Content marketing is one of the most powerful tools for B2B marketers, most of whom likely have content development as a substantial part of their 2010 marketing plans. But before you get started with developing more content marketing assets, take a step back to assess your efforts to date. Below are six steps to help you do that. While the list is not exhaustive, my hope is that these steps will help you improve the performance of existing assets and develop strong future content marketing efforts.
Map site content to the buying cycle
Some people segment the buying cycle into three or four stages. B2B Marketing Strategist Ardath Albee segments it into seven stages. However you choose to define it, analyze your buying cycle and make sure you have substantial, valuable content that speaks to each stage. Prospects have questions at each stage in the buying process. Each question represents an opportunity for content. Think about what should be free and what should be gated (Chris Koch and Michele Linn had good posts on this recently).
Also remember people have different learning styles, and consider having multiple media available for each style. Analyze the effectiveness of your existing content vis-à-vis your buying cycle, determine the gaps in your content marketing strategy, and develop a plan to round out your content.
Reduce friction on gated content
Review registration pages for items that reduce conversion rate. Yes, this includes how much information you’re asking for, but it also includes many other things.
Ask yourself, is the page design and intent clear, or do you have many other things potentially distracting visitors from taking the desired action or perhaps even obscuring the desired action? Have you reduced the anxiety of registering? Are the benefits of doing so clearly stated? Have you illustrated credibility, e.g., are there recognized third-party endorsements on the page? Have you told visitors what you’re going to do with their information?
Todd Miechiels had a great post on reducing site visitors’ anxiety last year, and Ben Hanna gave some strong, practical examples of ways to improve B2B conversion rates by reducing buyer risk.
Review your content analytics
Analytics can be great, but too often we fail to actually learn from them. Take a look at last year’s numbers for the content on your site. What was the most popular content? What were your most popular landing pages? What were the sources of the visitors? Did those sources change over time? What organic keywords drove traffic to that content? What did these visitors do? What were the conversion rates? Where did they go next? What made those pages successful? Equally important to analyze is the content you thought would do well, but didn’t.
Compare and contrast the successes and the failures, and you’ll likely find strong clues to help you develop a best practices model. But don’t just use this information for prospective content. You can likely redeem some of your previously less-than-successful content by making improvements or repurposing and relaunching that content.
Capture the value of content
If your content is a web page, it’s pretty easy to track the results. But what if your content is a PDF or some other digital asset? These assets can drive readers and viewers back into your website. However, unless you’ve coded the links appropriately, these visits will show up as direct visits instead of being attributed to your content marketing assets. Obviously, you should ensure future content marketing assets have such links, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t make these changes to existing content as well.
Include sharing options with your content
White papers, eBooks, case studies, best practice guides can be powerful lead generation and lead nurturing tools. At the same time, they’re expensive to create. They’re also hard to get into the hands of the right people. You may get one of these assets into the hands of one of your contacts, but there are many other people at the prospect’s company who will influence the purchase decision. Embedding social sharing options is a great way to help push the reach of great content, and modifying existing content marketing assets to include social sharing options is fairly painless.
Optimized content for search
Finally, optimize your content for search. While social media can play a big role in the visibility of good content marketing assets, SEO will help ensure online visibility over the long term. Make sure your content marketing assets and their related landing pages are optimized and aligned with the keyword strategy for the piece. This includes optimizing copy as well as other on- and off-page factors. While it does take a bit more work, you can optimize PDFs for search as well.