It’s been just five years since the term “content marketing” began appearing regularly online, and only three years since the Content Marketing Institute, an umbrella organization for content marketers, was founded. In its latest surveys, CMI found that 90% of B2C marketers use content marketing, and 93% of B2B marketers engage in content marketing techniques.
In truth, content is what marketing has always been about. Advertising, public relations, brochures, white papers, events, research reports, and websites are all standard forms of content that marketers have used for decades.
CMI’s first survey in 2010 found that 90% of B2B marketers used content marketing. So what has changed, and why did we need a new term to encompass everything that marketers do?
Scale Of Content Marketing Has Grown Exponentially
The explosion of social channels and the expanding capabilities for distribution and display of content across multiple devices has made it necessary for marketers to start thinking more holistically about their marketing campaigns. The strategy, production, maintenance, optimization and measurement of all those channels means the average CMO now oversees a vast swath of content and data on that content’s performance.
Yet, CMI reports in its most recent surveys that only 34% of B2C marketers and 42% of B2B marketers believe they are effective at content marketing. If everyone is doing it, why is there such a lack of confidence in its effectiveness?
CMI again points to the answer: their research shows that organizations which have a documented content strategy and someone who oversees content strategy are much more likely to believe that they are effective.
The fragmentation of departments and the challenges of measurement across channels in the 21st century has left us with the same problem department store magnate John Wanamaker had in the 19th century: “I know half of my money on advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half.”
The Search Engine Angle
The changes in SEO in 2013 show that Google increasingly rewards content that addresses user needs. SEO is no longer about just the keyword; it’s also about content that matters to users.
This paradigm shift was well underway when Google began encrypting searches in late 2011 and market leaders were already figuring out how to adapt to the new content-centric paradigm with its increasingly sparse keyword referral data. In September 2013, Google made the move to 100% Secure Search, accelerating the shift to the new paradigm — overnight.
However, in the rush to produce content for the newest marketing channel or tactic, many marketers have left out the two essential factors on the front-end and the back-end of their campaigns: audience and measurement.
Audience centric content begins from a strategy of what the audience wants based on what the company offers, in the channel that they are most likely to engage. Taking the time to research and define your audience, identify segments and create personas will facilitate the development of a message that will resonate with each buyer. Then appropriate content and distribution channels will emerge naturally.
Measure What The Content Does For Your Business
Once the audience needs have been matched to the appropriate message and the content is produced and distributed, it is essential for marketers to keep a close watch on what happens on these content pages. Pages are what attract visitors, drive conversions and bring in revenue, and you need to make sure that these pages actually impact your business.
The first step is obviously to document the targeted business outcomes tied to your content. Many view this as a technology or integration problem, but the best marketers see this as a logical outcome of a shift to results-oriented and page-centric approach to marketing. Goals for each piece of content must be tied not just to the number of views or shares, but to its ability to convert.
The most successful marketers have integrated organic search and social measurement tools with conversion analytics for a complete picture of performance and how well they are executing towards their business goals. Also, knowing which portion of your content marketing effort is “wasted” (i.e., does not convert) is the key to increasing the portion that does convert. Content marketing is a continual process of learning, not just broadcasting.
Important Content Metrics & Business Outcomes
The analysis above should lead you to a list of goals and performance metrics for your content. Make sure you have answers to these questions pertaining to your most valuable pages.
What is the targeted business impact of my content?
- Does my content drive ad revenue through greater eye balls on the page?
- Does my content drive revenue through online purchase?
- Does it drive brand awareness?
- Do I want my content to grow conversions through targeted actions on page?
- Do these goals vary by device?
- Are there geo-specific goals?
The list of possible questions is exhaustive, but be sure to consider all relevant possibilities.
What business metrics do these outcomes translate to?
- How can you measure these outcomes as a way to assess content performance?
- Is it traffic alone?
- Do form registrations, asset downloads or trial signups matter?
- Is page revenue the most important metric?
The answers to all these questions need to be numbers that you can measure over a period of time by utilizing search, social and analytics in unison.
Don’t Forget Social, Mobile & Local
To measure the overall success of your earned content, it’s essential that you measure business outcomes attributed to organic search as well as social. Also, measure and test the interaction between search and social, and how that influences content performance. In 2014, it will be essential for content marketers to “hit the sweet spot” where content, search and social collide.
Keep in mind that you need to measure your results by device and location. In a global marketplace seeing rapid adoption of mobile devices, location and device matter more than ever.
Having an audience-centric content strategy with appropriate measurement tools in place should be part of every marketing program. 2014 is the year to engage — to not only think deeply about how your content can serve your audience, but to put the measurement tools in place to learn how you can serve them better.
Earn your right to invest more in content!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.