Google has all of us living by a familiar mantra: Content Is King. That’s all well and good, but it’s only part of a successful digital marketing strategy.
See, great content is just the beginning. After all, with technology putting creative tools into more and more hands on a regular basis, practically anyone can cobble together a halfway decent video, infographic, or eBook. And that means what you do with that content, and how you follow up on the leads you’re generating, is actually more important by a country mile than the content itself.
So, today, we’re going to take a look at the top three biggest reasons why most digital strategies fall flat, fail to impress, or end up wasting precious time and resources. They’re of fundamental importance to any content creator trying to stake his or her claim on the modern web.
Your digital marketing strategy isn’t scalable.
When it comes to building a digital content strategy, one thing that’s frequently overlooked is the importance of predictability and scalability.
To put it another way, scalability refers to how easy it is to repeat a given task with a similar outcome.
So what sorts of strategies are we talking about here? To answer that question, let’s break down the major content types:
- Guest blogging. The death of guest blogging has been greatly exaggerated. Sometimes all it takes to see a swarm of new traffic on your site is a relevant, well-placed link in a well-placed blog post.
- Infographics. Information graphics might be getting a little long-in-the-tooth, but they still have a lot of potential to help launch a fledgling digital campaign or an all-new business venture.
- White papers and eBooks. When it comes to sealing the deal with fellow businesses and new leads, white papers are still significant. They let you explore your chosen niche, product, or topic in greater detail and with added authority.
There are plenty of other content types out there – videos, tutorials, online guides, case studies, podcasts, and many more. The first order of business is figuring out which type of content works best with the audience you’re targeting.
So get out there! Do a search (or three or four) and see for yourself. If there aren’t too many podcasts devoted to your particular niche, either avoid it like the plague or corner the market. Creating a scalable practice means focusing on the types of content that will provide you with the best return on your investment, rather than spinning your wheels on things that might not work.
What just about every type of content has in common, at the end of the day, is a single objective: namely, to find the right influencers.
You need to pitch your content to people who already have an audience. But first, you want to be prepared before you dive into this process. Do your homework, and read the articles that have already been posted on the site to get an idea of the type of content the editor wants, and find an angle that is missing from what has already been published.
Building a scalable strategy is often about knowing where to spend your time.
It can be tempting to pitch the editors at TIME magazine after you’ve written that killer blog post, but you’ll likely be better served if you reach out to a larger number of less influential figures than if you go after the big fish right away.
Let’s run with the blog post angle. What does a scalable process look like? For starters, it means getting, and staying, organized. Make your peace with Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel and keep track of the sites you are targeting. Keep detailed notes of trust factors like Domain Score and try to reach out to the most relevant person on staff. This means avoiding catch-all addresses that begin with “editor@” or “info@” and doing the legwork it takes to reach out directly to the person or persons you hope to find.
One concern that might arise is how to maintain your humanity while eliminating as many variables and moving parts as you can. In other words, it might feel like building and maintaining a scalable content process means jettisoning the personal touch. So can you be both efficient and personable?
It might feel like building and maintaining a scalable content process means jettisoning the personal touch. While eliminating as many variables and moving parts as you can, the question becomes whether you be both efficient and personable. The short answer is: Yes. It’s hard, but it can be done. It starts with composing some great email templates that allow for just the right amount of personalization. This is about building relationships, after all, and your prospects will thank you for treating them like human beings.
Above all, building a stable, scalable, and long-term solution for content planning means keeping your ear to the ground for new opportunities.
It means keeping up with trends in your niche, watching for current events as they unfold, and, when appropriate, borrowing ideas indiscriminately from the heavy-hitters in your industry.
You don’t keep up with SEO best practices.
As you’re almost certainly aware by now, Google is a fickle creature. Every few months, the folks out in Mountain View, California, decide to shake things up when it comes to engineering search results and imposing new standards on new and existing websites. The all-powerful algorithm that judges and ranks all the content online can create tidal waves that make PR professionals rethink their strategies on the Web.
Most recently, Google introduced its Panda 4.2 update, and it influenced an estimated 2-3% of all online queries. As algorithm updates go, this one was fairly minor, but it still raised a number of questions among content creators.
Other updates, such as the so-called “mobilegeddon,” have sent bloggers, journalists, and marketers scrambling to make changes. With this particular update, Google doubled-down on penalizing websites that didn’t feature mobile-friendly content. Whether these changes end up being great or small, it pays to stay ahead of the curve if you want your content to perform well in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Mastering SEO best practices could be a pages-long article, so let’s cover just the basics. If you’ve got a content strategy but know nothing about SEO, these are the fundamentals you need to know:
- Become mobile-friendly. With a recent algorithm update, Google decided to start penalizing websites in search results if they didn’t feature a mobile-friendly (“responsive”) design. Why? It’s pretty simple:more than half of all online searches originate from a mobile device. By investing in a responsive design, you can make sure you’re not leaving a big chunk of your potential visitors behind.
- Know what kinds of keywords to embrace. The days of simple keyword stuffing are long behind us. These days, building worthwhile digital content means knowing how people are likely to find it. This means you’re going to have to familiarize yourself with long-tail keywords andwrite with natural language in mind.
- Know how (and when) to link. It can be an easy thing to overlook, but linking to pages other than your own is an important signal when it comes to maintaining trust and your hard-won spot in Google search results. Make sure you’re linking regularly, and tastefully, to high-authority outside sources, as well as maintaining a network of internal links.
- Maintain a high level of quality. Our conversation today includes the assumption that the quality of your content is beyond reproach. Now is as good a time as any to remind you to hold yourself, and your content, to high standards. If you don’t, Google will know! Avoid repetition, review your content for spelling and grammar mistakes, and make sure everything you write is well-organized and optimized for readability.
The list goes on and on. The good news, of course, is that the Internet is chock-full of great resources to help you keep track of future Google updates. You can grab a free Feedly membership and use it to follow the folks over at Moz and Search Engine Journal, just to name two. You can also check out online courses, like the one offered by Market Motive, to help keep your skills sharp.
As a final note on SEO, it’s worth giving a shout-out to cross-discipline training. We’ve reached the point where the Internet, and all of its inner workings, has become so integral to the success of a business that it really doesn’t make sense to isolate your company’s SEO expertise to just one team or department.
In other words, the folks writing your copy should have at least a passing familiarity with how Google appraises online content, checks for quality, and ranks websites. And your social media team should be as well-versed with on-page SEO factors as they are with social networks. Bottom line: it’s time to let everyone in your company get a taste of what SEO looks like when it’s done right.
If you do this, you can be sure that all of your content will get built from the ground up with online visibility and shareability in mind.
You have unrealistic expectations.
We live in a post-Mad Men world, which means it’s all the more tempting to believe that every new marketing idea could reinvent the wheel or become the next big thing.
But the truth is, “virality” — that all-important digital currency — can’t be forced or engineered. Your next infographic or video could be the next Internet sensation, but it most likely won’t be. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but it frees you up to focus on your immediate goals: namely, converting prospective customers.
There seems to be a tendency these days, where digital campaigns are concerned, to focus on what’s hip and flashy and to forget about the little things. The fundamentals. And when that happens, your customers are left in the lurch.
Think about it like this: Suppose you have a stable of the most gifted graphic designers the world has ever seen, and they’ve been churning out world-class infographics for months. You’re getting a good number of social shares and other signals, but nobody is converting once they make it to your website. It’s probably because you’ve put the proverbial cart before the horse. Content is great at generating leads, but when it comes to sealing the deal, you’re on your own.
No matter how much traffic you’re driving, or Likes you’re getting, it means next to nothing if your website isn’t ready for prime-time. If your primary goal is conversions (and it almost certainly is), you need to spend just as much of your valuable time making sure your homepage, blog, and checkout process are functional, fun, and easy to use.
One thing you can do is focus on the metrics most closely associated with your goals. These might include:
- Traffic sources. You want to know where your clicks are coming from. If Twitter traffic is vastly outpacing what you’re getting from Facebook, or vice versa, it might be time to switch up your strategy.
- Bounce rate. If you want a good indication of how compelling your website is, track bounce rate over time. This can help you narrow down which pages are hemorrhaging visitors and which ones are doing the trick.
- Unique visitors. Overall visitors are important, but narrowing down your focus to new users will give you a more accurate picture of how widely you’ve cast your digital net. If you’re only bringing back repeat visitors, you have some work to do in broadening your horizons. Your content should be designed to make your visitors think. But your website? That should take as much thinking as possible out of the equation. Make it a simple, intuitive, and compelling place for your visitors to land after finding your content, and everything else will take care of itself.
Hopefully this has given you a solid foundation of knowledge for your next digital campaign.
If it’s not clear by now, you’ll learn in short order that, while content might be king, it’s what you do with it that really counts.