From more humble beginnings of White Hat SEOs touting "content is king" to massive campaigning from search engines and marketers around the idea of quality "content marketing," content marketing has come a long way.
However, the path we’ve been on is coming to an end. As brands and marketers, we’re at a fork in the road when it comes to content; the next path we take will either elevate our journey to the next level, or throw us into a never-ending roundabout that takes us nowhere.
The right path is marked "content performance marketing," and it’s less about how we get there and more about what we’ve accomplished along the way. In this post, we’ll talk about three key components of content performance marketing, where you’re not just creatingquality content, but also anticipating demand, optimizing content, and most importantly, measuring it.
The Content Marketing Plateau
I don’t need to tell you how important content marketing is. Most marketers and brands that are on the leading edge are doing it in some form or another. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute, the most effective B2B marketers allocated 39 percent of the marketing budget to content in 2013.
I also don’t need to tell you just how much data we have to deal with today. The amount of content that’s being created goes hand-in-hand with the amount of data that’s being produced.
The more content, the more competition, and the harder it is – as consumers and marketers - to cut through the noise and scale efficiently. Read more on that here.
Content Performance Marketing: 3 Steps to Success
Step 1: Target Demand
Content performance marketing starts with understanding the demand for content. Your goal is to be visible where your audience is looking for your products and services.
But the demand for types of content is changing every day, and the audience you serve expects more than ever before.
In the past, shoppers on an e-commerce site would have been satisfied with well-categorized products on a website and good product content; now those same customers want you to help them buy the product by offering buying guides and a customized shopping experience.
In practice, supplying the content for the demand leads to brands capitalizing on the long-tail queries that we see more and more today (especially with the growing mobile audience and how they search).
One great example of answering these types of queries with in-demand content is Nordstrom and its how-to video on scarves, answering the query "how to tie a scarf."
Brands that win are brands that know where their audience is and how they like to receive information, and then they create content assets that are optimized for those search queries.
Here are five tips for targeting demand as part of a content performance strategy:
- Gauge demand by looking at the historical performance of your Web content over time, observing the peaks and meadows. Pair that with data on trending topics over time, and what’s happening now.
- Assess the trends around the types of content your audience wants. As each content asset takes resources, be clear on those that are in highest demand to get the most bang for your buck.
- Dive into the seasonality of your business, and understand when you need to ramp up content based on things like holiday shopping seasons – when the demand is higher for retailers’ content.
- Look at ways to extract competitor data, so you can get a better picture of how your organic content strategy is performing against your competitors. Where is your competition doing a stellar job? Where can you do better?
- Remember, content performance marketing is about marrying data with wisdom, and orchestrating campaigns that fit into the lives of your consumers.
Step 2: Optimize Content for Search Success
Targeting demand is simply not enough to achieve content performance marketing; you also need to optimize your content to gain that visibility where your audience is. That means taking those real-time insights, and applying it to the content strategy immediately.
There’s one big opportunity for efficient content optimization that will drive more performance in the long run, and it’s centered on giving content creators the tools they need.
These content creators are often not the marketing strategists in a company but still need access to information to help them understand what topics are in demand in real time, and how to optimize.
Full-spectrum optimization for content creators means:
- Having access to and knowing what topics are in demand right now.
- Understanding what the competition is doing with their content to then create something unique.
- Being able to perform the best practices of on-page optimization or video optimization – or whatever type of content optimization is needed.
Having a well-documented, simple step-by-step workflow is a big part of training content creators to be optimizers. Even with no background in SEO, content creators can follow clear guidelines and utilize technology to optimize content "out of the gate."
Step 3: Measure the Results
Should you do another in-depth article, or should you focus on another video? These are the types of questions that need answering before investing more time and effort into content – otherwise, we’re just content marketing, and not focusing on performance.
The good news is, everything in content marketing is digital, so it’s all measurable. It comes down to the reporting and analytics.
First, you’ll need to understand what content metrics matter. That’s going to be different for every business and each piece of content, but the metrics need to be able to tell you what’s happening around your content.
Here are just a handful of the (mostly Web content) metrics that you should consider:
- Bounce rates
- Conversion rates
- Engagement rates on video
- Page views and page-based metrics
- Quality inbound links
- Organic traffic
- Social shares on blog content
- Unique visitors
Further, when looking at how content is performing, segment it by categories like:
- Mobile devices: Look at your content’s performance by device type. How much of your traffic is mobile, and how well is that segment engaging with your content? Is your content mobile-ready?
- Content type: How does standard text content fare against video or other visual content amongst your audience? Measure and report on what content works best and on what page it performs best. For example, a recent BrightEdge report highlighted how images and videos together have a click-through rate (CTR) 13 percent higher than standalone written content.
Content performance marketing is the future and it is a "full speed ahead" journey. With brands continuing to invest in content but still facing challenges with knowing how those dollars are working for them, we’re truly at a fork in the road: one path leads to performance and one leads to just plain old marketing.