The best content marketing examples inspire other marketers. All content marketers want to produce content so good that it sparks joy in its intended audience – and performs well as a result. It doesn’t hurt if it earns a little envy from peers, too.
“Unicorn” content initiatives don’t appear out of thin air. Coming up with fresh ideas, aligning them to your strategic goals and audience interests, and supporting them with a thoughtful distribution and promotion plan takes work.
No one else’s map will get you there, but you can find inspiration for your map. Our latest collection of the best content marketing – 35 Examples of Brands That Are Winning With Content – shows leading B2B and B2C companies that exceeded audience expectations – and their marketing goals – with novel content approaches and creative executions.
Here’s a peek at eight of my favorite initiatives and the lessons they teach:
Lesson 1: Document your strategy for agility
Developing (and documenting) your content marketing strategy can do more than just focus your team on content types and channels. It can guide your direction when you must adapt to unexpected marketplace shifts, new behavior patterns, or emerging audience challenges – something we’ve all faced a lot of in the past few years.
Case in point: Leading Through Change
In March 2020, the world changed seemingly overnight. Salesforce responded to the new realities of pandemic-related business operations almost as quickly, launching its Leading Through Change content initiative on March 17. For the record, that was three days before California issued shelter-in-place orders and airports effectively shut down.
Leading Through Change takes a multimedia, multinational content approach that spans broadcast, on-demand video, blogs, audio, online learning modules, and social media channels in over 20 countries and 15 languages.
To develop all that content and tackle topics like well-being at work, upskilling, and vaccine management, Salesforce teamed up with recognized subject matter experts, CEOs, and other business luminaries across industries. For example, they published a series of articles and videos based on interviews with Dr. David Agus, including this one about why companies should consider hiring a chief health officer. Salesforce also created a resource center with guides such as its COVID-19 Response Playbook and a handbook on How To Safely Reopen Your Business.
Lesson 2: Increase content resonance with personalized relevance
Audiences naturally gravitate toward brands they relate to on a personal level – whether they share a sense of style, a passion for a hobby or activity, or an affinity for a value or belief. The more your audience can see themselves in your content, the more likely they’ll engage and act on it.
Personalizing content around their life experiences and the things they care about can plant the seeds to grow deeper, more resonant connections with them – even when you’re marketing a B2B product or service that rarely sparks joy in anyone’s mind. Exhibit an understanding of a relevant topic of concern, then show your business considers it a priority, too. Ultimately, letting consumers know you see them as people can help increase their trust in your brand – and their level of satisfaction with the services they purchase.
Case in point: Bulb Energy Green Impact Reports
You might recognize the importance of energy sustainability, but when was the last time you explored your power bill to see what the utility company had to say about the topic – let alone were entertained and inspired by the way they reported it?
For customers of UK utility provider Bulb Energy, the answer might surprise you. Bulb sends personalized emails summarizing the customer’s reduced impact on the environment when using renewable electricity and green gas. It extrapolates that data with fun illustrations, such as a comparison of the carbon dioxide savings to the weight of a dinosaur breed or how lowered emissions in the UK can help improve the lives of families in Ghana. Whether their customers are merely curious about their carbon footprint or actively implement sustainability best practices, Bulb’s emails provide powerful motivation to amp up their conservation efforts.
Lesson 3: Support the customers who support your business
What’s even more powerful than showing you understand your customers’ concerns and challenges? Providing them with the tools and know-how to overcome them.
Delivering educational insights and tactical advice is a staple of content marketing. But when you present that information so it can easily be implemented, your content becomes a living testimonial that your brand has more to offer than products and services.
Case in point: The Ultimate Virtual Selling Toolkit
Global sales training company RAIN Group fielded a survey to more than 500 buyers and sellers early in the pandemic to find out how its services and expertise might be needed. The results informed the company’s decision to steer clients through unfamiliar challenges. The multifaceted branded content campaign full of data, helpful tools, and targeted advice was designed to acclimate clients and customers to virtual sales.
First, RAIN Group shared a summary of top-line survey findings in its Virtual Selling Skills & Challenges gated report. Then it released the complete findings in an e-book – Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely. Other related assets included a virtual selling checklist, slide decks, infographics, and blog posts, leading up to the publication of its gated Ultimate Virtual Selling Toolkit, which includes guides, conversation planners, and more.
RAIN Group achieved its goal of helping its customers navigate the virtual sales space and earned the 2021 Content Marketing Award for Best B2B Branded Content Campaign. The effort also hit some impressive marketing milestones, including:
- 4,400-plus downloads of its research report
- 9,000 e-book copies sold
- 66,000 views of its blogs, infographics, and slide decks
- 15-plus new closed/won deals
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Lesson 4: Invite influential thought leaders to play with your brand
Influencers have become a hot commodity in the marketing world, with some high-profile personalities commanding six-figure (or more) salaries to insert their partner brands into their social media conversations. Yet, one of the technique’s most common critiques remains: “How do we know the person behind the handle is truly familiar with the product they’re pitching?”
Asking influencers to co-create content with your brand is a great way to overcome those authenticity accusations.
It also can help your content to stand out from other brands your influencer spokesperson may talk about and provide the flexibility to reuse for other purposes and platforms.
Case in point: Experience Points
Customer experience management firm Avtex Solutions set out to stand out by approaching its marketing goals with an entertaining, influencer-driven platform of video content. The resulting online series Experience Points is part game show and part expert discussion.
Avtex partnered with two leading industry influencers to serve as hosts and invited high-profile customer experience experts and practitioners to participate as contestants. Each episode consists of three mini-games in which contestants earn cash for their favorite charity by answering CX (customer experience) questions and sharing insights on what it takes to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
Whether the contestants get the answers right or wrong, the series is a win for Avtex, which exceeded its impression, web visit, and video view goals. It also won the Best Use of Influencer Marketing prize at the 2021 Content Marketing Awards. Even better, Experience Points forged a connection with new industry experts and influencers, which resulted in organic recommendations to new prospective clients.
Lesson 5: Slay your awareness challenges by making a scene on social
A single hashtag might not seem like a high-consideration campaign element. Yet, with the right planning, vetting, and creative reinforcement, it can launch a new initiative into the collective social consciousness and cultivate a thriving, branded community where your audience can share their passions.
But don’t arbitrarily stuff popular hashtags into all your brand’s posts in the hopes of capturing unearned attention. Create and use uniquely recognizable key phrases to provide a space for like-minded fans to gather, express their ideas, and show off their skills.
Case in point: #LegendaryChallenge
In 2020, WarnerMedia launched its new streaming service, HBO Max, and premiered a groundbreaking LGBTQIA+-focused reality competition. The show Legendary takes viewers into the thriving “voguing” scene known as ballroom. To generate awareness and excitement for the show among its youthful target demographic, HBO’s content team took to social media to create conversations and dance-related activities that lean into the shared desire for authentic self-expression.
Key components of the campaign included the #LegendaryChallenge on TikTok, which offered lessons on the choreographies used in the show’s theme tune. Signature moves and conversations about the importance of ballroom dancing for the LGBTQIA+ community were shared on Instagram Stories to amplify show highlights known as “gagging” moments.
The brand also amplified and supported those efforts by engaging trusted LGBTQIA+ influencers and popular media publishers to promote Legendary on their own social channels.
Report: The Neuroscience of Digital Content
Your buyers are using digital content to discover, understand, and narrow their options before they make a buying decision. But, what makes content memorable?! Download the report.
Lesson 6: Give fans something substantive to talk about
Cause marketing has skyrocketed in popularity, as consumers (particularly younger generations) increasingly go out of their way to support brands that put their money where their mouths are – especially when they’re talking about issues like sustainability; diversity, equity, and inclusivity; and giving back to their local communities.
In fact, 2021 Survey Monkey research found 78% of consumers say they made a purchase based on values in the past year, and 55% say they are much more likely to purchase from a company that shares their values.
To compel your audience to use their wallets to vote in your favor, do more than send a press release whenever your brand contributes to the greater good. Use the opportunity to create ongoing conversations that help further your philanthropic missions.
Case in point: A Nut Above
After killing its venerable Mr. Peanut mascot – and resurrecting it as an infant, baby-Groot style – for its 2020 Super Bowl spot, Kraft Heinz snack brand Planters sat out of the media circus the following year in favor of a more fulfilling, cause-centric marketing approach.
Instead of spending the estimated $5 million on a flashy one-time ad, Planters used that money to reward people (and organizations) whose “little acts of extraordinary substance make the world a better place,” as the campaign’s kickoff video explains.
Lesson 7: Highlight the people behind your products
Behind-the-scenes videos are a great way to make your company and team personable and relatable. Highlight day-to-day operations, your offices, your manufacturing processes, or intriguing aspects of the business that audiences don’t always get to see.
To lend your video stories more credibility, consider interviewing employees, talking to your vendors, or filming conversations with your best customers. All these things can give consumers a clearer idea of how your company works, what’s unique about it, and who’s helping to make it a success. If your videos are entertaining as well as informative, the viewers are more likely to share your brand story with others.
Case in point: Behind the Scenes With the Storytellers
Digital asset management platform PhotoShelter developed process-oriented videos of innovative creative campaigns for its audience of marketers, photographers, and artists. The resulting series provides a window into the creative strategies of top brands like GE, the Premier Lacrosse League, and the University of Maryland Medical System.
The videos dig down into what makes the brand exceptional and how creators put its advantages to work – something other on-screen brand showcases struggle to capture and convey authentically. By letting its customers share their use cases and experiences – in their own voices – PhotoShelter gets its message across through human emotion rather than pitchy promotion.
Lesson 8: Spark virtual event interest with the VIP treatment
When social gatherings were paused in favor of social distancing, many businesses pivoted to virtual events. While the transition to digital tours may have been a short-term necessity, brands discovered it takes more than a visual simulation to coax consumers to log on, let alone stay engaged for the duration.
To create an incentive, enhance your online events with unique offers and opportunities – like exclusive downloads, live networking chat rooms, or one-on-one conversations with your speakers and sponsors. Consider adding personalized touches like giveaways or on-camera shout-outs to build anticipation and make the experience more exciting and interactive.
Case in point: Twilight Homes – VIP Virtual Grand Openings
Twilight made its events more interactive and memorable – delivering exclusive, custom-curated Viewer Packs to entice its VIP clients into accepting its Zoom invitations. The packs were stuffed with informative materials on home designs, the community, and the company, as well as Twilight-branded stickers, keychains, hand sanitizer, socks, and face masks. The company also helped support the economy in its native New Mexico by including coffee and gift cards for food delivery from local businesses.
The first VIP Virtual Grand Opening created such interest that Twilight sold out its inventory. The effort also grew the brand’s name recognition among local businesses and helped increase new home sales by almost 62% year over year.
Insights + inspiration = exemplary performance
Want even more creative ideas and helpful tips for applying them to your content program? Download 35 Examples of Brands That Are Winning With Content for 28 more, including looks inside successful efforts from brands like SAP, Oreo, Shopify, and others. Not only have these efforts earned the attention of their audiences, but many have also earned the admiration of their fellow marketers – and the Content Marketing Awards to prove it.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
How We Increased a Client’s Leads by 384% in Six Months by Focusing on One Topic Cluster [Case Study]
The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
Content marketing is an essential part of any SEO strategy. Without it, how are you going to attract customers looking for answers to their questions, and who are potentially in the market for your products or services?
At Tao Digital Marketing, we’ve recently generated some great results for one of our clients operating in the business financial space, The Insolvency Experts, mainly by focusing on just one “cluster topic” that was a huge money maker for them.
When looking at six month comparison stats (August 2021-January 2022 to February-July 2022), we’ve achieved the following:
Leads: 95 to 460 (384%)
Clicks: 4,503 to 23,013 (411%)
Impressions: 856,683 to 2,033,355 (137%)
Average position: 33.4 to 23.6 (increased almost 10 spots)
This was mostly achieved by absolutely hammering one topic area: company liquidation. In this case study, we’re going to explain how we did this step by step, so that hopefully you can generate similar results for your own business!
If you really break it down, the objective of all SEO consultancy work is essentially the same: increase the number of leads for a business. This was our ultimate goal.
It’s not just as simple as that, though. We all know you can’t get to number one on Google overnight. So, like other SEO geeks out there, we tracked our successes through additional factors such as clicks, impressions, and average position, to show our efforts were worthwhile.
In January this year (2022) our goals for the next six months were as follows:
Leads: Just over double from 95 to 200 (110%)
Clicks: 4,503 to 13,500 (around 200%)
Impressions: 856,683 to 1,700,000 (around 100%)
Average position: 33.4 to 25 (around eight spots)
Insolvency Experts’ audience is primarily directors of UK businesses that are going insolvent, closely followed by business owners looking for financial advice. The majority of Insolvency Expert’s cash flow comes from formal insolvency processes, such as liquidation, administration, and CVAs (Company Voluntary Agreements), so it was really important for us to push these areas.
1. Research “company liquidation” search volume and related queries
We first picked this client up in November 2020. Initially, our focus was on the basics: updating all the top level pages (such as service pages and guides) to make sure they fit the intention of the user and clearly explained the services that Insolvency Experts offer.
Researching what works well at present
One of the pages that our content team updated was their company liquidation guide. After updating, the page started to perform very well in the SERP, and ranked at position #4 for “company liquidation”. Clearly, this sort of content was working, and we wanted to hit it even more.
After pulling some research together, one of our strategists proposed the idea of a “Company Liquidation Content Hub”, as the company liquidation guide was ranking for a lot of long tail questions:
After cross referencing with the monthly search volume for these questions, she added some of these as H3s within the guide to see how they would perform. They resulted in so much more traffic that she decided they warranted their own individual guides, hence the idea for the hub. This would mean we weren’t putting all of our eggs into one basket, and that we could also internally link all of them together for users wanting to read more.
Users that are further down the marketing funnel don’t want to scroll down a huge guide to find the answer to their specific question, and we were certain that this would positively affect bounce rate. We therefore made sure that nine times out of 10, the H1 contained the question that was being answered.
In order to further target those at the bottom of the marketing funnel who want to speak to someone quickly, we placed regular “Contact Us” CTAs throughout the content so that they don’t have to scroll right to the bottom of the page to get in touch with Insolvency Experts.
Undertaking a competitor analysis
We also conducted a competitor analysis on this topic, focusing on three key players in the industry that were all ranking well for the phrase “company liquidation”. We found that the key competitors had the following:
Competitor A – 38 indexed articles on liquidation
Competitor B – 23 indexed articles on liquidation
Competitor C – 47 indexed articles on liquidation
Insolvency Experts only had six indexed articles on liquidation at the time, so it was clear we needed to be on their level – this was an obvious content gap.
Pitching the content hub to the client
We suggested this idea to the client alongside a forecasting spreadsheet created by our founder, in order to justify the resource that was needed to push the client as high as possible in the rankings for company liquidation.
This spreadsheet broke down a huge list of keywords alongside monthly search volume, average click through rate for positions 1-10 on the SERP, domain authority of competitors who are currently ranking for these keywords, and average conversion rate on the site at the moment.
This unique formula would then allow us to explain to the client that for X amount of work, we predict we can get you to position X in X timeframe, and this would result in approximately X annual revenue. After pitching this to the client alongside infographics and current performance statistics, they told us they loved our ideas and agreed to let us go ahead.
2. Plan the content after client approval
After the client gave us the go-ahead, the next step was to plan all of this work based on search volume, and therefore priority order.
It’s easy to get lost in all the data within SEO, so it was incredibly important for us to have a solid plan and timeline for these changes. Topics were going to range from How to Liquidate a Company with No Money through to Administration vs Liquidation.
How we communicate planned works to our clients
In order to orchestrate clear communication between ourselves and our clients, we create a Traffic Light Report, which is a live Google Sheets document detailing all work to be undertaken for the current and next quarter. This is split into sections for technical SEO, content, and digital PR/link building (the three pillars of SEO).
This includes justification for each change we make, as well as a link to any live changes or documents. It also details when this will be done and if the action is with us or the client. The tasks are coloured in green for live changes, yellow for action needed, orange for in progress, red for anything on hold and clear for not started.
Here’s an example of what the content section of Insolvency Expert’s traffic light report looks like for their current quarter (July-September 2022):
Scheduling the tasks
We then scheduled these topics for our various content writers to work on using our project management software, ClickUp. Within each task we placed a link to a skeleton document consisting of H1s, H2s, and H3s, as well as a title, meta description and keywords to include.
3. Write the content while implementing technical SEO
By this time it was around April 2022, and it was time for us to fully attack the content portion of our task list. Since then, we’ve written 18 pieces of content around company liquidation, and still have quite a few left to go before we consider this area of focus complete.
Analyzing as we go along
Once we covered the big topics in the first couple of months of writing, we started to use Low Fruits to find smaller queries which are estimated at around 10 or fewer monthly searches. We’ve had a lot of success targeting lower search volume phrases, as these users seem to be more focused and lower down the sales funnel, so are more likely to be better engaged and convert better. A lot of the time they are pleased that you have answered their very niche question!
The below is a screenshot from a keyword analysis. We trawled through hundreds of keywords to pull out the ones relevant to the client.
We then used Low Fruit’s Keyword Extraction and SERP Analysis tool to give us further details on a select few key terms.
These terms are shown as having a search volume of either 10, less than 10 or 0. Of course, we know that this is still hugely important to cover, and targeting these will bring in a very niche reader who is much more likely to convert due to the nature of the long-tail queries.
Finalizing the hub
Our plan is to finalize the hub this fall, and ensure that everything is internally linked. There will also be a menu change to make the addition of the hub very clear. See screenshots below for the current hub vs. how it will be presented once all content is ready (screenshot taken from their staging site in Kinsta, our hosting platform where we make design changes so that the client can approve them before they go live).
Current ‘hub’ in the menu:
How the hub will look once all content is complete:
As part of our content process within ClickUp, we have a recurring task to check a new URL in Google Search Console two weeks after upload. This allows us to see if we have the “Google Spike of Acceptance”, which is a sharp incline of impressions/traffic indicating that the content will do well, before it falls then slowly rises again.
If we don’t see this spike, we carry out multiple checks, including: Is it an orphan page? Are there any technical errors? Is it indexed? If it is not indexed, we push the URL through Index Me Now.
If the issue is just that the piece isn’t getting picked up, we will take another look at the content to see if there is something else we can do to improve it, e.g. tweak the H1 or expand the content.
4. Build links to the relevant pages and homepage
We wanted to really hone in on generating links for our company liquidation page. The page has 36 backlinks, many of which were built through link building efforts. This was largely done by working with business site publications and creating natural anchor text that would help with certain keyword rankings.
As well as building links specifically to the company liquidation page, we also built links to the main URL in order to boost overall domain authority. This was done through answering queries through platforms such as HARO and Response Source, as well as working with the client to create relevant, time-specific thought leadership pieces. Here’s an example of a HARO request we responded to, the topic being “Recession-proofing tips for small businesses”:
Although the site’s domain authority tends to fluctuate between 30-33 depending on links lost and general algorithm updates, the links to specific pages have still resulted in an increase in rankings, detailed further below.
Results compared to objectives
Although we knew that our strategy was going to work well based on our experience with our other clients, we were very pleasantly surprised by the huge positive effect our work has made, which enabled us to smash the targets we set!
Goal: Increase from 95 to 200 (110%)
Result: Increased from 95 to 460 (384%)
As a result of creating incredibly useful, lengthy content and placing regular CTAs throughout the content, we managed to almost quadruple the amount of leads coming through to the client in the space of just six months.
In the six months before our liquidation project began, our Leads Dashboard within WhatConverts shows that Insolvency Experts had five liquidation leads via phone call and 10 leads via their contact form on a liquidation-focused page.
In the six-month period since we’ve been working on the content hub, they have had 38 liquidation leads via phone call and 52 leads via contact form on a liquidation-focused page.
Result: 660% increase in phone call leads and 420% increase in contact form leads.
Previous six months:
Goal: Increase from 4,503 to 13,500 (around 200%)
Result: Increased from 4,503 to 23,013 (411%)
By creating highly relevant content that matched the user’s search intent, we managed to almost quadruple the clicks over the space of six months, doubling our original 200% goal.
The site has received 29,400 clicks overall across the past 12 months. Below, you can see the huge spike in clicks and impressions from January onwards when we really started to focus on the liquidation content.
Goal: Increase from 856,683 to 1,700,000 (around 100%)
Result: Increased from 856,683 to 2,033,355 (137%)
Again, by creating highly relevant blogs, Google started to understand the relevancy of our content, so the number of impressions hugely increased. Along with the 137% increase above, over the past 12 months (August 2021-August 2022) the site has received 485,000 impressions for the query ‘liquidation’ alone.
The main company liquidation guide that we updated had a total of 732K impressions over the past 12 months, too, with a huge spike from February onwards, when we updated the guide.
Goal: Increase from 33.4 to 25 (around 8 spots)
Result: Increased from 33.4 to 23.6 (increased 10 spots)
This increase is due to the relevancy of our content and the amount of keywords each piece ranked for. As mentioned, the main company liquidation guide has worked incredibly well, ranking for 181 keywords, 67 of which are page one (37%). It now has the number one spot for the term “company liquidation”. See below for an example of queries the page is showing up for.
The page also shows up for six featured snippets as a result of us implementing FAQ schema.
335 clicks and 93,663 impressions have come from the FAQ rich results alone.
In the six months before we updated the guide, it pulled in around 650 clicks and 227K impressions. In the six months following, it brought in around 1,180 clicks and 382K impressions. We’ve practically doubled clicks on one single guide.
As mentioned, this particular piece of content has 36 backlinks, and actually ranks ABOVE the official UK government company liquidation guide, which has a domain authority of 93 (about 60 higher than ours). Clearly, we’re meeting the searcher’s intent and giving them what they are looking for.
In the six month period before we started work on liquidation, Insolvency Experts had an average click through rate of 0.5%. Over a six month period of us working with them, this more than doubled to 1.2%.
Another success worth noting is that 3 out of 6 of our latest articles have an average page view duration of between 9 and 10 minutes! The other half are averaging around 5 to 6 minutes, which is still very good. Clearly, users are wanting in-depth information on this topic.
The “What happens to a director of a company in liquidation?” guide, which went live in May, is now the fifth most clicked page on the site. when filtered on GSC by the term “liquidation”.
Overall, we’re extremely pleased with the results we generated, and so are Insolvency Experts — the company liquidation department is now inundated with queries and they are rushed off their feet!
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