Content marketing is approaching an inflection point – this inflection point will determine the role of content marketing in the modern marketing technology stack.
It seems that, everywhere you go, content marketing and native advertising have become the hot-button topic du jour, as it becomes increasingly apparent how these strategies have the potential to drive performance while delivering valuable and targeted content to customers at the right time.
But despite the potential of content marketing and the number of resources dedicated to the creation of content, we are in the middle of a content marketing crisis. In a recent survey of more than 250 marketers for Fortune 500 brands, my company found only 30 percent of marketers report more than half of their content is actually engaged with.
In an industry where it is estimated that $145 billion is spent on content each year, that means that marketers are wasting at least $75 billion every year by creating content that is never consumed, never viewed, and drifts onto the back shelf of the infinite internet library. The net result is wasted resources, loss of website traffic, conversions, and revenue.
Problem presented. So the question is how do marketers rev up their content marketing strategies to create “Smart Content”, useful, discoverable content that delivers real ROI? I promise you that cranking out more content won’t be the solution.
Smart content requires targeted, optimized and integrated approaches that can be adaptive to changes in the marketplace or industry. Such smart content turns content creation from an act of informed guessing to precision driven performance. Marketers need to turn to best practices for creating smart content that fuels modern marketing and satisfies the needs of consumers in the post-mobile world. Without it, marketers will fall behind their competition, lose connectivity with their customers, and ultimately fail. Here are my five recommendations for getting smarter with your content.
1. Understand your audience and target intent
Many marketers understand the capabilities of social media and ad buys to target narrow slivers of the population, but neglect to apply these sentiments to content development and optimization.
We assume our general sense of who we’d like to get our message out to – “potential clients”, for example – will be a sufficient guidepost to produce high-performing content that is easily found by consumers. Easy, right?
The first step to creating the right type of content that is both discovered by and engaged with is identifying the needs of your target audience and the moments when they are looking to address those needs. Why do they care about or need this content?
Consider developing personas that identify aspects of who your audience is, what type of content they want and how they want to consume it – otherwise known as customer intent.
For example, if you manage the digital presence of a home improvement store that identifies women are a core target audience with potential for growth, consider tracking what type of content this audience searches for – perhaps “DIY kitchen remodels” is a common search term. Develop smart content that meets that naturally arising need for that information.
These personas, which are essentially personified marketing segmentation tools, help you better understand the priorities and behaviors of your “average” consumer. Meaningfully understanding consumers can set you up for success as you craft content to guide them along the buyer’s journey. In fact, these personas are essential for effective digital content, as they enable marketers to micro-target content towards the right consumers.
2. Start smart by pairing SEO with content at the beginning
Whether you’re starting up a new content marketing operation or trying to build on top of what you have, one of the most important things you can do is to prioritize search engine optimization (SEO) from the very start.
In the aforementioned survey my company took of 250 marketers, the majority agreed SEO and content are becoming more integrated or converging into one function.
Recognizing the powerful relationship between SEO and organic content early on, in fact, can set your content up for success as it makes everything you write that much more visible to search engines – who will reward you for adhering to SEO best practices. You can learn more with this free-to-download checklist here.
Whether you’re writing the content yourself, or somebody else is doing it, make sure all pertinent stakeholders know what these best practices are so that you’ll get the most out of your content every time. To do this you must ensure that your SEO and content teams are aligned to keep ahead of key trends and build frameworks that impact overall digital marketing success.
For example, that means properly deploying H1 tags, and H2 tags, building your link architecture with some semblance of order and properly categorizing content (like blog posts) every time it’s posted.
Thinking about this at the beginning of the process – and pairing SEO with content from its inception – will save you time and maximize the value of your effort.
3. Reach consumers along key moments that matter
Just like digital search disrupted how we access information in general, the mass-proliferation of mobile devices equipped with high-speed internet has upped the ante. How? By bringing our ability to quickly access information with us everywhere we go, basically all the time.
If that sounds hyperbolic, consider that the majority of searches are now taking place on mobile devices. Then, think back to those personas mentioned at the beginning of this article. If you really consider what the average consumer is doing every day, chances are there is a mobile device in his or her hand at multiple points throughout the 15 or so hours the average person spends awake.
People look at content on their mobile devices and make decisions. If you want to be a factor in that decision making, it’s important that you are developing mobile-friendly experiences.
Rather than wrestling with your content to re-adapt it for mobile devices, just think mobile-first. From the very start, plan to build experiences that load quickly, are visually appealing on smaller devices, and seek to inform, enrich or convert with just a few swipes or scrolls.
4. Always account for change and be optimizing
While we’re on the subject of mobile, it’s important to take an important lesson from how those portable devices completely changed the game for marketers in the space of just a few years.
The lesson? Change is one of life’s key constants – and this is especially true for those of us in digital marketing.
Whether it’s algorithmic change – take, for example, Google’s marking of sites without HTTPS as nonsecure, and rewarding sites with HTTPS higher positions on the SERP. Or shifts in technology, it’s up to marketers to stay on top of these changes to account for both customer behavior and changes in the tech landscape.
Today, it is secure, mobile-optimized content that is the breadwinner for marketers. Tomorrow (almost literally), as artificially intelligent digital assistants and voice-command technology become more relevant, content optimized for A.I. and voice search will be number one. The day after that, there will likely be another technology and set of consumer behaviors to account for. We as marketers must be agile enough to pivot and perform when that time comes.
5. Take advantage of emerging technology shifts to maintain your edge
Everywhere you turn, there are conversations about artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Rather than dismissing this conversation as the latest buzz, marketers should keep their fingers on the pulse on the role that artificial intelligence can (and is already starting to) play in modern marketing technology.
As marketing has grown more data-centric and performance-driven, and as data touch points have exploded in population, there is more information out in the digital sphere than is sustainable for any person to process and respond to effectively. Artificial intelligence in martech is, fortunately, emerging to bridge that gap by quickly parsing data, offering insights about consumer behaviors, automatically updating content to adhere to the latest in SEO best practices, and more.
If marketers are feeling the pressure to perform as their budgets increase and the c-suite looks to them for measurable results, then they would be wise to invest some of those budgets into marketing technology that helps them focus on building maximum ROI from the gate. Artificial intelligence may be the help you need by touching on each of the five “must-dos” for marketing success defined here.
Guest author: As the SVP of Marketing for BrightEdge, Kevin leads the company’s go-to-market strategy and a growing marketing team responsible for building the BrightEdge brand, driving demand, and expanding customer relationships. Prior to BrightEdge he was the Chief Marketing Officer of Act-On software. Kevin was also VP, Product & Market Solutions at ExactTarget & Salesforce.com, where his team fueled the company’s growth through a successful IPO in 2012 and acquisition by Salesforce two years later for $2.7 billion. Kevin has a BA from Michigan State University.