The content marketing world is changing. We have hit and surpassed the peak of its effectiveness in its current state - but don’t panic - this is a good thing. All things need to evolve to stay relevant as more valuable information becomes available. If content marketing strategy is simply sharing valuable content in a strategic way that maximizes views and dollars, then essentially this includes all marketing today.
And it can still be amazing.
The days of content farms pumping out article after article and seeing success are fading. Don’t get us wrong, they are still doing it, but customers are becoming increasingly wary of the content they read. Where does it come from? What is it saying? Who is saying it?
A recent study from the Content Marketing Institute found that while 93 percent of B2B businesses use content marketing efforts, only 28 percent found it incredibly, or very effective.
This could be because so few businesses and content marketers know how to create and distribute great content effectively. Up until this point, content marketing has primarily been focused on quantity versus quality. There are a number of reasons for that.
First, the tools we use to define customer engagement do it poorly. Traditionally, impressions, clicks, and views were all that was needed to earn money. This meant that traditional analytic tools didn’t let you measure anything else, and efforts to optimize were focused on quantity analytics.
With these simple analytic tools, opportunities to exploit the system were abounded. This is how terms like Clickbait have become commonplace, as content creators have focused their efforts on pumping out as many articles a day as they could. We have all read the articles with the catchy headline that are annoyingly split into 8 pages. This was created all, so there are more clicks, more page visits, more links and more advertising opportunities.
But are people interacting more with the content?
A recent study by Beckon revealed that “…engagements are concentrated among a few pieces of content. Just 5% of that branded content garners 90% of total consumer engagements. The other 95% shares the remaining 10% of engagements.”
In other words, a content marketing agency could produce 90 percent less content creation and still see the same results.
So how do we update our content marketing plan?
It comes down to quality over quantity. But how do we define quality?
Quality content is meaningful, helpful and honest, not distracting or misleading and it engages the audience in a sustained and focused way. For example, a thoughtful well written long-form piece as opposed to a quickly skimmed clickbait or listicle style piece. High-quality content will, in turn, foster quality participation with specific, thoughtful and nuanced engagement from the audience instead of vague or vulgar participation.
When we think of content, we generally break it down into two different types: evergreen and temporal.
When you think of evergreen think of content that doesn’t lose its value over time, perhaps something like a how-to video on changing a tire. When you think of temporal think of content that has a best by date, for example an article about a passing comet.
Both evergreen and temporal content have their place, but it’s evergreen content that creates compound returns – consistent traffic that continues to grow brand awareness over time. It’s these compound returns that all marketers are looking for.
The strategy for creating evergreen content consists of creating content that is relevant regardless of the news cycle, time of year, or passing trend. It needs to rely on essential information that won’t change when new technology or fads come along and lastly it needs to remain up to date. The best evergreen content pieces are consistently blog posts on how-tos, data-based posts, case studies, lists, tips, and complete guides.
One of the best things about evergreen content is it requires a lot less work for the returns. While it may take you a couple of weeks or even months to put a piece together once it’s up the traffic will be sustained and even grow over time. One way to ensure that it lasts even longer is to update it regularly.
When content gets old and stale, Google notices – take this case study as an example. Since a drop in Google ranking can mean a massive hit to your traffic, you want to keep your content as fresh as you can. Update broken links, refresh or add paragraphs with new data, do keyword research and change or update as necessary and give your updated article the same promotion you would for a new one.
Additionally, you can resurface older articles through new publications and add links in new posts to your older evergreen posts. Because it's evergreen content it will still be relevant to new audiences, and this can give your great content further exposure.
As a savvy creator in the content marketing world you’re aware that most content distribution is owned by either Facebook or Alphabet (parent company of Google and YouTube) and as such we’re at the mercy of their algorithms to find and positively rank our content. Because of this, SEO has never been more critical. Combined Google and Facebook have over 5 BILLION searches a day!
Content not only has to be engaging and educational but it needs to be shareable. Some quick tips for optimizing your SEO are:
- Create visual content (especially embeddable images)
- Publish unique data
- Encourage comments on your site
- Go on a marketing podcast
You’ve probably experienced Topic Clusters without even knowing it. Topic Clusters are done by creating a pillar piece that acts as the central hub of content for an overarching topic. It then has multiple content pages that are related to that same topic link back to the pillar page and each other. This Topic Cluster signals to search engines like Google that the pillar page is an authority on a topic and over time the page may rank higher for the topic it covers.
Topic Clusters are an excellent way for you to establish yourself as an expert on a topic, and a great way to expand on the content you’re creating.
The featured snippets are the high search ranking pages that are featured in a box below the ads on Google. You’ve likely seen the Featured Snippet when you’ve entered a question into Google like, When Is Google’s Birthday?
Reaching this coveted spot relies on a number of factors highlighted here in this Moz guide. The short version is you want to focus on feature keywords, on page SEO, imagery, structure, as well as answering the question most likely to be asked.
Pay per click (PPC) advertising has been pretty straightforward. How many people clicked? What did they spend? What is your ROI per click? But Facebook has gone and subtly changed their algorithms to disproportionately reward advertisers that can earn likes. And what earns the most likes?
The rub is that it also punishes advertisers that try to bait users for likes or comments. For example, those social media posts that say, “Give us a like and tag three friends who would like this in the comments.”
The Future of Content Marketing
The key to the future of content marketing is the realization that it’s always changing. What has worked before will not necessarily work in the future. Test, analyze YOUR data and adjust your content marketing efforts as needed.
Break out of the norm by utilizing content types that will create an impact with your customers. Conversational marketing – real one-on-one conversations with customers – is taking off because customers no longer want to talk to robots and the results of evergreen content show that they are aware when companies are being disingenuous. They want real.
Video marketing continues to grow and is projected to capture 80 percent of all online traffic by 2019. This content can’t be faked, and customers are connecting with the emotional appeal of engaging with a company’s brand voice through video.
In the end, there is no magic formula. Focus on delivering consistent value with quality content, and you’ll build trust, beautiful long-term relationships and create a lasting awareness.