With Australians spending around 27% of their marketing budgets on content marketing and over 69% planning to increase this next year, content marketing is clearly a significant component of contemporary online marketing campaigns.
But as the image to the right implies, simply blogging twice a week or arbitrarily publishing content does not constitute content marketing or, at least, it does not equate to a coherent strategy.
Just over a third of Australian marketers consider their content marketing as effective, but what does it mean to be effective? Well effectiveness is a measure of the success of something and the measure of success is whether or not the goals / objectives were met. The chart below shows the division between the main metrics identified as the goals for content marketing in the ‘Content Marketing in Australia: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends’:
Of “80% of the ‘most effective’ content marketers having a strategy in place, only 53% of those surveyed actually had a documented content strategy.” – AdNews.com.au
But how do you define quality in your content? How do you measure success and what are the most important metrics for doing so? Is content to be measured and handled in the same way that more traditional SEO is? In an effort to address these and other questions, I decided to ask some content marketing experts from around the world.
Below are the people that kindly accepted my request for Content Marketing Interviews and here is what they have to say:
- Content Marketing Interviewees
- Question 1: How do you define quality in content?
- Question 2: How do you define / measure success of content / content marketing campaigns? And what are the most important metrics for your clients?
- Question 3: Why do clients need content?
- Question 4: What is the value of content?
- Question 5: How do you think content and content marketing sits within a larger search strategy or is content marketing a complete offering unto itself?
- Question 6: What do you see as the future of content?
- Question 7: Do you group video, apps, images, and written content under the same umbrella as content and how important is it to provide a diverse content offering?
- Question 8: How important is trend analysis and keyword research to your content offering?
- Question 9: How would you define a ‘content strategy’?
- What do you think...?
Content Marketing Interviewees
James Perrin – Content Marketing Manager at Koozai
Find James at:
A bit about James:
I’m James, the Content Marketing Manager for a leading UK Digital Marketing Agency called Koozai. I’ve always been fascinated by the power of the written word, and its ability to inform, educate and drive behaviour. Combined with my love of all media – including offline, but especially online – it was clear to me at the start of my online marketing career that content marketing was perfectly suited to my interests, and skills set.
Ann Handley – Head of Content at MarketingProfs
Find Ann at:
A bit about Ann:
I’m a veteran of creating and managing digital content to build relationships for organizations and individuals. I’m the co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business. I am the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs; a monthly columnist for Entrepreneur magazine; a LinkedIn; a keynote speaker, mom, and writer.
Liane Baddeley – Freelance Journalist and Copywriter
Find Liane at:
A bit about Liane:
I’m a self-employed copywriter and content consultant, with a background in journalism, marketing and business.
Question 1: How do you define quality in content?
James – Quality can vary depending on the type of content. Text based content obviously has to be written well, so spelling, grammar and punctuation is important, if a little obvious. Yet, accuracy and relevancy are just as important, as well as the goal of the piece. For example, if it’s created to entertain, then it has to entertain.
Quality though can mean something different to different people. Whilst spelling is important in text based content, if the idea is poor and the piece does not resonate with its audience, then it’s not quality – it’s just another piece of content that’ll get lost in the ether.
Ann – Content marketing means you consistently create and share information that is packed with utility, seeded with inspiration, and is honestly empathetic to attract customers to you. The best content has elements of all three; or, said more simply: Useful x Inspiration x Empathy = Innovative Content. The multiplication signs in that equation are key: If the value of any one of those elements is zero, it’s not innovative or quality. (Embeddable formula here: http://www.slideshare.net/AnnHandley/useful-x)
Liane – Substance, style and structure are vital considerations in the creation of quality content. The topic should be well-researched; written in a tone which creatively reflects the product or service it promotes; and structured in a way that encourages engagement – ideally concisely. The use of correct grammar, spelling and punctuation is also very important, as it demonstrates care and attention, which reflects on the business concerned. Sometimes it’s appropriate to bend the rules, but a decent framework is necessary for this to work effectively.
Question 2: How do you define / measure success of content / content marketing campaigns? And what are the most important metrics for your clients?
James – The beauty of content is that it can be measured in a number of different ways. But it’s always important to outline the goals and objectives of each piece first, and then assign the relevant metrics accordingly. For example, you may have a goal to increase engagement, but you’d need to define a content objective to reach this goal, such as creating a debate or conversation. In this case, the best metric is the number of comments your piece of content achieves. That said, other metrics can include unique visits, referral traffic, social shares, number of downloads or sign-ups, as well as the Holy Grail, leads and sales.
Ann – On the B2B side, marketers cite web traffic and sales lead quality as their top content marketing metrics — and have for the past three years, according to research MarketingProfs produced in partnership with the Content Marketing Institute. (Full report here: http://www.slideshare.net/mprofs/b2b-content-marketing-2014-benchmarks-budgets-and-trendsnorth-america)
We’ve co-produced this survey for four years now, and for the first time this year, we saw “subscriber growth” emerge as a key metric. Why is that? I think it’s because brands are increasingly thinking more like publishers, and focusing on audience as a key part of their marketing strategy.
Liane – It’s very difficult to precisely measure the success of content alone, as responses could be based on a number of factors (i.e. if someone responds to a marketing email about a deal, it’s not always clear whether they simply like the deal or were encouraged by the way it was promoted).
However, if people are following user journeys as intended, rather than being confused or put off, the content is obviously doing something right. Campaigns can be compared to see how well the same recipients respond to different elements.
Another good indication of successful content is how often an item is ‘liked’ or shared via social media and elsewhere. Meanwhile, user surveys can reveal patterns in how readers and recipients feel about the tone and quality of what they’re reading – and whether it encourages or discourages them from the product or service being promoted.
Question 3: Why do clients need content?
James – The buying process has changed. The Internet has completely transformed the way we make decisions on purchases. With so much information at our finger tips we are far more knowledgeable on the products and services we wish to purchase. Content marketing is at the heart of this change.
As it’s so valuable, everyone wants a piece of the action. From search engine and social media marketers to online PR and publishers – content is playing a significant role online, for many different reasons.
Ann – Content has always been part of the marketing mix. But three recent developments have made it increasingly crucial.
Technology has evolved, eliminating the publishing gatekeepers. You once needed a large budget and access to a printing press to create and distribute content on a large scale, or you had to buy access to an audience. Now any of us can create content that connects directly with the people we want to reach; further, that content enables us to be found via Google or social media recommendations of whatever it is we sell.
Social media. It’s not just about creating content that will allow you to be found online. Instead, we all have an imperative to create content that’s worth sharing–because your updates are competing on social media platforms with my friends and family. That means your content has to be really good in order to get my attention, and it has to be valuable: It has to entertain me or delight me or inform me.
Consumer behaviour has changed. It used to be that your sales force was on the front lines. But now that role is being filled by the Internet; customers are online, Googling for answers and resources and asking for recommendations on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Liane – To raise awareness of their products and services and promote them effectively, encouraging people to find out more and ideally pursue the matter further.
Question 4: What is the value of content?
James – This depends on what your goals and objectives are. Content has the power to deliver traffic, increase engagement and brand awareness, earn links, as well as enhance the number of conversions (subscriptions, sign-ups, downloads), leads and sales.
Ann – Now that everyone has the opportunity to publish, the world is a noisier place. But you aren’t trying to market to everyone, are you? You want to reach the person who has a problem that your business can solve.
That’s why telling your story well becomes so important. We are flooded with content on a regular basis. So the stuff that cuts through is the stuff that’s truly awesome. Companies that simply repost their press releases on their blogs and then wonder why they don’t get any comments are not likely to succeed.
Liane – Immeasurable. It’s no good having great products and services if their benefits aren’t communicated effectively.
Question 5: How do you think content and content marketing sits within a larger search strategy or is content marketing a complete offering unto itself?
James – It’s that and more. Again, it depends on what your goals and intentions are. Search Engine Marketers benefit immensely from a rigorous and well executed content marketing plan. This has the capacity to increase brand exposure, social signals and engagement, drive traffic as well as earn good quality natural links.
For some though, the search benefits are merely a by-product of content marketing, and their focus is more on conversions, for example increasing the number of sign-ups, downloads, leads and sales. In other words, it can mean lots of different things to lots of different people.
Ann – I think optimizing your content for search is key. Creating and sharing relevant, empathetic, optimized content is the best kind of SEO there is.
Good content is only noticed if sharing is a key part of any content marketing effort, however. You can’t expect Google to do all the work for you – you’ve got to actively share and engage on social media channels as well. I don’t mean you need to spam your Twitter feed or Facebook page or LinkedIn company pages with only your own content headlines, either. I mean you have to make sharing and engaging and building relationships with your community central to your marketing programs.
I’d also broaden this question a bit and say that I think content and search and social at the cornerstone of marketing, period. Your content shouldn’t exist in a silo.
Liane – Messages should always be consistent in tone and substance, whatever the medium. A coherent marketing strategy should consider how content complements all other elements; and vice-versa. With regard to search engine optimisation (SEO), keywords should be identified but then incorporated as naturally as possible, to avoid a contrived or stilted result. If the content has genuine substance, this shouldn’t be difficult.
Question 6: What do you see as the future of content?
James – The types of content we can create are constantly evolving. To create epic content, Content Marketers must collaborate with web developers to create a user experience that a blog post or infographic simply can’t. Some are calling this technology driven content; but whatever you want to call it, the future is very much in creating more sophisticated pieces for the end-user.
This does not mean to say that blog posts are obsolete. A blog post with a fantastic idea will be better than a poorly executed piece of content that purely looks good. So whatever the future of content, good ideas will always be at the heart of it.
Ann – I think we’ll see fewer brands publishing content and, instead, more Content Brands. With a capital C and a capital B.
Doug Kessler articulates this well in his recent piece at MarketingProfs: Six Principles of Great Content. In the article and deck, he stylishly encapsulates and extends many fundamentals we talk about in Content Rules. Specifically: Creating momentum, being strategic, and seeing content as a rich opportunity – and not a one-off task.
Those who kill it with content in 2013 and beyond are those brands that view publishing as a privilege. They are the ones who create content that is packed with utility, empathy and inspiration. They are rewarded with customers who love and trust and believe in them.
Does that sound a little aspirational and a little daunting? Yes. But is a Content Brand critical? Yes.
Liane – Content will always be needed to draw attention and engage readers and consumers. From an SEO point of view, as Google and other search engines get increasingly smarter, it must have genuine depth and purpose – so high-quality content will continue to increase in importance, compared with quickly-churned ‘shallow’ material of a poor standard.
Question 7: Do you group video, apps, images, and written content under the same umbrella as content and how important is it to provide a diverse content offering?
James – Absolutely, we group them together. And that’s the beauty of content. From both a user and a search marketing perspective, a blend of content is absolutely essential. This will help to satisfy the needs of your audience/users, but as well ensure that you’re not just creating content for the sake of the search engine. For example, if you’re only creating guest blog posts on a monthly basis then it won’t be long until you get hit with a penalty – either algorithmically or manually. As such, it’s important to have a blend of ideas and content types – and always have the user at the heart of everything you create.
Ann – Yes. I think it’s critical to tell your story across different platforms, in different ways. The key is to sync your story, and to reimagine your story in various ways. That doesn’t mean you need to be on every platform. That doesn’t mean you need to create video, text, mobile apps, an audio podcast, webinars, white papers and so on… but it does mean that you need to choose a few to focus on, based on where your customers are and your own budget, resources and inclinations.
Liane – Diversity is an important engagement tool – but not to the point where the result is confusing or overwhelming for the user. As discussed above, all content elements of a marketing campaign should have a consistent identity and be of high quality. Wording used in images or videos must be very carefully considered and complement content used elsewhere.
Question 8: How important is trend analysis and keyword research to your content offering?
James – Keywords play a vital role, but gone are the days of stuffing the same keywords into every piece of content you create. With the advent of Hummingbird, it’s important to create content around user’s intentions and queries, which means much longer search queries – in other words, creating much more tailored and personalised content, rather than generic top-of-the-sales-funnel type content.
Trends are also important, as well as location-based data too. Again, this helps to create more specific content, based on real-time developments.
Ann – It’s important at the planning stage, especially as it can help you identify where your audience is, how they get information, and how you can answer questions they have and help them make decisions. In other words, it helps in developing customer personas – which detail not just the demographics of an audience, but how they behave and how they get information.
Liane – Very – though it depends on the context. For a static web page, current trends are less important than ensuring the key brand messages are communicated; and the keywords must stand the test of time to some degree. But for a news article or blog post – or another transient item of content, intended for social sharing, for example – trends and current keywords are very important.
Question 9: How would you define a ‘content strategy’?
James – Depending on whether you work in web development, user experience, information architecture, online PR and publishing, search marketing, social media marketing (the list is pretty long), then content strategy will be defined differently. With this in mind, if I was to try and define something so broad it would be the planning and management of content creation, delivery and governance. But that’s just scratching the surface J.
Ann – Content strategy is the planning of the creation, delivery, and ongoing effort to maintain useful, enjoyable content that meets the needs of your specific audience.
Liane – A detailed plan which considers the aims of the content and how best to achieve them, comprising both a general approach and specific tasks. In the general approach, substance and style are of utmost importance, along with keywords and brand messages; while specific tasks are the tools to reinforce these, such as implementing static content and marketing campaigns. All aspects should relate to and complement each other.
What do you think…?
Thanks for reading and thanks to James, Anna and Liane for their contributions to the Content Marketing Interviews. What do you think though, if you have an opinion on any of the questions we asked James, Ann and Liane please add your comments below.