Engagement: How To Unlock The Key To Content Performance Success
So you've developed a content marketing plan, and you're producing tons of great content -- the question is, is anyone reading it? Columnist Jim Yu explains how to increase engagement and improve your brand reputation in the eyes of your customers.
Brands and marketers are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of content. Unfortunately, this greater insight does not always result in higher levels of customer engagement or stronger ROI. When content is used correctly, it can be an incredible tool for brands — but too many companies are missing the opportunity and spinning their wheels.
The content you produce needs to demonstrate an accurate understanding of the target audience and what they seek. It then needs to work in tandem with search and social to get that information in front of the intended audience. It is only when your content gets in front of the right person at the right time that you will be able to produce meaningful engagement rates and conversions.
Success comes from having these three work together. The first step, however, is producing content that engages.
Importance Of Engagement
There is a common thread running throughout content creation and development that’s seen in many marketing departments: Although nearly all organizations have begun to create content, only around half are confident in their ability to create content that can engage their intended audiences.
According to the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 54 percent of B2B marketers and 50 percent of B2C marketers cited “producing engaging content” as one of their top challenges. This challenge, however, is not new; the report produced by the same two companies back in 2010 found that this issue was also a leading concern five years ago.
Engagement — defined here as traffic, conversions and revenue — is the key to successful content. To bring in new customers and convince them that you have the solution to their problem, you first have to be able to entice them to explore your brand and read what you have to say. It does not really matter how much content you produce — If the right audience does not engage with your site and what you have to say, then your content marketing strategy will not succeed.
Does Your Content Engage Your Target Audience?
As many as 77 percent of marketers plan to increase content production this year. The problem, however, lies in the production of engaging content, especially since engagement is the single biggest driver of content performance. according to research done by BrightEdge.
B2B & B2C Engagement Levels Vary By Industry Type
According to BrightEdge’s research, the level of engagement that visitors have with a piece of content varies widely by industry. There was even a marked difference between the B2B sector, which saw average engagement rates of about 50 percent, and the B2C sector, which was substantially lower, at only 20 percent, on average.
Breaking these types of businesses down into industries led to even more insights. Take the hospitality industry, for example. Much of their content has a very singular purpose: to fill hotel rooms. Chances are, the vast majority of the traffic that comes to this content has the expressed purpose of booking a room. That helps to explain in part why the hospitality industry has one of the highest engagement rates, at 87 percent.
Manufacturing also turned out strong numbers — 54 percent engagement — and a case could be made that this high engagement rate is similar to the high engagement rate in the hospitality industry. Many manufacturing-based companies do a considerable amount of their business through a few distributors. These companies tend to have very narrow markets, and they produce content expressly for that audience.
These two industries receive a boost compared to other businesses in a very important aspect of improving engagement: understanding their customers and what they seek. Hotels know that the vast majority of their customers are interested in booking a room. Some might have to wonder about restaurants or other amenities attracting attention, but the number of potential intentions are not nearly as wide as other industries, such as retail.
Retail companies have a wide selection of products, and their customer base will also be composed of a number of different types of people. They have people arriving on their websites for countless different reasons, which results in a much lower level of engagement. Although it is a major challenge, companies who want to succeed in the world of engaging content have to understand their customers and know what they want to see and learn.
Part of meeting these customers’ needs means measuring your progress with content development. You should be monitoring your various metrics, such as the number of people who arrive at the site, the amount of time they spend on the page and what they do once they get there. Use your metrics to determine the most successful types of content, and use that content as a guideline as you move forward.
Engagement On Mobile Devices
Although we’re seeing a growing focus on mobile — thanks to both the Google mobile-friendly algorithm update of April 2015 and the increasing popularity of the devices as a means of accessing the internet — we found that engagement on desktop exceeded that of mobile across all industries.
It is important to acknowledge this discrepancy and look for reasons behind it.
For example, you may find that many customers who are interested in making an online purchase like to do so from the comfort of their home computer, rather than on a mobile device. Conversely, they will appreciate the convenience of mobile while trying to look up an address or find a store number to call. Conversion actions like these are just as important to the customer experience, even though they might not reflect high engagement rates.
Understanding what customers are doing on your website can help you optimize your pages to meet their needs. You can design your mobile pages to make the common activities of mobile viewers easier to access, making it simpler for customers to move around the site and find the information they seek. You might make content that is significantly more likely to be preferred by those on a desktop more prominently displayed on the desktop version of the website.
BrightEdge data found that more than 1 in 4 mobile sites are misconfigured. Each of these errors results in an average 68 percent loss of smartphone traffic to that content. Creating a high-quality mobile site that is tailored specifically your audience when they are on the go can help increase engagement and improve the brand reputation in the eyes of consumers, which will then positively influence their actions when they return to their desktops.
How To Improve Your Content Engagement In 7 Steps
Unfortunately, creating engaging content is not always easy, but there are steps you can take to improve the quality of your content and the engagement of your audience.
- Understand your audience, their interests and demand. You must first have a firm understanding of exactly who you would like to have reading the content and what they are interested in learning. Develop customer personas that help you identify what people seek and how you can help address their pain points.
- Know the industry trends. You should be familiar with what people seek in the industry, such as the topics and keywords that are being used in queries, as well as on social media and across the digital ecosystem.
- Understand your competitive content space. Do not restrict yourself to how your own content performs; you should also be familiar with the content of your competitors and look at how it measures up to your own. Identify keywords they might be using that you have neglected. Watch for the types of content they produce that seem to produce the desired results.
- Build an engaging content plan based upon your audience and topical demand. The content you develop should be fully optimized for engagement and conversion. That means using keywords that people are searching, in content that will pique their interest.
- Tailor content to resonate with different users at different parts of the purchase funnel. Pay attention to the purchase funnel: attention, interest, desire and action. The visitors who arrive on your site will fall at different points of the path. That means you need to develop content for all stages of this journey.
- Utilize all forms of digital media to distribute your content to your audience. You need to leverage all the forms of digital media you have at your disposal to get your content in front of the desire audience and improve engagement. Images and videos in particular are often underutilized, even though the research speaks strongly in their favor. Images in tweets, for example, can increase engagement by as much as 5x. Videos are also increasingly important — an estimated 100 million internet users watch videos every day. Different people consume content in different ways.
- Measure results, analyze and refine content to match the user journey. As you implement your content engagement strategy, be sure to continue to look at content performance and how people are responding to what you produce. Take note of the most successful types of content. Analyze the content journey of your customers to see what they engage with at each stage. Learn what is having the most success and what needs improvement, and use that to create a more successful engagement plan for the future.
Engaging your customer through your content is the key to transitioning from just producing content for its own sake to creating material that has a strong ROI.
This is a problem many brands struggle with as they become more content-oriented. Take note of our recommended best practices and see how you can improve your content development strategy.