In the 1st three parts of this series we learned to look at content marketing from the clients’ view, how to write in the shoes of your client, and the need to move to interact with clients and prospective clients. Now we look at analytics, audits, and the ways we can manipulate content to our needs.
Strategy Twenty-One – Try analytics
Analytics measure website traffic, to and from your website, so they are more about website marketing than immediate design issues. In my experience the only smaller professionals firms to use analytics are those that employ someone to do it for them. Usually this is an SEO (search engine optimization) company taking hundreds of dollars a month or more to (potentially) get the firm website listed higher in Google’s search engine results pages. Analytics is an attempt to measure the performance of your website. It’s not an essential component of your strategy, though plenty of commentators will tell you it is absolutely so. This may be true for larger corporate firms who spend tens of thousands of dollars a year to promote their websites, but it is less so for many smaller or suburban professionals. However, it is nevertheless very useful and at times quite revealing. So this strategy takes a bet each way. Yes, it’s good to measure the performance of certain aspects of your website, but it’s not worth doing past a point of lower marginal returns, especially for smaller professionals firms with limited resources. If Google were a place and time it would be the United States in the early 1980s. The other superpowers have dropped away, the economy is booming, the education system is world class and technological innovation is really kicking in. Yes, Google is a search engine superpower without peer. It doesn’t mean this will always be the case, but for now it is monolithic. So it’s not surprising that this strategy opts for Google Analytics, though analytics are available for all search engines. It measures almost everything on your site and it’s free. You must first have a Google account – this is the central account that deals with all your Google products, and is essential to any internet user. You can create it at the Google sign up page. The installation is not always as simple as promised, but if you are comfortable doing some very basic coding, it is simple enough. The analytics home page contains all the instructions. If you use WordPress there are also plugins available – for example, the SEO plugin by Yoast allows you to automate the process (it’s also my preferred SEO plugin).
Strategy Twenty-Two – Do a content audit
Assuming you already have a website and want to institute a content marketing strategy, how to you get the lay of the land? As anyone who has tried to make a change in their life knows, you cannot move forward until you have made an honest assessment of your present position. Do the headings and sub-headings match the content? Is the information up-to-date, and does it reflect current thinking? If not, should it be updated? Does every piece of information support the goals of your firm? Does it accord with the style you want to project? Is it logically organized? Is the tone consistently what you want for your firm? Are the target keywords prominently placed to improve your search engine ranking? In what ways have you addressed SEO? What gaps need to be filled and what changes should be made? Are there calls-to-action? First you need to do an inventory of the site. It helps to have a visual representation of your site. Some commentators recommend a spread sheet, but it’s easy enough to create a document and track the site that way. For instance, you might outline the pages as “home page > About Us > Our People > Bob Jonston”. For each piece it is valuable to know who wrote it (you can source their notes and research) and what type of content it is (article, blog post, static text on a page etc). Now for the audit i.e. what is the quality of the content? As I have done elsewhere, I like to assign a grading out of 5 and comment on each piece. Obviously the information needs to be up to date; the headings must be optimized; does it advance the marketing of the site; is it user friendly; what do the analytics tell us about the page and visitor experience; is the tone and voice consistent, especially if written by different authors; is the behavior of links consistent (e.g. they always open to a new page); what are the SEO concerns; length and timing of articles/posts; are links in the right places? The payoff is not only better content marketing, but also a greater appreciation of the content strategy that should be pursued and the professional assistance you might require.
Strategy Twenty-Three – Produce content of varying lengths and types
Your website should contain content of varying lengths, including short(ish) blog posts (about 500 words), longer posts (2000+ words), eBooks, White Papers, SlideShare presentations, infographics, webinars, curated content etc. Ideally much of this content can be repurposed from an original source (see Strategy Eleven). Google now has a separate classification for in-depth articles. Google’s Pandu Nayak has written:
I’m happy to see people continue to invest in thoughtful in-depth content that will remain relevant for months or even years after publication. This is exactly what you’ll find in the new feature. In addition to well-known publishers, you’ll also find some great articles from lesser-known publications and blogs. If you’re a publisher or webmaster, check out our help center article and post on the Webmaster Central blog to learn more.
There is some argument that less than 500 words just might not cut it anymore. However, the real question is whether there is an ideal length for a blog post? Not your once a month in-depth article, but for your once or twice a week post? Is it better to write one longer post than two shorter efforts? There is anecdotal evidence that clients and prospective clients will “tolerate” longer articles by professionals. This is because they are not buying soap powder, it’s your human and professional expertise they’re hoping to judge. For those readers there should be a greater investment in the blog as a teaching tool, and though you should always be inclined to brevity, you sometimes need sufficient space to create a quality assessment of the topic. For instance, a tax accountant can list all the deductions that are not available to clients with regard to their use of a car, but what is truly helpful is the expert context, the why that helps them navigate the tax code for all their business dealings (if such a thing is possible!). That takes time, expertise and an understanding of your clients’ needs.
Strategy Twenty-Four – View everything as content
We tend to think of content as that function of our firm that conveys something in writing that is valuable to our clients. This might make it clearer for professionals – when it comes to your website, all content is marketing and all marketing is content. What does this mean apart from a smart-aleck aphorism? It means that everything you write on your website should be about marketing to your clients or prospective clients. That is the essence of “content marketing”. What type of content? Blogs, eBooks, FAQ, webinars, podcasts, media releases, images – anything that is on the website, including the home page. Think of it as a conversation and not words on a page. Every part of your website can obviously be defined as “content ”, but every piece of that content should be judged for it’s contribution to an holistic “marketing” effort. However, it’s not the “what” that matters – it’s what the content achieves. Does it educate clients? Does it create an empathetic relationship with clients? Does it anticipate or alleviate pain points in their service transactions? Does it help achieve your strategic goals? This is a different model than the traditional online “brochure” advertising of most professionals. It requires an understanding of your clients’ wider needs. For instance, it is no longer enough to tell clients that they need adequate home insurance. To properly address those insurance needs, and to use content to get them through the front door of your office, you need to show them you have anticipated their underlying anxieties about the best ways to protect their assets and their families. That’s content marketing.
Strategy Twenty-Five – Be your own expert
Don’t undermine your online authority with misplaced anxieties about semantics. Whether you are an “accredited” expert or considered so by the votes of your peers, you can certainly (and ethically) be an expert resource if you actually have the expertise to back that claim. At the least you can be extremely helpful. You can also readily obtain an expertise as a writer of your own website content – as I am pains to reiterate, it’s really not that hard. Ghost writing is not a bad thing, I have written many articles and papers for politicians and commentators, so I can hardly take issue with it. However, for professionals – lawyers, accountants and all superannuation, insurance and finance professionals – that writer should at least have an intimate knowledge of the professional-client relationship. Not necessarily your specific profession, but at least a similar professional culture. Online content marketing relies on authenticity. One of the reasons professionals so readily hire writers to produce ongoing content, especially blogs and newsletters, is that they do not consider it a profitable use of their time. That’s understandable, but there are trade-offs as well. Finding regular sources of writing forces you to keep abreast of issues in your profession, it makes you invest in an expertise that will benefit clients and prospective clients, and allows you to find your own voice. These are tangible long term benefits. And as I constantly plead, content production is not difficult for professionals if you follow a few simple rules.
Strategy Twenty-Six – Think like a publisher
Strategy Twenty-Seven – Have a realistic (but proactive) approach to SEO (search engine optimisation)
Optimise SEO to the extent that it is time and cost effective, but no more. If you have the capital (and the need) to outsource SEO, then that is an effective strategy, so long as you have a realistic understanding of the return on your investment. Be sure to get at least three quotes and be quite clear as to the services you will receive. SEO is a complex topic. You should do enough research to have a basic understanding of SEO, but there’s no doubt that at an advanced level it is best handled by trained consultants – however, you should know enough to be able to make a determination for yourself whether this expenditure is necessary. For most smaller professionals firms, the best strategy to achieve a higher ranking of your website is to write great content. And then write some more. So if you have a restricted budget, and that will be case for most smaller professional firms (which represent the vast majority of the total), then be careful where you allocate your resources. You can learn a lot about online content on your own, and that will take you a long way to a favorable place in Google’s heart. Google, certainly the dominant directory for your prospective clients, increasingly looks to high quality website content as the primary determinant of search engine rankings. For professionals it is really referrals, not ranking, that is the arbiter of good content. SEO experts will no doubt explain that the more eyes on your website the better, but that is not necessarily the most relevant consideration for professionals. What you want are happy clients who send prospective clients to your website, and for those new readers to become clients. So once again we refer to the template of excellent content that is targeted to your ideal client persona. If you liked this article please share it on Twitter – click anywhere in the box below:
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