Lessons Learned in Content Marketing

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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2017)

In the  last few years, the content marketing has been hailed as the holly grail of digital marketing, an effort that requires the whole marketing and product team to work together, implement one after one commonly known best practice. Now, from the distance, we can evaluate these best practices and determine which ones work well and which ones do not. With the help of Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz, we can rate on the Likert scale from True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, to False different content marketing strategies for their effectiveness to attract potential customers and convert them to paying customers. Lessons Learned in Content Marketing

Effectiveness of the Common Content Marketing Recommendations

Content Brings Direct Leads and Sales

Half True on Likert scaleThe most rudimentary goal of content marketing for a business is to attract web site visitors, who will happily leave you the contact information so you can covert them into buyers. Although this is a simple premise, the results are quite mixed because people are spending more time doing research on the topic, i.e. not being impulse buyers. In fact, Zappos, leading e-commerce web site for shoes, have observed that on the average person visits the site 7 to 8 times before they make a purchase. Online retailers can think of their web site as good old fashioned window storefront. If your store window is beautifully appealing, people will linger longer in front of it and be more compelling to actually step into the store. According to Moz observations, a person visits their 3M visits/month  web site about dozen times before making a purchase or signing up for a free trial offer. Consequently, lifetime value of a customer that took time to make a purchase after a dozen visits (loyalty) is much higher that ones that buy a subscription quickly because they quickly unsubscribe as well. In sum, I recommend that marketing managers track and grow the number of repeat visitors because that is the segment that will ultimately convert to a paying customer.

Generate Leads via Pop-up forms

Half True on Likert scaleRaise your hand if you love to have your browsing experience interrupted by a pop-up window. No one? I understand the sales impulse to capture contact information from every single person that ever visited your web site, but such aggressive strategy can surely backfire. My personal pet peeve is SumoMe, a startup that has been recommended to all bloggers, startups and small businesses as a Holly Grail of lead capture. I have tried SumoMe platform for a day and purged it immediately from my blog because of its intrusiveness. The plugin takes up the left side of the screen so it hides the content that I came to read in the first place, so the only course of action for me is to immediately leave the web site. Aggressive pop-up window strategy can backfire.  Danny Richman asked well over 1,000 people how do they feel about web site pop-up windows, and the results are clear; people trust more web sites without any pop-up windows:

% of visitors who felt they TRUSTED the business % of visitors who felt they would BUY from the business
Negative Opt-Out Pop-Up 10.91% 7.27%
Standard Pop-Up 30.19% 17.92%
No Pop-Up 41.51% 22.64%

I am not saying that businesses and bloggers should eliminate pop-ups altogether, but to embed lead forms sporadically in the content. Also, temper the expectation for lead generation, as only repeat visitors are inclined to share with your web site their contact information because at that point they have been convinced of the value your business provides in terms of content that they keep reading repeatedly.

Growth Hacking

Growth Hacking is the Future of Marketing. Mostly false

Mostly False on Likert scaleGrowth hacking resides in the intersection between traditional marketing and engineering and it is typically used by startups that need to grow their user base as fast as possible. Growth hackers use variety of techniques to increase brand awareness on the Internet, grow inbound traffic and convert visitors to users.  However, most of these hacks are simply annoying and going alway. Roundup posts are fading away. Info graphic craze is dying off as they are hard to read. Auto-follow responses and messages,  aggressive email pestering are all very annoying. Related articles rarely provide any value to the reader. Over time these things work worse and worse. People have been trained not to click on these things. On the other hand, some of these hacks can help if they are applied to the weak link in your content flywheel as part of the content marketing cycle (publish, amplify, grow network, get links & recognition, grow authority,rank for slightly more competitive terms and phrases, earn search traffic). If you know that some part of this cycle is underperforming, then growth hacks can work to fix the friction.

We are all painfully aware of the impact of these growth hacking tactics on the 2016 election with proliferation of fake news. Yes, they work, but in the long run, people will go back to the trusted sources of information and news, so fake news web sites will die off.

FaceBooks usersFacebook is Everything

False on Likert ScaleFacebook continues to dominate the Internet. As of September 2016, 1.79 billion users were on Facebook, a billion of people were chatting on WhatsApp and another billion on Facebook Messenger. Day in and day out people spend about 20 minutes on Facebook and are exposed to advertisements and news feeds. Because of that, most marketeers are afraid to miss out and spend time and effort to engage potential customers on Facebook platform. On the other hand, the mission of Facebook is to keep people on Facebook, not to refer them outside of the ecosystem to another company’s web site. If you take a look at the referrals traffic, many web sites will get only about 5% of the traffic from social network referrals. That’s not much. So, if you are putting all your eggs on FB content, then you are missing out on the majority of the web traffic. Facebook wants to keep you there, not to send you out somewhere else.

The Facebook platform itself has changed in 2016; Zuckerberg has declared Facebook to be “video-first” company. Because of that, video get pushed to user’s feed more often and it gets 5 times more views than images or posts. On the other hand, Facebook favors native video format, not YouTube videos, and the company prefers events and moments that are streamed live, spontaneously. Unfortunately, FB is now  pay to play because now it is hard to grow organic audience otherwise.

Use Paid Channels to Boost Content Marketing

Using paid channels to boos content marketing efforts is half true statement. If the content does not receive an organic audience, then paid advertising will not do much to boost the traffic. 80% of clicks on the SERP go to organic search results, not paid advertisement, so if your page is not ranking high on Google, an ad will most likely be just waste of money. Depending on your budget and goals, the balance between organic and paid amplification is constantly in flux.

Amplification Starts After You Hit Publish

Mostly False on Likert scaleBuilding relationship with influencers, bloggers, organization that could amplify your message takes time and it should be done before the content is created. If you get buy-in from these influencers, they would be happy to share your links. The first step is to make a list of people that have significant following that is relevant to your business and understand what would be their motivation to amplify your topic.

Modern SEO Pyramid
SEO Pyramid

Use Keywords When you Want to Rank in Google.

Half True on Likert scale

Keywords and hashtags are important part of your content marketing strategy as they help people find you easier, but they will not provide competitive advantage. Search engines are not the only ones that use keywords, other platform use hashtags for the same purpose. Instagram, Twitter use hashtags, Facebook also recognizes # and even LinkedIn can highlight # but only if you use a mobile app. Also, don’t forget that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, so it’s important to have the presence on this platform as well. Finally,  the content you provide has to solve user’s query, has to be keyword optimized, and the answer to the query has to be in the title of the headline. Title and URL have to earn strong click through rate.

Most common SEO problems:

  1. Unintentional duplicate content, fix in with canonical metadata
  2. Long page load times. The web page has to load under two seconds
  3. Poor HTML tags
  4. Poorly optimized images
  5. Bad back links
  6. Thin content. Blogs with 2,000 words rank much higher in SERP than short articles
  7. Not mobile friendly

It is not hard to ensure your content is SEO optimized, so do spend some time to clean up your HTML, fix the most common SEO problems and increase your visibility with the search engines.

Correlation is a Recommendation

False on Likert ScaleA lot of people study the best time of the day to sent a Tweet or a Facebook post, what is the ideal length of the blog post in terms of number of words or how long does it take it be read. Ultimately, these averages are just that; averages. not necessarily a recommendation or a best practice.

Make Great Content and People Will Come

False. As a software engineer, I have spent a lot of time with my colleagues falsely believing that we only have to develop the best product ever and people will flock to buy with without any effort whatsoever. Then, I earned an MBA and discovered that marketing is the essential department for all businesses that actually want to make profit. Quality of a product or a content alone cannot overcome competitive landscape. That does not mean that you should not aim for 10x better content, but don’t expect greatness to overcompensate for marketing. The job of a marketing manager  is not to make great content, but to accomplish our company’s business goals. Finally, experiences of others is valuable, build your own model for experimentation it that one that gives you the most relevant metrics.

From Rand Fishin’s presentation,The Worst Lessons Marketing Ever Taught Content:

Summary

Call for Complimentary Business Discovery SessionContent marketing is not easy, nor it delivers instant results. Some techniques work better than the other for certain types of businesses, so it is important to measure internal metrics over time and adjust content marketing strategy accordingly. SEO continues to be the essential element in digital marketing strategy that ensures the content can be found on the Internet.


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About Dragana Mendel 85 Articles

Dragana Mendel is a President and Principal Consultant at ANAGARD, LLC. In her role, she provides management consulting services to small and medium size businesses on the best strategy to achieve their short and long term goals.