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Content Marketing | Feb 19
Elise Dopson on January 23, 2019 (last modified on June 24, 2020) • 14 minute read
The mix of formats that go into a content strategy can be distracting, to say the least. And if you’re unsure which mix to fill your editorial calendar with, your overall strategy might suffer.
Why? Because content is the way you communicate with your customers. You’ll need to provide your target customers with a piece of content they’ll actually consume if you want to see results from your strategy.
There’s not much point in investing in a 20-minute podcast if your audience isn’t listening to them, right?
We asked 25 marketers how their content marketing mix has changed over the past few years, to determine which types of content garner the best results.
From success in blogging to the rise of video production, here’s what they’re focusing on.
Want an easier way to track and analyze the specific sources driving traffic to your website? Well, all you need is Google Analytics and this free dashboard. Once you connect, you’ll see instant visualizations of sessions by source, sessions by social network, and more.
Blogging has long been named the “holy grail” of content marketing.
And with the ability to communicate in a fast-paced online world, connect with an audience, and rank in Google, it’s no surprise why it’s gained such a high status.
But you might be questioning whether blogging is still a format you should focus on in 2019.
Well, according to our latest research, 68% of marketers find blogging more effective than they did two years ago:
RankXL‘s Chris Lee says the biggest shift in his content marketing mix was “going from focusing on bottom of the funnel content to mid/top of the funnel content”.
He’s referring to the marketing funnel–a tool marketers use to guide a customer from stranger to customer.
Top of the funnel content (ToFu), and middle of the funnel content (MoFu) is based around customers lingering in the consideration stage.
These are people who:
But how do you incorporate the marketing funnel into your blogging strategy, and push your audience along the sales pipeline?
Chris explains: “So for example, if your client was a CMS software company, instead of trying to create content and rank for keywords like ‘CMS software’ we would create content around wide topics around customer service, sales, productivity, work, hiring, etc. That gives us a lot more room to work with in terms of volume of content that we can produce, and we can work to convert that traffic on the backend.”
OverGo Studio‘s Rick Kranz seconds this content marketing strategy: “We also focus our writing more towards the middle and bottom of the funnel. This helps drive more qualified leads to the sales team instead of so many contacts that really have no interest in our clients’ products or services.”
Granted, your content should be mapped to a specific part of the marketing funnel.
But when we asked Salted Stone‘s Andrew Siskind how his content marketing mix has changed, he said: “I wish there was a secret for me to keep, but the truth is that we’re mostly focused on writing less stuff that nobody wants to read, and putting that energy into making what we do write interesting and really well-written.”
“There’s always a narrative you can find if you do the work to look for it, and good writing really is better, from a UX perspective, than bad writing”, he says.
“Treating marketing copywriters more like journalists, giving them more agency and responsibility to put together smart pieces that have to stand on their own merits — that’s the direction we’re heading in. Moving past assumptions about what format is going to work best, especially before the piece is even planned, has helped us to make more compelling work.”
As Chris Weaver of MWI explains: “There is so much content out there now that if you want to stand out, you need to create something that is worthy of that”.
With over 4 million blog posts being published daily, you’ll need to do something spectacular to stand out–which is why you’ll need to focus on quality over quantity.
Chris says this approach has helped his agency deliver outstanding results for their clients: “We’ve built some 1500-2500 word content pieces that include video, infographics, and extensive backlinks, additional research, the gambit! Those clients are really seeing results and faster.”
Zac Johnson of Blogging.org agrees. He says his team “continually stress the importance of publishing content less often, but making sure the content that is published is more than 2,000 words and also covers the most important aspects of whatever is being written about.”
Junto‘s Pat Ahern summarizes this perfectly: “Today, the level of competition in search is much higher. Ranking in search results for high-value queries requires writing in-depth, highly-actionable guides that are well researched.”
His team have put this into practice by creating long-form content that hits these benchmarks:
We’ve talked about the sheer volume of content you’re competing with.
These two marketers say the best strategy for standing out is to avoid re-hashing the same, tired content–and focus on creating new, unique content for your company blog.
Christian Schauf, of Uncharted Supply Co, says his company has been developing their blog content for the past two years, focusing on creating original content that drives website traffic.
He explains: “Previously we relied on making videos and posting them to our YouTube account for everybody to see, but since we started creating original content in the form of blog posts we have seen a large spike in our customers conversion rates.”
Orbit Media Studios‘ Andy Crestodina agrees.
“[…] There is one other specific change that has made a huge difference: original research”, he explains. “As a format for content, it’s all-powerful. New research, conducted by your brand, is unique to your site. It makes you the primary source. It’s easy to turn into visuals. It beats anything else you can publish.”
He’s right–and it seems he’s jumping onto an emerging trend.
One part of Orbit Media’s research found bloggers who report strong results are publishing original research:
(Side note: This proves Andy’s point of original research. We’re using his data, and linking back to the report as credit–giving him a nice backlink and traffic boost.)
“We have prioritized optimizing old blog posts over writing new blog posts lately”, says SparkReaction‘s Kelly Groover.
It’s a tactic named “historical optimization” by the marketing gurus at HubSpot, and a worthwhile task to add to your to-do list because 92% of their leads, and 76% of their views, come from old blog posts:
A little spruce-up could be the thing your old content needs to boost performance even further.
So, how do you do historical optimization for blog content?
Kelly recommends you “begin by exporting a list of all your blogs and sort by the highest traffic and engagement. Find an older blog that performs well but could updated or combined, then update with current information, offers and links. These older posts are easy wins just waiting for most companies.”
…But it’s not just updating old content that could boost blogging success.
Kalie Fry, of McMahon Marketing, says: “The most effective change we’ve made in our content isn’t just diversifying it – but repurposing it based on the user’s specific stage in the buyer’s journey. Anymore, you don’t digest one single type of content – you listen to podcasts on commutes, you skim blogs over lunch and watch Facebook videos while you kill time in a waiting room.”
Although blogging is still effective for marketers, it’s not the only type of content they’re creating.
In fact, blog posts account for less of a company’s overall content output than they did two years ago:
Video is filling that gap, with 68% of companies increasing their video marketing investment:
Maybe the rise in video popularity is because video generates fantastic results, as explained by Remington Begg of Impulse Creative: “Video-based content is also seeming to have a higher ROI and conversion rate when driving leads. We’ve even seen up to 26% lead conversions on our YouTube traffic for instance.”
These five marketers agree and share their snippet of advice to consider when adding video into your content marketing mix:
“Video being the most engaging content on social media these days has surely become one of the most prioritized types of content every brand should invest in”, says January Collamat of Cloud Employee.
“Another is longer content. […] Videos more than 3 minutes are also showing effective especially on YouTube. Needless to say, consumers are still hungry for good content. Make sure you either have an entertaining or relevant story to share.”
It’s often tricky for marketers to produce content with subject matter expertise–especially if they’re discussing something they’re unfamiliar with.
It happens if you’re a content marketer who’s just joined a new company and are getting to grips with a new industry. But struggling to communicate subject matter experience affects content marketers when they’re creating high-level videos that cover a topic in-depth, too.
“Marketing efforts depend a lot on content that needs to be created at an expert level; by leadership, product, sales or customer service teams”, explains Gabriel Marguglio of Nextiny.
The only problem? “Oftentimes, that key people are busy and seldom have time to write blogs”, he says.
That’s why Gabriel’s team “put clients’ teams in front of the camera and ask them questions. Initial blogs can be based on the five main questions that these representatives get asked all of the time.”
Did you know that users watching videos with subtitles stick around for nearly 40% longer than on videos with no subtitles?
That’s why Growth Hackers‘ Jonathan Aufray says: “When it isn’t doable for a client to make live videos, what we suggest is to add caption/subtitles to their videos”.
He recommends this “because a lot of people watch videos when commuting, in coffee shops or public spaces and they don’t obviously have the sound on. By adding a caption, the video can be enjoyed from anywhere.”
When you think of video content, you’ll likely think a YouTube video is the best way to cater to people with visual learning styles.
It’s the second largest search engine in the world, so you need to head there first, right?
Kasey, part of the Bold & Zesty marketing team, recommends adding webinars into the mix: “We’ve started offering done-for-you webinars for clients and it’s becoming our best-selling service offer. Personal branding, including video and live streams, is incredibly helpful when promoting almost any kind of video, especially B2B.
Whether you’re siding with the companies investing in video or blogging, there’s no reason why you couldn’t mix the two.
“We have stayed with blogging for being the most effective”, says Kenny Lange of The PHNX21creative Agency.
The majority of clients at Kenny’s agency don’t fully understand inbound marketing, but he says blogging wouldn’t be the be-all of his strategy if they did: “We would probably being using a greater mix if they already had a good base of content.”
Richard George, Director of Print4Hospitality, agrees:
“Over time people have developed a tendency to watch and listen rather than read, it is a proven fact that long blog posts tend to rank better the downside is very few people will read them in full. There is one big flaw… YouTube is excellent and very clever but it still doesn’t rank as well as ordinary text blog posts, you need actual words on the page to achieve any sort of sensible search engine ranking.”
So, how do you take advantage of both Google and YouTube’s algorithm?
“The best strategy currently is to combine all the possible media options into one blog post”, Richard explains. “This will mean that Google will have its text to chew on while keeping humans happy with audio and visual to make the blog post more appealing.”
Brad Driscoll of Think Big Marketing seconds this, and recommends “posting your videos on as many platforms as possible (especially Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube), but also making sure you get everything out of your video efforts by writing blogs and embedding your videos helps attract visitors from Google.”
Summarizing, Dan Thornton from TheWayoftheWeb Ltd says: “The increasing cohesion between SEO, social media and content marketing is delivering a much better benefit than managing each in a silo, and clients are realizing that the time and effort to coordinate everything will be repaid.”
With investment in both video and blogging increasing, it’s no wonder why 62% of companies outsource their content marketing.
But Ryne Higgins of Peacock Alley recommends bringing resources in-house, rather than relying on external teams to lend a helping hand.
“One of the most effective changes we have seen in content marketing is the switch from outsourcing to in-house efforts”, he says. “Content marketing should always be an in-house tactic because the ultimate goal is to be authentic and engage with your audience. When companies outsource any piece of their content marketing mix, it already takes a step backward.”
If you search for any upcoming marketing trend, I’ll bet personalization features somewhere.
Rightly so. Personalization hugely impacts sales–and that’s often the key goal that marketers want to achieve with their content marketing strategy.
“When we started working with clients on content the driver behind it was SEO, traffic and ‘leads'”, says Doug Davidoff of Imagine Business Development. “While content is certainly helpful there, people weren’t focused on where content can have an even bigger impact – creating engagement and driving a strong teaching point-of-view to leverage sales efforts.”
The best part? Doug says “the greater understanding of account based approaches has enabled us to unlock greater ROI and impact with content.”
ClearPivot‘s Chris Strom explains how to put promotion and personalization into practice with another type of content: Email.
“Use every marketing tool at your disposal to reach current customers. In addition to batch-sent email, take the time to send one-on-one emails just to reach customers individually–for instance, “Hey, Jim, based on our conversation last Thursday, we thought you might like this article we just authored on XYZ…”
Daniel Lynch of Empathy First Media recommends getting uber-specific with the people you’re promoting your content to.
He says: “Moving away from a wide focus on my audience and trying to as narrow as possible has helped define characteristics that have led to more qualified prospects. By moving away from Facebook business page posts, and focusing on the Facebook marketplace and Facebook groups, we have seen exponential growth no ad spend whatsoever leading to a lead acquisition cost of $0.”
Videos, blogging or podcasts–it’s important that your content marketing mix is consistent.
Harris Schachter, behind OptimizePrime, says: “The biggest change to content marketing I have seen in the last few years is incorporating it into everyday business practices. Just like turning on the lights and paying your employees, business owners and those responsible for marketing must approach their business through a lens of content production.”
Harris recommends asking three questions: “What are you doing? What questions can you answer? How do you make your product?”, because “having this consist voice is the best way to get and stay in front of your audience.”
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