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The New Imperative — Audience-Centric Content
Do you know who read your latest blog entry or saw your post on Facebook? How do you plan to navigate the maze of content marketing options — and how well does your content connect with your audience?
Content marketing taps into the innate human desires to be informed, educated and entertained; and the best content programs produce high-quality content that meet those desires. But in the hurry to create blog posts, articles, reports, e-books, videos, and infographics, marketers can lose sight of what that content absolutely must do: connect with an audience. Not only that, the abundance of competing links, images, and videos on nearly every webpage create noise that can prevent quality content from being found.
Developing compelling content takes a lot of work. While the Web offers us many creative avenues and easier measurement capabilities than ever before, marketers need to be single-mindedly focused on what value they can provide to their audience.
Defining The Audience
Without a clear picture of whom they are trying to reach — what issues the audience has and how your product or service best addresses those issues — marketers will create content that gets ignored.
Creating value for a specific audience is by no means a new concept. There is plenty of information available about how to create personas, conduct user research, and think up catchy content topics. But in the digital age, content that isn’t valuable disappears from view at the speed of a mouse click. And with Google’s Hummingbird update, it’s even more important that the content address a relevant topic rather than a keyword. (More on that later.)
Not every channel is right for every message, and not every message is right for every channel. In addition, demographic data prove that not everyone is everywhere.
Understanding the nuances of how each channel is used is important. For example, LinkedIn is a good place for sharing slideshows, while Facebook is better for sharing anecdotal stories and pictures.
LinkedIn Groups are popular for a professional exchange of ideas as they relate to work functions.
Google+ and Twitter have a wide range of topic-based enthusiasts, with users exchanging ideas and content in the format specific to each.
Expand Reach With Additional Distribution Channels
There are myriad distribution channels for content beyond the corporate website, search engines and social networks. Engaging with audiences on other places such as Yahoo!, Huffington Post and niche blogs can vastly increase reach.
Pick distribution channels based on where your intended audience gets most of their content needs met. Building reach solely through owned media can take a long time, while paid efforts and contributed content can dramatically expand reach in a short period of time.
Tracking the number of downloads, page views, Tweets, and shares is one way to measure content efforts — but without a revenue target, it’s impossible for a marketer to justify the cost of content creation and distribution.
Every business will have to establish metrics that meet their specific business goals. And metrics are an important source of audience information — finding out what works enables you to give your audience more of what they want.
Google’s Hummingbird Update & Content-Centric SEO
Organic search continues to be one of the most popular ways for people to discover quality content. Google’s focus on semantic search in its most recent algorithm update and the move to (not provided) mean that marketers must shift their focus from keywords to topics of interest.
Focusing on page performance rather than keyword traffic and search ranking allows us to think more carefully about topic relevancy and how to create pages that convert. While estimated keyword data gathered from Google Webmaster Tools or Bing/Yahoo! can supplement this new content-centric approach, the topic — and thus the user — is now front and center.
If you don’t know your users now — who they are, what they want, and where they are online — it’s time for a crash course.
According to Senior Analyst Ryan Skinner in the October 2013 Forrester Research report, Put Distribution at the Heart of Content Marketing:
Many marketers either neglect to optimize their content programs for search or work with content production teams that lack basic SEO knowledge. Some brands solve this by embedding content optimization tools in the authoring tool. Travelocity used an optimization tool from BrightEdge to help its 20-plus content teams working in Adobe CQ to reduce SEO errors by 67%.
Converting Readers Into Buyers
Content-centric marketing has led to an explosion of consumable content in the market place. However, inefficiency creates large variations in content quality, distribution, discoverability and return on investment.
To succeed in content marketing, it’s necessary to develop a strategy that incorporates an understanding of your audience’s needs and their habits. Ensure that you have the right infrastructure and tools to create a compelling experience that delivers value to the reader and a return for you. With focus, dedication, and the proper measurement strategies in place, you’ll be able to create content that converts readers into buyers.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.