There’s more to content marketing than sporadically writing articles for your company’s blog or drafting a robust report, putting it on your site, and waiting for links to roll in. Content marketing is strategic.
As Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer at the Content Marketing Institute, describes in an article, “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” This means that content marketing aims to develop a relationship with your audience, using content as a point of entry.
Moreover, a content strategy is the detailed proposal that outlines how you plan to create, publish, and maintain the content you create. So, before putting pen to paper – or finger to key – ask yourself the question: What do I need to do to manage my content effectively?
Using data from our Content Marketing Survey 2016, which included 300 expert and advanced content marketers from enterprise companies in the United States, we explain how to prepare yourself to create, publish, and promote your company’s content effectively.
- Content marketers prioritize their brand story, mission statement, and content types when they’re creating a content strategy.
- About half (49%) say brand awareness is their main goal for content marketing.
- Content marketers say research/original data, infographics, product reviews, and blog posts are the most effective types of content.
- Metrics that correspond to sales (32%), consumption (29%), and leads (29%) are more important than sharing metrics (10%).
- Paid advertisements surpass organic efforts when it comes to promoting and distributing content.
What Companies Prioritize in Their Content Strategy
Where does content fit into your marketing efforts? As you think about your content each quarter, what components are most important to include when documenting your content strategy? We found that content marketers at enterprises are most likely to prioritize their brand story (18%), a mission statement (17%) that explains why they’re creating content, and content types (17%).
However, content marketers interviewed as part of this study said audience personas are in fact the most important component to include in a content strategy. Understanding your audience, in terms of the different personas, or personalities, that compose it, can be challenging. “Most businesses have an idea about their audience and how it is segmented, but, when it comes to taking those audiences into a content marketing strategy, they often flounder,” said Quinn Whissen, Marketing Director at Vertical Measures, a content marketing agency.
Although challenging, clearly identifying and defining audience personas is the foundation of a content strategy, according to Jeffrey Vocell, Principal Product Marketing Manager at HubSpot. “The foundation for any strategy is knowing who is being targeted. … After this, many other things fall into place, such as the content format and the types of content being created,” Vocell said. Essentially, understanding who will be reading the content predetermines what to include and how to present it.
For example, think about where you go to consume news. The New York Times, Vox, Vice, and theSkimm are all news sources, but each caters to a different audience persona, from liberals, millennials, to majority females – to name a few.
Main Content Marketing Goals
About half (49%) of content marketers say brand awareness is their main goal for content marketing, followed by higher visibility in search engines (30%), and lead generation (21%).
Although content marketing is an effective tool for achieving these goals, it’s important to remember that it can have far-reaching benefits that go beyond simply ranking an article in Google or driving traffic to your website. “We don’t simply want to have an impact on marketing but rather on the entire business unit within that organization,” said Chad Pollitt, Vice President of Audience at Relevance, a content marketing agency.
Consider how content may help meet key business objectives. If your main source of revenue comes from sales, ask yourself: “How can the content I create increase sales?” For example, HubSpot found that the more pieces of content a potential customer reads on-site, the more likely he/she is to buy their software, so they know to reach out after a user reads around three or four articles, shared Vocell of HubSpot.
Types of Content Companies Create
Enterprise companies’ go-to content formats include research/original data, infographics, product reviews, and videos. And when we asked respondents which types of content perform best, the same three content formats came out on top.
One explanation for why certain content types are produced more frequently than others is that how often a company creates a specific type of content depends on its approach to content marketing. For example, the hub-and-spoke content model entails creating an in-depth content piece, such as a white paper or research report, and then building trails, or spokes, back to it. These spokes focus on small, micro-sections of the longer content and usually take less time to create. Some examples of spoke content include infographics, reviews, interviews, and case studies, while the typical hub content types include white papers, eBooks, and research or original data.
Content Marketing Metrics
Content marketers pay the most attention to sales (32%), consumption (29%), and lead generation (29%) metrics and put much less emphasis on sharing metrics (10%).
Jay Baer, President of Convince & Convert, advises marketers to measure content performance in terms of how they want users to interact with the content. The concept lends itself to four categories of metrics:
- Consumption Metrics: The number of people consuming your content, measured by links to the content, page views, and downloads.
- Sharing Metrics: The number of people who share your content, measured by social sharing and mentions.
- Lead Generation Metrics: The number of people who become leads by providing personal information, such as filling out a lead capture form.
- Sales Metrics: The number of people who make a purchase and become customers.
Metrics should tell a story about whether you achieved your goal. “Every piece of content will have a different goal and different metrics to measure to see if that goal was achieved. People are often unclear, creating a post optimized to be found on search, but its measuring social engagement metrics. Or they don’t even know what the goal was for that content in the first place,” said Whissen of Vertical Measures.
In other words, before creating content, you need to define what return-on-investment (ROI) means for that specific piece. For example, if you’re looking to acquire a lot of social engagement, you should create list posts or videos because these content formats are most likely to get shares, according to an analysis of 1 million articles conducted by Moz and Buzzsumo in 2015.
“Many companies, especially when they’re new to content marketing as an approach, as opposed to just blogging, will struggle with documenting and sticking to a content strategy. They figure that they can go out, write a bunch of stuff, and everything’s going to be fine. These tend to be the same people who become frustrated at not seeing key results and decide that content marketing doesn’t work,” said Andrea Fryear, Owner of TheAgileMarketer.net and Founder of Fox Content, a full-service content marketing consultancy that uses agile marketing principles.
Processes for Distributing and Promoting Content
Most people are not good at promoting their content: “What we found is that the majority of content published on the Internet is simply ignored when it comes to shares and links. … It seems most people are wasting their time either producing poor content or failing to amplify it,” writes Steve Rayson, Director of BuzzSumo in London.
So, if promotion is vital to content creation, what tactics are most useful? Our survey found that content marketers use paid advertisements (71%), including paid social media and pay-per-click (PPC) and/or native ads, the most, followed by organic social media (70%), and traditional marketing channels (69%) (i.e. print, TV, radio, and direct mail).
As with content format, distribution and promotion processes need to be tailored to a particular audience. “If content distribution and promotion is done for recent college graduates, it has completely different channels and focuses, compared to content aimed at executives,” explains Fryrear of Fox Content.
On top of personalizing the promotion channels you use, it’s important to prioritize paid forms of content distribution over organic efforts. In fact, we found that the majority of enterprise content marketers surveyed believe paid advertisements are more effective than organic approaches to content distribution.
“In order to get eyeballs on content for the foreseeable future, businesses will have to pay for it,” said Pollitt of Relevance. He also noted that organic social media is not a viable promotion strategy since many social networks have decreased organic visibility for brands.
Our Takeaways and Recommendations for Action
Our survey findings lend themselves to three core recommendations for content marketing:
- Tailor all content efforts to specific audiences. This starts with identifying different personas and creating content that matches their needs, interests, and behaviors.
- Identify the business goal you plan to achieve and consider how your content can help you. For example, if you want attain more links back to your site, focus on research/original data, list posts, and why posts.
- Spend less on content creation and more on distribution. Creating high-quality content is futile if you don’t dedicate enough effort or resources to get it in front your audience. And, if you don’t have enough money to do paid advertising, focus on earned media, such as pitching journalists and influencers.
For more resources on content marketing, see 7 Predictions for Content Marketing in 2017, and look out for our next article about what makes content comprehensive, featuring an interview with Moz's Rand Fishkin.