Monday, November 21, 2016

Content Alone is NOT the End Game

Jacob Baldwin
Global Manager, Digital Marketing
Emerson Climate Technologies

We’ve all heard it–maybe even used it–time and time again. It’s the ever-popular idiom that’s thrown around like mud on the walls in a brainstorming session–Content is King. But what does that really mean? Sure, with the proliferation of conversational search, Hummingbird, even content marketing–content has become the golden child upon which many a strategy hangs, and with good reason. But just as the title of this post implies, content alone is not enough.

What is Content, Anyway?

Ask this question to a room full of marketers and 9 times out of 10, you’ll get a cookie cutter answer: “Webpages, white papers, blog posts, press releases, social media posts”…on and on and on and on. I have a different opinion–to me, content is an articulation of expertise, communicated through the aforementioned channels (blogs, white papers, webpages, etc…). A good way to think about it is to imagine a white paper that has no subject, no words, it’s just a shell–we marketers fill in the shell with expertise that our target market is [ideally] looking for. This is where the other members of the team come into play.

Content and Search

Different studies have varying percentages, but directionally, they’re all telling the same story–businesses and consumers alike are increasingly flocking to search engines to start their research for buying decisions. Some studies show nearly 90% of consumers and more than 70% of businesses start their purchasing research with search engines. Ensuring that your content–your expertise–can be found via search is essential. I am not going to harp on best practices of SEO; resources are plentiful if you take a look. Instead, I am going to focus on how your content marketing and search campaigns can form a symbiotic relationship, helping each other soar to new heights.

The essence of search optimization (paid and organic) is traffic acquisition. We marketers want to attract people who have problems that we can solve, and turn them into leads. It is insane how many marketers write or commission a white paper to be written without selecting target keywords to use throughout the article. Keyword research/strategy is the cornerstone to any solid search marketing program. With the correct keywords selected and infused into your processes from the beginning, the contextual qualifiers and variations of your targeted keyword will manifest organically. And this is huge, considering the latest Google updates. One of the most important aspects to organic search optimization is building earned editorial links. It is essential that you build links into your content to reference pages from your digital properties (and others, if appropriate, but NOT competitors) that have resources for users to dig deeper into a concept, product, or service if they want to. The symbiotic relationship comes in this form: optimization for search helps the content get discovered. Engagement with that content helps drive organic ranking, further helping that content get in front of users’ eyes. It’s a beautiful cycle.

Content, CRO, and Analytics

When considering how content marketing and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) play together, for many organizations, access to some content comes at a price–whether it’s an email address and first name or the completion of a full-fledged business profile. CRO is one of my favorite topics in digital marketing. Great practitioners understand that CRO is where psychology, design, messaging, and UX intersect. Billions can (and have) been made and lost as a direct result of CRO testing. To me, CRO in the simplest terms is the management of the perceived cost to perceived value ratio. If the elements on your page work to effectively communicate your value proposition, and generate interest while reducing friction and anxiety, you’re on the road to success…and a promotion. Oftentimes, this is not the case. Legacy data fields and dependencies on IT are often roadblocks to getting rid of extraneous elements in conversion processes. It is a battle you’ll have to fight. And win.

The Great Machine

Weaving strategies together for content marketing, search optimization, and CRO will pay off in dividends. Each piece, if effectively done, works to bolster the performance of each of the other elements. Content that’s optimized for search, and content portals that are optimized for conversion, will effectively deliver significant gains in return ratios to your marketing efforts. In conclusion, let’s hit on a few key points that we covered today:

  • Let’s be careful not to confuse content with content mediums
  • Optimizing your content for the correct keyword selections from the beginning will help contextual content qualifiers and keyword variations manifest organically within the content
  • A strategic and scientific testing methodology will work to tilt the perceived cost to perceived value ratio in your favor. Achieve this by first ensuring your value proposition clearly articulates the exclusive benefits your product/service offers, then work to add factors supporting the credibility behind these claims. Next, work to remove unnecessary friction from conversion processes. This, in conjunction with your efforts to inspire interest in your offer, will work to reduce the amount of anxiety your users experience in your conversion funnels

Jacob Baldwin is the Global Manager of Digital Marketing at Emerson Climate Technologies. Previously, he was Digital Marketing Manager at One Call Now. Over the past several years, he has been recognized as an emerging expert in the field of digital marketing, speaking at multiple national industry conferences and contributing to numerous notable industry publications. Feel free to reach out to him via Twitter @jacobaldwin, or find him on LinkedIn.