The Best Practices in Content Marketing

The Best Practices in Content Marketing

Content marketing is not what it used to be five years ago. It has gone from being simply creating and publishing content to a full-funnel business model.

Today, it is the kingpin of demand creation – the connection between brand awareness and lead generation. Any marketer, regardless of industry, can benefit from a content marketing initiative that’s able to bridge that gap. In a word, the goal is engagement.

If executed well, it builds familiarity and trust with customers by providing information that resonates within the target audience – in the right format, through the right platform, at the right time.

Just like any digital marketing strategy, content marketing is constantly evolving. To be effective, it must be pliable to shifts in demand, changes in customer behaviour and updates in search engines.

With these in mind, we share the best practices to focus on:

1. Understand your Audience

Content marketing is very customer-centric. It’s less selling, and more educating and entertaining your readers with the goal of earning their trust in the process. To do this, you need to understand who your audience are, and what they need from you. This gives you an idea of how much workable content you have now and what content you need.

This involves two key actions:

  1. developing customer persona
  2. mapping your content to your customer’s journey

Any content development plan starts with developing customer persona. It uncovers who your target audience are, which then helps you identify the most relevant topics to cover. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are my ideal prospects and customers?
  • What are their potential questions, pain points, and arguments?
  • How do they go about the buying decision?
  • What gaps in information do they have that my content can fill?

Next, map your content to the buyer’s journey. Use the best content on the most appropriate buying phase. It’s maximising the use of your content, as well as discovering gaps that you need to fill. Here’s how to execute it:

  • Map your sales cycle to the buying cycle, which goes typically like this: awareness, interest, evaluation, consideration, commitment and purchase.
  • Create a spreadsheet to help you visualise and track your mapping process.
  • Review and evaluate your existing content based on three factors: the persona it addresses; which demands it meets; and which stage of the buying cycle it will serve.
  • Create a progressive flow where each content “lets the conversation flow” by building on the previous content.

Why start with this?

The buying journey is an experience. Whichever stage you are, the goal is to create excellent customer experiences. You need to map out this experience at every touchpoint and channel of interaction with your brand.

It helps you locate where the customer’s experience is less optimal – and then fix it. Understand why, how, where customers want to interact.

To illustrate, a late-stage customer may want a calculator of their mortgage payment, but a customer who recently reached the awareness stage may just want to be informed and entertained.

2. Creating the right conversations

You know who you’re talking to, and know which content to use at which stage of the buying cycle. Now, make it relevant and interesting – by hitting different touchpoints.

From an organisational point of view, static content might serve its purpose. It’s fast, efficient and easy to control. It can be repurposed for multiple platforms, and is ideal for highly regulated industries, like law and healthcare. But here’s the drawback: static content creates a static experience, which can bore your audience.

Customers expect to have a conversation – it’s what keeps them coming back. People tend to glance over white papers and look away the same instant. If that happens, you’ve just lost your opportunity to engage.

The solution is to go for something more dynamic and interactive, such as dynamic infographics, quizzes, calculators (for mortgage payments, measuring ROI, etc.), blog comments, and surveys. This also includes games, galleries, webinars, follow buttons, and social media content that can be liked and shared.

These types of content offer a more interactive experience that drive conversations – for greater conversions.

In a recent study by Content Marketing Study, over 75% of the respondents say they would increase their use of interactive content in 2016. The effective use of interactive content, accompanied by personalisation, enables your customers to see only what appeals to them, and in an engaging manner that takes them to the next stage of the sales funnel.

As marketing expert Brian Sutter puts it, “tell them what they want to know, not what you want to tell them.”

3. Integrate with your SEO Campaign

Content marketing often goes together with SEO, which – now more than ever – operates on the mantra “Content is King”.  Good content supplies a demand, and good content is linkable – two of the most important qualities Google is looking for.

Producing high-quality content may sound like an overstated, clichéd advice, but Google’s Panda algorithm makes it truer than ever. The connection of UX and Content Strategy has been underway for many years now, since Google made it clear that content quality would play an important role in matching your links with search queries.

“When crafting your content, answer as many questions as you can. Good content answers questions, and semantically relevant content reflects this,” advises Mark Munroe in From SEO To SXO: Search Experience Optimization.

If you rank high for any search query, it means Google believes your content has one of the best answers for the search query.

Google advises focusing on delivering the best possible user experience on their website and to not focus too much on what they believe are Google’s current ranking signals.

Simply, you’re writing for people and search engines. Here’s how to ensure that you content is pleasing both:

Create uniquely valuable content.

The page or article should provide authentic value beyond self-promotion. The real people who will be visiting your website should find something relevant, useful and aligned with their intent.

Ensure that it contains plenty of rich information includes relevant keywords, used appropriately, that indicate the subject matter of your content,” Google states.

  • Target one keyword per page.
    Pick one phrase for your webpage or article that will resonate with your audience. It’s hard and often not ideal to optimise a page for more than one keyword.
  • Include the keyword in your copy.
    Visitors expect to see the words they typed in the search bar in your copy. Use them two to three times within your page, as long as it makes sense and sounds natural.
  • Do not over-optimise.
    Remember Google highlights user experience more than any other metric. It’s real people first, and search engine second. Never sacrifice their experience to meet an SEO objective.
  • Set a minimum page length.
    Page length is determined by the message you want to convey, and not an arbitrary limit. Longer, “thicker” copy offers greater opportunity for more information and a keyword placement that reads well. 300 words is generally a good target, but make sure every word contributes to the message and thought of the copy, not obvious filler.

4. Optimise your content to Mobile

Today, creating mobile-friendly content is a requirement, not an option. If it’s unable to reach your audience through mobile search or display, you will miss out on opportunities to engage, especially since nearly two billion internet users are using their smartphones and tablet to search the web.

When optimising for mobile, you will face two challenges. The first challenge is speed. You have 15 seconds or fewer to make a first good impression before your potential customer moves on to a competitor.

The second challenge is engagement. Your content should be designed for mobile devices and offer a touch-ready experience. Take advantage of these mobile moments to drive deeper levels of engagement.

Bottom Line

To drive content marketing success, learn to respond to shifting customer interests and trends to meet the needs of today’s digitally demanding consumers. Good content marketing establishes long-term, relationships with current and prospective customers, through consistent, high-quality, relevant, and useful information. Additionally, it reinforces your SEO efforts and brand positioning.

By adopting these practices, you can build an effective strategy or fine-tune the one you already have in motion. If you’re successful, you will break through the noise and drive real results.

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