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Stop Making These Reporting Mistakes To Keep Your Content Budget

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Stop Making These Reporting Mistakes To Keep Your Content Budget

Updated May 24, 2022

If you aren’t getting sufficient ongoing executive support for your content marketing, look at the writing on the wall.

Are you communicating with the C-suite in ways that will get them to sit up and notice what content marketing is doing for the brand? You might be if you’re making any of these six mistakes.

Read on to figure out the problem and how to remedy them fairly easily, so you win the attention and budget from your company’s leadership.

1. Fail to set SMART goals and KPIs

Though an obvious pitfall, content marketers repeatedly fail to appropriately document goals for their strategy. Failing to set goals is a common pitfall. They don’t make them SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

That failure might be prompted by the marketers’ own fear of failure – not hitting a goal is worse than not identifying a goal. But how else are executives going to track your success and decide content marketing is worth funding?

Executives need to know #ContentMarketing’s goals and results to decide if it’s worth continued funding, says @IamAaronAgius via @CMIContent @acrolinx. Click To Tweet

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Brand awareness, for example, is often a general fuzzy goal mentioned by marketers. What are your key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring awareness? How much should the content contribute to a revenue boost? In what time frame? Whatever your goals, make them measurable.

Once you detail your SMART goals and clearly define the KPIs, present them to your company’s executive team to get their buy-in. They’re more likely to invest when they have a tangible way to see if the content marketing program succeeded or didn’t quite hit the mark.

2. Don’t align marketing with the business’ road map

To get time-starved executives to take notice, ensure content marketing goals intersect with their priorities, which usually revolve around the bottom line.

Too many marketers assume their content generates revenue. They don’t prove it with data-driven findings.

In HubSpot’s 2021 Not Another State of Marketing Report, 85% of marketers say they are somewhat or very confident in investing in their programs that influence revenue. But that’s not enough. As the report’s authors write: “The disconnect lies — you guessed it — in failing or nonexistent attribution reporting.

That’s a mistake if you want to garner C-suite support. These executives want proof. Whether you’re fortunate enough to have data directly linking content marketing tactics to ROI or must undertake a significant analysis, begin reporting meetings with this headline in mind: How Has Content Marketing Affected the Balance Sheet?

Every report to executives should answer this headline: How has #ContentMarketing affected the balance sheet? says @IamAaronAgius via @CMIContent @acrolinx. Click To Tweet

3. Deliver numbers only

Leadership doesn’t necessarily have the time or expertise to delve into each content marketing initiative’s minutiae. You must show them the bigger picture.

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Don’t present the result of one time-limited activity – contextualize it. How did it fit into the overall content marketing efforts for the year? How does that compare to last year’s performance? Are there anomalies in the data? Why?

Putting context around the data also works in your favor when the numbers don’t look great. It helps you explain why the less-than-expected results don’t indicate that content marketing activity was a total flop.

For example, a retail brand compares its gifting blog’s first-quarter performance to the previous year’s fourth quarter. At first glance, the numbers indicate the blog significantly underperformed. By adding the context about the impact of the holiday season on fourth-quarter numbers, executives can better recognize that the hit in visitors wasn’t that bad.

If the explanatory context isn’t obvious, drill down by looking at assisted conversions. Say this retail brand conducted a paid social campaign to bring shoppers to the site, but the visitors didn’t convert. Analyzing assisted conversions could explain that the social referral traffic visit is merely the first step in their buying experience. A large percentage eventually return to the website to purchase the products advertised to them on social media.

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4. Lack transparency

When leadership commits budget to content marketing, they need to trust you and the content marketing strategy.

You should never attempt to hide negative figures or bury bad results in your reports. Obfuscating the truth only makes them less likely to trust you with the company’s dollars.

Never hide negative figures or bad results in your #ContentMarketing reports to executives. They are less likely to trust you with company dollars, says @IamAaronAgius via @CMIContent @acrolinx. Click To Tweet

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Instead, report exactly what has happened and proactively explain how the approach will be adjusted to ensure the failures won’t be repeated.

5. Report inconsistently

Your content marketing likely will see peaks and troughs in traffic and conversions. Performing random data pulls or only reporting your successes doesn’t give leadership the information they need to make the right decisions.

While it can be tempting to send an email or schedule a meeting with the executives the moment you see a set of outstanding results, resist the urge. It’s vital to be consistent with your reporting – both in format and timing.

Document (and share) your reporting process, including strict timelines. It could look like this:

  • Set SMART goals (month one)
  • Ideate campaign (month one)
  • Set KPIs (month one)
  • Set up tracking for KPIs (month one)
  • Implement initiative (months two, three, four)
  • Gather data (month five)
  • Analyze data and identify trends (month five)
  • Document findings and recommendations for adapting the next campaign (month five)
  • Report to leadership (month five)

6. Ignore the power of storytelling

As content marketers, we know that storytelling is a powerful tool for engaging any audience – so use it for your executives.

While they may not properly engage with a spreadsheet packed with context-free figures or a document full of marketing jargon, they have a natural interest in understanding customer behavior.

Thanks to significant advances in technology, data surrounding search query information, basket size, and click-through activity can help you create powerful stories about your customers’ behaviors.

Turn your reporting meeting into an engaging storytelling session. Narrate stories around each primary customer type, explaining how they behave and engage with your brand. Use visuals and even videos to really help leadership see and buy into the stories.

Then, you can follow up by email with the details – the spreadsheets and documents – supporting the points in the presented stories, thereby ensuring that the transparency box is ticked too.

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Not only can storytelling tactics gain their full attention during the presentation, but they are more likely to convince any content marketing skeptics to support your budget requests.

If you can stop making these six mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to convincing leadership to break the vicious content marketing cycle.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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MARKETING

Follow This Purpose-Driven Path to Greater SEO Success

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Follow This Purpose-Driven Path to Greater SEO Success

Historically, getting content to reach the top of a search engine results page usually hinged on your team’s ability to fulfill the rules of Google’s algorithm – no matter how complex, obscure, and sometimes unwritten.

However, that picture is changing now that AI has arrived behind the scenes of the top search engine, says Dale Bertrand, Fire and Spark’s content and SEO strategist. Its machine learning delivers more precise, adaptive, and contextual search results. It also gives marketers another approach to search result success – a purpose-driven strategy.

Develop a purpose-driven #SEO strategy that would please @Google’s #AI algorithm, says @joderama via @CMIContent @pageonepower. Click To Tweet

At the 2022 ContentTECH Summit and a recent Ask the CMWorld Community interview, Dale discussed what Google’s heavier reliance on an AI-controlled algorithm means and how a purpose-driven approach can help your brand compete with – and even beat – bigger fish in the SEO sea.

Search for greater SEO intelligence

In the early days of digital search, Google’s founders used the web’s link structure to rank the most relevant page results. “Basically, if you had the right links to your website and the right keywords on your pages, you would rank well,” Dale says.

But now, it’s more important to understand how that AI engine gets trained than to follow technical SEO rules. Dale says making this mindset change can help set your content on a path to increased visibility on search and stronger marketing performance overall.

It’s more important now to understand how that #AI engine gets trained than to follow technical #SEO rules, says Dale Bertrand of @Fire_and_Spark via @joderama @CMIContent @pageonepower. Click To Tweet

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Engineers set the technical quality guidelines

Human engineers are still involved in ranking content relevance. But instead of programming the algorithm, their role is to rate a site’s trustworthiness, content accuracy, authoritativeness, and connection to other relevant content providers on the topic at hand.

“That quality information is collected as a big dataset from websites that have been graded, which is part of what they feed into Google’s algorithm to train the AI,” says Dale. There’s a big, long document out there – the web quality raters guide. Any marketer can read it to see what the raters look for when building the training dataset for Google’s AI.”


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AI adds behavioral signals

From that point, Google’s AI engine takes over, tracking search behaviors, analyzing signals of intent, and correlating those insights with the quality rating data to determine the most relevant content to a search query.

But, Dale says, keep in mind: “Google’s AI engine doesn’t care about your content – it only cares about its own performance.” It’s looking for confirmation that the content it selects will deliver a satisfying experience for searchers. Your job is to make sure it sees your brand’s content as a likely win.

Prove your #content has what it takes for better search results. Build momentum through community and demonstrate multifactor authority, says Dale Bertrand of @Fire_and_Spark via @joderama @CMIContent @pageonepower. Click To Tweet

Shared purpose promotes multifactor authority

Dale discusses two ways brands can prove that their content has what it takes to deliver the AI’s desired results:

  • Build momentum through community. A community behind your brand frequently visits, engages with, and links to your website. They recommend your products and services and amplify your site. Dale says these actions demonstrate a high level of customer intimacy. Google’s AI uses the artifacts of success from this content – high engagement, low bounce rate, and a high click-through rate – to confirm your site and content are loved.
  • Demonstrate multifactor authority. Part of AI’s investigation of brands that resonate with online consumers is the company you keep, Dale says. Authoritative individuals, organizations, and influencers can contribute to your brand’s authority by linking to, citing, and amplifying your content across their channels and platforms.

Prove your #content has what it takes for better search results. Build momentum through community and demonstrate multifactor authority, says Dale Bertrand of @Fire_and_Spark via @joderama @CMIContent @pageonepower. Click To Tweet

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How to use purpose to build SEO power

Dale describes an SEO strategy that can help build authority and momentum by focusing on a purpose your brand believes in: “Hopefully, your brand stands for something. But [for SEO], it’s even better if your brand is actively promoting a change that you want to see in your industry.”

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By using your content to build valuable conversations around that change, you give the tools to those with an established interest to spread your brand messages. This data around this reciprocal relationship demonstrates the brand traction Google’s AI sees as proof your content is a solid search bet.

Dale shares a client example:

I worked with one brand that was selling handmade children’s products. The US government was about to pass a law that would have made it so [small businesses like this] would have had to do $100,000 worth of testing before being allowed to sell a single product. We were able to lead the movement against that law and turn that into an SEO campaign that generated authority, backlinks, and website engagement – all the things that Google’s AI is looking for.

He explains the process he used to achieve those results:

Step 1: Find high-profile groups and learn about the causes they support

Find potential partners – influencers, non-profits, advocacy organizations, and others who are working towards a purpose in which your business might have a stake. It could be an organization that’s written about helping previously incarcerated people find jobs, influencers promoting veteran-run businesses, or an event that supports disadvantaged youth in your local community.

When you’ve identified viable candidates, research their positions and how they communicate about them in their online conversations. “You need to understand what issues these influencers care about, what they’re writing about, what’s going on in their social conversations. All of those things are targets for your purpose-driven SEO campaign,” Dale says.

Step 2: Choose a mission your content will support

Once you find an area with enough grassroots supporters, craft a mission statement around it for your brand’s SEO campaign. It should be something your brand can speak to authentically; otherwise, audiences will see right through it. “It has to be based on your organization’s values because you’re going to get behind it. At the end of the day, if you don’t care about feeding hungry children, that just can’t be the mission,” Dale says.

If you’re on the B2B side or operate in a crowded market, it may be worthwhile to adopt a unique or even slightly controversial mission to differentiate your brand. “[You might think] sustainability is a good [purpose to build on], but so many companies have taken this topic on that it doesn’t move the needle from a search marketing perspective,” Dale says.

Rather than just choosing a hot topic, he suggests looking for a niche, such as a critical change affecting the supply chain for your industry or a regulatory issue that impacts product costs, to rally around. Doing so can help insert your brand name into relevant conversations that your bigger, higher-profile competitors may not be associated with.

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Step 3: Create “citable” content aligned with your mission

The goal isn’t to promote your brand’s involvement with the chosen cause; it’s to create content your partner organizations can cite when making their case for the cause. “The content is fuel for their advocacy – it gives them credible, authoritative information they can use in their arguments,” Dale says.

For example, Dale says, interview someone personally affected by the mission, write an opinion piece about the change your business is advocating, or publish an original research report. “This is the type of content that [they] would organically mention and link to while trying to get their point across in their own content conversations. That’s how you’re going to get the deeper engagement and increased backlinks that Google’s AI can see,” says Dale.

Step 4: Reach out to other like-minded influencers

With a body of purpose-focused content cited and linked to, you can increase your content’s authority and reach by sharing the outcomes with other influencers who care about the topic. But rather than conducting a blast email campaign, contact them individually by email or personal message on social channels.

In this outreach, focus your messages on furthering the mission. “We’re not promoting our business, our products, and services, or our content. We’re saying, ‘Hey, I saw that you’re a big advocate for helping previously incarcerated youth find jobs. We’ve got an interview your audience would be interested in … would you help us promote it?’” Dale explains.

Not only are influencers more likely to respond to this type of outreach, but they may be more willing to promote your content without compensation because it helps them create content in an area that they’re passionate about, Dale says.

Fuel a shared purpose and find greater search success

In a crowded landscape, where reaching a top spot on SERPs is harder to achieve than ever, it’s time for marketers to stop trying to outsmart the search algorithm. By putting a shared human purpose at the center of your SEO strategy, your content will broadcast all the signals of authority, relevance, and value Google’s AI is looking for.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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