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The future of online content: Where to next?

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While content has always been ‘king’, it now plays a central role in search engine optimisation and social media management. In this five part series, Grant Arnott outlines why and how online content has become a powerful online tactic for achieving commercial goals. [PART FIVE of FIVE]

In the concluding article of this series, I’ll kick off with a statement that will alarm my peers – content marketing is unoriginal.

Everybody reading Anthill has engaged in content marketing. Have you got a business name? A tagline? A description of what you offer? Of course!
Congratulations – you’re in the content marketing game. You always have been, though you may not have known it. Or talked about it. Or thrown money at it.

So why are we banging on ad nauseum about a ‘discipline’ that’s as core to business as a phone line?

Because in 2013, every business should know about it, talk about it and budget for it. Every business owns content, but not every business is utilising content for competitive advantage. That’s the sexy part, and that’s why we’re banging on about it.

Content for competitive advantage

The benefits are many. To recap, there’s the search factor – businesses making the effort to generate relevant, original and engaging content are scoring big points with search engines. Higher rankings equals higher traffic equals higher conversions equals higher profits.

Then there’s the engagement factor – render the competition irrelevant by mesmerising your audience with high quality, informative and entertaining content. Who else could customers possibly buy from?

Add trust, brand awareness, word-of-mouth, repeat visitation, loyalty, and the business case for a content marketing strategy becomes not ‘if’ but ‘when’.

Though content marketing strategies aren’t exclusively the domain of the digital world, it has certainly accentuated the need.

Digital content consumption devices are ubiquitous – from smartphone screens up, audiences can get their ears and eyeballs on every form of content imaginable. The content consumption experience continues to improve at an exponential rate across all of these digital devices, and businesses are forced to keep pace as best they can.

Hyper-social applications, gamification, interactive video, infographics and geo-targeted messages are just some of the increasingly sophisticated content delivery channels modern marketers have to juggle.

That’s on top of the ‘standard’ 2012 requirements of a regular blog, active social media, email comms, help guides, reviews, imagery, eBooks, and more.

Plus, you need a quality content management system to serve all of these content marketing needs. How the hell are you going to pay for all this stuff? At this point, you’re possibly thinking a Superbowl ad looks more attainable than content marketing success.

It might seem daunting, but content marketing is very scalable, easy to implement, and made for measuring. Whether you choose to run content marketing in-house or outsource to the experts, modest efforts will deliver incremental returns, and big efforts deliver lasting rewards.

Once you prove the case for content marketing, your learnings will help inform the next initiative, and the next, until successful content becomes second nature.

What does success look like?

How will you measure the success of your content marketing efforts? Ultimately, every keystroke should have an ROI, and there is no reason why content marketing campaigns cannot be measured with the same granular detail as other forms of marketing.

Ratcheting up the blogging and throwing greater volumes of words onto the page are relatively simple. Measuring the impact of your content marketing activity on the bottom line is essential for demonstrating its value, and tweaking constantly to ensure best rate of return.

Web analytics offer the simplest way to track traffic and response to content posted on site. As with all things digital, testing programs should be implemented on content marketing to gauge what works to drive traffic, drive conversions, drive repeat visitation, duration of visits and clickstream activity.

Analytics might not show you what everybody experiencing your content is thinking, but it can demonstrate the outcomes it generates.

According to a survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute of North America in August 2012, the primary goals of B2C content marketers are Customer/Retention/Loyalty (77%), Customer Acquisition (75%) and Brand Awareness (74%). Sales was one of the lower priorities, according to the research, at 50%.

I could not in good conscience let the readers of Anthill Online accept sales as a lesser priority than Brand Awareness.

Content sells – use it.

Content in context equals conversions squared. Brand awareness is great, but unless you can bank that and use that awareness to buy the kids Christmas presents, focus on content that converts as a starting point.

Whether your target audience is B2B or B2C; whether your platform is digital, video, print or audio; focus on blending creative, emotion and science in your content marketing to deliver the best results for your business.

Happy content creation Anthillians!

To read this series from the beginning, click here.

Grant Arnott is a business media veteran with over 12 years experience, and a sought after expert on e-commerce and content marketing. He is publisher of the E-Commerce Leaders’ Playbook, Power Retail, Power Content and also serves as chair of the Online Retailer Conference and judge of the Online Retail Industry Awards. This article is the fifth in a five part series.

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