Marketing is an ever-evolving discipline, constantly shifting to meet the changing technological and cultural landscapes. In 2020, marketers have experienced unprecedented challenges—disruptions in global markets, cancelled events, and millions of the labor force working from home or not working at all. Those lead-generating activities and conditions aren’t around anymore, so that means leads have been lost—a lot of leads have been lost. And marketers need to take bold steps to replace them.
How do you reach your target audience in a socially-distant world? The answer, of course, is in digital—and you’ve got two big options there. First, you could simply migrate your in-person events over to the virtual world. We’ve written extensively on the topic, because it’s not as simple as it sounds, and that’s not the right solution for everyone. A more widely adoptable strategy lies in digital content, which provides powerful insights and helpful information to prospects at the top of the funnel.
Here, we’ll cover the ways that you can innovate your content marketing strategy, improve your SEO, and increase your brand awareness, all helping you replace those high-quality leads you’ve lost because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Step 1: Audit your content
Before you make any significant changes to your content marketing strategy, take stock of what you already have. Even if your marketing team is already performing regular content audits, now is a great opportunity to focus on a specific goal—in this case, lead generation. Here’s how to conduct an effective, highly condensed content audit.
Start with a small sample
Choose a number of recent URLs from your website, no more than 30 or 40. Make a spreadsheet so you can create an inventory of your selected content. Be sure to include the page title, the URL, and the content type—for example, if it’s a blog post, a white paper, and so on.
Pick a narrow set of metrics
You only really need to compare about three metrics, depending on your goal. For example, if you’re interested in lead generation, some of the common metrics to measure success are form completion, downloads, subscriptions—including for blogs, newsletters, webinars, or other recurring content—and conversion rate.
If you’re hoping to boost brand awareness, look at overall site traffic, page views, video views, inbound links, and navigation summary, which will show you the most common path that users take to get to a certain page. And if you want to maximize SEO strategy, take a look at organic search, bounce rate, and top exit pages for organic traffic.
If you’re more interested in a general overview of performance, take a metric from each category: Organic search, page views, and conversion rate are all good bets.
Evaluate their performance
If your marketing team does regular audits, you’ll likely already have a scoring system in place to rank successful content. If not, try to create a system that takes into consideration all three metrics at the same time. If a page performs well in all three categories, it goes at the top of the list. If a page is only successful in one metric, put it at the bottom.
Be ruthless in your analysis. What do the successful pages have in common? Do they cover a certain subject matter, live in a certain place on your site, or have a similar layout? Whatever you discover as your main takeaways can help give you some basic guardrails to work with as you plan to overhaul your marketing strategies.
Step 2: Optimize for voice and mobile search
It doesn’t matter how good your content is if your users can’t find it when they need to. SEO improvements are often glossed over—many don’t consider them foundational to a traditional marketing strategy. But they are, in fact. According to Hubspot, over 52% of marketers are investing in technical SEO updates to their website, and 64% of them think that SEO is very important to their overall marketing strategy.
Because search engines can now address a user’s specific, granular questions, businesses are also expected to be able to answer those specific needs—to be in the right place at the right time. And voice, in particular, is changing the search game. Search engines are becoming more effective at deciphering a voiced question, providing them with the answer without even needing to click. That’s changing everything about the way that businesses track users and understand the user experience.
Here’s how to improve your SEO to meet the needs of your voice-searching consumers:
Optimize your page speed
Page speed determines everything—from how long a user stays on your site, to where Google ranks your page in organic search. And it’s the top tactic marketers are using right now in order to improve their search performance. There are a host of technical things that you can do to make your page speed even faster, but some of it is easy to streamline. Here’s where to start.
- Include the trailing slash after your URL: “ceros.com/”
- Enable browser caching, so that the next time a visitor comes to your site, the page loads faster.
- Enable compression and optimize your media files.
- Prioritize “above-the-fold” content, so that the rest of your site loads as your visitors are scrolling.
Focus on long-tail keywords
SEO revolves around keywords. They’re the building blocks for generating organic search traffic. As you build out your strategy, keep in mind that some keywords have a much higher conversion rate than others. Short tail keywords—phrases that are just one or two words—tend to be highly competitive, and therefore not great at achieving results.
Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, tend to yield fewer search results but higher conversions. They also mimic the way more and more people are searching—using their voices. Voice searches are natural and conversational—they’re not built around truncated clauses, but around long strings of words. Twenty percent of all mobile searches on Google are made via voice, and those numbers are just going to continue to grow. So, the more you can anticipate and build your content around answering these long-tail search queries, the better.
Rank for Google’s featured snippets
Google’s featured snippets, the convenient no-click answer boxes that appear at the top of a search engine results page (SERP), present a tremendous opportunity to get your content directly into the hands of potential consumers.
You might imagine that because the snippet, also known as “position zero,” is information presented without a click, it would have an adverse effect on your click-through rate (CTR). But in fact, it’s the opposite. Position zero—and even position one, just underneath the featured snippet—can double your CTR. That’s why over half of all marketers are currently trying to get their content to rank at the top of SERPs.
As you get your content snippet-ready, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the information that’s found in snippets is meant to answer a user’s specific question. In other words, they’re usually responses to direct questions—the who, what, why, how, when searches. And because Google is trying to deliver the best answer possible, they don’t always pull the featured snippet the highest ranked page—in fact, Google pulls from the top 10 organic search results in order to find the best result. Here are some tricks for making your content ready for featured snippets.
- Audit your keywords: Figure out which pages you’re already ranking for—are there any that are question-based? In all likelihood, you’re how-to guides and educational blog posts will be a great place to start looking for this.
- Format your content: Figure out what can be done to make Google more aware that your answer is clearly defined and cogent.
- Use headers: Put the search query into a header at the top of your page, and then put the answer below—in the form of a paragraph, list, or table.
- Format your lists: If the search query is question-based—like “how-to make a GIF”—we recommend making a list at the top of the page and breaking out your answer into simple steps.
- Keep your answer short: Skip the preamble and jump right into the answer. This is particularly important if the search-query is more topic-based—like, “what is content marketing?”—and requires a paragraph-style answer, rather than a list. Try to keep that paragraph to around 50 words. Try to include the verb “is.” The key to writing snippet-ready content is to make it simple enough that both humans and AI can easily understand it.
This post is the first part of a four-part series on replacing lost leads with content marketing. Check back soon for Part II!