CCO February 2022
Get resources, frameworks, reading lists, and ideas to feed your strategic content planning process.
CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER
<strong>In This Issue</strong>
Don't Spend Time Creating a Content Plan
Instead of a plan, decide on a menu you periodically review and update. That way, everyone's clear about what your team will serve up – and what they won't.
How To Build a Content Ops Framework
If you’re not already expected to construct, implement, and administer a framework for how content flows through your organization, you probably will be soon. Here’s how to start.
Inside a Monster Content Plan
Monster launched an award-winning content site barely a month after the first pandemic lockdowns. Soon after, the team rebranded and refocused to meet changing needs. Here’s how they did it.
[New Video] How Mastercard Obsesses Over the Content Experience
What if customer satisfaction scores show your content isn't as great as you thought? Watch this ContentTech Summit presentation to learn how Mastercard's content team bounced back.
7 Search Insights to Improve Your Content Marketing in 2022
Google wants to provide the best answer for each query. Apply these insights to make your answers the best option.
Give the Buyers What They Want: Self-Service Experiences
No one wants to talk to your sales team (yet). But they do want the right content.
Now Read This
These new (or newly updated) books on content, creativity, technology, and more come highly recommended by your peers.
• General Manager: Stephanie Stahl
• Editor-in-Chief: Kim Moutsos
• Creative Director: Joseph Kalinowski
• PR and Video Consultant: Amanda Subler
• Project Manager: Angela Vannucci
Questions or comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
Isn't this all eerily familiar?
For nearly two years, content leaders have had to shift gears, switch focus, execute 360s, and navigate endless turbulence.
Looking ahead into a third pandemic-battered year, it feels like we need a whole new storm category to describe our work lives. I've been calling it the marketer’s maelstrom.
With so much disruption all around, creating any kind of plan feels futile. Why bother when a twist we didn't see coming could knock those plans off course?
Well, for one thing, your corporate overlords expect it. So, not planning isn't an option.
But let's be honest. Even before the pandemic, did your best-laid plans ever go off without a hitch?
Before March 2020, few of us had experienced the scale and pace of change we've been living with ever since.
Now we've learned a few things – like the fact that strategies and plans need to flex and balance and sometimes spin completely around.
In fact, Robert Rose argues in this issue that you may not need a content plan at all. But he doesn't mean you should give up the idea of a strategic plan.
He means you need to make planning a process. Instead of setting a plan and forgetting it, you'll feed this process throughout the year with input from other teams and insights from existing programs.
Spend some time considering the process Robert suggests and all the ideas, examples, reading lists, and other resources we've gathered.
I hope you'll find them helpful the next time your best-laid content plans get waylaid.
Let me know what you think of the issue and how you're planning for another unpredictable year. I'd love to hear from you.
<strong>Don't Spend Time Creating a
<strong> Focus on building a continual planning process instead. Here's one to try.
Are You Suffering From a Plan With No Planning?
Instead of creating a content plan, decide on a menu. That way, everyone's clear about what your content team will serve up – and what they won't.
By Robert Rose
Believe it or not, the most valuable outcome from planning is not a plan.
The valuable outcome is a set of clear decisions about what you'll need – and what you won't need – to accomplish your goals.
There couldn’t be a more important lesson for planning content creation.
You may be suffering from what I call a plan with no planning. How do you know if you have this
condition? Watch for these telltale signs:
- Your content calendar is nothing more than a to-do list of all the assets your team has been asked to create
- Your content assets are already late to market by the time they're published, then you're suffering from a plan with no planning.
- You create the same content over and over, then you're suffering from a plan with no planning.
Instead of planning how to combine meals as efficiently as possible, it’s time to plan a menu – what will be served and, more importantly, what won't.
To be clear, I’m not talking about the company’s overall approach to content – that’s the content strategy. I’m talking about planning for the workflow of content so you can scale and manage it better.
Where should marketing content planning fit into your content strategy? Can you reuse the planning process you develop for product or loyalty content? Robert Rose explains in this segment of Marketing Makers, a video series that explores everything you've ever wanted to know about content and marketing (but were afraid to ask).
Plan for continuous planning
The purpose of planning is to make the best decisions about what content you need for your strategy.
To do that, you need to focus on five areas: idea development, creation and production, merchandising, activation, and measurement.
1. Idea development
Using your value propositions or messaging architecture, figure out the right content or stories for your brand to tell.
Don’t think about containers or channels at first. Think of ideas – and I mean big ones.
For example, let's say you're planning content for a financial services business that wants to be a thought leader for an audience of people who own small- to medium-size businesses.
Someone suggests developing content for a blog post about why SMBs should partner with other SMBs to offer easy-to-understand information on financial and other sophisticated concepts.
That’s not simply a blog post, that’s a big idea.
Right away, you probably can imagine topics to cover and the voice to convey them. You might develop a “helper” spokesperson, get influencers to chime in, develop a game, or create a university-type class.
Once you've worked on this big idea around thought leadership for SMB owners and decided it fits into your overall strategy, you're ready for the next step.
Now you can hash this idea out with your agency, your content council, editorial board, or content team. Once you determine the story you want to tell, you can decide what form it should take.
Maybe you launch it as a 10-step explainer video series on the basics of finance for SMB owners that's hosted by industry professionals.
Plan to turn the transcripts into blog content and use visuals and snippets from it for social posts. Plan to interview the industry professionals and share the content with them for their blogs, social channels, and so on.
Now is the time to decide what your team can, should, and shouldn't do – and when.
2. Creation and production
You'll need a shared calendar of all projects for some agreed-on period (say the next 90 days).
Most of the projects should be the strategic ones you decided on in the previous step. But list any reactive content requests and needs that arise, too.
Using the calendar, assign resources (including the team) to create the content and produce all the related designs and outputs.
You’ve already planned multiple outputs from the central content, so you should know what core and secondary content you need. In this stage, you’re planning specifics around that content creation, such as:
- The writing of a script for the video series
- Developing the visual content to be repurposed for social posts
- Scheduling industry influencers for interviews that could be used for the video series and subsequent blog posts
The idea is to decide to create fewer, bigger ideas that translate into smaller content expressions that can fill as many containers as you need.
Map these things out and make content planning the basis of your asset planning. A simple spreadsheet-based content calendar can help. Or you might turn to a robust technology solution to outline the process.
Think of the merchandising step as the internal distribution of the content produced.
If you use the kind of planning process I'm describing, your team likely will complete assets that may not be published for weeks or even months.
That's why you need to detail how the content will be shelved and communicated internally to the rest of the business. This is content merchandising.
Smart merchandising recognizes new content products and existing content worth reusing.
That means someone (or some team) must decide what, where, and how, those categories should be promoted internally.
Similarly, someone must decide how it will be distributed so it can be used, activated, and published accordingly.
You could simply designate a team member to go back to old blog posts and schedule them to be reused as part of the social publishing strategy.
Another option is to conduct once-a-week reviews of content with sales, web, and other teams so they know what’s available.
Planning for content activation ensures that you not only publish your core pieces but also update any relevant content related to them.
You can schedule organic promotion of that content with other promotional content. You can align with other groups that may be doing the same thing. Put simply: You need to make decisions about what, where, and why things will be promoted.
For example, you might plan to:
- Launch one explainer video on the blog and promote the post that day and each day for the next week on your social channels
- Ensure the mobile app gets updated to include the video
- Feature an interview with the SME from the video on the blog one week after launch and support it with social posts
- Alert the PR team to issue a press release upon each related class release
- Word with the paid promotions team to run a small campaign to promote each asset release
As you work through a few cycles, you’ll develop patterns and workflows for different content categories.
In this content planning process, you'll determine the decision-making process for how you'll measure your content.
In other words, you'll decide who is responsible for tracking the metrics, who is accountable for getting the numbers, who will be consulted, and who needs to be informed.
You'll also determine what will be tracked – from consumption metrics (visits, SEO score, downloads, form fills, shares, likes, etc.) to cost metrics (cost of production of the asset, time to produce, and so on.)
Ultimately, this feeds back into your planning to help you understand what content topics to reuse, which are not performing, and which you should double down on by promoting and activating again.
Put it all together
With all five steps complete, you’ve built and stabilized the bridge between content and your overall business strategy. Planning this way helps you reserve most of your resources for proactive content while spending much less time reacting to necessary updates or responding to requests.
Every stakeholder should understand that your goal is to create a few big ideas that lead to many content pieces.
You (and other stakeholders) can see which content will be produced, which projects should be prioritized for production, and when those assets have been merchandised, published, and measured.
It’s a process. It’s a workflow. The foundation of successful content planning helps you get out of reactionary mode and into a truly strategic process – where nobody has to juggle anymore. CCO
Robert Rose is the founder and chief strategy officer of The Content Advisory, the education and consulting group for the Content Marketing Institute. He’s provided content marketing and strategy advice for global brands such as Capital One, NASA, Dell, McCormick Spices, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Follow Robert on Twitter @Robert_Rose.
More From Robert Rose
He may be the Content Marketing Institute's strategy advisor, but he's generous with his advice. Here are some ways you can tap into his know-how to build or advance your content program.
<strong>How To Build a Content Ops Framework
<strong>It’s a luxury to focus only on content marketing. You may find yourself in charge of creating the support systems for the whole organization's content. Start here. </strong>
Content Leaders Are Asked To Do It All
If you’re not already expected to construct, implement, and administer a framework for content operations throughout your organization, you probably will be soon.
By Cathy McKnight
More and more marketers of all ilk – inbound, outbound, social, digital, content – are being asked to add content operations to their list of responsibilities.
These marketers must get their arms around:
- Who is involved (and I mean every who) in content creation
- How content is created
- What content is created by whom
- Where content is conceived, created, and stored
- When and how long it takes for content to happen
- Why content is created (i.e., what are the driving forces behind content creation)
- How to build a framework to bring order and structure to all of this
These evolving expectations mean content marketers can no longer focus only on the output of their content marketing efforts. They must now also consider and construct, implement, and administer the framework for content operations within their organizations.
What is this 'content operations' thing?
The phrase 'content operations' describes the big-picture view of everything content-related within your organization, from strategy to creation, governance to measurement, and content management. All too frequently, I see large and small companies letting content operations evolve organically.
Many content teams say formal content operations aren’t necessary because “things are working just fine.”
Translation: Nobody wants to take on the task of getting everyone aligned. No one wants to deal with multiple teams’ rationale for why the way they do things is the right/best/only way to do it.
So, content teams just say everything is fine.
Newsflash – it’s not.
It’s not just about who does what, when
Done right, content operations supports efficient processes, people, technologies, and cost. Content ops are essential to plan, create, manage, and analyze strategically from ideation to archiving for all content types across all channels (paid, earned, owned) and across the enterprise.
A formal, documented, enforced content operation framework powers and empowers a brand’s ability to deliver the best possible customer experiences throughout the audiences’ journeys.
It doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds.
What holds many content and marketing teams back from embracing a formal content operations framework is one of the biggest, most challenging questions for anything new: “Where do we start?”
Here’s some help in easy-to-follow steps.
1. Articulate your content purpose
Purpose is the “why” behind everything a team does. It’s the raison d’etre and inspiration for everything that follows. In terms of content, it's the driver for all content efforts and never really fulfilled.
In Start With Why, author Simon Sinek says it succinctly: “All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.”
2. Define the content mission
Once the purpose of the teams’ content efforts is clear (and approved), it’s time to define your content mission. Is your content’s mission to:
- Attract recruits?
- Build brand advocacy?
- Deepen relationships with customers?
Do you have buy-in from the organization, particularly the C-suite? Can you talk about your mission with clarity? Have you created a unique voice or value proposition?
Answering all those questions will solidify your content mission.
3. Set and monitor core objectives and key results
Once your content mission is in place, it is time to outline how you'll gauge success.
Content assets are called assets for a reason; they possess real value and contribute to the profitability of your business. Accordingly, you need to measure their efficacy.
One of the best ways to do this is to set OKRs – objectives and key results. OKRs are an effective goal-setting and leadership tool for communicating objectives and milestones to achieve them.
OKRs typically identify the objective – an overall business goal to achieve – and three to five key quantifiable, objective, measurable outcomes. Finally, checkpoints are established to ensure the ultimate objective is reached.
Let’s say you set an objective to implement an enterprise content calendar and collaboration tool. Key results to track might include:
- Documenting user and technical requirements
- Researching, demonstrating, and selecting a tool
- Implementing and rolling out the tool.
You would keep tabs on element such as securing budget and approvals, defining requirements, working through procurement, and so on.
One more thing: Make sure OKRs are verifiable by defining the source and metric that will provide the quantifiable, measurable result.
4. Organize your content operations team
With the OKRs set, you need people to get the work done. What will the structure look like? Who will report to whom?
Will you use a centralized command-and-control approach, a decentralized-but-supported structure, or something in between? The team structure and organization must work within the construct and culture of the larger organization.
Here’s a sample organizational chart we at TCA developed for a Fortune 50 firm. At the top is the content function before it diverges into two paths – one for brand communications and one for a content center of excellence:
Click to enlarge.
5. Formalize a governance model
A governance model ensures your content follows agreed-on goals, objectives, and standards.
Get a senior-management advocate to preside over setting up your governance structure. That’s the only way to get recognition and budget.
To stay connected to the organization and its content needs, you should create an editorial advisory group (also called an editorial board, content committee, or keeper of the content keys). This group provides input and oversight and takes charge of informing their teams about decisions made.
Include representatives from all the functional groups in the business that use the content as well as those intricately involved in delivering the content.
6. Create efficient processes
Adherence to the governance model requires a line of sight into all content processes.
How is content generated? You may find 27 ways of doing it today. Ideally, your goal would be to have the majority (70% or more) of your content – infographic, advertisement, speech for the CEO, etc. – created the same way.
You may need to do some leg work to understand how many ways content is being created and published today, including who is involved (internal and external resources), how progress is tracked, who the doers and approvers are, and what happens to the content after it’s completed.
Once documented, you can streamline and align these processes into a core workflow, with allowances for outlier and ad-hoc content needs and requests.
The chart on this page shows an example of a simple approval process for social content (developed for a global, multi-brand CPG company). You can see that it includes three tiers:
- Tier one covers the process for a social content request.
- Tier two shows the process for producing and scheduling the content.
- Tier three shows the storage and success measurement for that content
Click to enlarge.
7. Deploy the best-fit
How many tools are you using? Organizations that grow through acquisition inherit duplicate components within their content stacks. Many have two or three content management systems and several marketing automation platforms.
Do an audit, eliminate redundancies, and simplify where possible. Use the inherent capabilities of your content stack to automate where you can. For example, if you run a campaign on the first Monday of every month, use technology to automate the process.
The technology to support your content operations framework doesn’t have to be fancy. An Excel spreadsheet can be one of your most important tools.
The goal is to simplify how content happens. What that looks like can vary greatly between organizations or even between teams within an organization.
Adopting a robust content operations framework requires cultural, technological, and organizational changes. It takes sponsorship from the very top of the organization and adherence to corporate goals at all levels of the organization.
None of it is easy – but the payoff is worth it. CCO
Cathy McKnight is the chief problem solver and vice president of consulting with The Content Advisory, the education and consulting group for the Content Marketing Institute. With 20 years of global experience and expertise in content strategy, content management, intranets, marketing technologies and customer experience, Cathy has led both strategic business transformation initiatives as well as the detailed execution of enterprise technology implementations. Follow her on Twitter @cathymcknight or connect on LinkedIn.
<strong>Inside a Monster Content Plan
<strong> How Monster launched an award-winning site – then adapted and expanded as audience needs changed.
Forget the New Normal
If there’s one thing everyone learned during the pandemic, it’s this: Don’t expect anything to last. As the team behind Monster's award-winning content site learned, you need to be ready to adjust as you go.
By Ann Gynn
Just one month after the pandemic hit hard, Monster Worldwide's new microsite went live. Called Work in the Time of Coronavirus, the new site served both job seekers and employers struggling to adjust to quickly changing circumstances.
“We went into lockdown in mid-March (2020), and we had launched this in a month,” says Monster’s Carl Germann, senior marketing manager, brand communications. “We couldn’t believe we did it. We were like, 'Wow, this is kind of astounding.'"
Julia Gaynor, senior marketing strategist, B2B, agrees: “It was so rewarding – being able to create so much content that we knew was definitely helping
both our customers (companies posting jobs) and our candidates. It felt very meaningful.”
The judges at the Content Marketing Awards 2021 thought so too. It was the winner for the best content marketing launch and led to Content Marketer of the Year finalist honors for Carl and Julia.
It wasn’t just the expedited timing to create, execute, and publish the site that led to the recognition. The content partners tackled a number of challenges and made some new discoveries.
Work in The Time of Coronavirus effectively addressed both business (employer) and consumer (job seeker) audiences. And the content teams continued to expand and shift the content focus as they learned more about what those audiences needed.
It brought together the Monster teams in new ways, too. Here's a deeper look at all they accomplished.
Creating for multiple audiences
“At first glance, we thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be really popular with job seekers.' And it turned out to be a little bit more popular with employers. We were happy with that because we were serving our clients in a way that we weren’t six months prior,” Carl says.
Julia agrees Monster’s new content was even more helpful to employers, particularly in the health care industry. Monster opted to offer free job postings to all health care companies and eventually opened it to all companies seeking essential workers for a time.
The screenshot of the site shows the relevant topics it covers – from what people need to know about unemployment benefits and legal rights to health care jobs that don’t require experience.
Developing content from proprietary data
The content included a mix of existing and newly commissioned content with a special ingredient – proprietary Monster data.
The site’s Data & Insights section offered a weekly snapshot of the hiring landscape. It featured results from polls of Monster members as well as proprietary job-market data, including top searched keywords, top posted jobs, and cities with hiring surges.
Monster scraped data from job-seeking candidates and job openings posted by companies. (The company used only generalized candidate data, such as the number of resumes being uploaded, top occupational categories, and so on.)
Using that research, the content team created the Monster Job Index. The example on this page shows top keyword searches – administrative assistant, work from home, and part-time – and how each had been trending.
As the world got used to the “new normal,” Monster tackled topics like work-from-home burnout and how to pay remote workers. They also followed their audience’s growing interests by creating content on building a diverse workforce.
To draw people to the microsite, Monster sent emails to 5 million job seekers and 500,000 employers in its database.
The team reached out to the media, specifically touting the content in the Monster Jobs Index. They created organic social campaigns for individual articles. And they ran targeted promotions for webinars based on the site’s content.
As the economic impact of the pandemic dragged on, they shifted to a paid social campaign promoting individual articles on related trending topics.
The plan worked.
Work in the Time of Coronavirus averaged 2,500 monthly B2C visits. More importantly, it earned a 52% click-through rate as visitors were motivated to consume additional content on the site. The B2B home page had a 40% CTR, with most clicking to see the proprietary Monster Jobs Index.
Individual article promotion also succeeded. COVID-related posts were 51% more efficient than standard content in driving traffic to Monster's site. COVID-related content accounted for 81% of job views, 84% of new accounts, and 83% of application starts.
The impact continued into the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021. With a 50-50 content mix of standard career advice and COVID-related articles, the COVID content accounted for 71% of site visits.
As for media coverage, the Monster Jobs Index earned 55% of the company’s media coverage in 2020, and its thought leadership led to a 175% increase in the inclusion of a Monster spokesperson in media coverage.
Spinning off success
The original goal for Work in the Time of the Coronavirus was to build brand awareness and extend Monster thought leadership across three sectors – candidates, employers, and media.
But Carl and Julia didn’t stop with one successful content site. The success they found in pitching the weekly Monster Job Index to top-tier and trade media led them to launch a new site in 2021: Monster Intelligence, which is devoted to all things data.
Uniting the organization
But that’s not where the Monster story ends. It’s really just the beginning of a new era – an integrated content approach across the organization.
About two years ago, the small content team at Monster underwent some changes. Carl led more of the company’s PR brand communications efforts, while Julia drove Monster’s B2B content marketing team.
But the pandemic’s onset led them to work together on a cohesive content strategy to respond to that incredible moment. “We could never stop doing it that way. It’s like second nature for us now,” Carl says.
Using Sprout Social’s Bambu tool, they share content with employees who then can share it easily externally.
“We’ve had great success in leveraging that for our sales team,” Carl says. “They needed to keep in contact with their clients. They needed to stay relevant. We kept giving them content and data
points (through Bambu) that they could put on their own LinkedIn (or Twitter),” he says.
Today, the marketers deliver new content two to three times a week so that the sales team and others can continue sharing relevant content digitally.
That’s not all. The internal comms team sends out an email blast every Tuesday from the marketing department talking about the latest pieces of content, public relations hits, and so on.
“It’s all become such an integrated aspect of the way we work here,” Carl notes.
All this work hasn’t gone unnoticed by the C-suite either. As Carl explains: “It’s becoming much more apparent to the executive leadership that this is just part of how we do it.” CCO
Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn
<strong>7 Search Insights for Better Content Marketing in 2022
<strong>Google’s search mission hasn’t changed. Searchers’ behavior has.
Google Wants to Provide the Best Answer for Every Query
Apply these insights to your content to make sure it’s yours.
By Jim Yu
Given the evolution of consumer behavior and the sheer volume of content being produced, content marketers can’t rely solely on historic SEO performance data as indicators of future success.
Organic search data plays a role in business intelligence for 71% of marketers. If you’re one of that majority, you want to deliver content that leads to better results to report.
Studying these sources of data and applying the insights you glean from them will help.
1. Market insights
In HubSpot’s Not Another State of Marketing Report 2021, 83% of marketers say they conduct market research, and 88% of that group use that research to inform business decisions. Of those surveyed, 67% of marketers plan on increasing market research spending in the next year.
Understanding your market in detail can help you better identify the ranking and traffic potential of content assets. Keyword research is essential granular activity here as it helps determine the terms and phrases used by customers to find content, products, and services like yours.
You also need to know the sites appearing at the top of the results for those search terms. It may not be a traditional business competitor. For example, the top content might come from a major media publication, educational institution, or government agency creating relevant content on your topic.
Rank tracking and analyzing market insights can help you spot macro market trends and opportunities to optimize content for specific intents, long-tail keywords, and less competitive SERPs.
2. Searcher intent insights
Knowing why your target audience searches helps you deliver content they'll want to consume.
Map your existing content to your customers’ journey. Look for gaps in your coverage.
Maybe you’re doing a great job producing top-of-funnel awareness and informational content but don’t have content that answers commercial or transactional intent queries. Or maybe those resources exist but don't rank well (and could use another round of optimization).
You also can evaluate queries people use to find your content. When you have a good grasp of the why behind the queries you’re targeting, you can ensure that content continues to provide the best and most comprehensive answer.
Finally, you can go deeper to look at the micro-moments – the person’s mindset at the point of search. In 2015, Google released a series of white papers around four critical micro-moments of search behavior – know, go, do, and buy.
Fast forward to today, and micro-moment strategies are still hyper-relevant. Analyzing SERP results through a micro-moment lens can help you better align content to customer journeys and your content marketing strategy by:
- Understanding how videos, images, and quick-read content should be used
- Knowing how the target audiences and keywords differ in each micro-moment
- Improving alignment of keywords to their customer journey more quickly
- Identifying ways paid content strategies can complement SEO for multiple micro-moments to dominate targeted keywords and categories
- Helping you prioritize content spending closer to conversions.
Click to enlarge.
3. Search behavior insights
How does your target audience search for the content? This should make a significant difference in the format and the information in your content pieces. If 85% of your blog traffic finds your content through a mobile device, for example, you should prioritize a quality mobile page experience.
Keep in mind: The impact of rank-contributing factors like page speed, external links, technical elements, and on-page factors varies by industry.
For example, if you operate in the finance sector, external linking matters most to content’s rank and position in search results. But in travel, page load speed is a vital content ranking factor.
4. SERP position insights
Search engine result pages don't look the same for every search. In addition to traditional results (title, search snippet, and link), SERPs can now include dozens of features, including rich snippets, video and image results, maps, people-also-ask sections, and so on.
You must understand the types of results appearing on the SERP for the queries you’re targeting.
For example, if a results page includes a listicle-style featured snippet that contains older, less authoritative content, take that as an opportunity to create and optimize a better listicle article targeting the topic.
Or, if you pursue a topic where a video appears on the SERP, you could create and optimize a video to win placement in those rich results appearing in that valuable real estate above the fold.
In many cases, you can learn from trends in your industry. The chart on preferences by industry shows preference trends for health care, education, home improvement, finance, travel, and e-commerce segments.
Health care and education see a segment of searchers who appreciate quick answers. But that kind of content doesn’t even show up as a preference in home improvement, finance, or e-commerce.
Click to enlarge.
5. Content type insights
SEO insights can also help you decide which content types and platforms make the most sense for targeted keywords and audiences.
For example, a searcher who would click for an in-depth B2B buyer’s guide might expect an e-book over a blog post. While a searcher who wants a general overview likely would expect a high-level blog post on the topic, not a gated download.
You also may discover the original content type isn’t a good fit to attract searchers.
Let's say your market and keyword research tells you that the guide published last month should be performing a lot better than it is. To broaden its appeal, you could repackage it into a YouTube video, a SlideShare presentation, or a series of blog articles.
Use on-site analytics and industry trend reports to inform which content types resonate and perform best for different user needs. Use SEO insights to inform new content and make sure each existing piece is performing to its full potential.
6. Real-time behavior and automation insights
This advice gets a bit trickier. You can’t necessarily optimize content in response to what people are doing on your site in real-time.
Yet, research from Segment, Accenture, and others indicates consumers get frustrated when content feels impersonal and most are more likely to shop with brands that give them personalized offers and recommendations.
AI-enabled SEO technology can help do this at scale. After all, by the time you review the site analytics and discover precisely what that visitor was looking for, they’re long gone.
We worked with Campbell’s where recipe content is a key driver in product awareness and sales. Using our company’s tool, their site automatically generated relevant internal links in the footer, labeling them as “members also viewed …” across all recipe pages. Within a few weeks, Campbell’s content moved to page one for 4,000 keywords.
7. Engagement and
It’s important to know which key performance indicators (KPIs) will tell you whether a piece of content is doing its job. For example, ranking reports and site traffic are great, but are visitors interacting with your content or merely passing by?
Set up conversion tracking in Google Analytics to keep an eye on whether visitors are completing your targeted goal.
You also can look to your social media platforms to understand which content garners the most engagement. Can you replicate that success in search by targeting a different intent or topic area?
Bring it all together
SEO is an ongoing process; there is no end to good results. Your SEO content strategy must stay on top of shifting consumer behavior, from targeted keywords to mobile optimization and from searcher intent to content types.
Are you making the best possible use of the SEO opportunity? Prepare to go deeper. Look for areas to streamline content optimization, get more granular in your personalization, and scale your efforts with smart automation. CCO
Jim is the founder and CEO of BrightEdge, the global technology leader in SEO and content performance marketing. The BrightEdge SaaS platform is used by thousands of marketers and enterprises – including 64 of the Fortune 100. Follow him on Twitter @jimyu.
You Might Also Like:
Purpose-Driven Content and SEO: An Organic Traffic Strategy Google Loves
Google’s advances in AI have changed the rules (again). For more than a decade, SEO experts have relied on strategies like keyword-targeted content, on-page optimization, and aggressive email promotion. In 2022, these techniques are losing their effectiveness.
Purpose-driven content marketing offers a better way to grow organic traffic and increase conversions.
Join us at ContentTECH Summit to learn how to apply this effective strategy to any B2B or B2C website from SEO expert Dale Bertrand.
Register today with code CCO100 to save $100.
<strong>Give the Buyers What They Want: Self-Service Content Experiences
<strong> No one wants to talk to your sales team (yet). But they do want the right content.
Most people say they want to do their own research. But they soon run into the problem of too much information – and not enough of what they really need. Your content can help them help themselves.
By Ann Gynn
"B2B buyers prefer a self-driven experience. They want to research on their own. They don’t think they need any help from the sellers.”
That reality check came from Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions, at Content Marketing World 2021.
But they arrive at a problem – too much information. Worse, she says, a 2019 Gartner survey notes only 9% say the content they come across from vendors is sufficient.
Content marketers can help buyers help themselves to the content they need to make a purchase decision. But they may be going about it the wrong way.
“We really need to make this shift from marketing-driven campaigns to buyer-driven experiences,” Ardath says.
To help you move toward buyer-led experiences, we’ve gathered advice from two Content Marketing World speakers: Ardath and Marcus Sheridan, president of IMPACT.
Build a buyer-led flow
In the traditional approach, the sales process triggers the minute a potential buyer fills out a form for gated content. Then they get a series of emails or phone calls offering demos or requesting meetings.
But prospects usually aren’t ready for that. They may not have gathered the stakeholders involved in the purchase. They may not know what outcome they want. So, they ignore the outreach because it isn’t helpful.
A buyer-led approach recognizes that prospects want to address their problems or needs in the least disruptive way.
“We tend to market assuming that everybody is already an in-market buyer, and they're not,” Ardath explains. “A whole change management process needs to take place. And we can help them with that.”
How? Take part in solving their problem by helping them:
- Define the stakeholders
- Identify the potential disruption the solution will cause
- Determine how to make compromises to move the buying process forward.
By the time they get to supplier selection, your brand is already involved in their process.
“We need to let them drive. We need to allow them to be in control, and we need to help them accomplish what they need to do,” Ardath says.
4 buyer-led content strategy needs
A buyer-driven content strategy, Ardath says, includes these four components:
Context: Build value by creating content based on the prospect’s desired outcomes. Focus content on helping them complete the steps in their task to solve their problem. Help buyers understand the questions to ask and simplify access to the right information to answer those questions.
Choice: Help buyers decide whether to stick with their current solution or to change. Guide them through options for minimizing the disruption involved in the change, and so on. Provide relief by making it easier to complete their research and buying process.
Conversation: Make sure conversations – exchanges of information – happen on the buyer’s terms. Focus on the information they want, not the information your brand wants to share. For example, the act of filling out a form isn’t relevant to a conversation, but the topic of the content they accessed probably is. Keep the exchange going by giving them the next thing relevant to their behavior and what they engaged in.
Confidence: Help buyers feel confident about their choice. Give them what they need to make an informed recommendation or decision, even if that choice ultimately isn’t your product or service. Prioritize becoming a credible resource over prioritizing your brand.
Learn to operate in a seller-free world
Marcus Sheridan, president of IMPACT, also spoke at Content Marketing World 2021 about prospects wanting more control of their research process.
“Buyers are forcing sellers, salespeople, and marketers to change,” he said.
Marcus points to studies that indicate:
These statistics point to the need to embrace the self-service model, Marcus says.
Help visitors research elements such as pricing on their own. Then, put them in control when it's time to choose a sales rep and a time to talk.
Self-scheduling and self-selection
Marcus noted the excellent self-scheduling and self-selection process offered by Yale Appliance.
On the company's website, people can choose their preference for a showroom visit, video call, live chat, or online order placement (as this screenshot shows).
As the potential buyer clicks down the path, they can select the Yale team member they want to work with. They can choose based on who’s available when they are, but Yale goes further. It includes the sales reps’ name, headshot, and bio, in addition to availability.
Yale Appliance’s CEO told Marcus the self-select closing rate is 62% higher than for walk-ins. The average sale is $4,000 per scheduled appointment compared to a $2,000 deal average for a walk-in customer.
“Give visitors the ability to make important decisions by guiding them virtually to a conclusion,” Marcus says.
Marcus’ fiberglass pool manufacturing business offers another kind of buyer-driven experience: self-pricing. Self-pricing doesn’t mean the buyer determines the actual price. Instead, it involves walking buyers through choices to create the product they need and see the actual price or the range of pricing.
A self-pricing tool on Marcus’s site asks what pool shape the visitor wants, then returns the selected pool with details about the base package.
Buyers can click on any aspect to understand it in detail. They can choose upgrades and make comparisons. Eventually, the pool site will show other cost considerations (such as hidden costs related to construction).
The self-pricing experience has been a big success. As many as a couple of hundred wholesalers per day completed the form in the summer season. Marcus says the cash-cow lead magnet works because it gives the buyers the power to determine the pricing.
It’s a buyer’s world
These ideas from Ardath and Marcus make a great case (and helpful tips) for transforming your traditional content marketing, marketing, and sales operations for a buyer-led future.
The buyer will remain in control. The only choice you’ll have is whether you’re willing to follow their lead. CCO
Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn
<strong>Now Read This</strong>
<strong>Catch up on these new books or stock your library with timeless resources.
A Starter Reading List for 2022
It's hard to keep up with all the great books for marketers and creatives. We turned to our community to get recommendations on the most useful new (or newly updated) books on content, creativity, technology and more.
Take a spin through these recommended titles that are sure to inspire, motivate, and teach.
Recommended by Chris Inman, director of photography, Chris Inman Productions:
This book walks you through a process for building a great story about what your company can do for its clients. I love its “And, But, and Therefore” system of storytelling.
By Kelly Keenan
Recommended by Ann Gynn, editorial consultant, Content Marketing Institute:
"I hate the word 'influencer' because it’s taken on such a selfie-style connotation. But, in truth, many people influence what a brand is and can become. This book helps you get real about all that."
Recommended by Andrea Walters, editor, Workplace Conversations, AIM WA:
"Very transformative and practical to help us all be better at conversations."
Find Your Red Thread: Make Your Big Ideas Irresistible
By Tamsen Webster
Recommended by Penny Gralewski, solutions marketing, Commvault: "There are 37 sticky notes marking key ideas in my copy. This amazing guidebook helps seasoned and new marketers develop effective, relatable messaging. I’ve used the framework for product marketing messaging and presentation story development. I’ve recommended this book to marketing teams, technical leaders, professional keynote speakers, plus my MBA marketing course professors and classmates."
AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer
By Christopher Penn
Recommended by Hannah Szabo, teacher with marketing chops: "As we move into the fourth industrial revolution, marketers of all stripes will need to sharpen their data chops. This warm intro to the field of AI and machine learning tells you what you need to know (and what you don’t) success in the digital economy."
<strong> How Mastercard Obsesses Over the Content Experience
<strong> A ContentTECH Summit 2021 presentation (exclusively for CCO subscribers)
Inside Mastercard's Ear-Opening Experience
"We thought we listened to [customers]. Then we got our customer satisfaction score, and I realized we missed a mark somewhere."
That realization kicked off the reexamination of every detail of Mastercard's content experience, says Jill Sheffield, who leads content strategy and development at the company.
Jill shared the details of her team's quest to improve documentation at ContentTECH Summit last year.
Watch the video to learn how Mastercard made measurable improvements in customer satisfaction.
Click the image to watch this full-length ContentTECH Summit 2021 presentation.