When it comes to building brand equity, content is king. Customers expect to be informed and entertained along their journey from product awareness to purchase. To be efficient, content needs to:
- Drive engagement
- Establish thought leadership
- Contribute to SEO
- Drive traffic beyond its publish date
- Be able to be repurposed for social and email marketing
Content marketing shouldn’t focus on directly driving sales. This can make it challenging to develop effective strategies. So what should ocus on?
It ultimately comes down to a simple quid pro quo: if the content benefits your audience, it will benefit you. The best strategies provide useful and/or entertaining information to keep potential customers engaged, building stronger, more authentic relationships.
Where to start?
A good rule of thumb: go with what you know. By demonstrating your expertise, you can establish thought leadership in your industry, building trust among potential customers.
Determining what your target audience is searching for is a great way to decide what topics you want to dissect. Tailoring your posts to address their specific interests will draw your consumers to you. Do this by looking into what your competitors are writing about to get an idea.
Once you’ve determined the topics for your content, it’s important to make sure the finished product serves more than just an immediate purpose. For example, an article about what’s trending now in your industry won’t be as valuable as a post explaining a common problem your target customer has and how to solve it (Hint: Your product is usually the solution). “These Ten Celebrities are Wearing Our Watches” may not be relevant next season; “Ten Reasons Why a Stylish Timepieces Stand Out at Weddings” has far more staying power.
We refer to this type of content as “evergreen” because it continues to produce benefits far past its publish date. Evergreen content can still be repurposed for other marketing efforts in the near term (like email and social media). Optimizing content to rank well in search queries (also known as Search Engine Optimization, or SEO) will boost your content’s visibility, further increasing its value.
Plan out a content calendar to help keep you organized. If you’re not posting frequently enough, users may lose interest. If you’re posting too often, it might dilute the value of each piece.
Draw up a calendar to determine an appropriate cadence of posts. Plan ahead and balance formats. It’s always a better idea to provide a variety of post types to keep your content feeling fresh. It’s a best practice to post at least 3-5 pieces of original content a month.
Remember – selling your products or services should be the last thing on your mind when crafting your content! If your content is fun or informative, it will keep your target audience coming back for more and encourage them to share it with others. This in turn will help to build brand awareness and third-party validation. When it’s time to buy, they’ll know which brand to turn to.
Content Marketing Metrics
Trying to measure the success of your content marketing efforts can be tricky. The metrics you should look at depend entirely on your goals. As with all marketing campaigns, the ultimate goal is conversions. But content marketing can drive conversions in different ways. Here are the metrics you should consider if you’re looking to…
This one is pretty straightforward. Look at the click-through rate (CTR) for any calls-to-action (CTAs) associated with your content. It’s the ultimate goal, but it takes time to build up your content to the point where it converts reliably. Until then, monitor traffic as a measure of success.
Boost SEO / Push Down Negative Results
Another easy one – just run a Google search for your content. If your pages rank at or near the top, and negative search results are nowhere to be found, then you’ve passed the basic eye test. Just make sure that even if your pages rank well, they’re actually bringing in leads and conversions.
Increase Time on Site
Look at average time on page. First, determine the main sources of traffic for your content. Where are readers arriving from (search, social, email, etc.)? Then look at how much time they’re spending on the page or use other marketing tools like heatmaps to see how they’re interacting with your content. Finally, check to see if leads are consuming other content on your site or visiting other pages to inform future content strategies.
Boost Social Engagement
Content can really fuel social growth. Use UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes to track how much site traffic can be attributed to social posts. Check how many likes, shares, comments, etc. your content is earning across social channels to get an idea of what people think of it.
As you evaluate your metrics, remember that content is a long-term game. You may not see results from your content marketing efforts for weeks, if not months. Search rankings don’t change overnight. Monitor your performance over time and manage your expectations accordingly.
Driving SEO Value
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one of the most bandied-about acronyms in marketing. What does it mean? It’s the process of earning unpaid, organic traffic to increase your website’s ranking in search results.
Though it takes time to truly take root, a strong SEO strategy will reward you exponentially down the line. A common misconception is that successful SEO strategies should focus on keywords – i.e. creating content for your webpage with tons of terms for search engine algorithms to index so your site will show up in relevant searches.
The fact is, search engines are smarter than that. They value quality inbound links from trustworthy sources far more than they value what you say about yourself.
For example, a link to your website from The New York Times will do more for your SEO than jamming your content full of buzzwords for which you want to rank. That’s not to say your content shouldn’t always contain relevant terms – just keep the greater goal of earning quality links in mind.
As you determine what direction to take your SEO efforts, start with an audience inventory. Look at what pages people are visiting on your site to see what they’re interested in. Next, look at the terms you already rank well for and what you’d like to rank for in the future. This information should give you a good idea of what topics to cover.
Your content should be engaging, informative and filled with relevant terms, without sacrificing readability in favor of piling up keywords. The more interesting and/or entertaining it is, the more likely you are to earn links from the authoritative industry blogs, press, influencers, etc. As always, use data to adjust and optimize your strategy.