Fine-tuning your content marketing machine
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Fine-tuning your content marketing machine

As the dust settles on festive celebrations and your body (hopefully) starts to resemble its normal form after gaining a little extra ‘holiday weight’, you’re probably in the process of mapping out your business goals for 2017.

The world of content marketing has grown exponentially in recent years, with the oft-quoted ‘content is king’ mantra continuing to flourish. But before you assemble your content calendar for the next 12 months, you should carefully consider one thing: are your efforts actually worth it?

Ultimately, I believe the many and varied forms of content marketing are essential if you’re serious about getting noticed and building an online audience (I run a content agency, so I would say that), but what I’m getting at is a serious need to consider whether each individual piece of content you produce actually adds value to the wider conversation or at least showcases you in best possible light.

Content for content’s sake will get you nowhere, and the days of ‘if we build it, they will come’ are truly over. This is highlighted by Beckon’s in-depth research, which reveals that only 5% of branded content garners 90% of total consumer engagement. In other words, as the report explains, “19 out of 20 content pieces get little to no engagement.”

Publish with a purpose

The aforementioned study also notes that, compared to the previous twelve months, three times more content was published between August 2015 and 2016, so there’s no doubt that it’s getting increasingly hard to cut through the noise and be heard above the competition.

Thus, in my opinion, if you really want to make an impact in 2017, then it’s best to put the brakes on and think carefully about what’s going to get you (or your clients) noticed. That may sound like simplistic, woolly advice, but the stats suggest this simply isn’t happening often enough.

I’m sure it’s not for a lack of trying, more that many content marketers try too hard. In other words, their output is too ambitious, covering too many bases and trying to talk to too many people. For example, the trouble with writing a blog post titled (something along the lines of) ‘how to win at social media’ is that it’s not targeted enough, so you’ll end up scratching the surface of a massive subject area without really saying anything meaningful.

It’s much better to focus on one aspect of social media, such as Facebook Live, and really go to town on it, describing how it’ll impact your customers and showcasing your detailed knowledge. This will frame you as a reliable voice with something insightful to say, which is much more likely to achieve a respectable level of engagement.

Distribute, amplify and engage

There’s obvious benefit in publishing content on your own website, usually in the form of a blog, but you’re only going to attract organic search visitors if your posts are well optimised. Despite being a fundamental building block of online marketing, I still meet many marketers who admit to having a very limited knowledge of SEO – they visibly tense up, shake their heads and put their hands up in the air.

I’m a firm believer that quality content will always thrive, no matter how little thought you put into optimising it for search. But brushing up on SEO basics, like how to conduct keyword research, can certainly give you a competitive edge and see your visibility surge. The art of great content marketing and the science of SEO combined will really put you ahead of the pack.

Another under-appreciated discipline of content marketing is guest blogging or publishing articles on third-party sites, and I’m expecting to see many more B2B marketers embracing outreach programmes this year. Essentially, this amplification of your content works on multiple levels to maximise your marketing efforts, and my clients have experienced significant gains in doing so.

Firstly, providing content for a well-respected, widely-read publication is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your expertise. As long as your message is informative, entertaining and relevant to the audience without coming across as an advertorial, you’ll be raising your profile, potentially attracting new customers.

Secondly, it gives you great material to share on social media; if your followers see you’ve been published on a leading website - CIM, for example - your professional standing will increase in their eyes.

Finally, in the background, marketing your content will be boosting your search engine performance. Reference links from authoritative websites relevant to your niche act like recommendations in the eyes of Google, giving your pages a boost in the organic search results. The more effectively you do this, the higher you are likely to rank.

New habits for the New Year

The content marketing industry is at a real crossroads, with the eternal quest to demonstrate ROI getting all the more focused. As an industry, we need to take this challenge head on and do all we can to refine campaigns until they’re firing on all cylinders, delivering tangible results in the form of engagement and performance.

There are many marketing trends to look out for in 2017 but, for my money, the most important thing to consider is ensuring that your content efforts are focused on becoming that magical one piece in 20 that actually gets noticed. If you achieve that, you’re sure to have a very productive year ahead.

Magnus Linklater is the MD of Bespoke Digital Content Marketing.

If you interested in learning more about how to build successful content strategies, our Advanced Content Strategy course is available now with limited spaces remaining. 

Magnus Linklater Managing Director Bespoke Digital Content Marketing
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