Why content should be your digital marketing priority in 2023
Recently, I gave a talk at the Digital Superchats event on the importance of content on the success of our digital marketing strategies, if you missed it – you can check out the video here or drop me a message on LinkedIn if you’d like a copy of the slides.
In this post, I recap on main points from my talk and add extra detail to how you can get started in making your digital marketing strategy more efficient and effective.
If you think about it, content is at the heart of any marketing strategy. Whether it’s a blog post, an email, a social media update – it all starts with the words you use to get your message across. Yet, for all its importance, content is often overlooked in the market mix.
Refocusing the role that content plays in our client’s search strategies is a shift we’ve been making with our clients, with really positive results not only on channel performance, but on progress towards those wider business and marketing objectives.
So, let’s dig into this and identify where you can reposition content’s role in your own marketing strategies as you move into 2023.
The state of content in digital marketing right now
Google’s recent Helpful Content Update, has shone a light on the purpose and effectiveness of content, and the importance of serving user’s needs rather than platforms. This is good news – search engines are finally catching up to what we’ve all known for the last 7 – 10 years, it’s just good marketing!
But what perhaps changes, is the cadence of our content and how we use it across digital channels, and the layering of that content.
Content has historically been produced as a requirement to fill a space, whereas it should be created to fill a need.
Understanding the true value of content means disregarding content as we’d previously interpreted it as a term in digital marketing, moving away from associating it with blog posts for blog posts’ sake, away from ‘content is king’ and positioning it more as a communication strategy across digital channels.
What is interesting, and a clear marker in the sand for how we need our shift our approach to content, is Google’s new AI milestone for understanding information – MUM, which stands for Multitask Unified Model.
MUM is designed to help Google understand a user’s complex needs, making Google searches more semantic and context based. Essentially, providing more of what a user wants without them having to carry out multiple different searches.
Interestingly, the update also overcomes language and format barriers – interpreting images, videos and podcasts in a way which wasn’t possible before.
This means not only in search marketing but digital marketing in general, we must move away from the “exact response days” and tap into the user journey that’s layered and complex.
Google wants to provide users with more information to make their decision earlier on in the journey. What does this mean for how we should approach our digital marketing strategies moving forward?
The foundation of your content strategy
Well, it means that content and other important factors that underpin authority are going to be our most important elements to organic success.
Just producing content is no longer enough, we need to be less concerned with the frequency of keywords and instead consider the perspectives from which a topic should be dealt with.
It will be increasingly important for us marketers to provide content marketing along the customer journey to deliver as many content touchpoints as possible for the user during their research.
You need to align all touchpoints a user has with your brand to ensure they have a consistent experience, to do this – you need to start with a solid foundation of data and insight.
You need to have a deep understanding of the audiences and their journeys across product categories and various platforms, as well as a clear idea of who you want your audience to be and where you want them to go.
Understand the true landscape
To do this, we must gather data across 3 areas:
- The keyword landscape
- Audience sentiment
- Trend mapping
The keyword landscape
The art of search is to match the products and services to the language used by people to express their needs. So, communicating the products and services in the right way to match the language will lead to success.
On top of this, there needs to be an understanding of how someone reaches a particular decision in relation to interacting with a product or a service.
This will differ by product, market, motivation and intent. And a lot of this is also reflected in the language of search.
So, we need to look at keyword research in a more scientific way and understand what’s influencing decisions.
Overlaying audience sentiment
We can overlay this data with the sentiment landscape, you can get this data from social media – understanding your audience’s perception of your brand or product.
This is important for when it comes to what content you actually need to produce and what content techniques need to be considered, as well as what distribution platform is best.
Every business should have a clear idea of what their customer’s sentiment is towards their products and how they decide to purchase them.
It’s important to have a direct customer feedback loop to feed into that understanding.
Mapping the trend landscape
Additionally, we need a full understanding of the trend landscape – so what’s in demand amongst your various audiences, and this might not just be related to your product or market but what’s trending amongst them in a wider sense.
These are all of the things that can be influencing your customers’ behaviours, and these topics and conversations will change pace depending on season, wider socio-economic trends etc., so it’s incredibly important to keep your finger on the pulse and continually analyse this and understand how these could be impacting your user journey.
All this data then needs to be ordered into a logical strategy that satisfies the overall need for your brand. For example, by product, or by stage of buying decision, or value based.
Layering this data and understanding leads to creating content which answers the user’s need rather than answering how a platform is optimised.
When it comes to developing your content, think about what will connect to your audience and potential customers.
You can research all the questions asked around a specific product, but what value are you adding? Can you add the depth of expertise needed to really answer your audience’s needs?
It’s not enough to measure a blog post’s success on traffic or time on page, speak to your customers as this is what will give you the edge against competitors.
When you’re developing content, take into account that you have the knowledge of your brand and USPs, but the user doesn’t, so you’re approaching the search journey from two different perspectives.
This is about enabling users to find content which aligns specifically with their needs – if you know enough about your audience and typical journeys, you’ll be able to ensure they find your content in less steps than a few different searches.
And think about whether you are really a qualified result for that search term – because you can’t game it as you previously could.
Before you plan and write your content, think about what the most effective distribution channel is, this will be determined by your initial data and insight mapping. Once you know this, you can write effectively knowing the content is distributed through one of your active channels, for example writing a blog post with a social angle to it, knowing it can go on social media and get some active engagement.
Don’t shy away from AI for content creation either – certainly, don’t use it on its own to create reams and reams of content which has absolutely no value add to your customers, but when used in the right way, it can be used to support a more efficient strategy.
However, the best content strategies come from a combination of both AI and manual input; we can be smart about where software and AI can support our strategy and execution, but ultimately it needs manual direction and review.
Aligning content across channels
We can use content to bring the audience into the wider journey and use other marketing channels effectively to help them along. The content can act as the pull point, bring your audience into your brand.
You can use content to build audiences to specifically target through paid channels, by setting up Audiences on those core content pages.
You’ve already had that brand engagement with them through the content, so you’ve already built up some trust and demonstrated your expertise and authority, and now you can plug that into social advertising to target them with personalised and relevant ads to encourage them to take that next conversion step.
Effective content measurement
Like any digital marketing channel, effectively measuring how your content is performing all comes down to what its purpose is. But because content is involved across the multi-platform mix, it can be hard to separate it out from the other elements of a campaign to understand how it’s performing.
For me, measuring success of content is more and more about moving away from content-specific metrics, for example the number of people who have read an article, content scroll depth, time on page etc. – because in the context of measuring a piece of content’s success, they become meaningless.
They are useful to feed into wider digital performance measurement, but they shouldn’t be used in isolation to measure the success of one piece of content.
How you measure its impact needs to become about what role your content plays in the user cohort, you can look at the influence a certain type of content type has had on overall user output.
And give it the time it needs – content is often created to change perception, and perception doesn’t change overnight – it takes at least 3-6 months to take effect.
It’s really important to take a step back and look at overall digital performance as the ultimate measure of digital strategy success.
If you’re already on GA4, you might have seen that you can look at user cohort rather than the channel, helping you better measure things like retention, engagement and lifetime value.
A cohort is a collection of users who are grouped by some criteria, so you could set this by a certain page of your site or the day the user was first acquired.
It’s not as easy as a test and learn approach with content, you can certainly measure various metrics to give an initial idea of content engagement, but it doesn’t tell you a story.
5 key takeaways
- Move away from content for rankings and towards content as a communication strategy
- Facilitate data sharing across channel teams, use it to connect all of your brand touchpoints
- Don’t just map out the keyword landscape – map out trends and user sentiment across audiences and platforms, too.
- Create content that answers the user’s need and adds value to their journey.
- Use software and tools to make your content strategies more efficient, use collective manual insight to make them effective.
Whilst I’ve talked a lot about adding layers and complexity to your strategy, this doesn’t correlate with a complicated strategy.
In fact, refocusing your resource and energy in this way where all channel data is connected and you have a really clear, focused approach for specific content to create which aligns and connects across channel touchpoints actually just means that your time is spent much more efficiently and effectively.
If you’d like to chat about where efficiencies can be made in your content strategy or support with the data gathering stage and understanding your different user journeys, drop us a line.
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