How to Build Your Own Content Marketing Taxonomy

Melvin Dewey invented the Dewey Decimal system in 1873 to classify and organize library books. It enabled library goers to easily find whatever book they desired by leafing through index cards in a small filing cabinet. Unfortunately, content marketing doesn’t come with a pre-existing content marketing taxonomy like the Dewey Decimal system.

the library version of a content marketing taxonomy

Too many times content marketers get asked by another employee if they have some random type of content on some random topic.

And too many times content marketers respond, ‘I’m pretty sure we do, but I’m not quite sure where it is. Let me take two hours out of my day to try to find it for you.’ Except not the last part.

Not that is, until they decide to revamp their content marketing taxonomy.

What Is a Content Marketing Taxonomy?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines taxonomy as “a scheme of classification.” In content marketing, that means:

Content marketing taxonomy is a scheme of classification made up of titling, folder organizing, tagging, and any other way of organizing content that aides in your content marketing’s findability, content marketing strategy, and content marketing distribution.

Why Is a Content Marketing Taxonomy Important?

Having an effective content marketing taxonomy isn’t just about the ‘findability’ of your content. It helps put your content strategy and goals into perspective, allowing you to ascertain content priorities based on what’s in an item’s name. It also simplifies content audits—which should be performed at least once a year.  

Of B2C and B2B marketers, 56 percent and 64 percent respectively admit they don’t have a documented content marketing strategy. A content marketing taxonomy aids content strategizing by organizing content in an easy-to-understand way for marketers to analyze data and gaps.

A clear and concise content marketing taxonomy improves the readability of your editorial calendar. It allows all parties to know what kind of content you’re creating at a glance.

Natalya Minkovsky, editor for the Content Marketing Institute’s Chief Content Officer magazine, says that:

Taxonomy is about so much more the categorizing content. When crafting a content strategy, we consider the people, processes, and technologies that support the content throughout its lifecycle. The same goes for creating taxonomy. As content strategists, we have to think about taxonomy from the perspective of what terms and structure will help the content perform best and support the organization’s business goals. We also have to consider the longevity and flexibility of the taxonomy.

Future Proof and Organize Your Content

A well constructed content marketing taxonomy also helps future content strategy execution. It simplifies new audience-facing strategies by allowing you to slice and dice data in multiple ways. If you already tag content based on personas and want to personalize your audience experience, a content taxonomy helps determine which content to serve to whom.

Likewise if you’re looking to create a “recommended content” module. It’s much easier to automate data associations when you tag your content by topic or campaign. A content marketing taxonomy also helps organize your system of reusing, revamping, and re-promoting older content on different platforms or to new audiences.

A content marketing taxonomy helps determine how your website content should be organized. For example, with a well-organized taxonomy you can see which content types have the best bounce rates, click-through-rates, or time on page metrics. These insights help determine the order and flow of content on your website.

Content Marketing Taxonomy Planning (With Template)

When planning a content marketing taxonomy, first consider the constraints of your content marketing platform and other software for housing or planning content. Some software has preset fields to fill in for each piece of content, so missing tags have to be included in the name. Other software allows custom fields, so most tagging can happen separately, providing more opportunities for slicing data by multiple fields at once.

This is what content tagging looks like for a piece of content in Curata’s content marketing platform (CMP):

[SE]_ContentMarketingPlatformAnalytics_OneSheet

Fields (in CMP):
Distribution Method: Sales Enablement
Stage: BOFU
Author: Sasha Laferte
Persona: N/A
Topic: Analytics
Campaign/Content Marketing Pyramid: N/A

Consider including the following elements in a content marketing taxonomy.

For Written Content

  • Distribution Method: This field allows you to separate the analytics for content items depending on how they’re shared. For instance, Curata’s sales team gets a separate content link for one sheets, eBooks etc., even if a gated version or blog version also exists. It helps us understand how content performs when shared by the sales team, and which content closes.
  • Content Type: We include content type in the title because a name alone doesn’t always tell you all you need to know. Our content types include long form blog posts, eBooks, infographics, case studies, one sheets, and more.
  • Content Title: Use the exact title of an eBook, blog post, or other piece of content in the title in your system for searchability. Inaccurate titles make life harder.
  • Stage: This helps determine which metrics to examine to see if content is performing the way it was intended.
  • Campaign: Allows searchers to look at a campaign’s metrics holistically and find all content created for a particular campaign theme.
  • Author: Included to find options by an author or to compare author performance.
  • Persona: Including personas allows you to find gaps in content creation, and enables future personalization and recommended content efforts.
  • Topic: Topics also help you to look for gaps in content creation and allow for future personalization and recommended content efforts.

When separating by “content type” or “distribution method,” define what these mean. This way everyone dealing with the new taxonomy understands what each section means. It also ensures there aren’t duplicate fields. For instance, if someone posts all sales enablement content under [SE] but others call it sales enablement, you won’t be able to consistently find the content you’re looking for. Tracking and analytics based on this distribution method will also be incomplete or inaccurate.

For Images

  • Size: Important for knowing how the resolution will look on different pages.
  • Type: If you’re looking for infographics, charts, etc., this makes these pieces of content easier to find.
  • Description: Allows searchers to look for content images based on keywords.

Tags, Categories, or Titles

Once you’ve determined which information needs to be included in your content marketing taxonomy, decide which information should be part of the title (and where). Include what should be included as a tag, what should be included as category, and whether or not any of this information should be externally visible to help your audience find the content they need. Here’s how we determined which piece of information fits where, and why:

  • Title
    A title should cover the factors most likely to be searched for within a CMP. Clearly outline the structure of titles and explain the options within each section of the title.
  • Tags
    A tag helps group your blog posts by topics. A content item can have multiple tags attached to it. Tags are keywords or phrases for the content item. As Blogging Basics 101 puts it, “If categories are your blog’s table of contents, tags are your blog’s index.” Curata uses tags and fields as two methods of labeling and grouping content. You can also use fields for campaign, author, length, and stage. Be aware if your tags are visible to the audience—as in WordPress—before determining what to include.
  • Categories
    A category is:

… a topic you address on your blog. Your category list is like the table of contents for your blog. Categories are broad and can encompass smaller, more defined topics (i.e., tags). A category title should be descriptive and can be several words long.
Blogging Basics 101

The difference between an externally visible blog category and a tag is that a category is designed for a broad grouping; a tag describes specific detail.

Externally Visible Tags and Categories

If your CMP forces content tags or categories to be externally visible, things can get tricky. You probably don’t want your audience to see your “BOFU” or “Content Marketing Carey” tag.

One solution is to store content on a community drive outside your CMP, and organize by folder and title. Create a graphic that displays the folder hierarchy that’s accessible company-wide. Determine whether the way you organize content is hierarchal, more like a funnel, wheel, or something different, and base your folder or organizational structure on this schema. It will make content more findable and assist you in streamlining the organizational process.

At Curata we keep content in both locations to fit the individual preferences of various departments. The spreadsheet below in our Google drive is also used to find content. The taxonomy is the same, but the organization is slightly different. This allows our sales team to find our content without sorting through pieces they don’t need or learning a new taxonomy. We ultimately decided to retain this inherited format to keep things simple for sales. It also allows for easy sorting based on content type, and includes a link to the content (with tracking parameters).

Having an external tagging and categorizing system as well as an internal taxonomy enriches your website’s metadata and boosts your SEO.

Implementation

Implementing a new content marketing taxonomy requires change management. There are several ways to go about this—here’s what we recommend.

Prior to developing a content taxonomy, assemble as diverse a team as possible to collect opinions and feedback. Content taxonomy can impact everyone from marketers to designers to engineers and salespeople. Getting their buy-in and feedback beforehand can save future headaches. Once you determine an official taxonomy, here are some simple steps to roll the program out company-wide.

  1. Send an email notifying the entire company of the upcoming change
  2. Make taxonomy changes to all existing content
  3. Upload a document with the new taxonomy to a shared drive
  4. Send an email with advice on the new system’s benefits and uses
  5. Update the taxonomy regularly, and remind your company to use it

A content marketing taxonomy assists with content organization, findability, content strategy, and consumption. And it sets you up for more successful content marketing plans in the future. As James Goldman of CMSwire says:

[A] taxonomy is the backbone of executing journey-based marketing. It is the instruction manual for the tools, people, and processes used to manipulate, distribute, and target the huge volumes of content you need to produce in order to embrace content marketing.

For more information on creating a content marketing strategy that works, check out Curata’s eBook on creating a content marketing strategy below.

The post How to Build Your Own Content Marketing Taxonomy appeared first on Curata Blog.

Get Started With AMP to Accelerate Marketing Results

In February 2016, Google launched a project called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). The move was seen as a response to Facebook’s Instant Articles. The objective of a Google AMP is simple: to load web pages on mobile (substantially) faster. In fact, ‘AMPed’ up web pages can load up to 10 times faster than traditionally designed pages.

Why does Google care so much about this? According to a report by Starcounter, the number of mobile users on the web surpassed the number of traditional computing platforms in October 2016. Mobile users contributed over 51 percent of total web visits. Another study revealed that more than half of the respondents spent less than 15 second on a webpage.

AMP came into existence because of Google’s obsession with a better user experience. The median load time for an AMP page is 0.7 seconds—massively faster than the 22 second load time of traditional pages.

What is Google AMP?

Google AMP aims to deliver information to a mobile user as fast as possible by stripping out third-party Javascript. AMP loads text-based content first, followed by additional content when the remainder of the page has loaded.

Unlike Facebook’s Instant Articles, which has similar features, AMP is not restricted to one platform. It is an open source project, available to all publishers on the web. On mobile, AMP search results are displayed in the search “carousel” above the rest of the results, and feature the acronym tag of “AMP” along with a thunderbolt icon.

An example of how AMP enabled pages look on the “carousel” (Source)

AMP-enabled pages provide an improved user experience. This is beneficial for marketers and publishers as well. Fewer people bounce to a different website when quickly offered relevant information.

AMP Gives Businesses an SEO Advantage

AMP-ready websites display above their non-AMP counterparts in Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)—a significant SEO advantage. Google insists that being AMP ready is not the only criterion considered in their rankings. But they have made clear that for two websites with similar performance, the AMP-ready one will rank higher. For instance, consider two blogs which contain ‘how to’ guides about the same topic. Google will display the AMP-ready website higher than its competition.

This is especially beneficial for upcoming businesses trying to get themselves noticed. Featuring in the top carousel of SERPs guarantees higher visibility and click throughs. According to a study by online ad network Chitika, the top SERP result gets 33 percent of search traffic for a query. This number dips to 19 percent of traffic for the second highest result. Google reports that a brand can increase unaided brand awareness by 46 percent by simply showing up in mobile search ad results. In the same report, Google revealed that more than half of smartphone users have discovered a new brand or product while searching on their smartphones. (Check out the do’s and don’ts of SEO for content curation.)

Who is AMP Meant For?

Google has become much more than a platform where people search for products or services. It’s the place you search for answers. Google is very efficient when it comes to simple questions. For a question like, “How far is Mars from the Earth?” the results look like this:


However, when searching for something more complicated like, “Why did the US launch missiles in Syria?” you have to depend on relevant articles presented on the SERP. This is when the need for loading another page arises—which AMP makes much more convenient.

However, Google AMP is not only good for news, blogs, and articles. The Google carousel is equally effective when it comes to ecommerce websites. In fact, in June 2016 Ebay announced “about 8 million AMP-based browse nodes are available in production.” Which means they have taken the step towards AMP-ready pages for a large chunk of their webpages.

Advantages of AMP:

  • Unless Google fiddles with the way it displays AMP pages, they are ranked above other results on a SERP page.
  • Since Google AMP is an open source initiative, contributions are not limited to Google’s developers and can be made by everyone. This means AMP technology will be highly adaptive to future technologies and trends.
  • Unlike Facebook, Google AMP is available for every publisher, across every platform on the web. This means anyone with a little drive in them can potentially expose their content to a larger audience.
  • Adobe Analytics, comScore, Parse.ly, and Chartbeat will offer separate analytic tools for AMP. If you wish to develop your own analytics for AMP, the instructions are available on the official website.

Limitations of AMP:

  • AMP excludes external JavaScripts. This means everything other than the website content is either absent or downgraded. So a brand has to choose between an aesthetically designed page that compliments its content (opt out of AMP), or a page that relies solely on content to bring repeat visitors.
  • There is no benefit to AMP for non-publisher sites. A major reason is the absence of external JavaScripts.
  • AMP content does not feature any kind of forms. This means generating leads through an “AMP-ed” page is next to impossible.
  • For broad search terms such as “Mars,” AMP results appear above sponsored links. This means a decline in paid search impressions for your webpage.

How to Use AMP for Your Business

If the focus of your business is the content you develop, whether blogs or articles, optimizing for AMP should be at the top of your list. The instructions for converting webpages into Google AMP formats are freely available on the official AMP page. There is plenty of material to use as a guide to optimizing for AMP.

Google AMP homepage

If you have a WordPress blog, optimizing for AMP is extremely simple.

  • Search the WordPress plugins for ‘AMP.’
  • Download the AMP plugin along with the PageFrog plugin.
  • Once installed and enabled, the WordPress AMP plugin will optimize your content to AMP.
  • PageFrog can customize the design of the website. It has several design element options including, but not limited to colors, layout, logos, and fonts.
  • PageFrog settings also allow to you select pages for optimization, instead of optimizing every page.
  • Your new AMP pages can also be connected to Google Analytics using PageFrog. It also lets you enable ads on AMP Pages.

If you plan to use Google Analytics with AMP, set up a separate property for AMP pages. AMP analytics are limited; they work very differently to traditional pages. (To really understand analytics for content marketing, read The Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Analytics & Metrics.)

Conclusion

If your website deals in written content and does not involve selling products, or other ecommerce activities, you should immediately make the move to Google AMP. Adopting AMP now will boost the visibility of your content, and the resulting impressions.

AMP analytics are currently limited, but Google expects to increase AMP tracking functionality. The right time to make the shift is passing as more businesses migrate towards AMP. Get ahead of the curve—make the move now. For further actionable SEO insights, read WordStream founder Larry Kim’s 8 Mind Blowing SEO Experiments That Will Forever Change Your Approach to SEO.

The post Get Started With AMP to Accelerate Marketing Results appeared first on Curata Blog.

10 Best Examples of Companies that Get B2B Content Marketing

Content marketing works for B2B businesses. Ninety three percent of B2B companies say content marketing generates more leads than traditional marketing strategies. Meanwhile, 74 percent of companies indicate content marketing is increasing their marketing teams’ lead quality and quantity. But what about content marketing examples of companies doing it right?

Knowing that something works, and knowing how to do it are two different things. Instead of us telling you how content marketing works for B2B companies, we decided to show you examples of 10 companies achieving excellent results with it.

10 Best Content Marketing Examples

1. LeadPages

LeadPages designs customizable, mobile-friendly landing page templates and testing services to help businesses increase their reach.

Founder and CEO Clay Collins knew they had to be scrappy to be able to compete against VC-funded giants like Hubspot and Infusionsoft, given LeadPages were a bootstrapped company since inception. Instead of spending $10,000 on customer acquisition as some of their competitors did, Collins developed a growth hypothesis based on the idea that “a content team of four people could outperform an 80+ person sales team at most companies.”

Based on this hypothesis, LeadPages developed the following content marketing assets:

  • A popular marketing blog which covers lead generation, A/B testing, and all sort of related topics.
  • A set of marketing resources, including seven marketing courses, two eBooks, 10 case studies, and eight infographics, all of which are free.
  • ConversionCast, a highly popular marketing podcast run by Tim Paige, a world-class podcaster.
  • Weekly webinars on different topics related to online marketing.

Clay Collins’ hypothesis was correct. Thanks to his content marketing strategy, LeadPages ended up with an extremely high lifetime value to customer acquisition cost ratios. This helped them grow on a massive scale, acquiring 35,000 customers in under three years, hitting over $16 million in revenue in 2015, and in 2016 becoming the #148 fastest growing company in America. LeadPages success makes them one of the great content marketing examples.

2. WP Engine

Web hosting is one of the most competitive sectors in the technology industry. There are hundreds of companies trying to reach the same customers, many of whom aren’t that tech-savvy. Not only that, many compete on price, rather than features or quality. Competing on price lowers the margins of the industry as a whole and makes the competition play hard in acquiring each customer.

WP Engine, a managed hosting platform focused only on WordPress, knew they had a big challenge to overcome. Given they exclusively target WordPress users, it made sense for them to focus on content marketing targeting bloggers and other WordPress users.


Following the vision of WP Engine’s CMO, they segmented their content marketing strategy into five buckets:

  1. Product: Focused on product and content information about their new features, and other related company news.
  2. Industry: Focused on how marketers and agencies use WordPress to build their digital presence online.
  3. Business impact: Focused on how people use their online presence to drive growth, including leads and sales.
  4. Torque: Focused on the WordPress open source community. They don’t brand this kind of content as much so they can create a community feeling around it.
  5. Support: Focused on solving their customers’ problems through written and video content.

WP Engine’s content marketing strategy has driven significant results. These include acquiring 300,000 sites, applications in 128 countries, and raising five rounds of funding worth over $40 million.

3. STR Software

The Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software industry is full of companies like STR Software working to attract large businesses with big budgets and long, complex sales cycles. So instead of investing thousands of dollars to acquire each customer, STR Software decided to to set themselves apart by developing a content marketing strategy.


They put all their content and into a centralized hub they called “BI Publisher University.” They gated each piece of content with a form that captured relevant data for lead nurturing. Then, using Pardot’s email automation system, they created email autoresponders that included further content.

STR Software promoted their “University” extensively throughout their site, including on their homepage, sidebar, and other articles. They also used email marketing to promote it to their audience.

Some of their results made a big impact on their bottom line:

  • The campaign had the highest performance of any they developed.
  • Increased the quality of their lead generation initiatives.
  • Attracted high-quality inbound links, which helped increase their organic traffic.
  • Averaged a 10 percent conversion rate on forms, up from 1-2 percent on other forms.
  • Saw a 54 percent increase in website traffic, and a 67 percent increase in pageviews—while increasing average time on site.

4. Simply Business

Industries like insurance aren’t famous for being popular and exciting. In many cases, businesses deal with insurance not because they want to, but because the law says they have to. Even if they wanted to, the process tends to be boring and complex.

Simply Business, the UK’s largest insurance broker, aimed to attract leads with content marketing. Since they cater to small business owners, they decided to create content that helped that audience, even if it didn’t have anything to do with insurance. Some of the guides they created include these content marketing examples:

The results were magnificent. Simply Business increased their ranking for their main keywords, including reaching first place in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for “professional indemnity,” “public liability insurance,” and “employer’s liability.” Even though they launched some guides before Google’s Penguin algorithm change, they significantly increased weekly organic traffic, meaning their link building practices were white-hat and high-quality.

one of the best content marketing examples

5. Single Grain

There are thousands of digital marketing agencies in the US, many of which focus on small businesses or Fortune 500 companies. Single Grain however, focuses on tech startups. One of the key ways they attracted companies such as Amazon, Salesforce, and Uber was thanks to their content marketing strategy.

Single Grain’s content marketing strategy can be split into three sections:

  1. Their blog, which focuses on all sorts of topics around online marketing.
  2. The wildly popular Marketing School podcast, run by CEO Eric Siu, and marketing legend Neil Patel.
  3. Their resource section, which features courses, guides, infographics, and webinars.

Some of their articles have gotten thousands of shares and links, attracting both social and organic traffic to their site. Their podcast is one of the most popular in the industry, helping them create a lot of buzz and awareness. Finally, they focus their resources around two goals:

  1. Convert visitors into subscribers; and
  2. Start a conversation around their services.

6. HubSpot

The inbound marketing software industry is flooded with companies, including behemoths like Marketo, Pardot, and Infusionsoft, amongst others. The king of the bunch, however, is HubSpot, whose CEO actually coined the phrase “inbound marketing.” The main reason HubSpot has grown so fast is because of their content marketing strategy.

Their blogs are central to their content strategy: one focused on marketing, the other on sales. The goal of these blogs is to help HubSpot acquire traffic to their funnel. Since HubSpot caters to small businesses, their focus is to teach everything there is to know about inbound marketing, including SEO, blogging, and social media.

That’s the top of the funnel covered. The resources section then, features all sorts of mid to bottom-of-funnel content focused on converting people into leads, including eBooks, webinars, a marketing kit, case studies, and even a quiz. Each of these are excellent content marketing examples.

Content marketing has been one of HubSpot’s main growth drivers. It helped the company go from being funded in 2006 to a $75 million run rate public company worth over a billion dollars in 2016.

7. Scripted

Content marketing is one of the most important acquisition channels for any business. Given the high demand for content marketing, Scripted developed a marketplace for companies to find and hire writers for their content marketing efforts.

Scripted competes with other, more popular marketplaces, such as Upwork and Fiverr. So they needed to differentiate themselves from being “just” a marketplace, to being the best place to find writers.

To achieve this, Scripted developed a full-fledged content marketing strategy focused on touching on each of a buyer’s steps along their journey:

  • Top of the funnel: In this stage, Scripted uses their blog and podcast to talk about common problems their visitors have.
  • Middle of the funnel: In this stage, Scripted focuses on making people sign up to their email list, and creating awareness of their solution through white papers and webinars.
  • Bottom of the funnel: In the final stage, Scripted uses case studies to convince subscribers about their services.

As you might surmise from these content marketing examples, their strategy has provided amazing results:

  • Forty six percent of visitors were driven by their blog posts and other content marketing methods, outperforming other traffic sources by at least three times.
  • Their bounce rate from content was almost three times lower than any other source.
  • People that entered their site through one of their content hubs visited 4.06 pages per visit on average, the second-highest of all traffic sources.

8. Salesforce

The CRM space is one of the largest and most competitive industries in the IT sector. Despite being the world’s largest vendor, Salesforce has had some problems maintaining steady traffic and leads. This was the case for Salesforce UK, which could have been a cautionary tale in content marketing examples. They had to drastically change their content marketing strategy to increase their search and paid traffic sources.

Salesforce, predictably, offers some great content marketing examples

In a short period, Salesforce UK launched a new set of content marketing tactics, including:

Thanks to their renewed content strategy, in a three-month period Salesforce UK got amazing results, including:

  • An 80 percent increase in traffic YoY.
  • 2500 percent more traffic from social media sites.
  • 10,000 eBook downloads.
  • 6,500 email newsletter sign-ups.

9. SAP

SAP is one of the world’s largest and most powerful enterprise software vendors, serving over a dozen industries around the world. With this diverse set of customers, running a content marketing strategy that fits each customer’s needs is hard.

Despite this challenge, SAP developed a customized content marketing strategy for 19 customer segments, while still maintaining a consistent look and feel.

SAP tailored the messaging for each industry around a popular topic, such as digital transformation. This enabled them to appeal to each customer’s audience, while demonstrating the benefits of their solutions with examples.

To make content easier to digest for each persona, their campaigns feature content types as diverse as:

  • Email
  • Tweets
  • Blogs posts
  • LinkedIn status updates
  • Posts on the SAP Community Network
  • Radio ads
  • Virtual events
  • In-person events
  • Outbound and responder follow-up calls
  • Account Based Marketing
  • Individual account meetings

The results from SAP’s marketing strategy have been impressive:

  • Marketing generated opportunities (MGO) equaled $3,675,000. MGO’s are new opportunities created from marketing leads that have been accepted by sales and converted into opportunities.
  • The marketing touched pipeline (MTP) equaled $50,037,709 in this campaign. MTP comprises all open opportunities that have at least one qualifying marketing activity after the opportunity creation date.

10. SecureWorks

Cybersecurity is a key concern of any company that takes their online presence seriously. The key is to detect potential sources of attack before they happenand to respond rapidly once they do. SecureWorks helps companies achieve this.

One of the keys to SecureWorks’ content marketing success has been developing clear personas for each target customer. This allowed them to create content focused on solving customers’ problems, which includes executives and VPs of security in large corporations.

SecureWorks segmented their content marketing strategy in two ways. First focusing on attracting traffic, then on converting that traffic into leads:

  1. Their blog answers common questions people have about information security and compliance.
  2. Their resources feature webinars, white papers, reports, case studies, solution briefs, data sheets, and videos.

SecureWorks thorough content marketing strategy allowed them to streamline their marketing and sales teams, making one out of every two qualified leads that marketing sends to sales becomes an opportunity. They also doubled their conversion rate, thanks to the increased efficacy of their marketing initiatives.

Conclusion: 10 Best Content Marketing Examples

These content marketing examples show how B2B content marketing works in real life and the results you can expect from it.

What results have you seen from your content marketing strategy?

The post 10 Best Examples of Companies that Get B2B Content Marketing appeared first on Curata Blog.

Content Promotion, Distribution, and You: A Marketer’s Guide

In 2017, marketing teams require content creation skills more than any other—and they’re investing in them. In 2016, 75 percent of marketers increased their content marketing spend. But better content is a waste of money if nobody knows it exists. Which makes a holistic content strategy from ideation to content promotion even more important.

heavy truck content promotion and distribution

Distribute this.

This is harder than it might seem. Marketing influencer Mark Schaefer coined the idea of “content shock” in 2014. He argued that content production will:

… increase exponentially as more and more brands pile in on the action, the rate of increase in content consumption will only increase slightly and then inevitably plateau. This is because we only have so much time with which to consume content. Therefor content marketing will become a victim of its own success, and brands will find that the same techniques become less and less effective each year.— SmartInsights

The point of “content shock” is upon us. Over four million blog posts are published on the Internet every day, while 50 percent of content created gets eight shares or less according to BuzzSumo. This says two things. First, that most content is created without being read or interacted with. Second, that many content creators fail to properly distribute their content. For content to succeed requires strategic content distribution.

Source: BuzzSumo

The real value of content marketing is in the distribution channels.
 Jayson DeMers, founder of AudienceBloom

If you build it, they will come no longer holds true, if it ever did. Marketers now need to build it, share it, talk about it, optimize keywords, email it, and share it again. Then maybe you’ll start getting people to come to your website.

Some people may argue that if you create really amazing content, your job is done. People will find it and love it and share it and come back for more. This is sort of true. If you own a bakery, you need to put your freshly baked triple fudge cake out front in the glass window in order for people to know they want to buy it. If not, they’d probably pick something else in the glass window, even if it’s not as good. That cake won’t create value for your bakery no matter how delicious it is. The same goes for content: it needs to be out front in the glass window.

REBECCA LIEB
Analyst, Author, Speaker. @lieblink

If you build it they will come.
Maybe. Maybe not. That’s why a plan to promote and distribute content is as critical as having great ideas for content creation. The most brilliant content in the world is the proverbial tree falling in the woods if it’s not seen or found.There’s not a single best way to approach promotion and distribution. Instead, there’s a series of questions to answer: who is the intended audience? Where do they go online? Who are their influencers? Is paid promotion a good option? If so, on what channels or media? There are many, many dependencies to promotion and distribution that can only be addressed with a solid content strategy.

This article explains different content distribution methods, how to develop a content promotion strategy, tips for optimizing, and offers tools to make planning and scheduling easier.

Things to Consider

Before developing a content promotion strategy, consider the following:

  • Content distribution should just be one section in your overarching content strategy. And there is no one size fits all option to content distribution. Your strategy should be unique to your company.
  • Consider the goal of your content. Are you hoping your audience will buy your product, interact with more content, or sign up for your newsletter? This will dictate the way you’re sharing, where you’re sharing, and the frequency.
  • Who’s your audience? Determine your target audience and figure out where they are and at what time to optimize your online promotion strategy.
  • The digital and content marketing landscape is constantly evolving. Best practices for sharing on Facebook are nothing like what they were five years ago. Be aware of promotional tactics that are no longer effective.

Distribution Options

After defining your content audience and goals, examine content distribution methods to determine which ones are ideal for your organization. Here are the most common content distribution methods in marketing today, and how they can be used in a distribution strategy.

Paid Promotion

Paid is a four letter word to a lot of content marketers. If my content is good enough, why do I have to pay people to read it? The simple answer is, you’re not paying people to read it. You’re paying people to see your content, the same way magazines pay for prime placement on newsstands.

CARLA JOHNSON
Type A Communications, Author of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing. @CarlaJohnson

Marketers need to take inspiration for content promotion from ideas and places outside their industry. What makes you read your favorite magazine? What makes you take a brand up on a promotional offer? It may seem far-fetched for what you do or sell, but if you can take the essence of the creativity behind those great promotions and transplant them into your work, you’ll begin promoting it in ways that feel fresh and vibrant to your audience.

Paid content can help:

  • Pre-existing content work harder
  • Get a solid base of eyes on your content
  • Jump-start sharing of your content
DOUG KESSLER
Creative Director & Co-founder of Velocity, @dougkessler

Everybody talks about earned, owned, and paid media. But it’s important to add employed media. All the people who work for you add up to a really powerful distribution channelbut only if they know the content exists.

When paying for eyeballs, metrics other than pageviews become more salient. While you can count on those numbers, you’re paying for them. “Paid” is an umbrella term that can include anything from paid social to banner ads to pay per click (PPC).

Email Marketing

Email should be the foundation of any content strategy. While not as glamorous as social, email remains the most effective marketing channel there is. Email allows you to send content to people who already have a relationship with your brand. You have more information about them, and more control over how your content is packaged when they first see it.

For this reason, email should be a primary method of content distribution. Segment lists to prevent your audience from fatiguing with emails, and to ensure you only deliver content each audience member finds interesting. 

  • Email is best for: Acquiring customers. Email is 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined. — McKinsey
  • Email is worst for: Growing your email lists. Because, well, you already have their emails.

Social Distribution

Over 80 percent of the US population has a social network profile. And 94 percent of B2B marketers distribute content on LinkedIn. Social is necessary for content marketing to succeed, and marketers know it.

Social distribution works best when shared both organically and via paid options. There are plenty of tools like BuzzSumo or Hootsuite that can determine the best time to share content, where to share, and what kind of messaging is most effective.

  • Social is best for: Increasing engagement, buzz, and brand awareness.
  • Social is worst for: Bottom of the funnel content meant to sell.

Tips: Social distribution can be overwhelming. Not only are there several big players to advertise on, but the pay to play options are extensive. Don’t advertise on social sites your audience isn’t on.

Make sure the content you’re sharing matches the preferences of the audience on the platform. Advertising on Instagram or Pinterest requires sharing visual content rather than text-heavy content.

PAM DIDNER
GCM Strategist, Speaker, Author. @PamDidner

Understand how your customers use each social media channel. Customized your copywriting and image as necessary. COPE: “create once, publish everywhere” doesn’t work well in the increasingly personalized communications.

PPC (Pay Per Click)

There are two types of pay per click: search engine PPC and content PPC. Search PPC involves paying to rank for keywords on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) like Google. Content PPC operates similarly. You pay for your content to show up in the recommended or related articles section of content discovery networks.

  • PPC is best for: Serving content to a new audience and helping your company be found.
  • PPC is worst for: Sustained, high-value traffic, unless you want to continue paying for it.

Tips: Strong copy and calls to action are vital. Your content will be served up against similar competitor content.

SEO

Is SEO a distribution method? Not really. But ensuring people can organically find your content is. This is about as close as we can get to the idea of someone asking for your cake without finding it from the front glass case. Good SEO means anyone who asks for a chocolate cake is offered a slice of yours. While SEO is a ‘free’ way to get eyes on your content, it’s difficult to do effectively. To start, focus on key phrase research, go in depth in your articles, and create high-quality content. Integrate SEO into your content strategy.

Republish Elsewhere

In addition to the company blog, publish your content on sites such as Buzzfeed, Medium, Slideshare, Reddit, and other third-party websites. (Make sure to link back to your website on these other platforms.) This helps your content gain more visibility, and to drive more traffic to your website.

JOE CHERNOV
VP of Marketing, InsightSquared, startup advisor. @jchernov

Don’t forget that your sales team is unquestionably your most important distribution channel.

Influencer Marketing

Search Trends “Influencer Marketing”

While influencer marketing needs its own strategy, your influencer connections can aid in distributing your content. Tactics such as including influencer quotes in your content incentivize influencers to distribute your content to their followers, increasing your content’s reach.

Native Advertising

Another way to distribute your content is via paid posts on other media sites. This is a good option for outlets you haven’t been able to get published in.

Customer Advocacy

Many brands ask customers for case studies and testimonials. If you’re creating a tiered customer advocacy program, try social sharing and interaction as one of the tiers with low incentives. Or ask customer success to encourage your clientele to share your content.

Edelman Trust Barometer, 2017

Tips for Optimizing Distribution

  • Repurpose content so it’s in different forms for different distribution channels.
  • Keep testing; there’s no “best practices” for content promotion.
  • Company employees are an asset. Your email lists and social accounts aren’t the only ways to share content with your audience. Ask employees to participate in your content promotion strategy to grow your audience and social engagement for free.
  • Create a community engagement strategy that aligns with your distribution strategy. By consistently interacting with your audience to form deeper connections with them, you increase the likelihood they’ll interact with and share your content.

Tools

As with anything in the marketing sphere, there are many tools and platforms to optimize a content distribution strategy. Here are some of the essentials:

  • WiseStamp: Automatically share your latest piece of content in your email signature.
  • ClicktoTweet: Help your audience evangelize your content. Share tweetable quotes at the click of a button.
  • Medium: All brands should have a Medium account. It allows you to republish existing posts to reach a new audience.
  • GaggleAmp: Create messages for your company’s employees that are sent out automatically on social channels.
  • Hootsuite: One of many social scheduling tools that helps you optimize the time and frequency that you publish.
  • Quora: According to Quora’s website, “Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its community of users.” Quora enables you to establish your company as an expert in your field, and lets you link back to your content from a high domain authority site.
  • Slideshare: This presentation sharing platform gives you another opportunity to distribute eBooks, webinars, and event presentations. With 80 percent of traffic coming from search, over 159 million monthly page views, and less than one in five B2B marketers using it, it’s without a doubt a platform you should be on.
  • PR Newswire: Having a platform that reaches journalists and other news outlets is important for sharing company updates and company news.

Create a Content Promotion Action Plan

Now you know the options for content promotion and the best ways to use them, create a content promotion strategy for your company by:

  1. Implementing a set of rules for content distribution. For example, if content’s goal is to generate x pageviews, share x times on social media and send x emails over x weeks.
  2. Create a distribution calendar in conjunction with, or on top of your editorial calendar.
  3. Establish KPIs and allocate time to analyze performance once a month or every other week. Adjust and optimize according to these metrics.
ARDATH ALBEE
CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist, @ardath421

My number one tip for content promotion and distribution is that it’s most successful when it’s part of the content planning process, rather than an afterthought when you hit publish.

As part of all the content briefs I help my clients create, I coach them to include the requirements for promotion and identify distribution channels up front. This way you (or your writer) can create the snippets for social media along with any additional graphics.

You can also map out distribution scenarios so that momentum is built along with reach and exposure. Planning for content promotion and distribution also helps to ensure that your messaging is consistent across channels, producing better experiences for your audience.

Once you have a content promotion strategy, it’s time to put it all into action. For more on creating a comprehensive content strategy, download Curata’s eBook: The Content Marketing Pyramid: A Framework to Develop & Execute Your Content Marketing Strategy.

The post Content Promotion, Distribution, and You: A Marketer’s Guide appeared first on Curata Blog.

Boost Engagement and Traffic to Accelerate Lead Generation

Unlike the latest summer Hollywood blockbuster, a blog or website’s success is not as much a matter of fate or the fickleness of your audience. It’s a fairly clearly defined science that any good content marketer should be able to implement as a concise, data-driven exercise. I’m the co-founder of a company—Lucep—that offers a B2B tool that accelerates website lead generation. So we have the data to find out exactly what makes one website more successful than the rest.

To this end, we sifted through analytics data to map traffic sources, page views, and leads generated online by clients using our website widget and mobile app.

The chart above is divided (from left to right) into sets of websites, with those enjoying the most lead generation on the left, and increasingly less leads as you move right. On the vertical axes, you have pageviews and uniques.

No Engagement, No Lead Generation

The pink line shows average pageviews by visitors who did not convert into leads. These are visitors uninterested in the content, which in turn leads to lackluster engagement and low pageviews. Note that this doesn’t mean all of them aren’t potential leads. It just means that the content you have was not able to engage them. It could be because of a fault in your audience targeting, your content plan, or both.

Uniques vs Engagement

The set of websites on the right with the most lead generation have the highest number of unique visitors. That’s the best sign of a good, healthy website. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s optimized to maximize conversions. This is why you want to see the blue line, indicating average pageviews by lead generating visitors.

It’s important because you can get more leads from existing traffic by increasing engagement. As you can see in the chart above, the set of sites in the middle have a sky-high level of engagement that has boosted lead generation compared to the set next to them. Those are getting more traffic, but with lower engagement. This means you can get more leads and sales than competitors who get more traffic—if you can better engage your visitors.

Best Practices for Driving Higher Engagement

Ok, so now you want to drive higher engagement. One thing that works better than almost anything else is to create a content plan based on buyer personas. However, most people want to write about what they know about and want to talk about. So a sales manager wants to talk about how to generate more sales and revenue, building and managing sales teams, etc. That’s fine if your buyers are also sales managers interested in the same thing. But everyone else will just glance at this content and move on.

//giphy.com/embed/3o6Ztj160BEqLidM7S?hideSocial=true

To identify who your buyers are, create buyer personas to identify and flesh out each target group you want as customers. Each persona will have its own set of pain points. These are the customer needs that you must address in your content. Generate keywords from the pain points, and write about content focused on these keywords. It may not be what you do, and may even have no direct bearing on your company or product. But it will be what your buyers want to read about. This is what drives higher engagement.

Creating Buyers Personas

How do you actually do this? Let me give you an example. We did an exercise creating buyer personas for CEOs, sales managers, and marketing heads. One of the marketing heads is a digital marketing manager. We identified two key pain points for this particular persona that they wanted to know:

  1. What makes a good website?
  2. How to increase online lead conversion rates?

One of the keywords we came up with to address both these concerns was “engaging content,” and then wrote an article for this keyword. That’s what you’re reading right now!

Case Study Number One

Let’s examine a few sites we looked at among our clients for examples of how targeted content drives huge engagement. Take a look at Paul Hype Page & Co chartered accountants. This site has massive engagement, resulting in leads flowing in from all over the world.

Paul Hype Page & Co provide company incorporation and related services in Singapore. They’ve created a content repository in which each piece of content specifically targets every single need their customers have. The homepage workflow is so clear, any visitor landing on it knows exactly where to click and read an article telling them what they want to know. The only call to action (CTA) after reading the content is the visitor either calls or asks for a callback. Both of which happen frequently. The content is extremely targeted and engaging, and positions the company as an expert in the services a visitor is looking for.

Case Study Number Two

Another example is The Indian Handwritten Letter Co (TIHLC). It’s a startup that writes and sends handwritten letters on behalf of individuals and business users. The Indian Handwritten Letter Co. was doing pretty nicely as a three year old startup, but their traffic recently smashed through the roof when they got coverage in startup media portal Your Story. Suddenly everyone was talking about how TIHLC was reviving the lost art of handwritten letters. The lead generation from callback requests via their website widget increased massively. This is the kind of engagement good content creates, even if it’s not on your own site. All content you create should be optimized to maximize engagement: social media snippets, videos, infographics, media coverage—everything.

Four Simple Tips

What more can you to do drive higher engagement? Follow these best practices.

  1. Create useful and relevant content based on buyer personas.
  2. Track the engagement metrics. This means examining which pages have lower bounce rates, higher session durations, more backlinks, comments, and social shares, etc.
  3. Start using more videos. According to Cisco, a full 82 percent of consumer web traffic is projected to be video by 2020.
  4. Offer a click to call feature on your website. Over 50 percent of website visitors who call you to talk are qualified leads. Only two to three percent of those who don’t call will convert (conversion rates may vary by industry). According to Lucep research, adding a click to call tool drives engagement with website visitors, and can increase conversion rates by over 72 percent. It’s especially effective in converting website visitors who access your site using a mobile device.

Target the Right Traffic Sources

You can create the most engaging content possible, but it won’t be useful if your traffic is coming from the wrong sources. Here’s the traffic source chart for the same set of websites examined in the engagement chart.

You probably don’t need to look at the chart to know search traffic from Google converts into more leads than traffic from other sources. Google sends more than half (57 percent) of the lead generating traffic Lucep clients get.

lead generation sources

Direct traffic from bookmarks and people typing in the website URL accounts for 23 percent of lead sources for Lucep clients. This is usually from repeat visitors, people who know the company, and/or leads advised to check out the website by someone in marketing or sales.

Only the remaining one-fifth (20 percent) of lead sources is website traffic from social media, referrals, email marketing, etc.

So we should focus on the primary lead sources sending us actual customers. Not visitors who are just passing through. This means Google, referrals, and one or two other key sources where you know your buyers can be found.

//giphy.com/embed/3o6gDWzmAzrpi5DQU8?hideSocial=true

Lucep is a B2B SaaS platform. We get a relatively higher number of visitors from Facebook, but they don’t convert half as well as the fewer visitors clicking through from LinkedIn. Again, you don’t need to look at a chart to understand this.

LinkedIn is a B2B networking platform primarily used by decision makers. I.e. CEOs, startup founders, business owners, managers, and executives. These are the same decision makers who make up the bulk of Lucep’s ideal buyer personas. If you focus your marketing efforts on channels where your buyers are, the traffic you get will generate more leads.

Conclusion

You need to create engaging content, and ensure it gets distributed through the channels which lead straight to your buyers. That’s all it takes. You can plan it and implement it in a clear and scientific way that leaves nothing to chance. Use a documented content strategy to systematically achieve this lead generation. Download The Content Marketing Pyramid: A Framework to Develop & Execute Your Content Marketing Strategy eBook for efficient, effective content strategy.

The post Boost Engagement and Traffic to Accelerate Lead Generation appeared first on Curata Blog.

Content Marketing Editorial Calendar Templates: The Ultimate List

shutterstock_116458489

Those responsible for content within an organization have to plan out content for the upcoming weeks, months and year. This helps build alignment between teams and also keep writers accountable for their work. According to Curata research, 90 percent of marketers now use an editorial calendar.

For top-of-class calendar functionality, workflow, and analytics, the Curata CMP content marketing platform is one of several options available on the market. There are also several excellent free templates availableincluded below.

The following table lists the creator of the template, the format (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, WordPress plugin or PDF) and its accessibility (gated or un-gated). This will help you choose a template based on your preferences.

A more detailed description of each template and a glimpse of what each one looks like follows. Cross-reference with The 12 Must-Have Fields for a Content Calendar to ensure your template has all the essential attributes.

Do you use a template that we haven’t listed here? Let us know in the comments below!

Content Marketing Editorial Calendar Templates

Content marketing editorial calendar template list

Excel Spreadsheets

Madison Miles Media

Download here
Accessibility: Gated

Keep assignments organized with this excel template. Align content with keywords and audience segments, connect content to the buyer’s journey, and track keyword usage.

Curata

Download here
Accessibility: Gated

This template features 12 essential fields for creating an editorial calendar. (Learn more about the importance of these fields in this step-by-step process.) Detailed instructions, steps, and suggested meta tags are provided for each field, as well as links to additional resources.

Hubspot

Download here
Accessibility: Gated

This template lists a week’s content on each tab, allowing plenty of room for details such as keywords, personas, and calls-to-action.

hubspot

Convince & Convert

Download here 
Accessibility: Ungated

Look at the year ahead with this template. It lets you see several months at once, along with a tab called “Content Repository” to dump ideas in.

cc

Pam Moore

Download here
Accessibility
: Gated

This template separates each month into a different tab, along with a tab for “Content Inventory” to keep track of published pieces.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.56.14 AM

Bob Angus

Download here
Accessibility
: Ungated

A standard calendar that includes a high-level road map to view large events throughout the year such as product launches and conferences.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 8.15.56 PM

VerticalMeasures

Download here
Accessibility
: Ungated

This color-coded template offers both a month-to-month view and an entire year overview.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 8.18.26 PM

Lee Odden

Download here
Accessibility
: Ungated

This spreadsheet simply lists each piece of content in chronological order. It suggests filling in several categories, such as audience, media, keywords, and tags.

toprank

Shareaholic

Download here
Accessibility
: Gated

This week-by-week spreadsheet also includes a tab to track URLs of content to enable campaign tracking.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 8.24.58 PM

myMarketingCafe

Download here
Accessibility
: Ungated

This basic template also comes with a small business marketing guide, including a general marketing calendar.

mym

Web. Search. Social.

Download here
Accessibility
: Gated

This spreadsheet allows you to categorize content in a number of ways, including keywords, status, topic, talking point, and due date.

webss

Content Marketing Institute

Download here
Accessibility: Ungated

CMI’s template includes a general marketing calendar, an editorial calendar with a week-by-week view, and a spreadsheet to store all blog post ideas.

cmii

Bluewire Media

Download here
Accessibility
: Gated

This template provides a color-coded key to categorize pieces of content by stage, such as pending, planned, or published.

bluewire

 

98toGo

Download here
Accessibility
: Gated

In addition to a basic editorial  calendar, you can track assets by type—such as blog post or eBook—and by buying-cycle stage.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 8.54.42 AM

Brett Snyder

Download here
Accessibility
: Ungated

This template is chock-full of examples. It provides plenty of space for detailed responses in many categories such as subject, focus keywords, key elements, and sources.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 9.00.17 AM

Google Sheets

Webpage FX

Download here
Accessibility
: Ungated

A robust template that not only tracks pieces of content week by week, but also gives space for ideas and downloadable assets.

wfx

 

Crackerjack Marketing

Download here
Accessibility: Gated

Another option for marketers using Google Sheets, this template has a section specifically for measuring content performance.

cj

WordPress Plugins

EditFlow

Download here
Accessibility: Ungated

If you’re a WordPress user, this is a great way to look at upcoming posts in a month-to-month view. It’s also highly adaptable—you can drag and drop unpublished pieces onto new dates and months.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.52.28 AM

 

Editorial Calendar

Download here
Accessibility: Ungated

Similar to EditFlow, this tool allows you to look ahead at all scheduled blog posts in WordPress and also quick-edit titles and times within the calendar.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.51.37 AM

PDFs

Roger Parker

Download here
Accessibility
: Gated

Want to print out your calendar so you can scribble all over it? Download this template, which maps out an entire year.

rogerp

 

CoSchedule

Download here
Accessibility: Gated

Another option for printing, this calendar also comes with an eBook detailing the benefits of using an editorial calendar.

cps

 

One of these editorial calendar template options will suit the needs of most content marketers. Want a free editorial calendar template pre-loaded with 12 essential fields? Download Curata’s free template here.

editorial-calendar-cta

The post Content Marketing Editorial Calendar Templates: The Ultimate List appeared first on Curata Blog.

Content Intelligence: The New Frontier of Content Marketing Technology

We live in an age where science fiction ever more quickly becomes science fact. Big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are revolutionizing industries across the developed world, from retail to finance to domestic and international spying. These technologies are automating functions previously considered tasks only a human could do, and offering detailed, personalized predictions a human could never make. Now these tools are underpinning a new era of content marketing technology: content intelligence.

What is Big Data?

First, some definitions. Big data involves computationally analyzing extremely large data sets to reveal patterns, trends, and associations; especially those relating to human behavior and interactions. It is used in everything from predicting stock performance to seasonal buying behavior to helping the NSA know whether your post about “blowing up the joint” refers to your bomb-making or DJing skills.

Every human who uses any form of digital communication generates data constantly, both about themselves and about humans in aggregate. Big data refers to the ability to find, sort, and make sense of this ocean of ones and zeroes. It encompasses structured, semi-structured, and unstructured information, both human-generated and from sensors, machines, and public records.

Structured data generally means information residing in a fixed field within a record or file, such as that found in spreadsheets and relational databases. Information that’s tagged to show some elements within the data, such as metadata in email or photos, is semi-structured data. Unstructured data meanwhile, includes content such as untagged text, images, audio, video, and so on.

Big data can also includes demographic or psychographic information about consumers. Think product reviews and commentary, blogs, content on social media sites, and the digital exhaust streamed 24/7 from mobile devices, sensors, and technical devices.

Defining Artificial Intelligence

The definition of AI is more nebulous because what is considered AI is constantly changing. One way of thinking of AI is as intelligence exhibited by any device that perceives its environment and takes actions to maximize its chances of achieving a goal. Another instance is when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions such as “learning” and “problem solving”—also known as machine learning.

Alan Turing, father of AI. (Image courtesy Infobunny.)

Capabilities currently classified as AI include understanding human speech, self-driving cars, and interpreting complex data. As the technology improves however, capabilities once defined as AI are removed from the definition. For instance, optical character recognition is no longer perceived as artificial intelligence, but as a routine technology. The same with GPS navigation systems.

Another way of thinking of AI is that it merely refers to algorithms we don’t fully understand yet.

The implications of this technology could feel as if we’re living in an anime cyber thriller, hurtling towards some utopian (or dystopian) future—the finale isn’t clear yet.

Applying Artificial Intelligence to Content Marketing

We’re barely at the beginning of applying the technologies of AI—such as natural language processing and machine learning, to content marketing. Artificial intelligence today has very narrow applicability. It is typically built to do one complex thing—usually a complex data-driven thing—more efficiently than a human can do it. Over the last two to three years, several technology startups launched that are purpose-built for individual content tasks. These companies are trying to apply AI capabilities to a task that’s very time-intensive for humans, to make it more efficient and effective.

Paul Roetzer

AI technology is still raw, and arguably pretty stupid. “It’s basically no smarter than a preschooler in a lot of cases,” says Paul Roetzer, the Cleveland based founder of the Marketing AI Institute, a resource for those interested in applying AI to content marketing. “But it can be trained to do one thing exceptionally well, almost super-human, and that’s where a lot of the companies are focused.”

AI as it applies to content could involve any content-related task we do as marketers, predicts Roetzer. Whether finding keywords, picking blog post topics, determining what to share on social media, writing hard copy, creating landing pages, or writing headlines. Everything we do that requires us to manually create a strategy or plan, develop content, and promote it can be automated or enhanced with artificial intelligence.

It pays to be skeptical about anything touted as ‘AI’ however. Thirty years after the 80’s, AI is once again a buzzword. Many software tools that call themselves AI aren’t really. They’re more like 80’s expert systems that merely rely on hard coded rules.

Who’s Making it Happen?

The main software leaders in the AI field are the obvious players, such as IBM’s Watson, Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft—all the big tech companies.

IBM Watson

However, this field is young. Think Internet in the early 90’s young. There are few content AI or marketing AI platforms as yet. There are mainly tools that perform specific tasks in equally specific contexts. You currently need multiple different tools to build AI into a content strategy. One related challenge marketers will face, argues Roetzer, is that the majority of those tools won’t be independent companies within 18 months. The big companies are buying up promising AI upstarts because there is a lack of talent that can actually build AI solutions.

What About Purely Marketing Companies Developing AI?

San Francisco’s Salesforce has made massive investments, buying multiple AI companies for a cool couple of billion dollars. That technology was then built into Salesforce Einstein, which launched in September 2016. San Mateo-headquartered Marketo now has predictive content recommendations, although this technology seems to have been mainly from acquisitions.

The Marketo and Salesforce marketing automation platforms use lead scoring technology. It examines which content someone’s consumed, how much they’ve consumed, and their demographic and firmographic to give them a score. Based on this data it automatically sends them to sales, and starts sending them relevant content. It will then send them different content based on what they continue to consume.

content intelligence evangelist Pawan Deshpande

Curata founder and CEO Pawan Deshpande

“I don’t know if it’s quite intelligent though,” muses Curata CEO Pawan Deshpande (Curata is my employer). “Because it’s basically a hardcoded set of rules determined by the marketer. It’s not learning from past performance and evolving and adapting. Marketing automation doesn’t really have much in the way of machine learning in it at present—but it certainly could.”

Boston-based Curata has been around since 2007. It uses natural language processing and machine learning to power two software platforms. Curata CMP offers full funnel predictive content analytics and editorial calendaring. Curata CCS is a curation platform that discovers content, filters out noise, sanitizes text, extracts metadata, automatically summarizes, and makes it easy to review, curate, publish and promote content. It uses machine learning to self-optimize and learn user preferences to find better content.

Other marketing companies using AI in content tools include Manhattan-based opentopic, which has a personalization project called Sia built on Watson. Austin-based OneSpot uses image recognition and natural language processing to automatically tag and categorize content and images. It then uses machine learning to automatically surface relevant information to the right visitor on the right channel at the right time. Conversica is headquartered in California with offices in Missouri and Washington. It uses AI to automate the lead contact and qualification process, and identify which leads intend to purchase and are ready to buy.

Storytelling Machines

Natural language generation refers to a computer using data to produce natural language as a human would write it. Machines write 100 percent of Associated Press earnings reports, along with some of their basic sports news stories. Two major players in this area are Narrative Science, headquartered in Chicago, and North Carolina-based Automated Insights.

Persado has $66 million in funding and offices in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Rome, Athens, London, and Germany. Persado uses natural language processing and natural language generation to automatically create Facebook ads, landing page content, and email subject lines. They are unique in that they are in the creative realm of using machines to create content that isn’t data-driven.

There are dozens of other players in this field.

So What is Content Intelligence?

Content intelligence may draw on artificial intelligence and big data, but it is neither of those two things. It’s the systems and software that transforms data into actionable insights for content strategy and tactics. Content intelligence means having the full context of an individual piece of content. Not only that—but the whole corpus of content, to make better decisions about anything pertaining to the content in question.

Forrester analyst Ryan Skinner defines content intelligence as “technology that helps content understand itself—what it’s about, how it speaks, how effective it is at accomplishing certain goals, what emotions it calls to mind, etc.”

So what does having the full context of a piece of content mean? It’s understanding what the content is, what it’s related to, how it’s performed in the past, and how related content has performed in the past. This includes understanding how competitor content may have performed as part of the broader context it sits in. As well as other content it’s competing with in search engine optimization and search engine results pages.

Content intelligence means understanding everything there is to know about a piece of content. And to the extent that the past can help predict the future, using that comprehensive understanding to guide decision making for that piece of content. It doesn’t necessarily have to include the automation and execution of those decisions.

The Evolution of Car Navigations Systems

Once an organization has the full context of a content item, automation and execution of certain tasks and cases is the next step. Think of the evolution of car navigation systems. For decades when people wanted to get somewhere, they would look at a paper map, then approximate a route.

But the information a map gives you is woefully incomplete. It just doesn’t give you much context for your trip. For example, you don’t know any of the speed limits, or where there’s stop lights, or any rest areas or gas stations on the way. Forget about real-time changing conditions such as roadworks or traffic. So people would plan out trips just based on a map and guesstimate most things.

Then GPS comes along and lets you pinpoint exactly where you are on your journey. (Although it didn’t necessarily tell you which path you needed to take.) Next came the navigation system. It could suggest an optimal route, absent traffic information. It could say where you are, where you want to go, and some good ways of getting there.

The next evolution was Google Maps and Waze. These platforms have real-time traffic data—not to mention satellite navigation such as Sirius, offering a real-time dynamic understanding of traffic flows and patterns.

The next step beyond is automation. It doesn’t just give you intelligence on what to do and guide your decisions. It actually does it for you: i.e. the self-driving car. We haven’t quite conquered this as yet—but we’re close.

Content Marketers Are Still Using Maps

Many content marketers are now at the very first stage of using maps when it comes to content strategy. They don’t really understand where they are because they mainly look at ‘vanity metrics’ such as pageviews, social shares, and so on. These are top of the funnel metrics that offer a rough approximation of how content is doing. But they don’t measure content lower in the funnel, or show content’s impact on your business.

Some marketers today however, go beyond vanity metrics. They connect all the dots by pulling in significant quantities of data that’s hard for a human to compile, let alone compute. These companies pull together data from many disparate sources and apply that to content to get a fuller understanding, manifested as analytics and reporting. They can look at a report and get comprehensive data at a glance. They can then make an intelligent and informed decision about a course of action, which was formerly not possible.

These marketers understand the business results they’re driving exactly. This includes the leads, revenue, and sales pipeline a particular piece of content is generating. This is where the technology is at today.

Content intelligence technology is nascent. It’s exciting relative to where we’ve come from, but at this stage it’s mainly collating full context data to provide intelligence. “I think we’re really at the data aggregation stage,” says Deshpande. “Simply collecting all the data about content from disparate systems is a challenge. After that, machine learning systems have the full context to make intelligent recommendations.”

The next step for this technology will see it do the majority of computation and inference to determine the best course of action, based on a given set of data. Currently this is where marketers apply their intuition. This could include choosing whether or not to refresh an evergreen article say, or whether to spend money on paid promotion for an article that’s popular and could go viral. The best course is often not obvious however, requiring a lot of data exploration digging, which machines are much better at.

Which Problems Does Content Intelligence Address?

Every marketer alive today proclaims how “data driven” they are. But if you look at how content is utilized, it’s still mostly based on intuition and guesswork. At marketing conferences, if you want to know what content to create you’ll always be advised to go ask your sales team. Or to go search online and see what questions people are asking. Or to look at search volume. These are all good inputs, but they’re mainly based on what’s worked in the past.

What to Share

Sales teams typically share content based on anecdotal feedback. You’ll often hear one sales person yell out on the floor, “Do we have a piece of content about analytics that I can share with this prospect?” And someone else will say, “Yeah, here’s a tasty piece.” These anecdotes reinforce behaviors. So if something worked well and someone hears the story about how a piece of content helped them close a deal, the next sales rep is likely to repeat the same pattern. When demand generation teams look at what data to share, they will do AB-testing on emails, but beyond that a lot of it is just very anecdotal, or looking at very rudimentary metrics as well.

Jeff Brewer, Lead Software Engineer at Lux Research and a former quant in futurist Ray Kurzweil’s hedge fund, believes content intelligence can really pay dividends when paired with consumer behavior models. “This means moving beyond content suggestion by anecdote to using consumer models and characterizing content from previous interactions to suggest what to share next,” he says. “Besides improving sales outcomes, a data-driven suggestion platform can evaluate new, untested content to determine efficacy with minimal risk to the sales pipeline. This helps both sales and marketing departments hone their craft. These models can be as unique as every company’s set of products, content, and markets. AI based content intelligence customizes these models for each company.”

There are many other channels where most decisions about how to utilize content come down to intuition: social channels, websites, advertisements, and so on. This is where content intelligence can add the most value. It can make those decisions informed, and even automate some of those decisions in a scalable manner.

What to Read Next

On a web page you’re usually presented with the most popular or most recent stories. With content intelligence, expect instead to see stories based on your previous browsing history and position in an organization’s hierarchy. Along with what your title is, what you’ve consumed in the past, what other people in your organization have consumed in the past. Even which content—or certain pieces of content, shared in succession—has the highest conversion rate at the stage you’re currently at in the consumption cycle.

Those are just a few factors. But there are literally hundreds of possible factors that can be fed into an algorithm to find the right weight for all those inputs, to know exactly what context something has, and what the right piece of content is. Content intelligence helps utilize your existing content inventory most effectively.

Which Content to Update

Another way content marketers can use their inventory more effectively is by knowing when to refresh evergreen articles. Say a particular article or blog post performed really well, but it hasn’t been refreshed in a year. You are automatically sent a prompt for this article to be refreshed and shared.

There’s a constant stream of things a content marketer can do to be a lot more effective, that don’t take up much time. But it’s hard to figure out what they are. Content intelligence can surface that information in an easy-to-understand, and easy-to-act-on way. So you can login every day, or every week, get some really useful feedback or advice, make those changes, and see specific growth in certain areas.

You can do this at every different touch point with content intelligence. Your website, a sales person on the phone or emailing with a prospect. Any time you have a touch point with a customer, you can show targeted information that’s highly valuable to them.

Which Content to Create

The content creation process is another area to be optimized. Content intelligence can make recommendations about what you should be creating based on what performs well, or what your competitors are doing. And the recommendations can vary based on what your goals are. So you could say, “we have a goal of a certain number of leads or pageviews generated for this quarter.” And you could receive recommendations to help you achieve that. The recommendations will differ based on the goal.

While machines can mainly only create data-driven content for now, that’s evolving quickly. IBM partnered with a movie studio and created a video trailer using AI, which took over the creative process. Coca-Cola has used AI to generate TV adverts, selecting the music and creating scenes. If Pepsi had content intelligence, they could probably have avoided uniting the entire Internet in universal opposition to their latest ad.

How to Promote

Think about how hard it is to know what to promote, when to promote, and where to promote it. Content intelligence will enable highly personalized, cross-channel promotion that humans are just not wired to do.

“I am a big believer that the first major AI platform to be built, will probably be the first billion dollar AI company, because it will completely redefine marketing strategy,” says Roetzer. “Think about a company trying to spend a hundred thousand dollars, or a million, or hundred million dollars on marketing. Humans are incapable of figuring out the best way to spend that money. Given all the channels, all the need for personalization, all the different possibilities of what you can do with that money, there is just no way… the greatest strategists in the world together can’t figure out the optimum way to spend a million dollars. But AI can. It’s the hardest problem to solve, but that’s the one that is going to change everything.”

The Solution to Content Shock?

Mark Schaefer

Tennessee-based marketing strategist, speaker, and author Mark Schaefer coined the term content shock in 2014. It describes the phenomenon of an ever increasing arms race to produce more, and more compelling content. This content is seldom personalized, and consumers’ attention span is resolutely finite. But marketers keep producing more and higher quality content for a slice of a pie that’s not growing.

Content intelligence is a significant competitive advantage for organizations fighting to overcome audience content shock. They have the insights to produce better, more engaging content. And more intelligent means of distribution to get content to the right sections of audience where it’s most compelling. Content intelligence enables you to present the right content to the right person, every time.

For a B2B marketer, downloading an eBook on most sites means you’ll likely be presented with that same eBook as a call-to-action if you revisit two days later.

If you’ve created enough great content however, with content intelligence you can truly tailor the experience someone has with your brand and site to an individual level. It’s the Netflix or Amazon approach. You don’t feel there are too many products on Amazon, because you only see the stuff that matters to you, based on your behavior. If content is the same way—if you only see what’s relevant to you all the time—it doesn’t matter to you how many millions of eBooks are out there.

Source: Ceralytics

Who Are Some of the Players in Content Intelligence?

The term content intelligence has been around for over a decade. But the companies building the technology are generally less than ten years old.

Curata CMP pulls in data from many different sources. This including the content itself, social metrics, traffic metrics, lead metrics, marketing pipeline metrics, sales pipeline metrics, and revenue metrics. It shows the precise business impact of every piece of content you produce.

Headquartered in Brighton, England, BuzzSumo pulls together social sharing data for all content across the web. Idio has offices in London and New York, and uses machine learning to analyze content, marry it to a consumer profile, and serve personalized content. Washington D.C. based TrackMaven focuses more on competitive analysis. It helps you track how your marketing performs against competitors, peers, and industry influencers. Conductor Searchlight has offices in New York City and San Francisco. It shows you how your content is doing in SEO and how your competitor’s content is doing. Florida-based Ceralytics is a platform for creating, analyzing, and promoting your most effective content.

Where is the Technology Moving Next?

Content intelligence is increasingly looking at what’s driven business results in the past, and advising you what to do going forward based on your goals. Or telling you where you will end up in terms of those metrics. It will automate parts of this process. This year expect a focus on helping to optimize your current content inventory for immediate benefit. Longer term, expect more of a focus on external data sources.

The past doesn’t always predict the future. Content marketing is inherently a very creative process, and thinking outside the box should not be underestimated. So expect the more mundane, repetitive, unskilled parts of content marketing to be automated by content intelligence. But not the need for experimentation.

How to Prepare for Content Intelligence

The insights content intelligence provides are only as good as the amount and quality of the data you have. To leverage this technology for competitive advantage requires a sufficiently long history of well-structured, well-maintained, trustworthy data. Deshpande offers an example of the importance of this from when he worked at Google in 2005.

“Back then Google Translate worked best for Chinese and Arabic,” he says. “And it wasn’t because Google had the best algorithms for those particular languages—it was because they had the most data. The Department of Defense had translated so many documents in those two languages that Google had the most training data to input into the system. It really demonstrates how data is more important than the algorithms behind it.”

Know What You’ve Got

One of the most important steps an organization can take is to conduct a content audit of inventory. Best practice is to do this at least once a year, and it’s also vital to effectively utilize content intelligence. This audit should capture the content text, images, metadata, and other associated attributes invisible to the content consumer. For example: the persona, the buying stage it’s designed for, the vertical it’s for, and who wrote the article, especially for organizations using ghostwriters.

Given sufficient examples/inputs and their resulting outputs, a machine learning algorithm learns which inputs correlate with which outputs. Then it can predict which inputs correlate to positive outputs, and optimize for a desired output. Content marketing inputs are those in your content inventory. Performance related data makes up the outputs. This means things such as leads generated, revenue generated, social shares, traffic data, variants such as time on page or bounce rate; whatever you’re trying to optimize for.

You can then examine marketing pipeline metrics to see how these inputs turn into opportunities for sales. For example, which leads consume which content, how often they consume it, when they consume it, and so on. Did someone consume something when they were an opportunity, at purchase decision, or much earlier? Which of these pieces of content then led to revenue, and how much revenue? Then there’s outside, broader context data such as competitive data, and related topics and trends at the time.

Promotion and Distribution

Promotion and distribution

The last phase is understanding how content is distributed and promoted. It can be hard to tell why a piece of content did well. Is it because it’s fundamentally strong, compelling content, and therefore got traction because people are sharing it? Or was it just heavily promoted mediocre content?

For example, on the homepage of Google News they used to have a ”recommended stories” section. These stories got the highest click-throughs, so the team felt they were making good recommendations. But it turned out they were getting the highest click-throughs because it was the first thing on the page. It was the problem of display bias.

Collecting, Storing, and Cleansing Data

Again, clean data—and lots of it, is imperative. You can’t just go out and buy a machine learning algorithm, flip it on, and start seeing immense value. Any time you use an AI application, with machine learning in particular, you have to teach the machine by giving it data.

Cleansing your data means de-duplicating it. I.e. making sure there aren’t two contacts with same email address, or the same contact with two different email addresses. Simple things like that ensure your data is correct. There’s a tool called IBM Watson Analytics which allows you to upload a dataset to find out how good your data is.

Marketing automation systems warehouse content consumption data that pertains to leads further down the funnel. But vendors don’t currently retain that data well for storage reasons. For example, Marketo only stores web activity data for 90 days, after which they start purging the data. Oracle stores your web activity data for 25 months.

The longer your data goes back, the better. So it will pay to pull data outside of your marketing automation system and build a data warehouse. Other systems pull social data. It’s easy to go and see how a piece of content is doing today in terms of social shares. You can look at a snapshot and say, “Ok, I got this many shares on LinkedIn.” It’s harder to go back and see how the numbers changed over time. So the sooner you start cataloging and storing that information the better, so you get more historical context.

Google Analytics is pretty good for storing historical data, but even that has issues. If a company has over 500,000 pageviews in a given time period, Analytics starts sampling data. It’s too much for their channel, so you’re don’t actually get truthful data.

Every system has its downsides, and it’s important to know what the downsides are. To avoid being hindered by those limitations, it will pay to store data outside many systems.

Clippy’s Revenge

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There are some applications around now that are about as useful as Microsoft Clippy. Clippy was the famously intrusive Microsoft Word paperclip that used to give unhelpful, obvious suggestions. (Microsoft euthanized Clippy in 2007.) Many content intelligence tools are arguably still at the Clippy stage.

While everyone likes to make fun of Microsoft, they’ve morphed Clippy into other technologies. Now if you use the same language or phrasing over and over in a Word document, it offers subtle, non-obvious stylistic suggestions beyond just spelling and grammar. Rather than being an annoying paperclip in the corner, it’s built into the workflow. That’s where content intelligence is working towards to provide value.

The adoption of content intelligence will likely come down to a question of trust in the technology. Firstly trusting that the data is right. Then that the insights are right. Then trusting that the system’s suggestions will actually help rather than hurt. And finally trusting the system to automatically perform the suggested action on its own.

Think about this analogy. In the 1920’s when elevator technology first started displacing elevator operators—that was a big deal for elevator passengers. Many people would take the stairs because they just didn’t trust an elevator sans operator. This dynamic exists with people’s attitudes towards self driving cars. Content intelligence needs to overcome the same level of trust. The technology needs to develop and provide insights and automation. But even with that, it may take even longer for folks to really trust it to make the right decisions.

Where did you say the stairs were?

The Content Intelligence Disruption

We’ve reached the point with certain systems where we trust machines more than we do ourselves. It doesn’t make sense for us to tell an elevator what the best routing is to get to a floor. Many people now trust a GPS navigation system over their own intuition in most cases when driving cars. This is the point content intelligence needs to reach before we see wider adoption.

Content intelligence right now is reducing or removing the need for freelance writers who produce low level copy. It may do the same for certain marketing operations and demand gen positions. (There will be plenty of software engineers kept in gainful employment however.)

It will likely take another two years for the intelligence to offer more consistently helpful insights. And perhaps another three years to gain wider adoption and trust. That said, content intelligence, like all new technology, will offer first movers a significant competitive advantage—whether vendors or users. It will also eventually devolve into a more utility-like function as economies of scale allow full industry penetration. From now until then however, marketers ignore this technology at their peril.

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