Turn on a Dime: How to Manage the Dreaded Pivot in Your 2015 Content Strategy

Data continues to prove the value of content, but many departments are relying on just 25 percent or less of their total marketing budgets to create data in 2015, according to Ad Age. That’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, but if it’s spent unwisely or on an outdated content marketing strategy, it’ll be that much harder to get a bigger piece of the pie for content efforts in 2016.

Anyone well versed in the art of crafting yearly or quarterly roadmaps knows that while high-level milestones might be met, the steps that lead up to them might not resemble what was originally presented. Setting yourself up to handle the inevitable pivot and back-to-square-one whiteboard session is essential, although methods to increase wiggle room while sticking to an overarching plan aren’t common when looking further down the road.

If you’re in the club of marketers with a comprehensive, documented content marketing strategy (only 35 percent have one, according to the Content Marketing Institute), first of all, kudos to you. You’re in an elite group. You most likely are well aware of the benefits of effective content marketing. Many in the industry are joining you: Overall marketing budgets tagged for content acquisition are on the rise, yet making the most of that money and demonstrating results to get a bigger budget next year has never been a foggier topic. Some benefits of investing in branded content:

According to the Custom Content Council, 61 percent of consumers prefer companies that publish custom content and are more likely to become customers of that company.

Mashable reports that inbound marketing costs 62 percent less per lead than outbound marketing.

The conversion rate on websites managed by marketers prioritizing content marketing is six times higher than those without, according to Kapost.

For these reasons and more, inbound marketing — content marketing — is just far and away a more effective tool for generating leads and clinching sales than outbound marketing in today’s economy. End of story. With that said, it’s always best to remain flexible when executing a plan.

It’s tempting to seek frugality by investing in cheap, mill-style content. But it’s not worth it. Not only are search engines wise to duplicate and keyword-crammed content that verges on the nonsensical, your readers and customers are too. They want entertaining, educational content that connects them with your brand and eases their minds during a purchasing decision with facts, not romance-y marketing content amounting to nothing.

Below are some suggestions for how you can populate your online properties with high-quality content while managing the many changes certain to arise in the new year.

Keep it real.

In 2015, making your web content feel authentic will be the path to glory. As Forbes explained in a recent article, “Companies need to invest in marketing vehicles that allow them to establish a level of authenticity with their audience. Understand what’s valuable to your audience. Couple that with magnetic brand messaging, and everyone can get something out of the relationship. Make sure to stay true to your brand image throughout your messaging, or consumers will spot the disconnect.”

That disconnect occurs when you fall for the three-cents-per-word “deal” on marketing copy, or when you publish blog posts or category pages without really crafting the content, focusing too hard on quantity and not enough on quality.

Authenticity doesn’t just mean staying true to your brand voice and your audience’s desires. It means keeping your content structured and fact oriented. As I’ve already written about, prioritizing helpful facts on your web pages in easily identifiable sections can lead to Google blessing you with structured snippets in your results. Some companies have reported a 20 to 30 percent increase in click-through rate with the introduction of structured snippets.

Focus on a consistent content strategy that places brand evangelism and customer return in the top three or four priorities.

If you haven’t already, sit down and create a pyramid of your current 2015 content strategy to discover which priorities — brand awareness, engagement, lead generation, sales, lead nurturing, customer retention, customer evangelism, and upselling — you’ve stacked where. Consider whether you’re still following an outdated strategy focused almost exclusively on brand awareness and chasing traffic through keyword packing. Experiment in 2015 by flipping the standard content strategy priorities list on its head and focusing on evangelism and retention.

Keeping an active blog as part of your content marketing strategy — one of the simplest and most classic forms of attracting customer retention and evangelism (they share the content on Facebook, they check in each week for new posts) — does wonders for your site’s performance. According to OneSpot, websites with solid blogs have 434 percent more indexed pages and 97 percent more indexed links than those without.

So allot some room in your strategy in 2015 to turn some items, no matter how small, on their head. Do some A/B testing. The last thing you want to do is not experiment and end up wasting valuable time.

Know thyself. And by that, I mean know what kind of content works for your budget and specialize in it.

Deciding which types of content to invest in — weighing their relative costs against possible returns, their attractiveness to your target audiences, the ability of your staff to execute without the addition of new team members — is often just the first step in a year of content marketing. Producing videos might be staying on trend, but as the media form continuously gains traction on the web, videos take a lot of resources and time to get right. And generally, once you publish videos, you can’t go back and edit them. If you’re considering video as a part of your content marketing strategy, consider focusing the productions on only the highest echelon of your target audience — say, the bulk buyers or executives — and keep flexible written content as your main staple. It’s cheaper, easier to update and still very effective.

Make sure your content production method is efficient enough to ensure fresh content all year long.

Your web copy should be reviewed (and possibly updated) every one to two months, and it definitely should be updated at least every six months. This schedule obviously does not include adjustments for Google’s SEO/SEM-related changes to its algorithm; such adjustments may occur as often as a couple of times a year.

So if it’s going to take you six months to complete an update cycle for your hundreds of product pages, by the time you’re finished it will either be time (or past time) to begin again. Unfortunately, this might be the case if you’re relying on only an internal copy team to update your web copy. Consider letting your internal team handle tasks more important than grinding out simple web marketing copy. Instead, reach out to a content shop that specializes in high volume, such as eZdia, to take on the brunt of the work.

eZdia specializes in helping medium and large companies accomplish the above strategies and solve other problems. If you need help gaining some flexibility to handle whatever may come your way in 2015, reach out to our team today.

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Originally published at www.ezdia.com on December 19, 2014.