From killer eCommerce copy to dazzling infographics, content has never been more integral to creating a solid digital presence. Executing an effective campaign is no easy task; while timeless PR know-how always helps, trends move fast. Staying ahead of the game can feel like an endless challenge.
We recently published the State of Content Marketing Survey 2018 and the results showed an industry hungry for knowledge. 88% of marketing decision makers told us they use written content – more than any other channel. The power of the written word still reigns strong in digital marketing, but a new year brings unique challenges for professionals across the industry.
Less than one in five marketers are clear on how to run a campaign. More surprisingly still, almost as many are “not clear at all” on what effective content marketing looks like. You told us your biggest bugbears – from generating fresh ideas to keeping up with PR trends and securing C-suite investment.
We have taken your woes on board, answering the questions defining content in 2018.
In this ever-changing era, a key challenge is keeping content fresh. Ten years ago, content marketing was still in its infancy – now, you can be sure someone else is writing on the same topic, no matter how niche. It is a bitter irony that, just as content has become more vital, it has become more difficult than ever to stand out from the crowd.
52% of marketers told us creating cutting edge content is a main challenge. The rise of social means it can seem like the world and their grandmother is a publisher, but in reality, quality content is as rare as ever. Targeted content is a fantastic asset, but even experienced writers can benefit from refreshing their ideas.
To get ahead of the competition, you should avoid falling into comfort zones. Engaging, unique and shareable content is better than simply creating a mirror image of your competitor’s blog. If you are struggling to balance quality, speed and cost, never compromise on the former.
When it comes to idea generation, keep your ideas creative and don’t be afraid to try new things. Even if you have established a winning formula that’s leading to conversions, it’s always worth taking a step back to ensure what you’re doing is keeping your audience engaged.
Source ideas from multiple channels, including industry news and what your target demographic is searching for. Don’t be afraid to try new mediums and angles. If you can generate a piece of dazzling interactive content filled with unique stats, you can benefit from the value of top news sites linking back to your site. Keep up-to-date with industry news and stay primed to react.
You can seek inspiration from a wide range of sources from social media to TED Talks. Brainstorm creatively then sense-check to prevent a PR nightmare (we've created a checklist for this very purpose!).
Your business blog is a great opportunity to act like a publisher – giving your brand the authority it craves. As all great publishers know, variety is the spice of life. To create a real readership among your target audience, mix things up using a combination of new media and old school journalism.
Using guest authors is one useful way to shake up the mix – but treat them with care. Make sure these expert voices add value to the existing structure of your blog. Lay out some ground rules by creating a tone of voice and style guide, then link back to your expert’s site for a simple way for both of you to benefit.
If your main promotion channel is via social, video is the crowning glory of content. 92% of mobile video consumers share video with others, which offers a fantastic opportunity to engage new eyes and drive them down your funnel. If you already know how to scoop a great story via Vox Pops and interviews, adapting this for video should be a breeze. Just make sure your final edit is sharp, with subtitles and great lighting for a professional result.
Content marketing depends on staying ahead of the latest digital trends. In order to do that, it helps to know what they are. While just 3% of the marketers we questioned currently invest in voice, 17% plan to introduce voice optimisation within the next year. This huge jump offers clues about how the landscape will shift in 2019.
As Alexa and co. take centre stage, the way search engines scout out snappy soundbites of useful information changes, too. In turn, the way we write for search must change – and that means adapting your copywriting skills.
According to Google, users search because they want to know, go, do or buy. These four micro-moments represent a potential stage of the user journey, and for voice search they operate at lightning speed.
So-called micro-moments are generated in a fraction of a second. For your content to stand a chance of ranking well, it must conform to a few key standards. We know Google prefers concise, well presented answers for its search boxes and according to a study by HubSpot, the typical voice search result is just 29 words.
Write concisely and use simple language with the aim to produce an informative response to a user’s query. At the same time, avoid creating individual pages to target a single search term. Google prefers to extract perfectly crafted snippets from long form content.
Search betrays a great deal about the human mind – what drives us, what we fear and the knowledge we value. Whether you’re writing for finance or eCommerce, it pays to understand your audience so you can work to capture their queries. Perhaps they want inspiration for the latest trends or the factual resources they need to make an informed decision.
Voice search is more semantic than desktop search; users are likely to ask a question instead of entering a search term. Creating ‘how-to’ guides and FAQ pages is a simple way to ensure your content stays relevant for emerging tech. Capture the simple queries, write copy that captures attention and send your user on a valuable journey.
Long tail keywords are longer search terms, and they’re an invaluable way to tap into your niche. Our handy guide to long tail keywords is a useful blog to help you identify an opportunity.
These longer phrases are typically conversational, which makes them valuable for voice. They are also very specific, which makes them easier to rank for. By ranking well for a surrounding term, you are able to build authority around your topic.
Content marketing and digital PR should prioritise telling over selling. If your eCommerce site sells a niche product, target the keywords surrounding the topic. If your brand is an insurance broker, tackle the everyday queries about policy jargon, legal confusion and each type of insurance you sell. Myth-busting pieces are a great way to target the common industry misconceptions.
As always, your digital image is important, so it’s important to ensure keywords sound natural. Incorporating long tail keywords is a subtle craft, so trust your instincts if something doesn’t fit.
Once you’ve created some killer content, whether it’s a blog post, infographic or campaign quiz, you’ll want to sing and shout about it. Every publication needs an audience, and the more eyes see your blog, the more sales conversions your organisation will see in the long run.
The best promotion and outreach methods for your brand depend heavily on the goals of your current campaign. Conversion-focused eCommerce sites tend to prefer search-led strategies, while working with social influencers can build brand awareness. It’s also worth considering who you’re targeting – are they likely to act as a loyal brand ambassador by re-sharing your content, or do your time poor clients want a speedy purchase via search?
Just as we must adapt content writing as tech changes, the ways to secure great traffic are becoming ever more advanced. Organic social reach took a hit from major newsfeed updates earlier in 2018. This major change disrupted new media models, meaning it has become difficult to rely on organic social posting. Consider other methods, like targeted social promotion or encouraging cutting-edge publications to link back to your site.
Whichever methods you choose, building strong relationships is crucial. Great content naturally becomes one half of a two-way conversation, so create something that adds value beyond your business niche. If we take the example of an insurance broker, this means writing about more than the insurance policies you sell. Think about insurance-related topics consumers will enjoy interacting with – from their beloved pets to home improvements gone wrong. Pair with unique and surprising stats to get news sites talking.
Over half of decision makers agree that content marketing works – but this number is down on last year, suggesting all is not well for in-house professionals.
Despite this drop, 85% of marketers expect their content budget to rise. This suggests content is becoming more important but linking content to results remains a challenge. We think this problem comes down to alignment – particularly as the goals of content marketing continue to modernise.
So, how are digital marketing aims changing? 66% of our marketers in 2018's State of Content Marketing, said raising brand awareness is among their key goals, making this aim more important than lead generation, engagement and improving search engine rank. Brand lift has become significantly more important for our marketers in 2018, overtaking subscriber growth. Brand lift is notoriously difficult to quantify, which perhaps explains our marketers’ frustrations.
It isn’t enough to simply explain away the issue of alignment. Lack of resource is a key challenge for marketing teams and less than half of marketers see their efforts linked to the rest of the business. The larger your organisation, the more hearts you’ll have to win for C-suite approval. Tight measurement helps to strengthen your corner by underlining the link between content and profit.
When writing a creative content marketing strategy, it’s easy to get caught up with weird and wonderful ideas – and you should. Remember to keep an anchor on your aims, though, using data to underline how each idea fits with a practical aim. Define a specific goal and make it razor sharp. How much brand lift will the campaign deliver, in what timescale and how will you analyse its effectiveness along the way?
Next, take to the drawing board and ‘map’ how each piece of content fits with the wider picture. Create target personas and show how you plan to reach them specifically. The more you define now, the more you can measure later, which makes it possible to show off your campaign’s success.
For a helping hand with creating an audience-focused content strategy, take a look at our toolkit.
A focused and effective content campaign will make smart use of Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. Analysing performance with a fine-tooth comb helps you to avoid wasting resources on the ‘wrong’ content for your brand.
Almost half of our marketers don’t know how to measure campaign results, suggesting this is a major sticking point. To ensure your efforts stay aligned with goals, it’s important to match KPIs to each funnel stage:
Website traffic is a simple way to measure awareness. Google Analytics is simple to use, providing a useful way to gauge the number of people who know your brand. Measure how many people visit your blog and where they go when they get there. With precise data sets, you can work to build a detailed picture of how users are navigating your site.
At this stage, users are genuinely interested in what your business can sell them. They have read your blog and now they want to find out more about your products or services. To measure this, focus on your landing pages specifically. Goal completion rate is a simple way to compare the number of people who are simply aware and those considering a purchase.
It always feels great when your marketing efforts start pulling in sales. To find out how many of your visitors are converting, divide the total number of visitors by the number of conversions. Your conversion rate can also be optimised via CRO.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is one handy way to attach a numerical value to your loyal customers. To calculate this, you need to know how much it costs your organisation to acquire each customer, the average value of a single order and the percentage of your users who make a second purchase. Use this to calculate the yearly profit margin average per customer, then multiply this by the retention rate to find your CLV.
This is the ultimate marker of success. Have you ever wondered how popular coffee chains seem to get free exposure from users sharing their branding on platforms like Instagram?
This is brand advocacy: extremely valuable but tricky to achieve. Social engagement – and especially shares – is one KPI you can use, as well as reviews and the number of organic mentions your site receives.
As we know, the content goal of the moment is brand awareness. For the first time, marketers care more about brand uplift than any other KPI. This level of brand focus is unprecedented, bringing a new set of challenges to the table.
A well-distributed business blog will boost brand awareness, but will it boost brand image? The answer lies in whether or not you’ve aced tone of voice.
Before writing, it helps to define the way you will communicate. The smoothie brand Innocent is one good example of tone of voice done right. This brand’s content does more than just make you aware the brand exists. Rather, it cultivates brand image, helping to attach a sense of identity to each product. This all increases the likelihood of brand loyalty and advocacy. Innocent keeps up the branding right down to its internal business operations, but you don’t need to name your business headquarters ‘Fruit Towers’ to use a branding tone that works.
There is no ‘right’ way to write a tone of voice guideline, but there are plenty of ‘wrong’ ways. Before adding adjectives to a document, ask: “is this useful?” Buzzwords like ‘professional’, ‘accessible’ and ‘informative’ are the minimum expectation, communicating very little about your brand.
Instead, think about what makes your brand unique. If there’s a well-known competitor you’d like to differentiate yourself from, this is the place to do it. Use the target personas you’ve already drawn up and use them to write a useful guide. Innocent smoothies is an example of great marketing built on the back of what it isn’t as much as what it is. This brand isn’t conventional; its drinks aren’t like the competition. It is fun, quirky and youthful; created to stand out from the crowd.
Perhaps your brand is the opposite – and that’s fine, too. Describe your brand accurately and your writers will produce more effective content. Asking abstract questions like: “if your brand were a radio station, what would it be?” is a useful way to pin this down in a way others will understand.
Once you’ve laid down the blueprint, invest some time to find what works, then banish what doesn’t using your style guide. Sentence rhythm, punctuation and even font choices all shape how your content is read and received.
As always, content should be user-focused, so your blog shouldn’t be self-indulgent. Take a step back and find ways to communicate your organisation’s expertise in a way that puts the reader front and centre. If your copy is too formal, packed with industry jargon or just too self-congratulatory, you won’t achieve the two-way conversation you’re aiming for.
Tone of voice is covered in more detail in The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for your Brand.
The number of marketers who are confident on how to run a campaign has doubled from 2017, which is great news for our industry. Every cog in the campaign machine has to work together for success.
Still, just one in five are clear on industry best practice. 18% are “not clear at all” on how to execute a marketing plan. If this sounds familiar, it could be why your campaigns never fully take off with the traction you hope.
There are no shortcuts to creating a killer campaign. That said, there are ways to enhance your chances of success. Set minimum quality standards and incorporate practicality into your content calendar. If you find resources are always tight, focus on quality over quantity and adjust goals accordingly.
Quirky campaigns often work well from a PR perspective, but it’s important to gather your teams and consider each idea from every angle. Who might be offended by your content; could a risky title lead to social media backlash? Have you fact-checked every stat? Using surveys to present surprising statistics is a time-tested way to create conversation around your brand but be prepared to back your analytical methods.
A content marketing campaign is about more than writing and distributing great copy, however. The worlds of web development and SEO are ever-changing, and you need firm grasp of these to get the most from your content. This means giving your keywords a difficulty ranking and ensuring your site loads in lightning speed. If your campaign is based in eCommerce, you can even optimise your web design to help drive users down the funnel.
Take a look at our campaign planning tool to get you started with this journey.
Writing for search is an art as well as a science. Just when you thought you’d finally mastered the art of seamlessly blending keywords into H2s and concise functional copy, Google rolls out a core algorithm update and the entire game changes.
Google’s recent E-A-T algorithm update is the latest challenge to the formula of writing for search. If you have noticed a recent drop in traffic, adapting with the algorithms could deliver results.
E-A-T stands for:
Every page of your site has a quality rating which impacts how the site’s overall value is perceived. Google makes snap judgements based on the above as well as details like adherence to the correct meta description lengths. These change frequently, so ensure you stay updated. There is power in concise copy and search engines tend to understand this. Every word should add value for the reader and for search.
Google announced the update in August, advising search-focused marketers to: “remain focused on building great content.” But, what does this mean in practice? If you feature an expert opinion, state your writer’s credentials and link through to their site. Ensure factual claims and statistics are backed up with a link where relevant. If pages are out of date, a simple spring clean can boost your domain authority.
If your business is in a high-stakes field such as healthcare these things are particularly important. Always adopt a thorough, research-led approach to this type of content.
Our Ultimate Guide to Blogging for your Brand series is designed to get in depth on all areas of becoming your own publisher - starting a business blog for content strategy is key, and you can read eBook 1, 2 and 3 for a more detailed look at how to make your content shine.
Do you experience a content sticking point that hasn’t been covered? Let us know in the comments.
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