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Why Your Nonprofit Should Invest in Search Engine Optimization

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Why Your Nonprofit Should Invest in Search Engine Optimization

Every company needs a strong marketing strategy — even nonprofits.

However, most nonprofits haven’t considered investing in search engine optimization (SEO), even though it can have one of the highest returns on investment.

SEO, specifically for nonprofits, is the process of optimizing your website to increase organic visibility when people search for topics like education, fundraising opportunities, volunteer opportunities, or other aspects that promote your mission.

Let’s dive into what SEO is, how it works, and SEO best practices for nonprofits.

What is SEO?

SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, is the process of driving users to your site from search engines organically. This means you aren’t paying for ads, using social media, or placing sponsored content to attract new users.

The goal of SEO is to help your site rank as high as possible for target keywords and phrases relevant to your website and mission.

For example, if your nonprofit is geared towards wildlife conservation, you would want to rank high organically for terms related to wildlife conservation. The higher your website or pages rank in the search engine result pages (SERPs), the more likely users will see it and click on it. Studies have shown that the higher you rank, the higher the average click-through-rate (CTR) is.

If you’d like a full rundown on SEO, take a look at The Ultimate Guide to SEO in 2022.

How does SEO work?

There are hundreds of factors that Google and other search engines take into account when ranking your site or content. These factors come from the three different pillars of SEO which are the following:

  • Technical optimization
  • On-page optimization
  • Off-page optimization

Search engines are powered by people when they have a query and search for answers. Search engines use algorithms that decide what content and websites best fit the answer for the query. There are three steps that search engines take when assessing a site: crawling the site, indexing the site, and lastly, ranking the site.

Crawling, also known as the discovery stage, occurs first, then search engines decide if the pages should be indexed or shared on the search engine result pages and available for users to see and find. Lastly, the algorithm ranks the content in the search results, which is how users find your website or web page.

SEO for Nonprofits

So why should nonprofits invest in SEO? Well, SEO is just as important for nonprofits as it is for other companies. It is an affordable and effective long-term marketing strategy.

Investments you make in SEO today may take a while to pay-off, but they will continue to do so for years to come. SEO can take awhile to see the results due several factors, such as keyword difficulty, competition, domain age, and to trust of search engines and users. In general, it can take four to six months to see some movement in rankings and site health.

Increasing organic visibility of your nonprofit also increases the visibility of the mission you stand for while growing your brand awareness. Using SEO will help your pages move up in search engine rankings, creating a higher click-through-rate, more impressions, and overall, more traffic.

How to Measure SEO Success

Depending on your goals and what you want to accomplish, there may be multiple aspects you’d like to measure and evaluate for success, such as:

  • Keywords
  • Organic traffic
  • Market share compared to competitors
  • Conversions
  • Backlinks
  • Page rankings

Some goals for your nonprofit might include having more priority keywords move into the top 10 positions, increasing organic traffic on specific pages, or increasing organic conversions.

SEO Best Practices for Nonprofits

If you’re confused or intimidated by the idea of becoming discoverable online and creating a successful SEO strategy, we’ve got you covered.

Here are the five best SEO practices to focus on for your nonprofit this year.

1. Keyword research should create your content strategy.

It’s important to know what your prospective and ideal customers are searching for and what their journey is. Search engine rankings are determined by algorithms that use quite a few factors to decide how well a webpage answers a query.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as throwing keywords into your content, so here are a few things to consider.

Search Intent

A query or keyword can have multiple meanings depending on the person or where they are in the user journey. They might be looking for more information, directions, or to make a purchase or donation, and each of those actions would need a different query. It’s important to make sure that the right keyword goes with the right piece of content.

Relevant Keywords

If you’re a nonprofit that works with homeless communities, a long-tail keyword you might want to focus on could be “how to help homeless communities”. Knowing this, you can create content and resources that will drive users to your site. You should avoid keywords that don’t truly represent your brand or what you offer.

Long-tail keywords are keywords or phrases that are more specific, and usually longer than common keywords. An example of a long-tail keyword might be “light blue beach hat” and a short-tail keyword would be “hat” or “beach hat”. Shorter-tailed keywords are usually harder to rank for, but have more traffic. Longer-tailed keywords have less traffic but a higher conversion rate, which is ideal for most nonprofits.

Additional thoughts:

  • It can often be easier to target long-tail keywords (a phrase vs. a one-word term), which drive more qualified traffic
  • There are different keywords targeting users at each part of the sales funnel
  • Keyword research takes time and evolves as well

Google offers a great free keyword research tool that can also be used for SEO. If you’re looking for a more SEO specific platform, MOZ and SEMRush are two great platforms that both offer nonprofit pricing.

2. Create high-quality content.

Content will always be one of the most important ranking factors. Not only is it essential to have SEO-optimized content, but the quality is important, as well. Google wants to ensure that you’re publishing content that follows their E-A-T standards.

The concept of E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, is considered an SEO best practice when creating content. These factors help Google avoid sharing and feeding inaccurate or misleading information. You can follow these factors from Google by:

  • Updating old content to make sure it’s relevant
  • Ensuring the content is accurate
  • Allowing experts or other writers to create content for you

Along with E-A-T, make sure that your content follows the best on-page practices. This includes focusing on a primary keyword, adding metadata, using proper headings, adding alternative text (ALT text) to your image, and using internal linking, to name a few.

3. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly.

A majority of users across all industries use their phones instead of desktop computers as of 2022.

Additionally, Google crawls sites using a Google phone bot to make sure your site is mobile-friendly. This means your site is able to shrink down and fit on any screen while still allowing users to access your content as easily as on a desktop.

Mobile-friendliness is a ranking signal in both Google and Bing’s algorithms when a user is searching on a mobile device. If your website is mobile-friendly, it generally will outrank non-mobile-friendly sites.

There are several tools available to test you website’s mobile-friendliness:

Google’s results via Page Speed Insights

4. Link-building is crucial to create brand awareness.

Nonprofits can struggle with getting donations due to lack of overall brand awareness and organic visibility. Link-building relies on creating authoritative content that other sites will want to link share with and link back to. A great example of this is allowing your annual reports to be sharable for others to see.

One strategy to consider would be to reach out to partners or sponsors and see if they will link back to you on their site and in their content. This is especially important for pages you want to drive traffic to.

5. Local SEO is very relative for most nonprofits.

Local SEO is very beneficial for nonprofits because it can help bring people to a fundraising event or even attract volunteers. For example, if you search “food drive near me” on Google, local listings will pop up. This is because they have focused on a local SEO strategy by utilizing their Google Business Profile.

Google Business Profile allows you to gather reviews, add images and videos, and ensure that your information is up to date for users. You can also add FAQs with answers for users to see as well. All of this helps organizations land on the top of Google listings for this query.

Nonprofit SEO Case Study

Finally, let’s explore how two nonprofits — diaTribe and CreakyJoints — excelled using SEO.

First, diaTribe, a diabetes organization that aims at providing education and resources for those living with diabetes, leveraged an SEO strategy to reach new audiences during the pandemic.

The nonprofit focused on keywords that had low competition, and we helped the organization capitalize on highly-relevant topics based on keyword research data.

As a result, the organization hit all their website traffic and subscriber goals — helping grow their email list by 28% and their website traffic 15% year-over-year.

Next, Media Cause started working with CreakyJoints, a leading support, education, advocacy, and research organization for people living with arthritis and rheumatic disease, in August 2018 to increase organic search traffic.

 By monitoring and resolving SEO-related issues, optimizing existing pages for Google search crawlers, and providing content recommendations based on keyword research, we helped CreakyJoints quadruple their monthly search traffic after just five months.

Today, CreakyJoints’ content is reaching 4x the number of people it used to. That means more people living with arthritis and chronic pain are learning how to navigate their patient journey better, including learning about the long-term effects of their medications, safe and effective ways to manage their symptoms, and how to lead healthy and empowered lives thanks to CreakyJoints.

Investing in an SEO strategy and working on it over time will pay off immensely for your nonprofit in the long run, and it’s cost-effective. While it may take up to six months, you’ll see an increase in your organic and qualified traffic that will help increase visibility for your mission and create better engagement.

By implementing the tips above or working with an agency that is dedicated to promoting your mission, you’ll convert users and help drive them to you.

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Five questions for our new CMO, Shafqat Islam

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Five questions for our new CMO, Shafqat Islam



Alex Atzberger: Now that you’ve stepped into the CMO role, what are you looking forward to?   

Shafqat Islam: It’s amazing to take on this role at both a category creator and leader. How many brands can be a leader in almost every category–think Experimentation and CMS–that we play in?  

And we have so much to look forward to and build on. We have an exceptional team of marketing leaders and practitioners. They are fiercely intelligent, optimistic, and care deeply about what our products can *do* for our customers. Not just for the people who will encounter the marketing, retail, and product experiences that we support, but for the people who build them. As somebody who has both built products and been deeply immersed in marketing, I love the perspective that our team has.  

Alex Atzberger: What makes Optimizely unique?   

Shafqat Islam: First off, we’re category creators in experimentation and content management, both CMS and CMP. Marketers know this, and analysts know it, as something like 7 major analyst reports will tell you.  

Martech is a crowded field, so it’s true that there are a lot of firms whose territory overlaps with some of ours. But show me another company that can handle the entire content lifecycle like we can. Or show me another company that can do both feature flagging and experimentation.  

We also have a legendary legacy in the martech world. Before I joined, I knew that A/B testing and Optimizely were synonymous, and that the company’s roots go all the way back to the origins of the practice. And that’s something that is like common folklore in marketing and technology.  

And more than anything, the 1500 people who work here are world-class. 

Alex Atzberger: Being a CMO talking to other CMOs and marketing leaders is an advantage. You know the customer. But you’ve also built tech products. How does that affect your work now?  

Shafqat Islam: I’ve spent the majority of my adult life building products for marketers. So I’ve been lucky to spend so much time talking to CMOs and marketers in almost every type of company all over the world. As the founder/CEO of Welcome, my approach was to solve marketer challenges by building products. But now as CMO, I get to use the products we build.  

We’re practitioners of all of our own solutions, so in addition to the natural empathy I have for marketers, I am also close to the job’s unique challenges every day. There’s nothing like that to keep you sharp and keep you close to the customer.  

As a product builder, I knew we must always speak to business outcomes. But as CMO, I love that we aren’t just talking about the solutions – we’re living them, too.  

Because I was an entrepreneur for so long, I also bring another unique view – my willingness to take smart risks. I love to try things, even if (especially if?) the results are sometimes surprising. When it comes to experimentation, there are no failures, only learnings. 

Alex Atzberger: What are the biggest challenges you’re hearing from our customers, current and future?  

Shafqat Islam: Growth, especially given how tough it is out there for so many industries. The stakes are very high when it comes to creating experiences that will win and retain customers. That’s what all of our customers–especially the retail heavyweights-are thinking about.  

And marketing and technology leaders need to do this with leaner budgets. Efficiency matters a lot right now, and that means not only reducing the costs you can see, like the price tag attached to software, but also the costs you can’t see right away, like how much time and money it takes to manage a set of solutions. With that said, in tough times, I think the strongest brands can not just survive but also thrive. I also think when others are fearful, that may be the time to invest aggressively. 

And in the background of all this, there is still the ever-expanding list of customer touchpoints. This is simultaneously an exciting challenge for marketers and an exciting opportunity. More data means more effective storytelling– if you can use it right.

I also hear marketers when they say there’s a need for a shared space for collaboration among us. The role of the marketer is expansive, and it’s only getting more complicated. Building a community where we can come together and appreciate our shared goals is difficult, but I’m optimistic that we’re moving in the right direction.  

Alex Atzberger: What is next in our space? What will marketing and technology leaders be talking about six months from now?  

Shafqat Islam: Looking around now, it’s clear that 2023 will be the year that AI-generated content goes mainstream. We’re just starting to see the uses and the consequences of this. There’s already buzz about ChatGPT and its capabilities, and platforms are already making space to integrate AI functionality into their offerings. It could be an exciting way for users to become better equipped to create and share high-quality content.  

Customers also have gotten very used to personalization. Every screen they see daily is personalized, whether it’s their Netflix account or social feeds. So, when I see a site that isn’t personalized, I kind of scratch my head and wonder, why? With personalization now the norm, expectations for digital creators are sky-high.

Read the official press release.


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What to Consider When Choosing a Brand Ambassador for Your Social Media Campaign

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What to Consider When Choosing a Brand Ambassador for Your Social Media Campaign

Want to maximize the potential of your social media campaign? Then you must ensure to choose the right brand ambassador for the job. Having a good ambassador will increase your social media reach and boost sales. But, selecting the best ambassador can be tricky.

This guide will show you the key steps to consider when selecting the perfect brand ambassador for your social media campaign. From assessing their influence to ensuring their content matches your brand’s mission. This guide will give you the insights you need to make the right decision.

Understanding the role of a brand ambassador

A brand ambassador acts as a company representative, promoting the brand’s products to a specific audience. They are selected for their influence and ability to communicate the brand’s message. Their primary goal is to increase brand awareness and engagement with the audience.

To achieve this, an ambassador shares the brand’s message and builds connections with the target audience. They help to establish trust and credibility for the brand by personally endorsing it through their own experiences. Also, they provide valuable feedback to the company, allowing for product improvements.

Tips for choosing the right ambassador for your social media campaign

1) Assess the credibility and influence of potential ambassadors.

One of the first steps is to ensure they have a very active social media presence. Make sure they have many followers and a high engagement rate. Check the number of followers they have and the type of posts they share. This will give you a good idea of the content they generate and let you know if they are a good fit for your campaign.

Make sure their posts are relevant and appropriate for your brand. If their content is not a good fit, you may want to reconsider hiring them for your campaign. This is important if your brand has a particular message you wish to convey to your audience. If their content is not in line with your brand’s values, it could have a negative effect on your brand’s image.

2) Analyze the compatibility between the ambassador’s content and your brand’s mission.

It’s common to think that a famous ambassador would be a good fit for your campaign. But if their content is not in line with your brand, they are not an option. You may want to go further and check the interaction between their posts and followers. If the interaction is very high and followers actively participate, this is a good indicator of the quality of the ambassador. This will show how much impact the ambassador has among their followers. The interaction of the followers with the ambassador’s posts is important, as it is a good way for them to get to know your brand better.

3) Make sure the ambassador is present on the right social networks.

If your brand uses more than one type of social media, you should ensure the ambassador is present on them. You can choose an ambassador who is active on most of the major social networks. But, you must ensure they have an appropriate presence on each platform.

For example, it may not be a good idea to select an ambassador who is primarily active on Instagram for a Facebook-centric campaign. Remember that followers on each platform are different, and it’s important to reach your desired audience. If the ambassador you choose is present on the right social media platform, it will be easier for them to reach your audience.

4) Set expectations and establish the terms of the partnership.

Once you have selected an ambassador and they have agreed to collaborate with your brand, set the terms of the collaboration. Set clear expectations and tell the ambassador precisely what you want them to do. This includes specifying the type of content that should be posted. It is also important to outline the kind of connection that should be fostered between their followers and your company.

Also, be sure to establish payment terms and any other essential partnership details. For example, if you want the ambassador to promote your brand at a specific event, let them know so they can prepare.

5) Consider brand ambassadors who have experience participating in events.

A brand ambassador with experience working at events and comfortable interacting with customers can be a valuable asset to your campaign. They will be able to promote your brand and products at events and help to build a positive image for your company.

Find a brand ambassador who is professional and comfortable in a high-energy environment. This will ensure they can effectively represent your brand and engage with customers at events. Hire an event staffing agency to ensure the event runs smoothly and let brand ambassadors focus on promoting the brand and connecting with the audience.

6) Complete the selection and onboarding process

Make sure you select an available ambassador with the right skills for your campaign. Verify that the ambassador’s availability matches your campaign schedule.

It’s a good idea to start interacting with the ambassador on social media. It will help you establish a strong relationship, making promoting your brand more accessible. Show the audience that they have rallied behind your brand and thank them for their support.

7) Follow-up and evaluation of the ambassador’s success

Once the campaign is over, follow up with the ambassador to test its success. Ask the ambassador if your promotion has been effective and get their feedback on the campaign. This is an excellent way to improve your campaign the next time you run it. It will also help you identify areas where you can improve your social media strategy.

You can test the success of your social media campaign by looking at three main factors: reach, engagement, and conversions. By considering these factors, you can determine the success of your social media campaign. Also, you can identify any areas that need improvement.

Conclusion

Brands use brand ambassadors to increase engagement and sales of their products. An ambassador has a large following and regularly interacts with your audience. When selecting an ambassador, consider factors such as their social media presence and the ability to communicate your brand’s message. Taking the time to choose the proper brand ambassador will ensure the success of your social media campaign.

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Content Operations Framework: How To Build One

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Content Operations Framework: How To Build One

More and more marketers of all ilk – inbound, outbound, social, digital, content, brand – are asked to add content operations to their list of responsibilities.

You must get your arms around:

  • Who is involved (and, I mean, every who) in content creation
  • How content is created
  • What content is created by whom
  • Where content is conceived, created, and stored
  • When and how long it takes for content to happen
  • Why content is created (the driving forces behind content creation)
  • What kinds of content does the audience want
  • How to build a framework to bring order and structure to all of this

The evolving expectations mean content marketers can no longer focus only on the output of their efforts. They must now also consider, construct, implement, and administer the framework for content operations within their organizations.

#Content marketers can no longer focus solely on the output. It’s time to add content ops to the mix, says @CathyMcKnight via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

What exactly are content operations?

Content operations are the big-picture view of everything content-related within your organization, from strategy to creation, governance to effectiveness measurement, and ideation to content management. All too frequently at the companies – large and small – we consult with at The Content Advisory, content operations are left to evolve/happen in an organic fashion.

Teams say formal content operations aren’t necessary because “things are working just fine.”

Translation: Nobody wants the task of getting everyone aligned. No one wants to deal with multiple teams’ rationale for why the way they do things is the right/best/only way to do it. So, content teams just go on saying everything is fine.

News flash – it’s not.

It’s not just about who does what when with content.

Done right, content operations enable efficacy and efficiency of processes, people, technologies, and cost. Content ops are essential for strategic planning, creation, management, and analysis for all content types across all channels (paid, earned, owned) and across the enterprise from ideation to archive.

A formal, documented, enforced content operation framework powers and empowers a brand’s ability to deliver the best possible customer experiences throughout the audiences’ journeys.

A documented, enforced #ContentOperations framework powers a brand’s ability to deliver the best possible experiences, says @CathyMcKnight via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

It doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds.

What holds many content, administrative, and marketing teams back from embracing a formal content operations strategy and framework is one of the biggest, most challenging questions for anything new: “Where do we start?”

Here’s some help in high-level, easy-to-follow steps.

1. Articulate the purpose of content

Purpose is why the team does what it does. It’s the raison d’etre and inspiration for everything that follows. In terms of content, it drives all content efforts and should be the first question asked every time content is created or updated. Think of it as the guiding star for all content efforts.

In Start With Why, author Simon Sinek says it succinctly: “All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.”

All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year, says @SimonSinek via @CathyMcKnight and @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

2. Define the content mission

Once the purpose of the teams’ content efforts is clear (and approved), it’s time to define your content mission. Is your content’s mission to attract recruits? Build brand advocacy? Deepen relationships with customers? Do you have buy-in from the organization, particularly the C-suite? This is not about identifying what assets will be created.

Can you talk about your mission with clarity? Have you created a unique voice or value proposition? Does it align with or directly support a higher, corporate-level objective and/or message? Hint: It should.

Answering all those questions solidifies your content mission.


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The marketer’s field manual to content operations

A hands-on primer for marketers to upgrade their content production process – by completing a self-audit and following our step-by-step best practices. Get the e-book.


3. Set and monitor a few core objectives and key results

Once your content mission is in place, it is time to set out how to determine success.

Content assets are called assets for a reason; they possess real value and contribute to the profitability of your business. Accordingly, you need to measure their efficacy. One of the best ways is to set OKRs – objectives and key results. OKRs are an effective goal-setting and leadership tool for communicating objectives and milestones to achieve them.

OKRs typically identify the objective – an overall business goal to achieve – and three to five key quantifiable, objective, measurable outcomes. Finally, establish checkpoints to ensure the ultimate objective is reached.

Let’s say you set an objective to implement an enterprise content calendar and collaboration tool. Key results to track might include:

  • Documenting user and technical requirements
  • Researching, demonstrating, and selecting a tool
  • Implementing and rolling out the tool.

You would keep tabs on elements/initiatives, such as securing budget and approvals, defining requirements, working through procurement, and so on.

One more thing: Make sure OKRs are verifiable by defining the source and metric that will provide the quantifiable, measurable result.

Make sure objectives and key results are verifiable by defining source and metric, says @CathyMcKnight via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

4. Organize your content operations team

With the OKRs set, you need people to get the work done. What does the structure look like? Who reports to whom?

Will you use a centralized command-and-control approach, a decentralized but-supported structure, or something in between? The team structure and organization must work within the construct and culture of the larger organization.

Here’s a sample organizational chart we at TCA developed for a Fortune 50 firm. At the top is the content function before it diverges into two paths – one for brand communications and one for a content center of excellence.

Under brand communications is each brand or line of business followed by these jointly connected teams: content – marcom, social/digital content development and management, center of excellence content – creative leader, center of excellence PR/media relations, customer relationship management, and social advertising.

Under the content center of excellence is the director of content strategy, manager of content traffic, projects, and planning, digital asset operations manager, audience manager, social channel and content specialist, creative manager, content performance and agility specialist, and program specialist.

Click to enlarge

5. Formalize a governance model

No matter how the operational framework is built, you need a governance model. Governance ensures your content operations follow agreed-upon goals, objectives, and standards.

Get a senior-management advocate – ideally someone from the C-suite – to preside over setting up your governance structure. That’s the only way to get recognition and budget.

To stay connected to the organization and its content needs, you should have an editorial advisory group – also called an editorial board, content committee, or keeper of the content keys. This group should include representatives from all the functional groups in the business that use the content as well as those intricately involved in delivering the content. The group should provide input and oversight and act as touchpoints to the rest of the organization.

Pointing to Simon Sinek again for wisdom here: “Passion alone can’t cut it. For passion to survive, it needs structure. A why without how has little probability of success.”

6. Create efficient processes and workflows

Adherence to the governance model requires a line of sight into all content processes.

How is content generated from start to finish? You may find 27 ways of doing it today. Ideally, your goal would be to have the majority (70% or more) of your content – infographic, advertisement, speech for the CEO, etc. – created the same or in a similar way.

You may need to do some leg work to understand how many ways content is created and published today, including:

  • Who is involved (internal and external resources)
  • How progress is tracked
  • Who the doers and approvers are
  • What happens to the content after it’s completed

Once documented, you can streamline and align these processes into a core workflow, with allowances for outlier and ad-hoc content needs and requests.

This example of a simple approval process for social content (developed for a global, multi-brand CPG company) includes three tiers. The first tier covers the process for a social content request. Tier two shows the process for producing and scheduling the content, and tier three shows the storage and success measurement for that content:

Click to enlarge

7. Deploy the best-fit technology stack

How many tools are you using? Many organizations grow through acquisitions, so they inherit duplicate or overlapping functionality within their content stacks. There might be two or three content management systems (CMS) and several marketing automation platforms.

Do a technology audit, eliminate redundancies, and simplify where possible. Use the inherent capabilities within the content stack to automate where you can. For example, if you run a campaign on the first Monday of every month, deploy technology to automate that process.

The technology to support your content operations framework doesn’t have to be fancy. An Excel spreadsheet is an acceptable starting place and can be one of your most important tools.

The goal is to simplify how content happens. What that looks like can vary greatly between organizations or even between teams within an organization.

Adopting a robust content operations framework requires cultural, technological, and organizational changes. It requires sponsorship from the very top of the organization and adherence to corporate goals at all levels of the organization.

None of it is easy – but the payoff is more than worth it.

Updated from a November 2021 post.

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

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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