Content Marketing was one of the big buzz words of 2013, but as the year draws to close what should we be looking out for in 2014 and how can we make sure our content strategies stay fresh and relevant?
Here are my predictions on what’s going to be important during the coming year and some tips on how to make sure your content remains useful both for your readers and for your clients.
The most important feature of any piece of content is that it’s relevant. However, relevant can mean a number of things. A piece of content might be relevant in terms of:
• Answering a reader’s question
• Providing necessary information
As you can see, relevant content covers a variety of content types, so let’s take a closer look.
Since Google started providing “News” search, timing has been a great way to drive traffic to your site. Also, as every SEO knows, fresh, regularly published content encourages Google to index your site more frequently and can help to improve your rankings. So news-based content is a clear win-win – right?
Not necessarily – there are a few problems with news-based content that need to be taken into consideration. Firstly, you have to get it out fast. In order for your news-based content to do well you have to get it published as quickly as possible, before everyone else has written their piece on it. If you don’t, your piece will get lost in the barrage of other articles on the same subject. Also, the market quickly reaches saturation point with these kinds of articles, meaning no-one will be interested in reading your hard work.
Secondly, you have to have something interesting and original to say. There’s no point quickly sending out a news-based article if it’s going to be the same as every other piece written. You need to make sure your post stands out and says something different. A unique viewpoint on a news-based article can be hard to find but if you can manage it, you should be able to produce something really special and successful.
Thirdly, all of these requirements mean you need a considerable amount of resource in order to pull off a successful news piece. Don’t underestimate the importance of having the proper resource for this kind of work – you need someone who can be completely dedicated to researching whatever incident has just occurred, gathering all the necessary information, formulating an original concept, writing the piece, and publishing it. If you can’t allow for this, then you’re unlikely to produce a high quality, successful piece of content.
So, if you can incorporate these elements into your news articles then you’re sure to be onto something great. Just be careful not to waste time producing something that will simply vanish into the depths of the internet, never to be read by anyone.
Answering a reader’s question
Although the Hummingbird update appears to have had quite a subtle effect so far, it is a very important indicator in terms of where Google plans to move search. For those of you who missed it, the Hummingbird update has shown Google’s clear move to search that is based on answering specific question asked by users. The shift is away from explicit keyword usage towards a more nuanced understanding of what information it is that the user is searching for. As a result, content that directly answers questions that users are asking is likely to start doing better and better over the coming year.
In order to utilise this change in emphasis, content producers need to really start focusing on what it is that their readers need. What are they searching for? What are they interested in? What do they want to understand? If you can figure out the answers to these questions then you should be able to create a wonderful hub of content, full of user-friendly articles. Even better, Google should start to direct users to your content, as it will be answering the very questions they are asking. Plus, if you’re actually managing to produce helpful, informative answers, then your users are likely to share them, meaning even more exposure and traffic to your site. This works for both on-site and off-site content, so keep it at the top of your list when producing content.
Providing necessary information
How many times have you visited a website, been interested, but then realised a crucial piece of information you needed before making a purchase or calling up to discuss the offered services was missing? It’s a frustrating issue for users, and one I see occurring time and again when I work through websites. What many of us forget when working on our own or clients’ websites is that a user can only access the information we provide. So if we miss something important, no matter how minor it may seem to us, the user has no way of finding it out. As a result, they are likely to go elsewhere in order to find a service that provides them with the information.
In other words, when you’re producing on-site content, make sure you cover every possible query your users may have in detail. This could be anything from product dimensions, to what hours your phone lines are open, to what your delivery times are, to what your returns/refunds policy is – the list is endless. The job of your on-site content is to persuade people to buy your products/services, so making sure they have all the information they could possibly need to make that decision is vital. This also ties in with ensuring that your content answers people’s questions – so keep that concept in mind here.
The next big issue is measuring your content’s success. Over the past year people have been heavily focused on social media and people’s engagement with content through these channels. However, as many of us have learnt, engagement does not necessarily equal conversions. Of course, increasing brand awareness is important, and getting your name out there matters. However, in order to determine whether your content is being successful you need to start measuring conversions.
Demonstrating successful conversions is vital to a content team. Companies like to see people engaging with and talking about their brand but, at the end of the day, money and conversion are what matter. And the only way a business will see any return on their investment in content, is if your content pushes people onto their website and then through to conversions.
As such, the time of measuring retweets and Facebook likes is likely to draw to a close, as brands will start looking to traffic numbers and click-through rates to justify their expenditure on content. As content writers we will need to ensure that our content is absolutely on-point if we’re going to convince the powers that be to keep spending money on our services – another reason why relevancy is going to be even more important!
Sitting alongside both relevancy and encouraging conversion is the concept of personalisation. Google has explicitly stated that search is going to become more and more personalised over the next few years. As such, we are going to have to ensure that our content is ever more personalised to our users than ever before in order to prevent it from falling by the wayside and remaining unread and unloved.
As such, understanding our audience is going to become more important than ever. Vague personas simply won’t cut it anymore. We’re going to have to sit down and do some much more thorough analyse of the kinds of customers our sites bring in, how they get there, where they enter and where they drop off. Without an in-depth understanding of our users and their mind-sets content marketers are doomed to repeat old mistakes and the websites they work for will suffer as a result.
Thorough auditing of your website – specifically main landing pages and pages with high bounce rates or exit figures – will be essential to this process. Figure out where your users are coming from and then come up with ways to both increase the number of them coming from these sources as well as ways to create more entry points like this. Similarly, determine which pages are successful at retaining users and which cause them to drop off. Learn from what you already have that works, and adapt the poorly-performing pages so that they are more closely aligned with those that do well.
It sounds simple, but so many people seem to be unable to learn from the mistakes they are presented with on a daily basis. To assist you with improving the quality of your website, you can even consider conducting a survey – asking users what they like and don’t like about your website, in order to help you to tailor it even more to their likings.
So there you have it – those are my three big predictions for the upcoming year. If you want your content to be successful you’ll need to ensure it’s relevant, personalised, and can be measured. Of course, there’s a host of other factors that need to be combined to create an effective content marketing strategy, but I’d say that these three factors will be the most important during 2014.
What do you think? Do you have any other ideas about what’s going to be big over the next year? Let me know in the comments section!