Content marketing is going strong. Every day more content gets created, via writing, video, audio, and photos. What’s the result? A content marketing status quo of mediocrity. What’s the good news for you? You can still stand out and above your competition by creating great content.
More businesses are getting excited about content marketing. And why wouldn’t they, when mega marketing influencers are saying things like:
“Content Marketing is all the Marketing that’s left.” ~ Seth Godin
“Content Marketing provides 4x the ROI of our traditional marketing spend.” ~ Julie Fleischer, VP Marketing, Neustar
“Content is king.” ~ Bill Gates
“Great content is the best sales tool in the world.” ~ Marcus Sheridan
In some of the latest research, we discovered some compelling numbers explaining why the content status quo is the way it is. Here are our big three takeaways.
Companies Are Churning Out Content Without Checking ROI
Companies are starting to understand exactly what content marketing can do for their businesses. They also realize that at least one of their competitors is doing it. So if they don’t jump on the bandwagon, they won’t reach their full potential. So what does this FOMO incite?
A LOT of content. Tons of content. Content about everything they can think of that relates to their product or service. And that’s the problem right there. They produce content about everything THEY can think of. Without checking what is actually working (or not, as the case may be).
What is their content actually doing for them? 91% of content doesn’t get organic visits. That’s right. All of the search engine queries lead searchers to just 9% of the internet. Now you may get some views from social media, or your email list, but that’s push distribution. Search engine traffic represents pull distribution…. Er, pull attraction?
When you have a new site, you shouldn’t expect to get much organic traffic initially. If you’re putting out great content, then you may get some if you have a strong content marketing strategy.
More Than Half Aren’t Measuring
51% of content marketers don’t measure their content’s return on investment (ROI). More than half of professional content marketers can’t tell anyone exactly what their content does for them. And that’s a mistake. With the freelance workforce expected to reach 16% by 2020, ROI has become more important than ever.
If you’re a CMO, then you need to be able to justify any of your outsourcing. You can’t? Then your company may find someone who will. Even the largest companies outsource, and it isn’t a problem. As long as you can prove value.
If you’re a contractor, then you may be asked to justify your services. Not because they’re trying to nickel and dime you, but because they hired you to handle “content”. That includes reporting on the results.
KPI’s to Check for Happy Site Visitors
I’m not going to bore you with the obvious answers (another affliction of the content marketing status quo) like “overall blog traffic.” That seems like a big “DUH”, but a segment of your site traffic should be very interesting to you. And that’s your returning site visitors.
Returning Site Visitors
You can find this pie chart under the Audience tab by clicking “Overview” in Google Analytics. Considering the Defy The Status Quo site is only a few months old at the time we published this post, I’m pretty happy with this result.
When site visitors come back, they’re telling you they’re happy with your content. They’re likely either on your email list or a member of your social media network. They saw you published a new post up, and they went to check it out. A returning site visitor doesn’t need as much convincing as a new site visitor.
Bounce Rate and Session Duration
Blogs often have higher bounce rates than other sites. Sometimes people find the answer they need early on and leave. If a site visitor only visits one page and then leaves, that counts as a bounce. Even if they read the whole article. However, a high bounce rate can also tell Google that people aren’t finding what they need.
When you land on your Google Analytics home page, you can see what your bounce rate for the last 7 days looks like.
This bounce rate is a combination of all of my sources though. If you want to see what your bounce rate looks like for your different traffic sources, you need to:
- Click on the Acquisitions tab.
- Click on Overview.
- Scroll down past the pie chart until you get to this table/bar chart.
As you can see, for the small amount of organic search traffic I’m getting, the bounce rate is a lot lower than my social traffic bounce rate.
In my chart, you can also see that my session duration is low, but as we add more content to the site, that will change. Internal linking on pages helps increase your “pages/session” number. That number tells you how many pages someone viewed during a single visit to your site.
None of these numbers can tell the story on their own. That’s why performing a comprehensive content audit on your content at least once per year is critical to measuring ROI. Quarterly would be ideal.
No Documented Content Strategy
Only 39% of organizations have a documented content marketing strategy. It’s even lower in industries like manufacturing, at 21%. Best-in-class marketers document their strategies because it helps them align the team with the company’s goals. Also, prioritizing which types of content to create and distribute becomes much easier.
How can you be sure that everyone is on the same page if you’re all not looking at the same page?
Only 42% of marketers feel like their content strategy is mature or sophisticated. This is likely because they’ve never taken the time to write it down. How can you measure and improve your content marketing if you don’t have a record of where you started?
An undocumented content strategy usually happens when your company is doing content because someone said you should. You’re blogging because “everyone” is blogging these days.
One of your C-suite executives says that you need to be on Instagram, so you’re posting pictures.
Or maybe a family member or friend insisted that you post on LinkedIn, because “that’s where all of the business people are!”
Tom Fishbourne create a great cartoon about this haphazard marketing “strategy” phenomenon. I thought about including it here, but the license is $50. So instead, I’m linking to it so you can go see it for yourself.
When you stop looking at content as something Millennials do for fun (the oldest Millennial is over 40, FYI), then you’ll realize that you have to treat your content like assets. Marketing assets, and sometimes, even sales assets.
You might be thinking, “Sales assets, really?” YES. Case studies and white papers are the most recommended content types for converting leads among B2B marketers.
What Goes Into a Great Content Marketing Strategy?
Creating a great content marketing strategy is going to require some time. If you have a team, then it should be a team effort. If it’s just you, well that’s okay too.
According to Julia McCoy’s book, Practical Content Strategy & Marketing, there are four keys to creating a solid content strategy:
- Discovering who you’re helping with your content
- Understanding what you need to do to help them better than your competitors
- Learning how to create content they actually see
- Analyzing your content performance by auditing, updating, and measuring
Need more direction to start creating your content marketing strategy? Download your copy of our B2B Content Marketing Workbook.
Not Putting the Reader First
I found some conflicting numbers from the Content Marketing Institute’s latest B2B research. Are you ready?
So 73% of marketers say they prioritize the audience’s needs over their marketing/sales message.
Only 42% of marketers actually engage with their customers to confirm what sort of content they’re interested in.
56% of marketers increased spending on content creation last year.
Oh boy. This is a recipe for disaster. You aren’t sure exactly what it is your readers want to see, but you’re increasing spending and making MORE content? This ties back to the points about having a content strategy. You’ll know what content to create because you did the research needed to create the strategy.
So, 39% of marketers have a documented strategy. But 73% are putting the audience’s needs first? I don’t think so.
You’ll increase spending on content creation, and then be upset with the creators when that content doesn’t generate the ROI you expected to see. But you never laid the foundation FOR high ROI.
What do you do?
Buyer Personas: Know Who Your Ideal Audience Is
As part of your content marketing strategy, you’ll need to create buyer personas. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of a target audience for your company. Most people think of basic demographics like age and gender. That’s true, but a buyer persona should also include your target audience’s challenges and goals.
Even more valuable? Their key questions at the various stages of the buyer’s journey. With this information, you can create content that meets your reader’s needs at each phase of their buyer’s journey, gaining their trust along the way.
Thanks to the internet, there’s a lot of secondary research out there on a variety of groups and group segments. Secondary research is incredibly valuable for businesses that don’t have the budget to do primary research.
Primary research is when your company pays to have a survey or customer focus groups done to gather information. It can be very expensive, which is why many turn to secondary research. That is, a review of research already done or available.
If you can find this research online, then you can probably build buyer personas that can at least get you started. Or point your primary research in the right direction.
If you know your buyer personas, then you’ll know where they hang out online. Being in the same LinkedIn and Facebook groups, Reddit threads, and Quora topics can give you some insight straight from the horse’s mouth.
You can use social media engagement to guide your content marketing strategy as well. I’ve written blog posts and recorded videos based on great responses I’ve received on LinkedIn.
Consider the Content Marketing Status Quo the Bottom. Do Better
Depending on the size of your business, you might not be able to execute a comprehensive content marketing strategy. But whatever you do, you can stand out by doing it well. The content marketing status quo is mediocre content. It’s checking the box.
But the status quo leaves off some very important practices, like documenting your content marketing strategy, that best-in-class marketers just wouldn’t advise.
Your clients and customers deserve better than that. Give them your best, and you’ll earn their trust in return. Make your company memorable through content, and customer trust and loyalty will increase.
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