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Karan Kumar

For some time now, Content Marketing has been holding centre court at every opportunity for “social (pun intended) conversations”. For many eager marketers who seek their place on this “social high table”, Content Marketing has come to represent an “enigmatic mystical peak” – one which they must claim to have conquered. All too often, the Content Marketing “Summit” represents that temptation which must be pursued, triggering off a zealous but not entirely well-informed trek towards the summit. The problem with that of course is that the marketer is not equipped to either anticipate the gravity of what this journey entails or how could he/she could claim success at the end of this journey to proclaim that they have truly, successfully scaled the summit!

Given how important a weapon content marketing has become as part of the overall armoury that a brand today could possess to fight its brand marketing battle, my intention behind writing this piece is fundamentally twofold:

First, to share my perspective on the definition of “content” – its types and its various forms. I truly believe that every piece of content needs to be meticulously curated in order for it to play an effective role on individual channels and platforms where it would be deployed, delivering on clearly defined objectives. Second, to share how I think brands ought to monitor the effectiveness of individual content pieces, monitoring them for their performance across the individual channels where they have been deployed, in turn empowering brands and their marketers to have a more comprehensive and informed view on overall efficacy of the content marketing effort.

But first things first. What is Content Marketing and why is it needed today more than ever before? The answer to that is fairly elementary. We have always known that consumers don’t buy products, instead they buy into benefits based on promises brands make. That makes content marketing a powerful tool which when successfully deployed, allows brands to tell stories that are woven with the promises commit themselves to. Promises which, if relevant, are bought into by consumers, making them prefer individual brands over and above all other choices they have in front of them.

What has changed in the media ecosystem is the sheer proliferation of new age channels and platforms that are available today for brands to utilise, and how each one them offers the brand a unique opportunity to successfully converse and engage with its audiences. The key for this engagement to successfully happen though lies in the brand’s unique ability to understand specific characteristics, nuances and capabilities of each individual platform, and, to be able to use that knowledge in custom-creating content that is optimised for heightened performance on individual platforms.

This brings us to another key question. What are the various kinds of content approaches available to a marketer and more importantly, how should their marketing effectiveness be measured and determined? Although by no means an exhaustive list, I am summarising four key approaches that to my mind help in answering both critical questions.

  1. Social Media Followers, Shares and Engagement: Steady rise in a brand’s social media follower count indicates the content shared by the brand is finding appeal among audiences. “Shares” help determine which individual pieces of content have better performed amongst the targeted audience. This should be followed by measuring overall content-led Engagement (in score terms) which helps the brand in understanding the overall impact of the campaign. My advice would be for content to be contextual, compelling and (perhaps in some cases) entertaining to drive higher performance. Checking comments made by readers on posted content and responding to it in a meaningful and timely manner will help a brand in determining whether intended brand messages were delivered and, if yes, how they were received. Brands must track overall social shares and engagement scores by channel, by individual piece of content uploaded and by website traffic generated if that was one of the objectives of the campaign as well.

 

  1. Authority Links and Lead Generation: Measuring links will help you to gauge the traction around your content. An inbound link that you earned is an indicator of powerful content having been created, a traditional measure of SEO progress. I also fundamentally believe that the core purpose of the content marketing department ought to be to attract qualified prospects who can be targeted to become future customers. If a brand is not focusing on SEO, conversion-optimised landing pages and on lead-generating content buckets like eBooks and blogs, my advice would be for the brand to expand its repertoire. Some content case studies have demonstrated a web conversion rate as high as 35% based on generating more and better-quality whitepapers and other similar content types.

 

  1. Search Rankings and Website Traffic: Content marketers must certainly want to drive traffic, leads and sales by way of search and that means search rankings is key metric of performance. Patterns gleaned from search engine users, which now is almost the entire universe, clearly demonstrate that brands that achieve page one rankings reap all glory. On website traffic, the unqualified truth simply is that while website traffic doesn’t necessarily feed the family, you starve at the digital marketing table without it! Use Google Analytics to gauge your past website traffic and up-to-date averages for any selected timeframes you are comfortable with – years, quarters, months or weeks, making website traffic a measure you examine often. Monitoring website traffic is a smart and simple way to hold both internal and external marketing teams, accountable.

 

  1. Click-through-Rates, Page Views and Bounce Rates: Content that earns high CTR wins. CTR is the key success metric and one that eventually subsumes performance of Page Views and Bounce Rates. While Page Views is powerful indicator of the kind of content and topics that have performed effectively for the brand, high Bounce Rates, likewise, tell the story on the content pieces that haven’t (although another cause of high Bounce Rates could be an under-optimised website wireframe – something which is a separate issue altogether and warrants another kind of attention). The important thing to note is that each one of the above three indicators can be measured empirically. The intelligent marketer ought to interpret these scores and what they represent and that would become a natural input in the finalisation of the brand’s forward content marketing strategy – a strategy where one is not just making choices on content styles and genres but also one where the brand could produce additional content on topics that proven to be previously successful in their ability to engage with desired audiences, with these new content pieces taking the form of reports, eBooks, podcasts or even webinars.

 

I would hope the above piece provides a reasonably comprehensive outline, one that offers help to every marketer who wishes to set forth in the quest of scaling the Content Marketing Summit. My intention was to communicate and underline two of my key beliefs on the subject.

First, in order to be successful in content marketing, the marketer needs to carefully:

  1. Define specific objectives for every content piece or campaign
  2. Identify the key platform on which the content piece or campaign will be executed
  3. Design content that is “optimally designed for the platform”, since every platform offers unique ways in which it can be exploited to deliver heightened content performance

Second, not only is measuring the effectiveness of content marketing effort essential, it is also relatively easy to do if the marketer understand that:

  1. Performance benchmarks and metrics need to be set by campaign objective and platform type
  2. No single set of metrics that can be applied to measure performance across all content pieces and across all platform types

I strongly believe that with the combined application of both of the above, the brand marketer today possesses the unique ability to create high-performing content pieces and campaigns that can deliver an over-proportionate ROI on costs and effort.

In summary, here is what I leave you with: I believe that if you prepare carefully, the novice marketer could turn into an accomplished Sherpa – one who knows how to seek out and read the sign-posts on what could otherwise be a seemingly admittedly arduous trek to the Content Marketing Summit. A trek that would leave you feeling pretty much on top of the world!