There is no escaping it. You are executing a content marketing initiative as part of your broader B2B marketing program in 2015. If you are a regular reader of this blog, SEO performance is likely part of the reason content marketing has become a priority as well.
But guess what? According to The Content Marketing Institute, at least 86% of B2B marketers are now engaged in content marketing as well. That number swells to 93% if we only classify content marketing as “creation and distribution” and not a more formal business discipline, as detailed in CMI’s 2015 B2B Content Marketing Report.
The bottom line: The belief that content marketing will solve challenges with online marketing performance is also held by 9 out of 10 of your competitors as well. In order to succeed, you not only need to be better at your craft; you need to be smarter at it as well.
While there are never guarantees with B2B content marketing and SEO, there are ways to orchestrate your program to help mitigate mistakes and overcome inevitable obstacles. Here are eight recommended steps to take, both internally and across client programs, when executing an SEO-centric B2B content marketing strategy.
Step 1: Write It Down
Having a written (or documented) content marketing strategy makes it easier to succeed. One of the highlighted findings from this year’s CMI report was that 60% of those surveyed with a documented content marketing strategy rated themselves highly in terms of content marketing effectiveness; compared with 32% of those who only have a verbal strategy.
A recent comparable study from IDG Enterprise and the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn showed similar results. Companies with a documented strategy are much more likely to be very effective (36%) versus those without (11%).
A written strategy makes your content marketing initiative real, as opposed to a series of vocalized, conceptual ideas a team in particular might have trouble following or understanding. There is no point of reference over time.
At KoMarketing, our written strategy led to 64% growth in unique visits year over year and 90% organic search growth. Well exceeding the original (documented) goal of 50% year over year growth for the past year.
Step 2: Create An Idea Repository
Well regarded writer James Chartrand’s post on Write It Down, highlights the need for having a list of content ideas at the ready. Otherwise, you may find yourself staring at a blank screen for quite some time. While this is an absolutely essential recommendation it poses a challenge to writing teams and organizational content marketing programs.
When we first started working with clients on more organized content marketing initiatives, ideas were saved everywhere, across everyone’s desks and laptops.
The key to overcoming this obstacle is having a central location where content marketers can archive and share ideas. It also helps mitigate overlap and unnecessary duplication of content. To make it more business and SEO-specific, consider adding the following information and values to this process:
- Topic / Idea
- Third Party References
- Keyword Priorities / Targets
- Ability to Comment / Notate Information
We use Google Drive for the majority of this collaboration but Basecamp and Evernote Premium are fairly low cost options collaboration options as well. Kapost and Skyword are higher priced (but also more comprehensive) solutions but should be evaluated based on the depth of content marketing required (and certainly not only as a mechanism for sharing ideas).
Step 3: Create an Editorial Calendar
You want (need) an editorial calendar to schedule posts and communications and make sure everyone on the collaborating team is aware of deadlines and milestones.
We use a combination of resources for enabling our content marketing schedule internally and across client programs.
- Google Drive Spreadsheet for mapping out due dates and ideas.
- Basecamp for establishing project-based milestones and reminders.
- To a lesser extent, we use the plugin EditFlow for WordPress-specific blog post scheduling, notifications, and review
If you haven’t done so already, or are struggling with what to create in an editorial calendar, here are a few resources and templates for aiding in the process:
- How to Build a Content Calendar (Plus a Free Template for 2014)
- LightBox Collaborative Editorial Calendar 2015 Edition
- Editorial Calendar Templates in Google Docs
4.) Gather Information Sources
The next step is in having a short list of resources that can be considered “go to locations” for research, third party perspective, and references in content development. We tackle this step in two phases:
- List Curation – Understanding what information sources are valuable and relevant.
- List Management – Creating mechanisms for keeping up to speed with key resources and information sources.
Resources for assembling these resources and executing each phase of this step:
- RSS Readers such as Feedly, Digg Reader, or Hootsuite’s RSS Syndicator
- Swayy for personalized content discovery
- Buzzsumo for understanding the type of content that performs best
- Google Drive / Old Fashion Spreadsheets
- Twitter Lists / Saved Hashtag Searches
- Buzzstream for communication management
- TrackedContent or ChangeDetection for keeping track of web page updates and changes
- Sidekick and Rapportive for augmenting contact information around email communications
5.) Create A Publishing Checklist
The identification of platforms and materials (IE, content) required in content marketing distribution often gets overlooked by B2B organizations in the content development process. For each core content marketing asset developed, consideration should be made for:
- Third party and social media publishing platforms for distribution
- Messaging, target audience, and potentially budget required for each distribution site
- Parties responsible for distribution (if not already identified)
For larger content marketing campaigns, such as tie-ins to an event marketing program or research report, the identification of publishing platforms takes on a third level of complexity. Blog posts, landing pages, and the distribution of third party communication from multiple content marketing assets, must also be considered.
6.) Identify Third Party Opportunities
Another often overlooked aspect of content marketing programs is the identification of key third party web sites and influencers for promotion and distribution efforts. The goal in targeting these publications and individuals is in gaining visibility to the content being produced and aid an effort to distribute, provide feedback, and ultimately organically acquire inbound links.
The good news is that if you paid attention to step 4, you’re already on the road to tackling this step. Most likely, resources curated for information gathering will be very similar to or the foundation for finding more of those required for content distribution and relationship building as well.
How can you expand this reach? Here are a few additional suggestions:
- Review influential Twitter profiles using FollowerWonk to identify additional influencers and relevant profiles.
- Use the search query: related:domain.com to uncover publications which Google might believe to be related references online (example).
- Plug keywords and domains into SEMRush to uncover competitive websites and publications currently visible in applicable search engine results.
- In Casie Gillette’s Search Engine Land column on PR Strategies, she identifies a range of PR-based research tools for uncovering third party opportunities, including HARO, EdCals, and Muck Rack.
Don’t always focus on top tier influencers and publications. Instead, look for mid and even lower tiered resources which receive less visibility but are making visible attempts to improve their own presence as well. These publications and individuals may be more receptive to quality efforts in network development, partially because they likely receive less solicitation than known “A-Listers”.
7.) Measure Performance
As with every aspect of marketing, its important to evaluate how successful content marketing campaigns were for the organization, specific to appropriate KPI’s and benchmarks. Last year I wrote two articles for the Content Marketing Institute highlighting key methods for measuring content marketing efforts (here and here).
While I recommend taking a look at those (shameless plug), when it pertains to SEO, consider the following measurement in particular:
- Relationships created or enforced
- Contact information created or obtained (from publishers and social media connections for example)
- Inbound links created
- Social media metrics (social shares, comments, un-linked mentions and references, etc)
- Keyword improvements associated with content assets and cross-linked material
- Engagement metrics such as time on page, bounce rates, exit rates, etc, in comparison to other website and web page assets.
By keeping track of these type of metrics, you put yourself and your team in a better position to improve over time, by understanding what works best and where you need to adjust or redefine focus.
8.) Meet Regularly and Share Knowledge
Lastly, don’t forget to hold regular discussions designed to review performance and share success stories and challenges. I’m hesitant to call these discussions “meetings” because of the negative feelings this might bring (nobody wants another meeting in their schedule) but these discussions are an easy way to help a content marketing team improve performance and share perspective, even if its purely based on the review of a week’s worth of action items.
If you’re unable to coordinate regularly scheduled group discussions at least have a location online or in an archive where team members can review information and performance metrics, similar (or in the same location) to the idea repository previously discussed.
One final, telling statistic from the 2015 CMI report is that 47% of respondents have a dedicated content marketing group; with 35% indicating that the group works horizontally across department silos. As content marketing programs continue to become a core function of the broader B2B marketing initiative, the challenge for B2B organizations is in becoming more effective and efficient in execution.
Just executing a content marketing campaign is certainly not the answer for long-term success.
Hopefully the consideration of these steps will help your organization improve content marketing performance this year and beyond. Are there steps you believe that we missed in the process? I’d love to read your thoughts and perspective via comments below.