I thought it appropriate to start off this article by paying homage to one of the content marketing kings Joe Pulizzi himself, from the Content Marketing Institute. I came across an article in which he discussed the fundamental differences between content marketing and content strategywhich inspired the creation of this article.There were some golden nuggets shared and if you’re in the business of content marketing I would definitely recommend giving it a read. One quote that I would like to share with you was the magic marker analogy: ‘Content Marketers draw on the wall with magic markers, while content strategists use fine pens”.
A look at the Bigger Picture: Content Strategy
I don’t believe that any kind of content strategy can be developed without a crystal clear understanding of your brand or client’s business operations. Whether they are in the retail or services sector, besides comprehending the brand – you need to be in the know about the target market. A good way of segmenting your targeted audience would be through the development of buyer personas. Understanding the consumer behaviour of your targeted audience will be half your battle won in the development of a content strategy that reaps rewards. Once you find what makes your audience tick – you can safely follow through with the repeatable framework that is your content strategy, making the necessary changes along the way, depending on your progress and performance. Nathan Safran from Search Engine Watch speaks about customer segmentation as being pivotal to the creation of buyer personas. He clearly stipulates that the future of successful content marketing
will depend on how well you, as a marketer, segment your customer base and target your content efforts accordingly. Once you have a better grasp of your client’s service offering and have identified the specific segments that they’re going to target, your content mapping and planning becomes somewhat easier. You need a Content Blueprint: • An analysis of the current state of your brand will be required to identify future goals. • Reflect and create a content plan with clear, actionable goals and consider how these can be achieved through content marketing. • Tap into your data: if you have some sort of tracking system (Google Analytics) in place that shows you what’s actually drawing traffic to your business – you can identify leads and points of interest which will enable you to extend your strategy moving forward. When in doubt… make the connection and ask your audience a few definitive questions by tapping into your potential and existing customer base, do some research, send out a survey, ask your audience what they like reading about and what they would like to know more about. Make the effort to find out which content forms appeal to them. Maintain the attention of your existing customer base and targeted audience by developing a resource or news centre i.e. a blog that they can visit from time to time to review informational content that may be of use to them. This could keep them coming back for more, while adding credibility and SEO value to your site. Understand the importance of sending targeted emails to customers. If managed well, you stand to benefit from adding it to your content strategy – targeting your audience and alerting your customer base to the newly created content, products or services that may be of interest to them. Create a timeline • Once the goals have been set – create a timeline in which you can track your efforts and review the execution of your content on a quarterly basis, to gauge your progress. • Break down the strategy:
– monthly plans (editorial calendars) – weekly plans – establish the variation of content that you plan on publishing – identify content themes – topics – the needed formatting and display of your contentUp Close and Personal with Content Marketing Much of your content marketing success will depend on the fulfilment of your outlined strategy. So… if you’d imagined that content marketing was a simple matter of writing an article, publishing it and waiting for miracles to happen, think again. It’s one thing to experiment and test, but walking blindly into your content creation is just not smart. More importantly thinking that content marketing can be easily done, would be shooting yourself in the foot. Experts like Joe Pulizzi and Rand Fishkin have, on numerous occasions, shed some light on the basic mechanics of content marketing and the principles to follow to get the most out of your efforts. There’s a bit of an art to the process of maximising your content marketing efforts, the points below are just suggestions as to what the mechanics of your content marketing is likely to require:
• Develop a backdrop and an inside story for your brand • Create special content • Host content in different formats • Curate and repurpose your content • Drive social shares through delivering credible work
Towards Credible Content Marketing
A good place to start with your content marketing would be to develop a backdrop and the inside story for your brand. In addition, creating exclusive content which is unique will help to set you apart from your competitors. During the content creation process one needs to bear in mind who the story is actually dedicated to. It’s relatively easy to get side tracked when producing content, especially when you’re writing about something that you’re especially passionate about, or in some cases know absolutely nothing about – yes many content marketers are guilty of this. To have an opinion is good, however, if your content marketing is going to go down with that ‘expertly written’ stamp of approval, you’re going to need to talk about the facts. We’re talking about the real time, here and now kinda thing. If you’re not an expert on a subject that you deem your audience may benefit from, get an influencer or expert to comment on the topic that you’re writing about, it builds authority and credibility. There’s no quick fix solution on your journey to driving traffic, developing and strengthening your brand or client’s positioning in the market. It’s going to take time and it’s likely that you’ll get frustrated. That is until that ONE day comes along and without much warning you hit the sweet spot and see your content efforts soar. Staying abreast of the new innovative ways to get your content in front of your targeted audience will contribute substantially to the fulfilment of this goal e.g. Facebook advertising. Content strategy and marketing work hand in hand. If your content blueprint isn’t fine-tuned and customised accordingly, you’re going to struggle to gain the loyalty of your customer base. Over the last few days I’ve been reading about content and credibility and I suggest that fellow marketers do the same. One of the main goals of your content marketing efforts is to generate and increase credibility if not of your own brand, then of the perception of the brands that you serve. As a content marketer in a SEO division, I’m all too aware of the challenges that face content marketers in matching Google’s quality score for content. The unleashing of the 4.0 Panda algorithm update led to quite a shift in the rankings. This was an excellent way for digital marketers to tell if they were on the right track or not. If your brand or those of your clients dropped then your content was likely poor. On the other hand, an increase in the SERPS could be seen as a direct pat on the back from Panda 4.0. What I really want to say here, is that content marketers and strategists alike are not facing any dealbreaking challenges. Rather it comes down to a matter of principle. In any line of business that you find yourself in, whether it’s marketing or retail management, advertising or business consultancy – there will always be best practices. The best ways to drive profitability, to manage performance, to deliver on marketing goals and in the world of content – delivering results on your content strategy. Failure to live up to these best practices and sitting with your head in the sand will not do you any favours. The graph above demonstrates the greater degree to which businesses are investing in content marketing in the UK. From a content perspective, with the advent of brands spending more on content marketing, the least we as a professionals can do is ensure that we’re meeting our clients halfway. We need to be developing a clear cut content strategy which matches their business goals while ensuring that all our content efforts are increasing their credibility – that’s why we’re here after all.
Max Brockbank is Head of SEO at The Media Image. He previously served as Global Director SEO at Hilton Worldwide and Senior Client Success Manager at SearchMetrics. As a journalist, Max worked as a reporter and editor with regional and national newspapers including the FT and the Sun, and on global publications such as TIME Magazine.