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Look Through These 4 Windows To Right Your Content Marketing Ship



Look Through These 4 Windows To Right Your Content Marketing Ship

“This ship is just so hard to turn.”

That phrase might sound familiar. I often hear it from clients, usually regarding some suggested change to existing processes. People lament the difficulty of doing something new because it requires changing or stopping something old.

Institutional momentum resists stopping (or changing). That’s true even when the answer to the question “Why not just stop doing the old thing?” is “I don’t know.”

Sometimes, you don’t know that you know.

Want an example? I worked with a B2B healthcare client who shared the balance of their content output by type for the last three years.

Bar chart showing total content assets by type.

Each colored line represents the number of assets produced by content type – blog posts, analyst research, case studies, brochures, content hub, infographics, webinars, podcasts, how-to videos, and white papers – each year from 2017 to 2021.

The dramatic growth in webinars stands out. In 2017, the team produced less than 10. In 2018, the company got webinar fever and never looked back. The number of webinars grew substantially each year, while nearly all other content types declined. Webinars made up almost 60% of their total content output in 2021.

Your first reaction might be, “Webinars must really work for them.”

Nope. In fact, each year following 2018, webinars contributed less to lead generation (the primary goal) than the average contributed by all other content types.

Why did they continue to focus on webinars? Because. That’s why.

A B2B brand escalated its webinar count year after year even though the results were worse than other content types. Why? Just because, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. #ContentStrategy Click To Tweet

In 2018, the team got good at producing them. In 2019, a new content person joined and got the message to focus on webinars, so she doubled down.

In 2020, the team saw webinars as a safe way to continue their content program during the pandemic shutdowns. And, in 2021, they wanted to get back to the basics of what they had done for so many years. You guessed it: webinars.

They didn’t know what they knew.

Which window are you looking through?

A Johari window is a model for self-awareness and communication development based on two simple ideas: You learn by revealing information you know to be true and comparing that to the information you seek outside of yourself.

You can look through four windows:

  1. Things you know you know
  2. Things you know you don’t know
  3. Things you don’t know you don’t know
  4. Things you don’t know that you know

The fourth window probably represents the most insidious risk to success. It is the unknown known. Or, as it’s called in the Johari window, the façade.

Philosopher Slavoj Žižek categorized the unknown known as when people “intentionally refuse to acknowledge that we know.” In companies, you see this all the time. You all know the ship is moving in the wrong direction, but no one says it out loud.

But why?

Myriad business reasons explain why someone might not acknowledge something they know or believe. One researcher found the cause can be as simple as a team’s blind faith that a project could still have a chance at success.

In many cases, business leaders know they continue to do things with institutional momentum even though the programs aren’t productive or useful.

I worked with one team whose email newsletter subscriptions dropped from 10,000 to fewer than 100 over 18 months. Yet, they still spent thousands of dollars to develop the content and send that newsletter every quarter.

Stopping it, they thought, could signal to the C-suite that investment in that enterprise email system wasn’t worth funding.

Institutional momentum propels businesses to do things they know aren’t productive or useful, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. #ContentStrategy Click To Tweet

My healthcare client had a gut feeling that they produced sub-optimal webinars to the detriment of other types of content. But acknowledging the imbalance would mean addressing the fact that they had no strategy.

In other words, acknowledging the need to course-correct would imply that the team knew how many webinars they should produce and how to rebalance the mix of content types.

Look through all the windows

It’s tempting to look at the performance of content and campaigns and let the data inform how much to produce for any part of the journey, persona type, or format.

But let’s be honest, rebalancing any content or marketing strategy is never that simple.

First, you may not have easy access to all that information. Second, you may not agree on what those numbers mean, or you may not have developed common definitions across the company or even the team.

How does a video differ from a webinar? How does an e-book differ from a white paper? Do you know?

What new things haven’t you tried because you’re pressed for time? Where have you stuck with old patterns and habits because you believe your ship just won’t turn?

Do you know what you don’t know?

I find this version of a Johari window exercise a great place to start when reviewing a content and marketing strategy:


1. What old things are you confident you should continue doing? (You know what you know)

Pull together all that information and see what truly works.

At the healthcare company, white papers performed extraordinarily well for lead generation. Repurposing some webinars into white papers and integrating white papers into webinars helped a lot.


2. What new things should you add or change? (You know what you don’t know)

Can you identify new activities you should do but don’t because you lack skills, technology, content, or other capabilities?

The healthcare company tried launching a branded content hub but lacked the skills to do it properly. Instead, they identified a useful topic and devised a plan to execute it in a realistic time frame with outsourced resources.

3. What areas should you explore? (You don’t know what you don’t know)

You may have heard about or seen opportunities or options that would create efficiencies. If you feel you don’t understand much about those areas, consider how you can explore them.

The healthcare company heard its competitors had gained tremendous traction with a print magazine for healthcare providers. But no one on the existing team had experience with print. So they committed to exploring the intricacies and costs of setting it up and created a business case for it.

4. What things should you acknowledge that you know need to stop or change? (You don’t know what you know)

This window may be the most important for exploring your strategy.

Everyone on the healthcare company’s team acknowledged they produced too many webinars and didn’t get the results they wanted. Once they admitted this, they could rebalance their content strategy. They also committed to codifying a production measurement strategy to track how much they produced of any one kind of asset.

In sum, they turned the ship effectively.

Turning a strategy takes confidence

Setting a new course in content and marketing requires belief. Every winning approach succeeds partly because of a collective belief that it will succeed.

Your challenge is to make sure your can-do attitude doesn’t turn into a can’t-undo culture.

Make sure that can-do attitude doesn’t turn into a can’t-undo culture, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. #ContentStrategy Click To Tweet


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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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2022 YouTube and Video SERP Result Changes



2022 YouTube and Video SERP Result Changes

When you think of video results on Google in 2022 (and video optimization), you might think of something that looks like this (from a search for “flag football”):

In mid-October, we noticed a drop in this type of video result, and that drop became dramatic by late-October. Did Google remove these video results or was our system broken? As it turns out, neither — video results have split into at least three distinct types (depending on how you count).

(1) Video packs (simple & complex)

The example above is pretty simple, with the exception of “Key Moments” (which debuted in 2019), but even the familiar video packs can get pretty complex. Here’s one from a search for the artist Gustav Klimt:

All three of the videos here have Key Moments, including a pre-expanded section for the top video with thumbnails for each of the moments. Some specific SERPs also have minor variations, such as the “Trailers & clips” feature on this search for “Lion King”:

Video packs are still often 3-packs, but can range from two to four results. While only the header really changes here, it’s likely that Google is using a modified algorithm to surface these trailer results.

(2) Branded video carousels

Some videos are displayed in a carousel format, which seems to be common for branded results within YouTube. Here’s an example for the search “Dave and Busters”:

While the majority of these “brand” (loosely defined) carousels are from YouTube, there are exceptions, such as this carousel from Disney Video for “Lightning McQueen”:

Like all carousel-based results, you can scroll horizontally to view more videos. Google’s mobile-first design philosophy has driven more of this format over time, as the combination of vertical and horizontal scrolling is more natural on mobile devices.

(3) Single/thumbnail video results

Prior to breaking out video into separate features, Google typically displayed video results as standard results with a screenshot thumbnail. In the past month, Google seems to have revived this format. Here’s an example for the search “longboarding”:

If you hover over the thumbnail, you’ll see a preview, like this (edited for size):

In some cases, we see multiple video results on a single page, and each of them seems to be counted as one of the “10 blue links” that we normally associate with standard organic results from the web.

There’s also a variant on the single-video format that seem specific to YouTube:

This variant also shows a preview when you hover over it, but it launches a simplified YouTube viewing experience that appears to be new (and will likely evolve over time).

(4) Bonus: Mega-videos

This format has been around for a while and is relatively rare, but certain niches, including hit songs, may return a large-scale video format, such as this one for Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero”:

A similar format sometimes appears for “how to” queries (and similar questions), such as the one below for “how to roundhouse kick.” Note the text excerpt below the video that Google has extracted from the audio …

While neither of these formats are new, and they don’t seem to have changed significantly in the past month, they are important variants of Google video results.

(5) Bonus: TikTok results

Finally, Google has started to display a special format for TikTok videos, that typically includes a selection of five videos that preview when you hover over them. Here’s an example from one of my favorite TikTok personalities:

Typically, these are triggered by searches that include “TikTok” in the query. While it’s not a standard video format and isn’t available outside of TikTok, it’s interesting to note how Google is experimenting with rich video results from other platforms.

Does YouTube still dominate?

Back in 2020, we did a study across 10,000 competitive Google searches that showed YouTube holding a whopping 94% of page-one video results. Has this changed with the recent format shuffling? In a word: no. Across the main three video formats discussed in this post, YouTube still accounts for 94% of results in this data set, with Facebook coming in at a distant second place with 0.8%. This does not count specialized results, such as the TikTo results above.

What does this mean for you?

If you’re tracking video results, and have seen major changes, be aware that they may not have disappeared – they more likely morphed into another format. This is a good time to go look at your SERPs in the wild (on desktop and mobile) and see what kind of video formats your target queries are showing. Google is not only experimenting with new formats, but with new video-specific markup and capabilities (such as extracting text directly from the soundtracks of videos and podcasts). You can expect all of this to continue to evolve into 2023.

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