Content has been the big topic of conversation amongst #usdragons in recent days. Rather than posting yet another blog about how important content is (since we know you have crawled out of the cave by now), we decided to get a bit more tactical here. The New Year is the time to put your marketing plan in place and it can be overwhelming to decide where to focus your energy when it comes to creating a content marketing strategy. To help, #usdragons are sharing what we think are going to be the most important content marketing tips for 2014.
Pump Up the Schema
Since everything online creates signals in one way or another, utilizing the markups – authorship, Schema, Twitter Cards, OpenGraph, etc. – to the highest level will help remove the static, and ensure that the entities looking for these signals receive the clearest indication of both context and relevancy. Between Schema markup and the massive changes that Google’s Hummingbird update quietly brought, the content that is really going to fly in 2014 focuses less on old-school SEO best practices like optimizing content for keywords. SEO is constantly evolving and these changes favor the marketers who understand how to take advantage of other details and understand that SEO is one piece of the puzzle. Even refining the social sharing tools with attribution and hashtags will build increased equity across a brand’s digital footprint, resulting in more visitors for a piece of content. Get the most out of your digital properties and content creation as the New Year brings in a re-defined focus of the SEO, social media and digital marketing lens.
Content Driven Towards Conversions
Content shouldn’t be created just for content’s sake. The ultimate goal in content marketing is to acquire more customers. Creating this content in a way to pique the reader’s interest in your company and ultimately have them convert on your website. We should see a shift from “all traffic is good traffic.” Trimming the fat off the incoming traffic to focus on bringing quality engaged users to the website will be a major league change in the upcoming year.
A Fresh Eye on FAQs
As a brand, you want to continually be updating your FAQs page; this is not “set it and forget it” type content. With the Hummingbird update in 2013, making sure you can answer your customers and potential customer’s questions has become increasingly important. Finding additional questions or ways to refresh existing questions should be a part of your day-to-day tasks. Since each member of your team is going to be interacting with your customers or products/services in different ways, each team member needs to be actively contributing ideas. Looking internally is a great first step.
Unsure where else to look? There is probably an abundance of ideas right under your nose. Think about parsing emails, reviewing your contact us or other form submissions, checking on-site search in analytics, pulling in questions from social networks or using Q&A sites to see what industry related questions people are asking.
Be sure to have an effective process in place for gathering and updating this information; put a team member in charge of going through it regularly to pull out ideas and check for missed opportunities. Take time to think about how you can expand on your FAQs – could they become blog posts, white papers, infographics? In a perfect situation, your FAQs would help drive your content creation and your content creation would help create more opportunities to fine-tune your FAQs.
Be Ahead of the Content Marketing Curve
One of the best ways to create highly sought-after content is to be one of the first people to talk about a specific topic. Depending on what vertical you are in, your topics may vary, but the important common factor is to be one of the front-runners in any conversation. This will not only differentiate you, but place you at the top of your industry as a thought-leader.
For one of our clients, a real estate company in New York City, we create content for their blog. Rather than focusing on NYC real estate, we’ve created a NYC lifestyle blog, where we discuss activities to do in the specific neighborhoods where the buildings are located. Some of the greatest pieces of content we’ve created for them are not only timely pieces, but pieces of content that get us ahead of the pack.
For instance, this past Thanksgiving we set an objective that on November 1st we wanted to put out a blog post about the “Best Places to eat Thanksgiving Dinner in NYC”. Not only did we make this decision a month in advance, but we thoroughly researched the restaurants throughout the month. We had the post ready and went live on November 1st. Because we were one of the first blogs to cover this topic, our client benefited from a ton of organic traffic and it was one of the best performing posts of the month.
Convenient and Reliable Sharing of Mobile Images
Sharing great image content captures more attention on social networks, so finding ways to streamline image sharing will continue to evolve. For example, when you’re on the go, it can be inconvenient to manage your images, or unreliable to post them. Have you ever taken a photo from your phone, attached it to a tweet or Facebook post only to have it stuck in limbo uploading through the world’s slowest connection? Then, if and when it finally gets posted, the decent image you saw on your phone screen is actually really blurry on a big screen? In those cases where the image doesn’t have to appear immediately after taking them, take advantage of automatic phone syncing.
Set up your mobile phone (or your clients’ phones) to automatically post any mobile phone photo taken to a private photo album on Facebook and/or Google Plus. Since the images are set to private, no one can see them except you. You can then easily browse through the mobile images on those social networks and choose the best images to share. Then you don’t have to wait for a post or tweet (with a potentially blurry image) and you’ll save time by not having to download the images from your camera onto a computer and then upload them into your social accounts. Once they’re automatically uploaded into your social account, you can view them from a browser anywhere or even view the private album on your Facebook or Google Plus mobile phone app and share any of your images from your phone after you know they’re already safely uploaded. Utilizing these types of effective tactics will become the norm.
Diversify Your Content
Digital marketers took note late in 2013 that Facebook’s famed Edge Rank dramatically changed and with that change came a great challenge to content providers: how can I get my “stuff” in front of my customers? The key is diversification.
In the past, you might have had great success getting engagement, or “likes,” by posting links to your blog, considered an “article” by Facebook. The way to keep that momentum going was just to do more of the same. Well not any more. With the Facebook changes, that article is now far more likely to be seen only by people who have recently interacted with articles. But what about people who “like” videos or photos or just plain-old text posts? Their exposure to your article will be limited. To combat this, Social Media Examiner suggests testing different types of content to see what your customers want to see. We agree, and also suggest you can take a single piece of content and maximize it through different media types.
As you create new content, think about how it can be formatted for multiple purposes. Here’s an example. DragonSearch recently produced a white paper on Boolean search queries for social media monitoring. We shared it through all of our social media channels as a blog post with a link to the white paper. Done? No. We then created a social media queries infographic based on the white paper content that could be shared as an image. Finished? No. We are creating a series of Boolean query videos where the white paper author explains the key points. What else could we do? Collaborate on a webinar? A podcast perhaps? A recorded Google Hangout? A Tweetchat (where we capture the chat in a tool like Storify)?
The point is that you must diversify you content so that you have higher exposure level that reaches people who have a preference for consuming different types of content. This doesn’t just apply to Facebook either; it allows you to target your audience on different platforms where they may be consuming content. Take that Facebook!
Content Creation for Current News Items in Your Industry
There always seems to be a news item breaking related to your industry or endeavor. Monitoring for news and updates by scanning publications and media news sources will keep you in the know and give you the ability to act on relevant news. NPR can be an interesting source of human / public interest current items.
Once a valid topic is identified, time is of the essence. Diligent keyword, trend and psychographic research should be done in an effort to focus the topic. An article or blog post should be immediately written and it should be a resource of information rather than just a recap of the news stories – answer this question: What can I add to this conversation?
Once published on your website – promote and broadcast it on all your social media channels. Make sure you include Google + and consider posting about it multiple times – especially on Twitter at different times of day and with different messages. And don’t forget to add rel=author.
Track your results; if successful, you will see your timely content drive traffic to your website and social networks with the targeted audience you were after.
Making Your Content Shareable with Images
So you’ve just spent all that time concocting an idea, researching it, writing it, revising, and beautifying it, and finally it’s time to press that ‘publish’ button. Except you realize, the only image Facebook can pull in when you post is your company logo. What now? Don’t shrug and press post. Ensure that your content is enticing to potential readers. You’ve already invested so much time in this piece of content. Take one last step to making it eye-grabbing, and sharing your content with an image is a great way to do this.
Be sure that your image is:
- Relevant to your content: If you are displaying an image of a women laying on a hot red mustang for your post about dental hygiene, you are tricking your readers to click through to your content. And in this way, you are attracting the wrong type of audience. Traffic to your site might go up temporarily, but the time spent on site won’t.
- A large high-quality image: You won’t impress anyone by including a pixilated and sized 30×30 image to your post.
- Owned by you: You can get yourself in a lot of trouble with using images you don’t own.
- When appropriate, overlay text onto your image. For example, if your blog post is a list of the top ten cutest puppies, overlay “Top 10 Puppies,” in an aesthetically pleasing way for those that simply look at images alone.
- Lastly, take advantage of alt image tags. These descriptive tags are an easy way to optimize your blog posts with keywords.
Remember to constantly experiment with your images to find out what speaks to your audience and learn what types of images trigger what type of action.
Infographs Are Still Effective
Did you know that 90% of information that comes to the brain is visual? Our society is visually wired and our online culture is continuously inundated with information. We crave data that is displayed in an easy to read and visually compelling manner. Infographics are a great way to satisfy our human urge for data consumption and visualization. In a social network-driven community, infographics are ideal for sharing across all social channels and can also be easily viewed on mobile devices.
As infographics have gained popularity, the resources available to make them have grown so it can be hard to know where to look. I recommend the following resources to help you get started with design and inspiration:
- Visual.ly: The world’s largest community of infographics and data visualization that includes a number of tips and tricks for creating your own.
- FlowingData: Includes a number of tutorials with step-by-step directions on how to create data charts, tables, and maps to use in your next infographic.
A common complaint about infographics is that they are difficult to read. However, a new wave of interactive infographics is on the rise that takes the criticisms of the static infographic and makes them obsolete. The new interactive infographic allows the viewer to scroll, zoon, sort, and to filter providing an even more visually optimized viewing experience. I predict an influx of these types of engaging inforgraphics for the coming year.
Optimize Emails for Mobile
A recent study conducted by Epsilon has concluded that the average open rate for marketing emails in 2013 was 29% which is up 3% over 2012 and expected to increase even more in 2014 due to an almost exponential rise in mobile opens which are now up to 51% of all opens. With the majority of subscribers now opening emails on mobile devices it is essential to optimize you’re your campaigns for mobile.
When optimizing your email campaign for mobile there are 3 simple things to keep in mind: 1) Click space is important, 2) Shorten your subject lines and 3) Landing pages are equally as important as the email design.
With the increasing importance of social media and search engine marketing, many companies who are deciding how they are going to spend their budgets in 2014 are asking themselves if they should continue to focus efforts on email marketing. The answer is definitely YES! Email marketing is not going anywhere any time soon.
In 2013, companies spent up to 20% of their entire marketing budgets on email marketing and this is expected to increase by 10% in 2014. The question then arises “Why are companies spending so much on email marketing?” Well, according to the Direct Marketing Association for every $1 marketers spend on email marketing, the average ROI is $40! Also, in 2013 almost half of email recipients made at least one purchase based on a promotional email.
Mobile Pulling Us Into Cross Channel Content Marketing
As part of mobile marketing, until recently most of the attention was given to designing and developing mobile friendly sites that will display well on the various sized mobile devices. While some attention was given to content for mobile devices, it typically only focused on displaying an abbreviated version of the content from the full website. With the tremendous growth of mobile device usage, designers and content developers have come to realize that not only do we need to optimize content for mobile devices, we need to take a mobile-first approach. That means designing sites for mobile first and writing mobile optimized content before moving on to the more extensive content for the desktop version of the site.
I am very excited to follow how content development and marketing will change as a result of our tendency to consume more and more content using our mobile devices. I believe that we will be seeing more attention given to cross platform content marketing in which various marketing channels will be used to reach the target audience with differently formatted content around the same core topic. This is because we want to consume content around the same topic in different ways/formats on our mobile devices than on our desktops or on TV or billboards, etc.
The science and art of understanding our target audience has already been central to creating content marketing strategies. With mobile becoming the prominent device for users, marketers will be experimenting with what the users are looking for, when they prefer to receive which content format, and how they use each device/channel to consume and connect with our content.
Content Marketing for the Future
What types of content do you see yourself creating in 2014? Where will you be focusing your content marketing strategy in the coming year? Share your thoughts in the comments below.