Despite reports of oversaturation of content and overwhelmed search engines, content creation remains a key strategy component for any inbound marketer looking for increased lead generation, overall brand awareness and growth.
Why? A few big reasons.
- Good content stands the test of time in the eyes of Google for SEO building.
- Good content will be shared, liked and passed around for years, building educational awareness about your product or service.
- And finally, because good content can make a measurable difference in your sales, increases in online traffic and profit margin improvements.
Hubspot recently released The State of Inbound 2016, an annual report that holds some of the most informed predictions for the future of marketing and sales you’re likely to find. Based on the responses from more than 4,500 marketing and sales teams from 132 countries, this report offers a hard look at emerging trends you and your marketing team should focus on in 2017.
Let’s dive into that report a little more looking specifically at what role content plays and more importantly, what key skills the content team of 2017 will need to achieve success.
Skill #1: Polished Storytelling Skills
It’s no surprise to hear that if you want to be a part of a killer content creation team, you need to be a good writer. Aside from spelling and grammar and the general basics, part of what makes a good writer is the ability to tell a story.
You’ll notice as you go through the following list of important content writer skills that good writing is really a foundation of knowing:
- How to ask the right questions
- How to complete effective research
- How to target your writing to a specific audience
- How to find the right audience channels for distribution
So before you panic over your B- in journalism or business writing, know that if your content hits the mark when it comes to messaging, is targeted at the right audience and amplified in channels where your audience hangs out, a minor spelling error won’t make a huge difference in the impact of your content message.
Skill #2: Understanding the User Experience
Writing good content no longer means crafting a catchy headline and throwing in some keywords in the hopes you’re hitting the mark. Understanding the buyer journey, and more importantly, who the user is and how they search for your product or service online must be a top priority.
- 33% of marketers themselves say they struggle with prospecting
- And 20% agree that identifying the ideal lead is a major challenge
The first step, therefore, is having a baseline for who the buyer is and what they are looking for when it comes to your product or service. It is naïve to assume that you can develop a robust content calendar without first knowing the user. How do you do this? Easy. Just ask!
- Ask questions of your internal marketing team or your client – they should be experts on the target audience
- Interview a current customer to get to know their unique buyer journey
- Interview a key prospect and ask what they are looking for and what will make them take action in the sales process
You need to know how to get inside the head of your key prospects. Learn how to conduct interviews, know what questions to ask and how to ask them, and most importantly, know how to build a buyer journey map and how content marketing plays a role in the user experience.
Understanding your key prospects may also involve some serious 1-on-1 time with your sales team. Don’t overlook the importance of an aligned marketing and sales strategy, where you take time to collectively improve prospecting efforts with how buyers want to take action.
Skill #3: Knowledge of SEO Best Practices
If you are currently struggling with SEO, you’re not alone. According to Hubspot’s report, 66% of marketers said that their biggest challenge for 2017 was growing SEO and improving overall organic presence.
Thus, one of the key skills your content team should possess is a thorough knowledge of SEO best practices. In fact, make sure your team can answer questions like:
- How to determine premium keywords by industry, product or service
- How to optimize website pages and content for premium keywords
- How to rank on the first page of search engines
- What key elements every new webpage or blog post should include for SEO
- How to analyze keyword changes over time
- How to prove ROI with keyword ranking
Arm yourself with the tools to make SEO analysis and reporting a priority. If you understand the SEO process and the tools to evaluate progress, you can show measurable ROI to your C-suite or clients on a regular basis.
Our SEO toolbox includes some of these top sites. Which ones do you use?
- Google Console
- Screaming Frog
- Hubspot Analytics
Skill #4: Specialization & Research
Creating good content is about reaching the right audience with the right message that resonates with their specific needs. To do so, it is important not only that you understand your buyer personas, but that you understand the industry as a whole and timely, relevant changes that matter to buyers.
Finding writers who specialize in a specific industry or who know how to search out and find reliable primary sources is extremely important. Buyers are smart and complete research themselves before they make a decision in their buyer journey. As such, your content team needs to be one step ahead; arming buyers with the information they need to build trust in the product or service you are selling.
If you can, add industry experts to your content team in 2017. Whether you find a great freelance writer with the knowledge you need, or you take the time to build your internal knowledge foundation, industry expertise is a must for 2017. Because a key aspect of good content creation is knowing what aspects of industry news, trending data and high level research will make an impact on sparking buyer interest.
Skill #5: Promotion and Amplification Knowledge and Strategy
Now you’ve likely already heard A LOT about the importance of content promotion and amplification. Perhaps because the folks who write those articles know what they are doing when it comes to promotion and amplification? Hmm…
In any event, it is important that you have a strategy around every single piece of content. In all honestly, you shouldn’t even write a piece of content unless it has a defined target audience and a distribution plan. Who is going to read it? How will they share it? What influencers might be interested in viewing it?
Think beyond your own website and blog platform and consider external publishing outlets. Think native advertising, think guest blog posts and syndicated articles. Think big!
In addition to submitted and / or published content, one of the main areas Hubspot’s report addressed was what channels of distribution marketers thought they’d add to their marketing mix in 2017. No surprise here, really:
- 48% said they were going to add more video to YouTube
- 39% said they were going to launch more Facebook video
User preferences are changing. People use mobile devices to check email, Facebook and shop online. Video aligns perfectly with the fast-paced lifestyles and the immediate sense of satisfaction that busy buyers want and need.
If no one is viewing your content it is likely because it doesn’t align with what buyers want to consume.
- People like to skim blog posts (so try using bullet points)
- People pay more attention to video
- People love social media posts, especially with compelling photos
- People love news articles; they love feeling informed, even if that information is not objective or even really news!
Building upon that point, a 2016 consumer behavior study established what consumers wanted more of. They responded accordingly:
- 45% of respondents wanted more social media posts
- 44% requested more news articles
- 43% said more video
- 33% wanted more online classes, education tools and games
- 31% stated more research content
- 29% said blogs
- Only 17% wanted more podcasts
In the past two years, social content consumption has increased 57% on Facebook, 25% on Twitter and 21% on LinkedIn.
Once you establish your target audience and the messages they want to hear, find out how they best consume content. Maybe your audience will love video, or perhaps they’d prefer a research paper or a news article.
First and foremost, make sure you have a content promotion strategy, and then, cater your content and distribution strategy around consumer preferences. You’ll get more eyeballs on your content and you’ll see better engagement and results if you put the work in up front to find the right channels of distribution.
Skill #6: Measurement Tactics to Evaluate ROI
According to Hubspot’s report, 43% of marketers responded that measuring and tracking ROI is one of the biggest challenges they face. Website views, blog engagement and social media sharing are great, but those clicks and views don’t necessarily translate into dollars (and sense) in the eyes of your C-suite or client.
So how do you navigate in a world where tracking is complex and ROI is hard to prove? Think small.
Iterate and adjust your content, social, distribution and
promotion strategy based on data and trial.
How can you know WHAT is making a difference in your content or campaign if you don’t have measurable changes that can be directly attributed to success (or failure!). Making small adjustments over time and tracking incremental changes might sound painful, but when you have a polished analytics report at the end of your campaign you’ll be happy you did it.
While 61% of marketers felt their organization’s marketing strategy was effective, that doesn’t mean they have the data to prove it. Consider establishing trackable metrics on every aspect of your content plan and campaigns and make small adjustments over time to get the exact results you want.
Some of our favorite tracking tools include:
- Google Search Console
As the seasons change year after year, you can be sure that buyer preferences do as well. It is your job as a marketer to adjust your strategy accordingly, to continually attract and delight your customers.
What skill listed above do you think will make the biggest difference for your content team?