Your content marketing team has expanded. Your budget tripled. You hired more writers. The amount of content you’re producing has quadrupled. After six months of covering all the bases, from articles and webinars to videos and e-newsletters, you are left with a large selection of content.
Did your webinar lead to conversions? How many readers shared your long-form articles? Does your SEO strategy need some work?
Unfortunately, a lot of marketers don’t have these answers because they aren’t measuring what they’re producing. A January 2015 study from Forbes Insights found only 22 percent of marketers say they have data-driven marketing initiatives that are achieving significant results.
Why are so few companies reaping the benefits of data? For starters, data can be very intimidating. Second, if you gather data, you need to know what it means and how to take action on it. Then, you have to do it again and again.
It hurts to hear this, but it’s true — set-it-and-forget content marketing strategies don’t work.
The B2B Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends — North America report from Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs found that 88 percent of the most successful marketers measure content marketing ROI. When you can understand how your investment is working for you, you can better strategize and maximize your content marketing efforts.
Before you know how to succeed, you need to know why your content marketing efforts are failing
Here are five mistakes you’re probably making:
1. You lack data
It all starts with data. If you don’t collect it, you are blindly stumbling through a content marketing strategy.
The Global Review of Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising January 2017 whitepaper from MediaMath found that 79.6 percent of the 3,000 global survey respondents said customer data is critical to their marketing and advertising efforts. Without it, they don’t know who they’re targeting, how to refine their messaging, or where to connect with their audience.
Bottom line: When you don’t have data, you don’t have direction.
Don’t just start gathering data randomly. You need to understand what kinds of metrics you need to measure in order to achieve your business goals.
There are several different types of metrics you can start to gather. For example, you can think about metrics in the following four categories:
- Consumption metrics
- Retention metrics
- Sharing metrics
- Engagement metrics
You want to select a few metrics from each category. These metrics should help you pursue your content marketing goals.
Let’s say you want to boost the retention of current readers. You will want to measure the percentage of returning visitors, pages per visit, and bounce rate through Google Analytics.
Keep in mind that everyone’s metrics will differ. There is no one-size-fits-all solution out there. You want to find what metrics mean the most to your plan and start measuring them today.
2. You’re not analyzing
Collecting data is just one side of the coin. Once you have it, you need to understand how to analyze it. A spreadsheet full of numbers and graphs showing trends means nothing until you break it down and set an action plan.
How we use analytics
We worked with CareerShift, a career management solution, and job hunting resource, to help them increase the number of leads they generated and boost brand recognition. The first step we took was analyzing the competition.
With this kind of research, we were able to identify where we could improve CareerShift’s social media and content development strategies to compete for visibility in their industry.
Analytics played a major part in social media. We pulled social media reports to track what content was being shared the most and what received the most engagement. This helped us with developing content that resonated well with their target audience.
After one month of our social media management strategy, CareerShift saw eight times more mentions on Twitter, and the number of new accounts created each month from social media traffic increased by 516 percent within six months.
Pay attention to trends
You need to look for patterns so you can identify what is and isn’t working. If your audience isn’t reading your latest piece on employee engagement, you shouldn’t be producing similarly-themed content.
Know your audience
You also need to know what your audience wants. We (Come Recommended) conducted a survey with Recruiter.com in 2016 to better understand how HR professionals consume content.
We found they prefer online articles, e-newsletters, and video. This information helps us better understand our audience and how we can connect with them in an effective way.
When you know who your readers are, what they’re reading, and how they engage with their content, you are able to plan more effectively.
3. You fail to plan
Data and analysis are the backbones of any successful content marketing strategy. They provide valuable insights you can use while you develop your plan.
The same 2017 report from CMI and MarketingProfs found that 72 percent of marketers say strategy is a top factor contributing to their increased success over the last year. What’s more, 51 percent say their strategy includes a measurement plan to provide insight and progress toward business goals.
Your planning stage is integral to the success of your content marketing strategy. Just as the small majority did, you need to use measurements as part of your plan.
How we plan
We used metrics during our campaign with CareerShift to refine a strategy that aimed to achieve specific objectives. Our social media specialist noticed a trend on social media that suggested LinkedIn job search advice was popular.
So, we produced an article that helped readers with their LinkedIn profile. That piece of content earned four times more shares than the average post, which helped us increase their brand recognition.
Your plans and strategies also need to be documented. The CMI and MarketingProfs report found that 62 percent of the most successful marketers use a documented content marketing strategy.
Documented strategies answer some of the biggest questions you face when you’re creating content. You want to identify:
- Business challenges you’re trying to solve
- The risk you face if your strategy fails
- Your dream outcomes and results
- The amount of money you can spend
- How long it will take for you to see successful results
- Who needs to sign off on your actions
- Which employees are involved
Your documented strategy should also include details on who your target audience is, how your content will stand out, and other important considerations, like promoting your content (more on that later).
Prepare to evolve
Note that your plan also needs to be flexible. Don’t stay committed to a content format or topic your audience doesn’t engage with.
For example, our survey found 42.4 percent of HR professionals are only somewhat likely to fill out a form to access content, with 16.7 percent saying they would not. These insights helped us shift our strategy away from gated content to avoid turning off our target audience.
4. Your content has shortcomings
Look at what content you’re producing and identify how you can improve it. Content fails for a variety of reasons:
Your content can be informative and entertaining. If it’s boring, your audience will move on and they won’t share it.
Consider incorporating storytelling and using visuals in your content to add more substance to it.
Your reader should feel compelled to comment and share your content. Don’t overwhelm your readers and lose them with too much information. Keep it focused and easy to read.
It’s too short or long
Your data will tell you how much time your audience spends consuming an online article or watching a video. Look for patterns.
Did your articles under 700 words earn more engagement and shares? Your audience must prefer content that’s short and to the point.
It’s not optimized
You can’t underestimate the power of SEO. Learn how your readers are finding you. Chances are, they are using search engines to find content that can help them solve a problem.
Research what keywords your readers use, then plan your content around that. This way, your article is the first suggestion to pop up.
Let’s say you captured new readers through your SEO strategy. They found your latest piece on employee recognition programs. Now, they want more of your expertise.
To be their go-to source for HR-related problems, you need to develop content and release it consistently. Otherwise, you’ll diminish your credibility.
Find your tools
The CMI and MarketingProfs’ report found that 79 percent of marketers use analytics tools in their content marketing. You need to find analytics tools that fit your budget and provide you with the insights you need.
There are several tools to consider for companies of all shapes and sizes. Google Analytics is a top choice because it’s free, but there are several marketing automation platforms you can purchase, such as Marketo or HubSpot.
Data is the foundation for creating high-quality content that contributes to meeting business goals. Remember, content needs to be customer-centric and focused on delivering value — not explaining the product. The more you know about your audience, the better you can speak to them directly and help them solve their specific problems.
5. You forget to promote
The content you don’t promote doesn’t get a fair shot at being seen. You need to know how to connect with your audience in the most engaging way.
For example, our survey found that to reach HR professionals, you should put more time into Facebook and LinkedIn. Since they don’t use Twitter and Instagram to consume HR content, there is no reason to spend time and money on incorporating it into your social media strategy.
Measure your promotion efforts so you know what social media and PR opportunities are worth your time. If you’re using a strategy that doesn’t consider data, you could be wasting a lot of time and money on promoting to outlets and channels your audience doesn’t use.
Gather data and analyze it to understand where your audience looks for content so you can make the most out of your efforts.