Content marketing has become big in the digital marketing world, but columnist Jim Yu reminds us that without measuring its performance, our message may be falling on deaf ears.
Big brands are becoming big publishers in today’s world, where the lines are blurred between marketing, storytelling and content production. While more brands are creating and sharing more content, they’re not necessarily closing the loop with an ROI-focused approach as they would with other forms of marketing.
That’s because brands are facing similar challenges when it comes to content:
- Following the content ideas that resonate with the audience
- Maximizing visibility of content online
- Obtaining the best quality data they can around performance
As brands, there’s no doubt we need some direction. To achieve the lofty goal of reaching your customer online at the moment they are looking with relevant content is no easy task, but it can be done.
How Do You Ensure Your Content Is Found?
“An obvious answer is to create more and more content, to ‘outshout’ the competition. But in my view, that’s fighting the wrong war,” says Jung Suh, VP of digital marketing at SAP, in her post on boosting content performance. “In fact, it’s taking mass media thinking from the past and shoehorning it into the digital world. Today, winning requires more than sheer fire power.”
There are three key areas that give brands a winning chance of having their content be relevant and be found online. Not surprisingly, they map perfectly to the challenges I mentioned above.
- Use quality data to find out what your audience wants.
- Optimize the content for maximum visibility in search and social.
- Measure results and use that data to drive future efforts.
Just some of the tactical steps involved here include:
- Building your content and organic search strategy in synergy
- Constructing a list of topics and keywords of high interest, identifying those in decline and competitive in nature and/or within striking distance of being competitive
- Utilizing all data at your disposal to understand your target audience
- Understanding audience segments before creating content
- Mapping content topics to buying personas and purchase funnels
- Assessing the market and what your competitors are doing
- Enabling content authors to pair pages with the right topics and keywords
- Empowering writers to optimize content in ways that reflect best practices
- Optimizing your content in ways that address and respond to competitors’ content
The Technology Gap
The fragmented analytics landscape is causing brands to experience a gap between marketing, content creation and performance. Without the measurement piece, brands can easily spin their wheels.
Brands know they want to measure content performance, but many feel lost. According to an annual survey by BrightEdge (my employer), 47 percent said connecting content to ROI is critical to success in 2015.
While there’s no shortage of analytics providers to help brands measure, obtaining the right quality of data is what will make brands a leader in content.
“Content performance measurement is absolutely key — otherwise, how would we know if our money is well spent?” asks Jung. “We are constantly creating and refining our content. With the right tools and processes, this is more exciting than daunting. We can see where our content is falling short, identify gaps, and zero in on emerging opportunities.”
Brands can set themselves up for measurement success by first determining what they need to measure. What is it that the content is meant to impact? Then, ensure the analytics platform used can support the measurement of the goals.
Data, Human And Machine Learning
In the context of content marketing, machine learning can provide marketers with optimization best practices based on the machine’s understanding of multiple data sets (first- and third-party) over time. This topic is something I recently talked about in more detail over on Search Engine Land last month.
As content marketers, we all need to get better at utilizing data and real-time learnings to help us scale of efforts efficiently. Machine learning leverages data at web wide scale to provide automatic recommendations to help content marketers optimize and refine content strategies to stay ahead of the competition.
To start, consider the following areas when setting your content goals:
Tactically, brands can start on the path that:
- Sets clear benchmarks and key performance indicators.
- Utilizes analytics with the most integrations to get a big-picture view of performance.
- Incorporates learning from analytics, where results steer the path for the next batch of content efforts and feed back into sales, customer and influencer marketing funnels.
Soon — perhaps sooner than we may think — “content marketing” will reach a plateau. If we don’t insert performance into the strategy, we follow dead ends, waste marketing dollars, and in essence, are shouting to be heard … but it’s falling on deaf ears.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)