the sale funnel and move them further through the process.
For example, consider a software security company that develops a post about characteristics to look for in security software. This type of post will serve visitors in the earliest stages of the buyer’s journey. It will help visitors begin to build a relationship with the brand and learn more about this business in particular.
The authority of the post can also encourage visitors to progress to the next stage, where they will likely want to start comparing this company to other options in the industry. Visitors further along in the journey might better respond to a case study exploring how this particular software was able to enhance security for a growing business.
Use content authors within your organization and scale intelligently
Content creation should be a global effort for organizations. This means building a culture of content across the company. Brands should focus on helping the business as a whole understand the value of content and what makes good content. As the culture of content grows across the organization, it can help with the process of scaling content.
Once the organization is confident in the content creation abilities of the members of different departments and areas of the company, they can then maximize their production efforts.
Those who are most familiar with particular topics and have the best insights to offer can be tasked with creating material to address these ideas. This can increase the value the organization offers its visitors.
Distribute content intelligently
Once the content has been successfully created, distribution is the next important stage. There is a critical difference between well-executed, intelligent distribution and blasting the piece out across all platforms and over-burdening your audience. Understanding the divergence between these two methods can mean the difference between content that is well-received and productive and that which is ignored.
Brands need to first be sure that they know their target audience for the piece. Armed with this information, they can then make wise decisions about where to focus their distribution.
For example, if a brand finds that the demographics of their Twitter or Facebook followers closely matches the types of people that they are targeting with a new blog post, then that is the primary platform where the information should be posted.
An email list with people who have already handed over their email addresses, on the other hand, might be more interested in content geared towards moving people closer towards conversion rather than brand awareness.
As the information is distributed, it is important to again have goals. Work with the PR team to create high-quality messaging that will encourage people to follow through with the intended goal of a particular distribution method. The goal might be clicks and engagement, or it might be shares and increasing brand voice.
Know what the goals are before the piece is broadcasted for a clear picture of its success.
Remember again the value of the search, social and content trifecta. Social media can be a wonderful way to expose people to high-quality content, which can then be shared, increasing quality metrics for search engines. As the piece rises in SERPs, more people will read the material and they will often share it themselves on social media, starting the process all over again.
Measure and attribute content
Once content has been shared online, no brand can afford to neglect the most critical step in the process… metrics.
Metrics should be the guide that will let you know how your content marketing campaign is progressing, where you are falling short and where adjustments need to be made.
These systems of measurement should be determined by looking back at the original goals set for the piece and the campaign as a whole. For example, pieces that were written to expand brand awareness and introduce people to the brand might look at metrics such as:
- The number of visitors- including unique versus returning
- The percentage of visitors who read the content in full
- The brand’s share of voice
On the other hand, content that was written for more an end-of-funnel purpose that was geared towards encouraging conversions might look at:
- The number of leads gained
- The number of conversions
- What people did after reading the piece
Weigh how much the various metrics tell the marketer and which ones are the most insightful for analysis. Make sure there are multiple touch points for the content to gain a more holistic picture of how customers are interacting with the content.
Although 2015 began to see signs of the content marketing industry maturing, there are still many gaps to be filled.
I expect 2016 will be the year of content intelligence, where brands use metrics to create smart content that will bring in the traffic, conversions that revenue that businesses demand.