In this week’s article of our series on”content marketing”, presented by Skyword, Patricia Travaline, Skyword’s Marketing VP, provides 7 key guidelines successful brands such as Iron Mountain, IBM and AutoTrader have leaned on.
Content marketing is one of the most important and effective tools that a brand or agency can use to build its business, reach new consumers and deepen loyalty with existing customers. To be truly effective and engaging, brands will benefit from following a blueprint and adhering to some established best practices as they embark on producing and distributing owned content.
Here are some guidelines that successful brands such as Iron Mountain, IBM and AutoTrader have leaned on.
Steps to start a content marketing strategy
(and to best integrate it into your daily marketing processes)
1. Define Your Objectives – The first question you need to ask is what is your goal in content marketing? Is it education about a specific product line? Is it to be viewed as a thought leader?
Other objectives might be building awareness, providing education, or driving traffic and generating leads. There is no right or wrong answer, but know the goals because they form the hub of your strategy.
Storage and information services provider Iron Mountain had a very clear goal in mind with its content marketing. After seeing a decline in outbound marketing conversions, the firm decided to swap tactics away from traditional digital tactics such as email and paid ads, and rely instead on content to strengthen its relationship with customers and prospects and to enhance its position as a thought leader. Skyword worked with Iron Mountain to create articles and reports on trending topics of interest to Iron Mountain buyers.
2. Build Content Around Those Objectives – Once you know your goals, you need to study your audience to determine if they want news or evergreen content, or both, or perhaps how-to pieces, instructional material, or deep-dive reports on trends. In order to determine the best content for your customers, learn what they care about, what issues matter to them, and what pain points they face in their businesses.
There is no shortcut to knowing your audience. You need to talk to them and study the market so that you can create compelling content that will engage them and be shared.
AutoTrader.com confronted the issue of pain points when it revamped its content strategy. The site has become a leading source in-car buying with more than 16 million monthly visitors. However, the site was publishing eight articles a day from various contracted writers, and that proved a drain on resources and time. AutoTrader needed to streamline that process with one system for editing, distribution and even payment of writers. Using Skyword’s platform, AutoTrader now manages the writing process in a more organized fashion and also uses the system for fact checking, SEO and spelling. Skyword’s tech tools, among other features, suggest desirable keywords for search optimization.
Using a centralized platform helped reduce time spent managing the writing process, and also drove up revenue because the content was optimized for search and sharing.
As a result, impressions rose 281 percent in 3 years and the Skyword system helped generate 10 million in new revenue.
3. SEO Matters – Part and parcel of any content strategy is to define the best keywords, because SEO plays a huge role in content marketing. You’ll be distributing content across many online channels, so you want it to be easily found. SEO is a powerful tool since many consumers may first learn about your business or area of expertise via a search on a related topic.
Make sure your content returns high. To ensure your business is on track with its SEO, AutoTrader writers receive “an automated SEO scorecard” with their pieces, which gives feedback on how their articles and written materials will fare best with SEO.
4. Establish an editorial calendar and assign writers to topics –This step is sometimes neglected but it’s vital. Are you pushing out content daily? Three times a day? Who hits publish and when? Likewise, make sure you have properly allocated the necessary tasks in content production such as writing, creating, fact checking and distributing.
5. Develop a Library – The content, of course, is the backbone of a content strategy, and there are a number of ways to approach the actual creation of content.
As an example, United Way wanted to distribute timely and emotionally powerful material to its 1800 local affiliates. But uncovering stories about the brands and the people behind the communities was time-consuming, and that’s why the association wanted a central resource for this information. United Way worked with Skyword to create a pool of blog articles and local resource guides to include in its content engine as part of an overarching strategy to provide a consistent message. Tapping into content that matters to local communities served the brand’s overall objectives – to encourage more online visitors to take action and volunteer.
6. Promote your Content – Post the articles, papers, videos, etc. to your site but also to social channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google. Also, be in touch with influencers in your industry who can help spread the content.
IBM, for instance, recently developed a content library to raise awareness about its solutions for mid-size businesses. IBM relied on a team of bloggers and journalists to create relevant news articles on important trends and breaking news to mid-size business owners and IT professionals. The content was optimized for search and social and nearly 3,000 articles created generated more than 200 million social impressions and 16,000 shares (as of August 2013), which in turn led customers to IBM sites to seek out more information.
7. Measure – You want to know if your content marketing is working so you can tweak and improve it when need be. Establish the important metrics, such as shares, page views, traffic lifts,or even sales boosts. Change your content if it’s not hitting the mark.
The team at Iron Mountain found success with its content marketing approach based on the metrics that mattered – inbound outreach via phone or the website. Since the content marketing program began, inbound calls rose 5% and completions of the contact us form on the website are up 61%. Similarly, AutoTrader tracked its best-performing topics so the content creators could focus on the areas that generated the most engagement.
This series of articles about “Content Marketing” is brought to you by Skyword. Skyword provides a wide range of services so that companies may connect with their audiences and generate a higher degree of engagement via top-quality contents for online search and social networking, currently the two main sources for content consumption.
Other articles of the CONTENT MARKETING SERIES: