What does a guy who built his career in the email marketing business know about website content marketing? Well, here's the deal. I built iContact into a market leader by doing content marketing— ten years ago.
Plain and simple. In the early days of the industry, from 2002 through 2006, we dominated web content on the topic of email marketing. When people were first hearing about the concept, we were some of the leading writers on the topic.
In fact, a relic of our efforts from 2002 still remains online. As one of the first marketing tactics we ever tried, my co-founder Ryan Allis wrote down everything in his head - that he learned during a high school internship - about email marketing.
His knowledge and experience turned into about 100 pages of content on email marketing related topics ranging from simple definitions to best practices. The Email Marketing Software Resource (http://www.email-marketing-software-resource.com/) was born. A standalone property from our product website.
The EMSR website, as we called it, was a boon for our fledgling software company. It captured the attention of the search engines who in result delivered hundreds then thousands of monthly visitors to the site. Some of these visitors found their way through to our product which at that time was called IntelliContact Pro (later renamed iContact). We were in business!
Seriously, I cannot believe this website is still online. Time travel. Wow.
Anyway, my point is this. Ten years ago if you were an expert in your field you could quickly build a large audience by creating a bunch of online content on a wide variety of topics. Today, just like ten years ago, writing 100 high quality articles is hard work. But new challenges and opportunities exist that impact the size and quality of the audience you will build in result.
In the last ten years the introduction of link-based authority - and more recently social signals and author authority - have transitioned content marketing from an art to a science. We as content marketers are now judged not just by what content we put on our websites, but by what content we originate and support in social media and other channels too.
The challenge has gotten bigger. But the reward is bigger than it's ever been.
After selling iContact last year I jumped into the middle of all this and co-founded content optimization company BoostSuite.com with the goal of helping content marketers use data to plan and execute more effective content campaigns.
The fact is this. Producing high quality content is important. But everyone is already playing that game. To get a leg up and dominate your competition these days you need a better content strategy. And an optimized content strategy comes from data.
To build your optimized content marketing strategy you need to tap your data, analyze your current position, and make plans to take advantage of missed opportunities.
Use Data You Already HaveToday, outside of voodoo like sentiment analysis and loose standards like tagging, I find good ol' keywords to be the most reliable type of data for building your content marketing strategy.
Start by building a big list of keywords. Make it big, don't worry about quality. To make it big you need to pull keywords from as many relevant sources as possible. I like all of these.
Try to think like your target audience.
Spend a few hours assembling keywords from all of these places and you'll have a great list of potential opportunities to evaluate.
Analyze Your Current StrategyThe reason why keywords are so universally helpful in content marketing is because benchmarking data is readily available. Every unique keyword represents a unit of opportunity for your business. You just need to figure out if it's big or small.
Use a keyword tool to determine the volume of searches for each keyword and the relative level of competition. The best keyword opportunities have high search volume and low competition levels.
Any of the following tools can accept a list of keywords and give you back search volume and competition levels for each.
The goal here is to get a list of your keywords sorted with the highest opportunity keyword at the top and the lowest opportunity keyword at the bottom.
Remember that a keyword with high search volume and high competition only represents a medium opportunity. What you're really looking for here are high search volume and low competition keywords. Everything else should fall in line below these.
You can even be smarter if you want to. If you have conversion data in Google Analytics for each keyword, weight your opportunity score based on the conversion performance of each keyword among your recent website visitors.
Carve out the top 25% and save them in a list of top keyword opportunities for your business.
Now, you have a smaller list of big keyword opportunities based on the perfect combination of your internal data and third party search and competition levels.
For each of your top keywords go to Google and search for your domain name followed by the keyword. For instance for BoostSuite I might search for "boostsuite.com content marketing" for the keyword content marketing.
You are republishing everything you create and promote in social media and other channels on your website right? If not, start doing this.
Repeat this process for each of your top keywords. When you're done every keyword will either have a URL beside it, or it won't.
Crush the Big OpportunitiesNow for the easy part. Pull out keywords without matching pages and be careful to maintain their relative order based on opportunity.
You're now looking at your optimized content schedule. It's that simple. These keywords represent the biggest opportunities that you're not currently pursuing.
You need to produce new content on these topics because they are already proven to resonate with your target audience, they drive conversions, they're what people are already looking for and they're known to be neglected by your competition. These are real, big content opportunities.
So, were you smarter than the data all along?
If your list of unmatched keywords is either nonexistent or super small then you're smarter than the data. If it's got enough keywords to keep your content team busy for the next few months, maybe data is your new best friend!
Your Optimized Content Marketing StrategySo where do you go from here? Continue using data in your content planning process. Repeat the steps I've presented here every few months to make sure you're not missing new trends or specific changes among your audience and your industry.
For instance for a US retailer during the holiday retail season you might see search volume increase for certain topics like gifts where conversion rates might fall for others like swim-trunks.
Always sort by opportunity so your data will tell you which changes actually matter.
The great news for you is that there are thousands of content marketers out there - probably a few of them among your direct competitors - who are using their gut feelings to guide their content strategy.
Each week they sit down and brainstorm topics for upcoming content. They base their decisions on things like previous blog post popularity and personal expertise. That's just not good enough anymore.
Congratulations. Your new data-driven content marketing strategy is going to crush your competition. Go get 'em!