Content marketing has become a buzz phrase, not unlike “inbound,” “SEO,” and other words thrown around by digital marketers.
All real and worthwhile concepts, these words – perhaps because of their relative newness – tend to be used as blanket terms that describe a laundry list of things. For example, “content marketing” is often used interchangeably with “social media.”
In passing conversation, this might not be a big deal, but if you make generalization mistakes when creating a content marketing strategy, it can negatively impact your success.
It’s clear why everyone’s interested in content marketing. Consider these recent stats:
Brands know that they need content marketing, but too often misconstrue what it is or how to implement it. Meanwhile, companies that have had content marketing success may be missing out on even more gains because of an oversight or lack of understanding.
Here are nine common misconceptions to avoid in your content marketing.
The internet is gloriously free. Anyone can start a website or host a social media account. Perhaps, for this reason, some brands assume that content marketing is easy. After all, you don’t need a degree or any special training to create content, right?
This view underestimates the skill involved in making content work well for the brand. Creating the right content requires deep knowledge of your brand, the digital landscape, and your audience, which is no easy task. Does your audience respond more to Facebook posts or videos? Email or blogs? Is your content actually converting?
Keep this in mind when you start a content strategy. If you fail to invest the proper amount of time and resources, you might not get very far in crafting a successful content marketing strategy.
For companies that want to drive content online but don’t have the resources to do it in-house, outsourcing can be a viable option. Some marketing agencies specialize in this kind of work.
However, outsource wisely. Reputable companies will have proven, verifiable track records. Companies that offer ultra-bargain deals or operate in a country other than ones in which you operate may not have the right experience or might use dubious business practices.
For example, a relatively unknown company may seem like a bargain for its promise to generate tons of content and get it posted on different websites. Even if it fulfills the promise, it’s most likely using black-hat SEO tactics, which can backfire. Google penalizes websites if it discovers the brand’s content and links on a less-than-reputable websites – no matter who posted it.
If outsourcing, invest the time to research and work only with reputable companies.
The role of SEO is one of the biggest misconceptions about content marketing. Many people assume that all content needs to be targeted toward search engines. True, content is a great way to improve your organic position in search engines. Valuable content that people visit and share will move your site closer to page one of search results.
The mistake many make is to try and game Google. Some brands think that if they stuff their content with keywords relevant to their business, they’ll beat the system. Keyword stuffing might result in a temporary spike in traffic, but Google is watching what its users do. The algorithm is smart, and if it detects your content isn’t valuable to searchers, it will boot your site down the search engine results chain.
When creating content, make it search-engine friendly, but focus first on providing content that your targeted audience would find valuable.
As stated, value should guide your content. However, while you shouldn’t manipulate search engines, you do want to give them some direction. There are a number of natural, approved methods of communicating basic information about your content so that search engines can match people’s queries with appropriate responses.
These days, Google is relying more on semantic search, meaning your keywords should be surrounded by relevant words and phrases on the page. Additionally, you can take a handful of simple steps to make sure your pages are search-friendly, such as including meta titles, descriptions, and headers.
People often assume that only fun, consumer-focused brands can reap the rewards of content marketing. But case studies abound showing how B2Bs have used the core principles of content to improve their power online.
Take SunGard, an IT operations company that supports many Fortune 100 companies. By creating a video series that brought humor to industry trends and pain points, and analyzing its audience’s consumption patterns, the company generated 3,000 leads in three days and scored a cumulative 87.4% click-through rate.
True, brand awareness is perhaps the easiest goal – albeit the hardest to measure – of content marketing. And, to be honest, if its effectiveness ended at brand awareness, I probably wouldn’t be writing this right now.
What a lot of brands don’t realize, however, is that content marketing isn’t just for the first stage of the sales funnel or customer journey. Content should be created and optimized to address customers’ needs as they go through the process of engaging with your products and services.
For example, if a customer visits your website, clicks on a page, and leaves, you could use retargeting tools to track the individual and advertise that departed page’s content to them as they visit other sites. Or perhaps, you secure the visitor’s email address in the first visit and send a follow-up email. Tailor your content to nudge customers further along through the journey.
According to CMI’s 2015 B2B research, only 35% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. It’s no wonder then that some brands often become frustrated with the lack of perceptible results.
A variety of tools can track the impact of your content. Google Analytics is probably the most common method of measuring data gleaned from your website, social media channels, blogs, and more. You can even dig down and get granular results so you know how your audience interacts with specific pages and posts.
The web is basically teeming with tools for measuring, managing and creating content. Figure out which ones work for you and start tracking your efforts today.
I’ve seen some brands become frustrated that their content marketing doesn’t pay off as quickly as they would like. This is understandable. If you invest time and money into something, you want to see results as soon as possible.
But content marketing is about building relationships. Just like in life, it takes time. It’s unlikely that someone will view your content and immediately make a purchase. Be prepared to play the long game. You need to establish trust with people before they take further action. Take that person who views your content and get him to provide an email address. Now, you have the start of a relationship.
Remember, with content marketing, the prospect is in the driver’s seat. Brands have to provide value to their targeted audiences to prove their true worth, and that can take months.
Make sure you set manageable benchmarks and set a reasonable time to expect an ROI on your content efforts.
Of course, the content itself is essential, but it’s only one part of the overall strategy. Content marketing includes everything from distribution to interaction and communication. You can’t just create and post a blog post and expect it to do all the work for you.
In fact, before you create any content, you should create a documented content marketing strategy. To whom is your content targeted? What do you want your audience to do? How will you promote your content? Which websites can you target in order to get backlinks? Does your plan account for responding to people in real time over social media? How often will you post?
These are just some of the many questions you need to address before implementing your strategy. The takeaway here is that each individual piece of content needs to interact with a larger plan.
Author: STEPHEN MOYERS