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The term “content marketing” has become so overused and misapplied.
In fact, many companies I speak with often believe they have not actually done content marketing unless they have put up a blog or generated an audience in social media.
Then there are those marketers who have pushed forward with creating so much horrible, boring, inconsequential and uninformative content – simply to generate clicks or to sell ads – that they saturated the Internet, abused the concept and turned people off.
So, let’s be clear: Content is critical to marketing.
Search engine results are critical to marketing.
But the biggest challenges facing you as a marketing, communications or public relations professional are:
- Not understanding who your customers are as people
- Cost constraints and
- Risk avoidance.
How do you avoid these pitfalls?
Ask A LOT of questions!
As professionals we need always ask questions such as: What do people like? What keeps them up at night? What makes them laugh, cringe, cry, pick up the phone, share, respond and act.
And we have to ask questions about each piece of content we are going to produce. Why are we doing this? What are our goals? Is this content valuable? If so, to whom? And why?
To me asking questions is the necessary building block to the story you really want to tell.
Content marketing isn’t going away and is not waning. But in when you enter a world that is filled with so many boring articles, deceptive headlines and uninformative insights, you need to work that much harder and force yourself to ask and understand what people want more than ever before.
In short, the only way to make your content marketing as effective as it can be is to have the best possible connection to the people you are trying to reach.
I’ve seen it more times done incorrectly than done correctly in today’s fast and furious market.
Money, resources and shortcuts are used to get a website out the door without it being fully ready for prime time. Management often thinks they can launch with a site 60-percent ready, but the first 2 weeks of a website’s launch sets the tone for the viewer perception of a site – and ultimately, the perception a user will have on doing business with a company.
Let’s not forget a bad user experience is more likely to be discussed with a user’s network of friends, family and associates. Brands are tainted by their website’s deficiencies. How many times have you went back to a site just to show a friend the ridiculously flawed experience you had so you can laugh and shake your head at it in conjugated laughter?
Yeah. We’re all guilty. A bad user experience spreads like wildfire and by the time a web team realizes it, first impressions are already made, established and revenue is indeed lost.
Below, is a list of the top 11 (because 10 is too few and 12 is too many) most common website tasks teams don’t seem to have the foresight to include in their launch plans – whether the launch is managed by an IT team or a brand management group, these mistakes can make or break your brand strategy when it comes to website consumption and acceptance in the marketplace. If followed and implemented, they will keep you from becoming the laughing stock of your potential customers and of your competitors.
11. Conduct a complete audit of promotions, grammar and spelling. Just because all of your copy came from a copy desk or a professional writer doesn’t mean it is perfect. Where there are humans, there is human error. Have a person who is not familiar with the promotions, but is a proficient in web writing and grammar, look at the editorial on the pages for flow, fact and intrigue. This is one of the most important tasks. A mistake seen is a mistake read and consumed. Better for it to be consumed by an internal instead of a potential client.
10. Don’t forget mobile, tablets and other devices. There is no getting around it in today’s world. You must have a solid strategy for mobile and tablet viewing. Don’t consider it a post-launch enhancement. It is not. Failure to work on a Droid, an iPhone or a Kindle device could easily cost you valuable customer support. But then again, if you’re OK with ‘This Website Is Not Viewable on This Device’ as being the first thing a user sees … well, by all means … tackle it post launch.
9. Complete and deploy a site map consistent with site offerings. A common misconception is a link to the site map is not needed on a website and that it is only used by search engines. This is completely false. From a user perspective, a site map is an easy way to see all the pages a website has to offer without much fuss. There is a set of online users who prefer to surf via site map. It’s the first thing they find on a site and they’ll bookmark them because they prefer to enter pages this way versus going through main nav. Don’t ask my why. It’s not my preference, but it is an essential part of footer and even header navigation. Don’t bury it in main nav. Give it a place in your universal footer and also in your universal header nav by the search bar.
8. Do Not under-utilized page tagging, keywords and metadata. I have worked with vendors who completely ignore the need for individual page tags, keywords and metadata on each page within a site structure. It is one of the most ignorant assumptions within SEO, SEM and SOA to assume these items do not matter. They do. They also need to be entered in before a site is live. You will lose valuable search traction and indexing if you do not deploy proper tagging at the onset.
7. Do not back into your launch dates. Ah. The moving target of a launch date. How it alludes and changes on a whim. … For those who don’t know what they are doing. Take your website feature sets, enhancements and overall product requirements and listen to your development team. Do not commit to dates based on unrealistic expectations. New technology or functionality requires more thought, care and testing. You’ve hired people on your tech team because they know their stuff. Trust their ability to do their jobs and don’t short change them on time.
6. You say 60%? I say 90%. Through the years, I’ve seen websites launch to ‘just get out the door’ in various states of readiness. And while nothing can launch 100 percent perfect, you should get it as close as possible. Because if you don’t, someone else will. In this competitive market in all sectors of business, the race is on to be the best. Shotty web work won’t get you there – even if you’re fixing it later.
5. Do a thorough link check of your website. So you wrote a cute message on your ‘404 page not found’ pages within your website. But STOP! Stop spending so much time being clever on error pages when there are real pages out there needing attention. Your error pages shouldn’t be seen. They are a fallback if something breaks – not pages you’re expecting to see traffic and conversion on. Use free link checkers online to find your problems and fix them. Launching with a few broken links happens. Launching with 600 is just shotty work.
4. Build a site completely compliant with your browser matrix. Do you have adequate information on what browsers people are using when they come to your site? If you don’t, get it. If you can’t get it, look up the most common browsers used online by percentages and make sure your site sings in all of them. As a rule of thumb, I require my sites to be in compliance with any browser getting more than 10% use.
3. Install and verify all analytics. There isn’t a reason to not have data collection on your website. Google Analytics is free and there are also several others out there providing metrics at a fair price. These services tell you extremely valuable information about how your site is being used, where it is being used and what type of people are coming to it. It also gives you geographical information, time spent on site by users and also unique visitors and pageviews. There is no limit to what you can do to make improvements to your site and product offerings with this information.
2. If you say it, deliver it. Your website is a sales pitch. But it shouldn’t be misleading. Truth in advertising seems to be a little more important on the web than in other places. If a tool set or feature on your site promises something, make sure it delivers – and not just half way. Don’t be afraid to tell your users you want to know what they think or that you’re in ‘alpha’ or ‘beta’ phase of a project. They’ll appreciate your honesty and those words allow for some errors and even a little misrepresentation as you’re gearing up for a GM.
1. When you’re launched, you’re not done. You just worked a 36-hour shift to get the site out the door, went home to sleep and now you’re back at work. You’re not done. It’s time to get back to the drawing board. While troubleshooting and solving bugs on the existing site, it’s time to come up with promotion schedule, editorial calendars, publishing timelines and yes … the next redesign. Website tech evolves and so should your site if you plan to keep up. A web team’s job is never done. If it is, you’re team just isn’t good enough to cut it.
Some of these might come across sorta harsh. But I’m here to tell you launching a great site is no easy thing and each and every area I’ve outlined has got to be executed in order for success.
Can you think of some others? I’d love to hear them! Leave some comments and I’ll work on a follow up and include them.
Often when I start a content marketing project or campaign, I am asked to create plans that help build up interest in a new product, service or announcement. Things that the company really cares about.
Yet, for companies that lack a new product, service or announcement, they struggle with considering what a content marketing campaign is for. Should they talk about past successes, find features of old products that could use a social media push or just start a random Instagram push to show that the staff is still alive?
The answer isn’t so obvious, especially to communication teams that have been doing the same things for a long time and comfortable with staying busy with the work they’re doing. That’s why communicators need to look deep into their website statistics to find future inspiration.
As I often tell people, content marketing isn’t about telling people just what your company does, it’s about telling the right people why you’re the expert they should talk to. You’re offering a solution to their challenge, not just a product that you want to sell. And web stats are a treasure trove of activity that helps teams understand what their audience is seeking when they arrive.
Ugh, I know. If you’re a communicator (I’m a former PR person and journalist), stats sounds a bit overwhelming but it isn’t. It’s a way of understanding your audience with the mindset that you’re delivering more of what they want to read.
To set the bar, I recommend looking at least six months of data (multiple years if available). Even if you have a data analyst on your team already, you should work to get access to the raw data (if you’re allowed) that you can parse, build trends, see advantages, discover challenges and the most important thing – what content is your current and future customers reading?
Data, even from free services such as Google Analytics, can help give you an idea of where readers are coming from, where they’re coming from and when they’re leaving. For a site with a great deal of content, the stat for “pages viewed per session” is always one of the most interesting points for content marketers. It gives a basis for how long readers are within your site and getting to the stuff that they want. For a tight site with a focus on one or two pages, a low “pages per session” number can indicate that you’ve done a great job. But for a company with 10 or more products, an average of 1-2 pages per visit clearly indicates that there’s a problem.
This is where doing a deeper analysis on those statistics can show which pages they’re going to, the amount of time they stayed for and how often they left your site. Your goal is to examine your most valuable content, learn why it’s valuable and apply that learning to other parts of your site.
Sadly, there’s no easy button. Analysis takes time. Conclusions take more time. But the return on that investment can significantly increase your content marketing success as well as decrease the amount of time spent creating “just content.”
Regardless of where you are with your content marketing plan, Social Web Tactics’ team of experts offers services to assist in helping you better understand your company, deciphering how customers see you and building content marketing campaigns based on your company’s success.
There’s a great deal of information on the web about how to implement a content marketing plan. But applying that plan can often be difficult for businesses that view it as a cure-all for proving their knowledge.
There are several different levels to a content marketing plan and the first part is to ask yourself how much content do you already have, how much will you need to create, what are your goals and do you have enough to talk about? The best content marketing successes often grow from the successes you’ve already grown.
As in life, there’s no easy button. When I talk to businesses looking to expand their presence or sales, I often ask how many experts do they have? This is the first crucial step in building a plan. If you have teams of experts, advisors and partners, they’re your best resort for not only understanding what your business does well but where it excels (or doesn’t). The greater the volume of experts, the bigger the story your business will be able to tell.
And your best subject matter experts (SME) are those with their noses in the news, eyes on the competition and brain focused on growing the business – salespeople, engineers and others within your business. The role of a content marketer isn’t to recreate the wheel for your business, it’s to improve the wheel you already have and build a marketing vehicle for growth.
Yet, there can bumps in the road. Frequency and consistency are the two biggest factors in determining a successful content marketing plan. Many businesses struggle to find a balance between the two. First and foremost, set realistic goals for your plan. Don’t expect to have a new piece of content every single day. If your current content cadence is every once in a while, start with planning a monthly schedule. If you have a few random updates in a month, consider biweekly.
Content marketers can help create the content but can also offer differing levels of engagement from social media promotion, email marketing, blogs, infographics, ebooks, white papers and for some, even assisting with getting the interest of trade or industry publications that want to hear more about your business.
Finally, can you make content marketing a priority? While initial engagements with a content marketer or a digital marketing service provider will take time to set the goals and parameters for success, allocating time for those experts to speak to the content creators is a priority. The best organizations will create performance goals for these experts to ensure that they help the effort.
So are you ready? If you’re ready to pursue your content marketing plan, please contact us at: 703-362-1586
Content marketing is used to engage prospects and customers with important pieces of knowledge designed to help them and their business. Your goal with content marketing is to inform and engage.
However, many companies do not know how to build an effective strategy. Others struggle with implementing a content marketing plan. And almost everyone has a challenge with quantifying the value of content marketing to upper management.
In an effort to help people with how to create a content marketing strategy for their company, we hosted a webinar and covered a lot of ground, such as:
- What is content marketing and how it is valuable
- How to create a content marketing strategy
- How to implement your plan
- How to measure your results, and
- Examples of successful content marketing strategies
Watch: “How To Create A Content Marketing Strategy For Your Company”
What is content marketing and how it is valuable
First of all, I think a lot of people try to make content marketing into this new trend. Content marketing, as defined in Wikipedia, is any marketing that “involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers.” It is information that can be shared or distributed in a variety of ways, including as news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos and more.
Does that sound familiar?
Well, it should. I am willing to bet that 100% of you reading this have engaged in some form of content marketing in your professional career. In fact, the whole point of marketing is to create demand or interest. Therefore, when you think about it, content marketing is just marketing.
So, what is all the fuss?
The truth is – content marketing may be another way to say “marketing,” but the label does add some context to the fact that as marketers we need to produce more information (or content) for our prospects and existing customers. Just remember that when you think of content marketing – its more than writing blog posts or sharing things in social media. The term is really designed to cover the entire scope of your marketing strategy.
Now we come to the value of content marketing. In my view, the value of content marketing is measured by two things: 1) Your content marketing goals. And 2) Your content marketing effectiveness. These two charts, which are in the webinar slide deck and video, help to illustrate what I am talking about. When you start to build out your content marketing strategy or plan, you need to think about what your company’s or organization’s goals are, how you are going to measure those goals, and then how you will identify which tactics are effective.
How to create a content marketing strategy
So, how do you go about creating a content marketing strategy?
Let’s start with a basic checklist:
- Get Stakeholder Support
- Understand Your Audience
- Identify the Right Content Formula
- Create an Editorial Calendar
- Get Maximum Mileage Out of Your Content
- Develop a Process for Measuring and Reporting
I included this basic checklist, because building out a content marketing strategy does take planning and requires a solid process. In fact, when it comes to getting stakeholder support – the first action item – you will most likely have to repeat that one process with each step you go through. What I mean is that when you decide to create a new content marketing program (a blog, a webinar series, etc), you need to share that idea and get approval to proceed to the next step. Then as you build out profiles for your target audience, you will want to go back to your stakeholders and make sure your data and profiles are accurate and receive approval before you move on to identifying the right content formula. Stakeholder support is the most important and repetitive part of creating a content marketing strategy. It also can be the most frustrating, because you may end up getting to know your customers better than your senior managers or executives.
Once you get your preliminary stakeholder approval, the next important step is understanding your audience. This is where you will need to build a customer persona. A customer persona is a representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating personas you should start off by basing them on existing customers, their demographics, behaviors, habits, motivations and needs. Detail is important. Every buyer should meet one of the personas you create.
As you get a clear window into who your customers are, you can then start to establish what they like. What kinds of business challenges do they have? What opportunities are they looking for? What kinds of content do they read, where do they read it and when? All of these questions and more will help you get to the next phase, which is learning what is the right content formula for your audience. You can then go to building an editorial calendar that helps to meet the needs and interests of your prospects and customers.
How to implement your plan
In the implementation section of the webinar, we talk a lot more about the technical side and tactics. Specifically, we are very focused on information architecture and SEO. The reason is that if you do not have your website structured well for content, and you are not optimizing your topics, titles and content for people and search engines, you are not going to give yourself a chance to succeed.
Information Architecture, as defined in Wikipedia, “is the structural design of shared information environments; the art and science of organizing and labeling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability; and an emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.”
I like this definition, especially the word “findability.” If you think back to what marketing is all about – generating demand / interest – being found is pretty important. Given that most adults (I think it is over 80% of all internet users) will conduct a Google search each day to find information, your ability to be found in those searches should be the most important part of your web and marketing strategy. Think of search engines as question and answer engines. Your prospects and customers are asking questions. What answer are they going to read? Yours? Or your competitors?
At Strayer University, I insisted on changing the URL structure for the website to increase organic traffic. Specifically, I knew from customer research that people were not looking for a “business program.” They were looking for “business degrees.” By changing the URL structure on the website, we almost doubled organic traffic YOY. In a highly competitive market, impacts to your website’s traffic volume could be the difference between gaining an advantage, holding ground or substantially losing ground.
There are other steps you need to take to make sure you implement a content marketing strategy successfully involve the kinds of questions you ask yourself and your team. I am a big believer in asking questions, such as:
- What are the goals of this content (why are we creating it)?
- What are the goals for the business (how do we make money)?
- What does it need to solve for the consumer (what is the audience intent)?
- Who do we have internally or externally that can create this content?
- When do we need to deliver it so it makes an impact?
- How are we going to measure that impact?
If you can answer these questions before you create content or before you create your overall strategy, implementation should be the easiest part of the process.
How to measure your results
Lastly, we come to measuring results.
There is a lot of information about this in the Webinar. To put it simply though, measurement always comes back to the goals you defined at the start. What are you trying to achieve with this content?
I always want to simplify this for my customers. Most of the time, measuring comes down to leads and sales. But that does not always have to be the case. Content can be produced to improve customer support. In that case, you want to measure sentiment – how are your customers feeling about you and what are they saying. Were you able to take negative views and change them back into positive ones? Content also can produced to deliver delight and enjoyment, or engagement. Motivational messaging, sharing a tactic that will help a company improve a business process, or challenging people with a hot topic ALL have a place in content marketing and all could be measured a bit differently.
In the chart below, Marketing Charts has listed the most effective sources of marketing data that marketers use. But do not let that confuse you. Social media data and paid search data, for example, can be very effective sources. The question is – do you have access to the data? Do you know how to access it? Or do you know how to use it? Many people will present data just to present data. But what STORY does the data tell? That is ultimately how you want to explain your success – by a story that shows how you started, what the journey was like and what the next steps in that journey are going to look like.[hr]
If you have questions about this article or the webinar, or are interested in creating a content marketing strategy or enhancing your existing program, please e-mail Michael Hackmer directly at: email@example.com.
The Loudoun County Field Hockey League was born over a three-week period of time beginning in mid-August of 2014. Like any new organization, we did not have any web or social media presence. As we started to plan what we needed to do, we set goals to capture key local search terms as quickly as possible. Our main focus was to rank #1 in Google around “Loudoun County Field Hockey” and displace a league we had splintered-off from.
As a parent, league co-founder and assistant coach for the Broad Run Spartans varsity and junior varsity field hockey teams, I was in a unique position to help boost our league’s presence in search engines.
After a few weeks of finalizing our web presence, getting our key social media accounts into order, and building an audience, we were able to rank #1 in Google for the phrase “Loudoun County Field Hockey” as well as secure #3 with our Facebook page and #10 with our twitter account (see the results below via a screen shot).
Over time, we a looking forward to building out a stronger web presence around additional terms through other social media accounts, as well as through blogging and posting videos. Through additional content marketing and search engine optimization, we can continue to grow the league and ultimately better promote the outstanding young women who play field hockey in Loudoun County.
Support Making Girls Field Hockey A High School Sport
On December 2 at 6:30 pm at the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) building, the LCPS school board will meet to hear testimony in favor of making field hockey a high school sport. The team at Social Web Tactics encourages all local parents to come out and support making field hockey a recognized sport in the high schools. Loudoun County has a greater proportion of male student athletes to female athletes. And as the Loudoun County League and other recreational leagues have demonstrated, there are hundreds of young women who play field hockey. These girls deserve to have the same high school sports experience as their male and female classmates.