2014 Predictions for Search and Content Marketing

2014 Predictions for Search and Content Marketing

There’s no denying that content marketing has exploded. Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute founder, recently joined us for a FOUND Friday hangout and shared that one in every $4 a brand spends is on content creation and distribution. He added that about 60 percent of marketers are increasing that spend.
“Quality content is the best way to get found,” shared Pulizzi. He pointed out that content marketing is about creating a long-term relationship with customers.
Marketers have a variety of different goals, including search, creating customer loyalty and retention plus garnering better, more qualified leads. If you are asking why you should turn to content marketing and what you will gain, Pulizzi says first ask the question, “What hurts?”
In looking ahead, the Content Marketing Institute published a list of 50 content marketing predictions for 2014 from marketers across the country. A few themes emerged that we addressed in the hangout with Pulizzi, GinzaMetrics CEO & Founder Ray Grieselhuber and COO Erin Robbins O’Brien. I’m recapping two that we discussed during the hangout in this post.

Prediction #1: Merging Paid, Owned & Earned Content

Pulizzi shared that there has been a noticeable progression of marketing departments to look more like publishing. There are writers, editors and designers on staff producing significant amounts of content. Paid and content coming together can help marketers better create a plan. As an example, he mentioned IBM’s rent-to-own strategy. The company creates C-level reports, blog posts and white papers and puts paid advertising behind them.
If you are looking at an earned strategy with your PR team, they need to know how to tell a good story and work with the people creating content. He mentioned a company that I previously worked for, SAS Institute, as an example of a company that had many silos. Different organizations were creating content independently, including email, search, PR, marketing and mobile without talking to each other. To improve their marketing efforts, they created content ambassadors in each silo and placed someone in the role to oversees content marketing. They hold meetings on a weekly basis.
“Talking to each other and building and editorial calendar together is a big deal,” Pulizzi said. “Until you do that, it’s hard to bring the paid earned and owned together.”
Many companies may not go to such lengths as reorganization, but setting up some open lines of communication will help.
From a search perspective, Grieselhuber said that it’s been interesting to watch this convergence. He said that being able to run paid and organic search together side by side has been a challenge for many companies, and most companies are still trying to figure out one or two channels.
Pulizzi said that mid-size to large companies are putting efforts behind native ads, also known as sponsored content or in-stream ads. “The majority of mobile ad seems to be going more to native,” he said.
The majority of the Content Marketing Institute’s dollars go to organic content, and they focus on building up a subscriber base. Small and mid-size companies have a good opportunity to use paid search to provide compelling content, not just a specific offer like a coupon or asking users to purchase something right away.
“Most users are probably not at that point in the buying cycle,” he said.  “Instead, let’s get them to a compelling piece of content and get them to subscribe on an ongoing basis and nurture them to find out who they are and what they need.”
He admitted that smaller and mid-size companies don’t often do that because it takes longer, but sometimes it can be less expensive because you don’t have as many people clicking on your ads, but the ones that do really want the content.
O’Brien said that even in small organizations, marketers are looking at analytics in siloed dashboards like Google Ads and SEO analytics. “One of the first things that I think we all need to try to do is get a more holistic picture of all of the efforts and all of the ways that we are being found and figure out a way to compare those,” she said. She encouraged viewers to look across analytics, take what they’ve learned and apply it to content to make it more effective.
Pulizzi also suggested that when marketers are creating content for different channels, understand why you in those channels and share it with your team so that you can have that in mind when creating content.
Another tip is to use a shared a KPI document across different organizations. For the Content Marketing Institute, the focus is on subscribers.
“We understand that the majority of revenue that we get in the Content Marketing Institute comes from subscribers that have been signed up with our content for at least six months,” said Pulizzi.
Keeping track of keywords and knowing at all times how you are ranking on them and the core piece of content associated with each one is also helpful. For a content creator, monitoring these keywords helps them understand the impact of their work.

Prediction #2: Moving from quantity to quality

Some marketers believe that a 2014 trend will be a shift in the quantity of content to quality. Grieselhuber said that two or three years ago, being successful in search involved determining phrases that their audience would be searching for. Permutations on different keywords were attempts to suck up the most market share in terms of pages indexed by Google.
One of the biggest changes that Google has made to their algorithms has been to significantly subtract from the importance of that strategy, which Grieselhuber views as a positive change because the Internet was just getting cluttered with poor content.
Companies are trying to get back their core story, he said. If you look at website analytics, you can see if there is a difference between the keywords that are driving traffic to you vs. the story you are trying to tell. This can be valuable because you can see the discrepancy between the goal search and traffic volumes and the traffic that you’re actually getting. Plugging the can be powerful, and Grieselhuber said the best way to do that is to spend time understanding who is coming to your site, what they are interested in and then creating more effective content to reach them.
“Content is not a one size fits all situation,” said O’Brien.  “There is content for different areas of the buying cycle.” As you start looking at creating more quality content, marketers need to start looking at creating content for the different stages of the funnel as opposed to creating a deliverable and hoping it works across the board.
Having a clear buyer persona that you are creating the content for is important. Pulizzi said that Kelly Services plans for repurposing content before they create it. This helps with building out an editorial calendar where you can note which part of the funnel it is targeting.
He said the best strategy is to find one or two channels that you can use to share your expertise with others and dominate them. The best media strategies over time started with one channel, he said. Target a niche audience and expanded out to grow the audience over time.
“If we can learn from publishing over the last 100 years, we know that works,” said Pulizzi. “Sometimes less is more.”
Want to see more predictions? Watch FOUND Friday below.