And I’m not talking about the state of peaceful happiness and satisfaction. Though, I suppose good content should support that.
Content has been the buzzword of the marketing world lately, as the businesses and brands work to better engage with their audience.
Recently I spent the better part of a week with about 2,600 marketers from around the country who are all working to get better at content marketing. Content Marketing World, a conference developed by the Content Marketing Institute, is the largest event of its kind and seeks to educate marketers and continue to advance the industry.
I could have asked each person at the conference to define content and received a different answer. In my eyes, therein lies the key to developing great content.
It comes in many different forms and is consumed in many different forms. And there isn’t one right answer in how to do it well.
Among several quotes that stuck with me from CMWorld came from Scott Stratten, the president of UnMarketing, in his keynote talk: “Sometimes content is just giving a damn.”
Well, duh, right?
As easy as it sounds, it’s really a fundamental switch from brands just talking at their audience. Or toward their audience. Or kindof near their audience. Or, let’s face it, throwing something out there and hoping it sticks with their audience.
Stratten’s keynote drove home the message that good content needs to be a dialogue between a brand and a consumer. It needs to connect with your audience on a personal level and start a meaningful dialogue that isn’t necessarily about selling your product. It comes down to understanding your customer’s needs – and remembering that your product isn’t the solution – what your product does is the solution.
Gone are the days of traditional marketing, where strategies focused on print or broadcast media. Effective marketing now needs to occur across multiple platforms, be customized to your audience and delivered fast. And, above all, it needs to be accurate.
Audiences are looking for a relevant conversation (umm, content!) about your product that means something to them. Great content can allow you to connect with your audience in a way that is practical and engaging without needing to sell them. “Every occasion isn’t a selling occasion,” Stratten said.
With my journalism background, his message particularly resonated with me because it isn’t far from that world. Marketing shouldn’t be about spin and PR. Much like journalists report the most important elements of a news story, as marketers we should report the most important elements of our brand and get that information out in a manner that is timely, effective, honest and real.
Sometimes even the most experienced writers hit content roadblocks. Authoring new and original content is hard work, and after a while, the inspiration stops coming. So when your well of words dries up, and you’re desperate for new content, try out a few of these painless content generation ideas:
Get your audience to create content for you Ask your audience to take selfies with your product or tell a story about your brand’s impact on their lives. When they share these moments on social media, it will reach your network and theirs.
Recycle old content into something new Take an old post and rework it into something that’s relevant today. When you add #TBT to an engaging post from back in the day – voila! – You have a brand new piece of content.
Develop case studies When you can’t think of anything new to say, go to your customers. Ask them about past experiences, and retell their stories online. Case studies help you build transparency, and are relatively painless to create.
Curate content from other trusted sources Go to trusted news outlets or trade publications for relevant content that makes sense for your target audience. Curating content from respected sources helps build credibility, and all you have to do is post a link and your take on it.
Respond to your audience Whether it’s on social media, in comment sections, in blog posts or through contact forms, customers are always reaching out. It takes very little effort to respond to these comments, and personal responses could help you build lasting relationships with your audience.
Trust us, these content generation techniques are painless, and they will offer a lot more value to your customers than a silly meme or cat picture. (But, we like those too. Sometimes.)
We sometimes get questions from clients who are considering removing old news articles from their websites.
The quick answer: Don’t do it.
Why would someone want to delete an old news article? Here are some situations we’ve heard:
It announces an event that has already taken place
It mentions a person that no longer works for the company
It features a product or service that is no longer available or has changed
It features external links that contain broken links
It is old and therefore no one cares about it
Here’s why we do not recommend deleting older news content:
Part of the Company History
This is our response to the first three bullets. Just because the tradeshow is over doesn’t mean the article about the show needs to go away. As long as the date of the event is prominently represented in the article, there is no harm keeping the article on your website. If your news archives contain quite a few pages about tradeshows you’ve attended over the years, potential clients/customers will see you attended major industry tradeshows in the past which can help position your company as a major player in the industry.
Regarding articles featuring employees that no longer work for the company; embrace the fact that they were part of the company at the time when the article was originally written. More than likely, they helped your business and may have even interacted with your customers. If they won an award while they were working with your company, it’s okay to leave that accolade on your website. If they were part of a group of employees that volunteered in the community, the overall spirit of the article is still intact whether or not the individual is currently with the company. The exception here, of course, is if the individual left on terrible terms and could be a threat to the business. If you have legal concerns, we always recommend deferring to your legal department for guidance.
Regarding articles containing product announcements or service offerings that are no longer new or available; this is another good piece of your company’s history that should be represented online. Rather than removing the article completely, why not keep the article and add a brief note in the introduction stating that the product is no longer available and has been replaced with a new model? A link could be added to direct users to the current product which ultimately helps satisfy their need.
In research reports we have completed for clients, we’ve seen examples of users searching Google, and even a website’s own internal site search, for older product names that are no longer offered by the company. If search activity is taking place for a branded term that your company developed, your website should be the one ranking first in search engines for related searches. If it’s not your site in the search results, you’re opening the door for your competitors and others sites to occupy these valuable results.
Content Is Important for SEO
As we’ve mentioned time and time again on TKGenius, content is vital to the success of a website. Not just a few good quality landing pages, but lots of pages about a variety of topics relevant to your business. Websites with lots of valuable pages are typically viewed more favorably in search results than similar websites with fewer pages. One of the most logical locations on a website to build up content is the news section.
Let’s look at some basic numbers to further illustrate this point.
If your website contains 500 unique URLs and 200 of them are news articles, making the decision to remove the oldest 100 articles would make your website 20% smaller in terms of total pages. This would effectively reduce your website’s ability to bring organic visits by 20%. Now, we know that not all articles are going to bring in substantial traffic to a website, but a quick look at Google Analytics landing page traffic often shows a surprising number of organic visits landing on particular news articles. A really strong article written several years ago could be responsible for bringing a large amount of traffic year after year.
Content is Hard to Produce
We understand that developing a content calendar and continually writing good content is a lot of work. The best content is unique and often taking lots of planning, research, revisions and approvals to make it onto a website. Deleting an older news article cancels out all that work with the simple click of a button.
This rule expands beyond news article as well. Think long and hard about all the work you put into creating a page on your website before making the decision to delete it. Search engine algorithms are complex and if one of your news articles is relevant enough to rank on the first page of a search engine results page, it would be a shame if one day that page disappeared.
TKG is, of course, known for web development and online marketing strategies. But, what about more traditional offline marketing strategies? Well, it turns out we are actually pretty good at many of those too! From branding to print advertising to… well, lots of things, we help our clients in a lot of different ways. In this session, Kirk Cheyfitz, the CEO and Chief Storyteller at Story Worldwide makes kind of a radical statement: The Agency Model is Dead! But, not to worry, Kirk promises that this session offers a blueprint and practical discussion about how to build the agency of the future (you know, one that does all kinds of things online and offline) and create unparalleled results for clients. We’re totally up for that! Let’s see what we can learn:
Kirk poses the question of what killed the agency model… and he said it’s simple: reality. The old ways of doing advertising aren’t working very well, but they persist against all odds. Budgets going primarily to tv, and the turn is coming very, very slowly. In fact, Kirk argues that the future happened some 8 years ago when Facebook was opened up to everyone over 13, and when Twitter became a network. And we are still reacting. Slowly.
So, what do we know now? We know you must go digital. Digital is a lot of media and collectively they are #1.
So, what can digital do for marketers? ANYTHING. Drive mass or niche awareness, consideration, validation, purchase, re-purchase. There is nothing that digital can’t do. (This is OLD NEWS.) And, it’s projected that digital spending will overtake TV spending in 2017.
One of the problems with all of this digital though is that it’s spawned an agency fragmentation, where agency’s each do a small part of something. He gives the example of one company reporting that 150 different agencies are touching their business. Wow, that’s a crazy number! Could you imagine having to manage 150 different agencies?
And they’re all disconnected, not talking to each other.
So, Kirk’s proposition is that clients need an agency that understands it all – advertising, content, branding, etc and make it all work together. And there’s no one better suited to do that than content people. (We couldn’t agree more – content and other online marketing initiatives drive so many of the strategies for our clients – and that is only going to grow as brands develop their brands online before offline!)
So, Kirk says you need an Agency of Integration, that brings it all together.
But, there’s a battle to determine who will earn that trust and drive both strategies. And it’s a serious battle because there’s a lot of money at stake (he says $600 billion)
Why choose the content people? Because a great tv idea (advertising idea) is all about a burst of disruption, whereas a great content strategy is about creating content that sustains conversations, drive engagement and keeps people talking for a long time.
Kirk says that the only way to reach audiences is to create media that is entertaining, informative and engaging.
And Kirk says that brand storytelling should win this battle because it can differentiate the story, not offer interruptions just invitations and it’s always on.
But, if we’re going to take advertising away from traditional agencies, then digital agencies have to also embrace and learn basic skills of brand management including branding, strategic planning, media planning and measurement.
First comes brand management. This is a traditional skill that most agencies haven’t touched. To take on brand management, you must be insight-driven with a strong planning and research capability. To insure audiences are assembled quickly, you must have a sophisticated media planning program. And, of course, to know what’s working, you have to measure things with advanced analytics, tied to business results. That’s the only way you’ll ever get a budget.
So what’s the takeaway on all this? To survive the future, content agencies are going to have to expand their skill base and deliver more for clients in an integrated strategy and there’s no one better to do this than content marketers. We agree, Kirk, we agree!
I must admit – getting the chance to learn the theory behind how Walmart is using content on their site is pretty cool, and since I have a few clients who are B2C, I’m definitely up for learning some tips and tricks from a company that is undeniably the largest retailer in the world. This session is lead by Donata Maggipinto, the Creative Director of Content for Walmart.com. Donata promises we’ll learn:
How to leverage content at retail to build customer trust and guide the customer on the path to and through purchase.
A mix of storytelling, inspiration and education can influence customer behavior and drive both in-store and online sales.
How and why content from supplier brands works on a retailer’s site.
Let’s listen in:
Our speaker today comes from a lot of niche brands and is now working for a brand that, as she says, serves women who have a grocery budget that equals the same thing as 4 glasses of wine on the west coast. So, it’s important to really serve this audience well. And, obviously, Walmart is doing that.
Walmart employs a content funnel that is designed to help guide customers down the path to and through purchase. Reaching this audience means providing content that’s the right style, length and tone for the audience.
Walmart has content centers designed around different topics (i.e tech, mom/baby), category pages and shelf pages. Category pages might be “baking” and shelf pages that are more product related with supplementary content that speaks to it (how to find the right juicer). And then of course there are the products and descriptions.
Donata says: Our goal is to attract, influence and retain customers. We do this with beautiful content that is changed regularly through a combination of evergreen content and seasonal content. For example, a corn page – how to cook it and other things related to the topic, then branded content and products that she can learn about and purchase to go along with the topic. We try to create never-ending inspiration, subtle native advertising, product recommendations and a deep relationship.
Customers love content, but it needs to be genuine, in the right voice and is recognizable. And for retailers it must be actionable, bringing the brand’s purpose to life.
Every brand has to find it’s own voice. Walmart is helpful and approachable. The goal is to help customers learn to manage their resources to save money but not sacrificing living well. We can all relate to this!
Walmart is a generalist, selling millions of products, so its solutions need to go across the aisle into real life.
i.e. She comes to the food and entertaining center, plans recipes, downloads a grocery list to her phone and in the store, she can access that list. She feels in control. And, when she’s in the store, she can adjust that list and add to it as needed (like when her kid calls in the store).
How does Walmart measure success? There isn’t just one way. Donata says, We regularly look at our metrics and adjust. Our overall goal is customer lifetime engagement. It’s not just about conversion, it’s about building this over time. Finding the site, engaging, going deeper with it, sharing it and then have everyone come back again and again. (It’s a lot of pressure!)
To do this we must create content that is appealing, distinctive and distinguishes us from our competitor. (Kinda what we all need to do – whether we are B2B or B2C!)
It’s how we position it to distinguish ourselves, knowing what keywords the customer is searching, optimizing that content and then creating it. And then doing it over and over and over.
Walmart’s flagship content center is food and entertaining, and drives purchase primarily in stores. It’s the hub for an ecosystem that encompasses every other platform they are in. It includes deep, rich content, recipes, blogger contributions, Walmart Mom contributions and a tool that is a dynamic grocery list that they can use to view recipes and then add to the grocery list. It also offers coupons and the ability to print, email it, etc. And, this is where they have other companies sponsoring content with an already engaged audience.
Walmart also does emotional storytelling to create a connection with real people. They do stories around Walmart produce, that it’s fresh and local. This is huge for customers who want to shop local, but need to shop in big box stores like Walmart.
A lot of Walmart’s advertising focuses around inspiring a visitor to want to do something that they might need to buy more things (i.e. I want to tailgate, now I need this, and this and this… and guess what, Walmart has all of that)
Another thing Walmart does is develop content that can work across multiple channels all at once. i.e a video shoot and then do photography for other properties etc.
We’re talking about the Meat Campaign – that was wildly successful, tho Donata can’t give us details or she will go to “Walmart jail”
Walmart’s newest content is the dynamic weekly ad. Customers come online to see the weekly ad, to plan their grocery lists, etc. So, they thought, why not enrich it with content that enriches the shopping experience… and upsell. For example, a jam recipe in the ad that leads to additional purchases (i.e. the ingredients, the canning supplies) And, this can become a part of storytelling. She will make the jam, she will share the recipe, new people will come to the site and hopefully also make purchases and engage with our content and also come back.
Takeaways? Create ongoing conversation, offer solutions and make your content liquid – so that it goes beyond your site, to people accessing content wherever they are.
Darlaand I are super excited to be up in Cleveland today and tomorrow for Content Marketing World! Make sure to follow us on Twitter to stay up to date with everything happening! We’re hoping to bring you some “live”ish blog posts so that even if you can’t make it, you can still taste a bit of the action! Without further adieu… Here’s my first session!
How to Market Your Content “Off-Site” and Why it’s Critical to Get it Right
We’re here today with Chad Zimmerman, the co-founder and President of STACK Media Inc. According to the description of this session, great content is only half the battle. Off-site marketing and on-site funneling are the next critical steps that turn great content into new customers and greater revenue. Let’s see what he has to say…
Chad likes flow charts and he’s an honest guy. Just what we like. So here’s how it works. You publish content on your site, people visit and don’t do what you want them to do – they go surf the web somewhere else.
So, how do we capture that traffic? Several ways. One of the ways is to use services that create content ads that share your content on other sites and drive people back to your site. Even if they don’t know who you are already (which most people don’t), this is a way to get your content in front of people who are interested in the kinds of content you are producing.
Some providers that can help you do this are:
The real key is to find the service that gets you access to the kind of audience that you’re trying to reach. Most are based on CPC so you only have to pay for what you actually get.
How does this help? Well, it drives traffic to very specific pieces of content on your site, where you have the opportunity to have this content shared with others and the opportunity to sell to this person or promote additional content/services you offer.
They key to doing this successfully is to know your goals, know your kpis, decide how you will measure performance and how you will define success. And start with test.
In your test, remember that headlines matter (you can use lots of different ones and see which one works best), thumbnails matter (try different ones) and pay attention to CPC, CTR and timing.
Also: Make sure to do online funneling so that you get more out of users than just their time. Get them to do something else. Promote email signups or downloads. Promote special tools and sections. Gather more information with forms and link to other relevant content.
One thing that has been really successful for them is footer flyins – so when a user scrolls down 1/2 way through an article, ask them to sign up for a newsletter.
Finally, follow this all up with retargeting, so that when a visitor leaves your site, you follow them around (kinda creepy, we know, but effective!) and get them back so that they can get another chance to convert.
That’s all for this session… Thanks for all the ideas!
Let’s be honest, content marketing can be hard. The Internet is a vast place, and it can be a challenge to come up with new, fresh and exciting content targeted to your audience at all points in the sales cycle on a regular basis. (It was exhausting just typing that.)
It’s enough to want to turn exclusively to posting cat memes for the lifespan of your business. At least you know people like cats.
The good news is, there has never been a greater time to really stretch those creative muscles and think outside the box when it comes to your content marketing efforts. Here are three campaigns to get you inspired for your next campaign.
This campaign is, hands down, one of my favorites. Metro Trains took really important safety information that many commuters would typically miss on yet another boring old sign and gave it a creative twist.
This Melbourne, Australia train company wrapped up that important safety information in a (ridiculously catchy) song and (ridiculously addictive) mobile app. It’s clever, creative, and sure…just a little over the top. But millions of downloads and views later, this campaign is still going strong, and–according to some research (though some critics disagree)–even saving lives.
Of course, to truly be effective with this sort of information, Metro Trains couldn’t rely on just this one piece of content, but as far as simply starting the conversation…well, it has definitely accomplished that goal.
Speaking of conversations, I think there’s a misconception that “content marketing” is a lonely, one-sided process where a company must constantly churn out information that gets gobbled up by an audience that’s never satisfied.
On the contrary, content marketing can be a two way conversation, with your audience coming up with the content for you.
Enter in McDonald’s Canada with their campaign, “Our Food, Your Questions,” where they bravely (seriously…BRAVELY) answer each of the 300-400 questions they receive every day through their dedicated website.
The brilliance of this campaign is that they’re allowing the audience to dictate the flow of the conversation. AND they’re not afraid to tackle the hard questions, either, lending even more weight to their willingness to be open and transparent with their audience…which is always a great way to carry on a genuine conversation.
If you haven’t witnessed the visual sensation that is Jean-Claude Van Damme gracefully performing the splits between two giant Volvo semi trucks to the soothing sounds of Enya, then you must, immediately. Go. I’ll wait.
Here’s the deal…not everyone has the budget to produce a video of that quality. But the real lesson here is, “How can I show one of the key selling points of my business, product or service in a new and unique way?” While the sensational part of the video is of course, Van Damme doing the splits, the bigger message is, “Yep, our trucks make even this craziness possible.”
What campaigns do you love? What inspires you to be creative with your content?
If you are a business on social media, chances are you are always looking for new ways to boost engagement. When you want to increase your likes, shares and comments without increasing your social media budget, your best bet is to develop creative and unexpected content.
Here are five ways that successful brands have leveraged creative content to increase customer engagement:
Dove tugs on your heartstrings – The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty utilizes creative advertising strategies like the ultra-popular Real Beauty Sketches video to change women’s perceptions of beauty.These viral marketing tactics are more than just shallow ploys for likes and shares. Dove delivers sharable content that shows a profound understanding of its target audience.
Lays wants to know what you think – The original Lays Do Us a Flavor contest was one of the most successful and recognizable examples of user-generated content in social media history. The contest asked users to invent new potato chip flavors and vote to keep to best flavors around.Although the Do Us a Flavor campaign was great at generating engagement, the caveat to user-generated content is that it typically requires a pretty hefty incentive for participation (In this case, a $1 million cash prize).
Coca-Cola stops you in your tracks – The Coca-Cola Happiness Machine surprises customers with free drinks and other unexpected gifts. This unique vending machine forces customers to stop what they are doing and share some happiness with the people around them.Coca-Cola brilliantly uses hidden cameras to document these happiness exchanges and publishes the videos on YouTube. These videos help spread Coca-Cola happiness and engagement in the social space.
Arby’s and Oreo watch what you watch – Real-time content creation helps users see brands as more relevant members of their social communities. Who can forget the Oreo dunk in the dark tweet, or Arby’s genius response to Pharrell’s hat at the 2014 Grammy’s?The catch with real time marketing is that you should only interact during events that make sense for your brand; otherwise you might end up confusing your audience.
Taco Bell has a life of its own – When brands have strong personalities on social media; they are able to build lasting relationships with their target audience. Taco bell knows that it is a fast-food restaurant and its audience is not super interested in gluten or calorie counting. It embraces this persona and runs with it in all of its communication.A little personification can go a long way in developing brand loyalty. Customers and social media users want brands to post content they can relate to, and Taco Bell totally nails it.
Social media users won’t engage with content just because a brand follows best practice guidelines. Users want to engage with brands that understand them, and produce content that makes them feel something. Creative content is a quick and effective way to boost engagement, as long as you do it in a way that makes sense for your brand.
So you are setting out to build your new website or really ramp up your web marketing efforts. What about the content?
At the end of the day, it’s not all about how great the site looks (though, of course, that is great) but it’s more about what the site says and how it says it that equates to online success.
Content writing is an art. Trust me, as I attempt to craft this blog post, I realize that it is a skill that I do not possess. However, we have that talent at TKG in spades – and they tell me it’s like a fine wine that takes practice to perfect.
Simply put, content writing sounds much easier to do than the execution of it can be.
Often, our clients aren’t able to create their own content in-house. Or they start off thinking they can, but end up with material that isn’t well-written or strategized – and that leads us back to pretty websites that don’t produce.
Even worse is what happens when desperate folks think they can grab content from another online source or supplier with the same info. But what happens is this creates duplicate content – a big no-no in the online marketing world.
Not only is it unethical, it often does not read well or suit your audience. And even worse, the Google gods will frown upon you and blow your site off the rankings radar for just about everything. No one wants that.
So what to do? Find a partner (like TKG) that has an awesome copy writing staff in house. Our staff will get to know you and your business and work toward how to best showcase you in the digital space. All while knowing the right way to say it.
You will always know your business the best. It is a pro copywriter’s job to interview and learn your business and the voice you wish to present to your customers online. They will take the pressure off you to create the all of the powerful content that your website and your online web marketing strategy cannot live without! And don’t forget the added benefit of knowing that the content created is original and optimized to specifically target your audience and online goals.
So my advice it to save those content writing skills for thank you notes or a letter to your mom (she’ll appreciate that!). Leave the copy writing to the pros. Your online presence will thank you for it!
I mentioned a few weeks ago the privilege I had to hear Joe Pulizzi speak at the Interaction Marketing Summit hosted by The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron. Pulizzi’s approach toward outcome merited its own blog post, but I wouldn’t ever want to discount the epic message that he conveyed during the event.
So if you have a website, you have content. But what exactly is that content doing? Is it sitting stagnant? Is it fodder for your next Facebook post? According to Pulizzi, 90% of all companies are doing some form of content marketing, but sadly only 40% believe that their content is successful. And let’s face it, at least 10% of those people are painfully optimistic (but that’s my own deduction).
So how DO you become a successful content marketer? According to Pulizzi, if you follow these five key elements, you will be on your way to successful content marketing.
Sales, Savings & Sunshine – This is the WHY question that should be applied to your content strategy. Just because everyone else has a Facebook page doesn’t make it the best platform for your business. So as you are generating your content and pushing it out, be sure to ask WHY. Does your eNewsletter initiate sales, savings or sunshine?
Sales – content that generates revenue
Savings – content that saves money
Sunshine – content that makes your customers feel good
Create a Content Marketing Mission Statement – Does your business have a mission statement? Are you living up to that mission? Are your content efforts supporting your mission?
Audience – Establish your core target audience and know your niche.
Delivery – What will your message deliver? Does it have a purpose?
Outcome – Add an outcome column to your content strategy. What is the outcome for the audience?
Don’t Build Your Content Ship on Rented Land – Yep, we’re talking about Facebook (mostly). We’ve all seen our Facebook engagement drop over the past few months. But don’t turn Facebook into your content marketing scapegoat.
Customer Data – Know your customer base. Collect customer data, work with your IT department and learn how to gather that customer data that is so valuable to your content message.
Focus on your subscribers – What is the difference between those who subscribe to your eNewsletters and your one-off customers?
Leverage Influencers and then Build an Audience – This doesn’t mean hire the mayor for your next car dealership commercial, but if the mayor buys a car from your lot, talk about it, tweet about it, blog about it. If you own a local business, don’t be afraid to tweet to local celebrities, a simple Retweet or Mention can lead to a big boost in followers and can help to spread your message.
Make a list – Find 5-10 influencers to target and find ways to incorporate them into your content strategy.
It isn’t all about YOU – We find this far too often with social media. Sure, your product or service is awesome and you want to shout it from the rooftop – but try to follow the 4:1:1 rule. Simply put, the rule means that for every one self-promoting tweet, blog post or status update, you should share four new pieces of content and one re-share.
Open Up Your Wallet – This one kind of gave me shivers when I first saw it, but I get it.
Pay to Play - As much as we scoff at the idea of boosting our Facebook post just so people who ALREADY like our page can see it, pay to play is becoming the new normal. And do you know what? It’s working. People who pay to boost their posts are getting more engagement when they pay to play, even within their existing audience.
Build vs. Buy – Are you looking to expand your market? Before you start from scratch, consider a buy-out. Acquisitions are becoming more popular for brand expansion, even on the local level.
So this was a lot of information, right? Before you dive in head first and wind up flailing around calling for a life preserver, consider starting out slowly. Take one or two of these ideas and perfect them. It might take a few months, it might take a year. Once you have those tactics perfected, add another and another, until your content is truly epic.