3 survival tips for content marketing in an unpredictable landscape
Content Marketing

3 survival tips for content marketing in an unpredictable landscape

4th March 2020

From new algorithms to legislative updates, there’s no denying that digital marketing is a fast-paced industry. Navigating these turbulent, unending waves of change is a challenge for all marketers, but especially for content creators. Content marketing is expensive and hard to measure, making it a risk for any brand, at any point. It’s a challenge to say the least.

So, how can you make your content fight for survival in an ever-changing world? This article offers three key considerations that can help content marketers make a lasting impact with their output.

1. Know your audience and market to them

The function of content marketing is to create a relationship between a brand and its audiences; to produce content that reflects the interests of the audience and the values of the brand. As such, the more understanding you have of your audience, the more likely it will be that you create content that resonates.

If you forget the marketing part of content marketing, you’re just ‘making stuff’.

Sure you may get lucky with traffic or social engagement, but you can’t guarantee that the viewers are the people that the brand needs to reach – there is no relationship being built here.

Example of audience research
The biggest advantage of digital marketing over traditional methods is the granularity of detail when it comes to audience research. Use this to your advantage!

How can knowing your audience combat unpredictability?

You can’t control algorithms or policy changes on search engines and social networks. But you can adapt how you market your content based on your knowledge of the audience.

Example scenario

Imagine you write an article that you have a hunch your audience will love. It goes live and ranks well, securing high click-through. Google then decides to update its algorithm. Your content is plunged down in SERPs and click-through becomes almost non-existent. Knowing how much time and money you spent on the article, you decide to promote it on Facebook. You want as many people to see it as possible, so you choose a broad target audience – men and women aged 18-65. It gets a high number of impressions but no click-through and a mere smattering of engagements.

What went wrong?

In this scenario, there is little care or thought taken to what is being produced and for whom. With research, you would have known that the audience you targeted in search isn’t relevant to your brand objectives, that video and listicles is the preferred format, that Twitter is the preferred social channel and that men aged 35-45 are most likely to engage.

Knowing your audience means the content you produce is more niche. You may miss out on the ‘luck factor’ that comes with focusing on mass appeal, but it does mean that those consuming your content are the right people.

Content marketing tip: think beyond SEO

It may seem like a blasphemous statement, but search optimisation is not the be-all and end-all of online content. As a content marketer, you must give consideration to how your brand and audience will connect. In other words, how will your content be seen?

SEO is just one way of achieving this – pulling people to your site from SERPs with keyword-optimised content. But if your brand objective is not purely around organic rankings and traffic, then there are plenty of other ways for your content to be seen. If you can’t make the audience come to you then make your content go to your audiences.

2. Focus on quality over quantity

Content marketing can be expensive and as such, many brands are sucked into the fallacy of becoming a content generator. Anyone can produce content, but quality content takes time, money and expertise. It’s also the best way to get results.

How can high-quality content combat unpredictability?

While no digital marketer can guarantee the longevity of content, focusing on quality does mitigate the risk of content being forgotten or dismissed. There is always a risk of whatever you produce becoming outdated or bettered, which is why you need to offer something more. You need to give people a reason to engage with your content.

Example scenario

Imagine you write blogs for a brand. You promised to create a blog a week, but you don’t have a lot of time in which to do it. However, you know your audience well and you are focusing on topics that they engage with and that are likely to rank. As such, you write a few hundred words per blog, add some related content and move on to the next one. Your blogs get close to zero organic traffic and referrals from social have high bounce rates.

What went wrong?

While you may have been producing the right content for the audience, you weren’t focused on quality – your focus was instead on frequency and quantity of blog articles.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the internet is a big place. It is full of brands and individuals all vying for your attention, and it’s constantly being added to. If you want to be seen, you need to give your audience a reason to engage with you.

Consider what offers more value: infrequent blogs that are in-depth, unique and compelling, or frequent blogs which offer the same broad overview of a topic that you could find in the first paragraph of a Wikipedia article.

Content marketing tip: think optimisation

One great way to avoid the high costs associated with content production while focusing on quality is to optimise existing content. If you have previously fallen into the trap of generating content for the sake of it, then go back and consider how you could make it better. For example you could:

  • Add more detail than your competitors – they don’t offer the answer to a certain question? Then find the answer and talk about it. If the details aren’t online then ask an expert, go to the library, phone a friend.
  • Create bespoke visuals – if it’s a complex topic, work with a graphic designer or animator to present the information in a simplified way. Make your audience say “Oh, now I get it!”
  • Include original data – conduct your own research and add the findings.

3. Set expectations for long-term results

If you’re a content marketer, then you’ll already know how difficult it can be to measure your success. As content marketing is about building a relationship between brand and audience, at various stages of the funnel, what’s being measured is more, ‘could they become a customer?’ than, ‘did they buy something?’.

While you should have a good idea from your audience research that you’re targeting the right people, potential for conversion is not something than can be measured on one visit to site.

How can long-term thinking combat unpredictability?

In content marketing, short-term metrics and targets should be considered with extreme caution. Traffic and referrals are important and may be part of your brand’s objectives, but reviewing them a month after publication doesn’t offer much of a story. Or if it does, it won’t be an accurate one.

Example scenario

Imagine you create a new, high-quality piece of B2B thought-leadership as part of a multi-channel campaign to increase revenue. You publish it and a month later, your boss or client is chasing you for numbers. Organic traffic is low and cost-per-click on LinkedIn and bounce rates are both high. There are no leads generated and you can’t show return on investment. The content is declared a failure and it is forgotten.
What went wrong?

The only thing wrong in this scenario is the focus on short-term metrics. Had they reviewed the content again six months down the line, they might have seen that:

  • The organic traffic is still low, but pages-per-session is much higher than average for non-commercial content
  • Most of the people that clicked-through from LinkedIn returned to the site over the next few months
  • There are a smattering of assisted conversions and the order value is higher than average
  • There is a backlink from a high-authority site.
Graph showing content marketing long term value
Source: Neil Patel – Why Most Brands Fail Miserably at Content Marketing

Content marketing tip: build your case

The challenge for content marketers is not understanding the long-term value of content – if you didn’t grasp that you probably would have abandoned the career path a while ago. The challenge is getting buy-in from your client or boss. To tackle this, spend time on tools like Google Analytics and ahrefs to analyse content you have produced in the past. What narrative can you build from the data? How does it show the long-term value of content? Case studies are an excellent way of getting buy-in, so make sure you’re constantly building your case!

You may also be interested in this article on relationship building and its importance in digital marketing.

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Written By
Helen Brooks is a content marketer at Further Digital Marketing in Norwich. She has an aptitude for strategic planning and a passion for all things creative. She specialises in content marketing, social media, PR and production management.
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