How To Make 2016 Your Best Content Marketing Year Ever
Are you ready to ramp up your content marketing strategy in 2016? Columnist Quinn Whissen reveals possible improvements that can help get you ahead of the curve.
Whether you’re the type of person who likes to make steadfast resolutions every January 1 or you prefer to keep your goals loose, we could all use a little motivation as we start the New Year.
That’s especially true when it comes to content marketing, because — as you most likely know — it isn’t a strategy that provides overnight success. It’s a long-term commitment that can transform your business if you let it transform your culture.
What’s even more important to understand about content marketing is that it is booming. Content marketing adoption is increasing every year, with 88 percent of B2B marketers and 76 percent of B2C marketers using it in 2015.
It’s a strategy that’s been proven to work, and even industry leaders, like Arnie Kuenn, the CEO of my company, Vertical Measures, are observing the large shift that is happening. As he said in a guide we put together, “The Future of Content Marketing in 2016 & Beyond” (registration required):
[blockquote]I believe that Content Marketing will finally hit the mainstream [in 2016]. I base this on seeing the type and knowledge level of the people attending our content marketing workshops in the U.S. The students are almost all from the marketing teams (used to be mostly from SEO and other teams), about half are from agencies (tells me they are finally getting it), and the questions the attendees ask are based on their experiences (they are at least trying it). All of this is pretty different from just a couple years ago when everyone in our classes were wide-eyed neophytes.[/blockquote]
It’s natural to think that wider adoption brings increasing competition. While that’s technically true, the outlook isn’t as bleak as you may think.
After all, even though adoption is increasing, the number of B2B and B2C organizations who consider themselves effective at content marketing is dismal — 30 percent and 38 percent respectively. What this should tell you is that there is a gap, and you can fill it.
Make 2016 your best content marketing year ever by making one-percent improvements in these areas:
Don’t Build Your Content House On A Foundation Of Shoddy SEO
Marcus Sheridan of Sales Lion has shared a poignant story in the past that illustrates this point perfectly. He had begun a dedicated content marketing program for a client, where he and his team were doing all the right things to build content and drive traffic to the website. But after six months, nothing seemed to be producing results.
Eventually, my company’s team did a check of the site’s structure and found significant issues hindering its success, mainly a weak content architecture and spammy inbound links built years ago. Among other things, the client site was under a Google penalty which had escaped the attention of the webmasters.
In this case, it wouldn’t have mattered if Sheridan and his team had laid on the most amazing content marketing of all time on the site. The site was underperforming in search — until our SEO team discovered the issue, executed an overhaul of the site’s structure and got rid of the penalty.
[pullquote]Check your site’s inner workings first for SEO health before pressing “Publish” on a single piece of content.[/pullquote]
Only when this was done did the site’s content finally start to do what it was created to do. The metrics more than doubled in the small span of a few months and have grown since then.
All marketers should heed this valuable lesson, especially when ramping up your content efforts in 2016. Check your site’s inner workings first for SEO health before pressing “Publish” on a single piece of content!
As Sheridan said in his blog post: “… when I say [SEO] matters, I mean it can be the difference in a business keeping its doors open or closing them.”
Focus On Creating Visual Content
I moderated a panel on the topic of “The Future of Visual Marketing” recently, and one aspect of the conversation stood out to me. It was that radio is really the only remaining non-visual platform out there. Every single other platform requires a visual asset.
It may seem obvious, but it’s a simple fact that also helps us understand the ultimate power of creating visual content as part of our strategy in 2016 and beyond.
New platforms are popping up left and right (Periscope, Snapchat and others), with the jury still out on their effectiveness for marketers, while Instagram booms ahead of all other platforms for engagement rates. In 2016, we’ll see continued growth of user-generated content and further proof that consumers trust other customers more than your brand in their purchasing decisions.
Watch this year for an increasing hunger for visual content in combination with interactive content that is full of mixed-media storytelling, including graphs, data, video, imagery and audio.
Get Serious About Metrics That Move The Needle
If documenting and following a thoughtful strategy are critical this year, then measuring the successes and failures should go hand in hand with those steps.
Trim the fat off your reporting and focus on the important data points that actively contribute to your funnel and aren’t just vanity metrics that give you false hopes.
Every business will track its efforts differently, so it’s important to remember whatever KPI (key performance indicator) you are looking at; make sure it is one that reveals the effectiveness of your whole content marketing system in relation to customer conversions and sales.
[pullquote]Trim the fat off your reporting and focus on the important data points that actively contribute to your funnel and aren’t just vanity metrics.[/pullquote]
Understand The SEO Shifts That Are Happening
SEO fundamentals are vital to your content marketing strategy, as noted in the first section above. At the same time, understanding the shifts in the technical SEO landscape will be essential for you in 2016. Here’s a quick look at a few things to consider:
In 2015, for the first time, mobile searches actually surpassed desktop usage. This will become an overarching theme this year, with natural language processing and voice search becoming increasingly salient.
It’s predicted that more algorithm changes will occur in response, so mobile optimization will be key, along with a focus on content creation that is optimized for semantic, conversational, long-tail keyword phrases.
Rich Snippets and Structured Data
2016 is the time to take structured data and rich snippets seriously. Utilizing appropriate tags behind the scenes on your web pages — for reviews, recipes, hours, pricing and more — will offer you a chance to gain higher click-through rates and rankings.
Indexing of Social Content
Starting with the announcement late last year of Facebook’s agreement with Google to allow some indexing of its content on the search engine, social posts may be more readily indexed in organic search results in the near future.
Social-posted content will start to carry an independent weight and SEO value of its own, so keep a finger on the pulse of this in the new year.
Try Out Episodic Content
Whether you like it or not, consumers are increasingly attracted to bite-size, snackable content. In 2016, your challenge is to see if this will work for your strategy and audience and look out for opportunities for episodic content creation.
This format encourages creative production and storytelling on your end and major engagement and loyalty on your audience’s end. Whether it’s a series of videos, user-generated content or podcasts, episodic content will continue to grow in volume and power in 2016.
What The Future Holds
This is only a sliver of the possibilities to ramp up your content marketing in 2016 and make it your best year ever.
Remember the essentials of a strategy, consistency and usefulness in all your content creation efforts, and you will be off to a great start.