This year the Content Marketing Institute reported that 69 percent of marketers surveyed say they focus on creating content for their audiences versus for their brand. While it’s good to hear that the majority of marketers are creating messaging specifically with their audiences in mind, what are the other 31 percent of marketers doing?
Perhaps more importantly, how do the 69 percent know that the content they’re creating is really what their audiences want? And if so many people are actually creating content for their audiences, why are so many still struggling with engagement?

The content creation trap

Part of the reason our efforts are not always getting the results we want can be blamed on the increased noise and the ever-increasing competition for audience share of mind. What’s needed at this point is not just creating content with our audiences in mind, what’s needed is content that closes the gap between what we want to say and what our audiences want to hear.
While we may be evolving away from setting content quotas and creating lots of low quality content just to fill the pipeline, some content decisions are still made based on what marketers and their managers think they should do instead of developing content to answer real problems and distributing it on the channels key audiences are tuned into.
Good quality, engaging content is created with more than the audience in mind. The best converting content is based on research conducted to:

  • Understand the audience.
  • Know the questions they’re asking.
  • Discover where they’re going to get answers.
  • Understand the underlying problem they’re trying to solve.
  • Know who is already answering their questions.
  • Find the gaps in information.
  • Identify opportunities for messaging.

Marketers can fine tune their content engagement efforts by understanding audiences beyond their title and industry and creating content that mirrors their use of words, solves their problems, and shows a better understanding of their needs.

Finding content topics to close the gap

Most marketers are using some kind of keyword tool to identify keywords to use in content. To create better content, consider narrowing your keyword focus to target the words and phrases most closely associated with your product or service. Create shorter lists of keywords directly associated with your niche markets and use only keywords and keyword phrases that directly correspond to your offerings.
It’s tempting to use the keywords with the highest search volume and to go after a wide market segment. However, if you’re looking to really engage your targeted audiences, the best keywords to use in your marketing content are probably not be the ones with the highest search volume. In fact, marketers are missing an opportunity to engage more qualified audiences when they aim to scattershot the internet with content based on the most popular keywords.
Closing the gap between content and audience needs means resisting the urge to simply increase traffic to provide evidence of marketing ROI in reports to the executive suite. Getting real ROI from content marketing and increasing conversions from content requires focusing on attracting the right traffic, instead of all traffic. After all, it’s better to have 100 new, engaged visitors than 1,000 new visitors that bounce after the first page. Once engaged audiences find your content, they’re more likely to continue down the path to conversion.
Finding and using the best keywords and staying relevant to audiences requires a continued vigilance and the ability to monitor how each keyword and content type performs. Continue to listen in on forums and social media and pay attention to the actual words your audiences are using in search to describe their problems and ask their questions. Then, create content to directly address those questions and solve problems at every stage of the customer journey.

Measuring and monitoring audience engagement

Grouping keywords and content by campaign will help you track the viability of the keywords you choose and inform decisions about what keywords to use in the future. Keep your audiences engaged by using campaign-specific keywords in all your content associated with a single campaign. Your content will be easier to find and your audiences will be more likely to continue to engage with content using the same words and phrases that helped them find you in the first place.
Keep track of the keywords and phrases that are continuing to rank in search and the associated content that brings qualified leads to your site. Based on what is gaining in popularity, create other types of content around the same subject. For instance, if you have a blog that’s getting a lot of attention, consider creating a video, an eBook, or an interactive infographic. If you find there’s a topic that’s generating a lot of leads, think about new ways to address that topic and consider additional channels to distribute it.
Once you start creating content that brings in more qualified leads, use your keyword discovery tool to find keywords your audiences are using to find you, but where you don’t have any content. Use those keywords as a springboard to create content around the keyword phrases your audiences are using to ask their questions.
Compare the newly discovered keywords to the keywords you’re already tracking to find synergies and create connections between existing content and new content. If you discover new keywords that fit your criteria and match closely with the products and services you offer, add them to your target list of keywords and include them in your keyword and content groups.

Close the gap with the competition

You already know that there will be competition for the content you create. Narrow the competition by sticking with keywords that narrowly define your niche product or service and the problems you solve. Track your brand and content competitors to understand how they’re addressing the same topics and engaging your audiences. You’ll want to know everyone who is competing with you for audience attention, not just those brands competing with you at the product and service level. Your content competitors may include publications or blogs with larger followings. Pay attention to their content and look for opportunities to contribute or be included in round-up articles.
Besides tracking the competitors you know, you’ll want to continually discover new players in your industry and associated niche markets. Keep an eye on the content they’re publishing to watch for possible product competition as well as content competition.
Once you stop looking at your content from a brand perspective and start really listening to your customers and audiences across devices and channels, you’ll start to get a clearer picture of whom you should be targeting and exactly what they want to know. To close the content gap, constantly ask yourself these questions:

  • How well do you know your target audience beyond their title?
  • What channels bring in the most qualified visitors to your site?
  • Where are your audience members located – what geographic data is most relevant to your brand?
    • City
    • State
    • Country
  • What are the exact words and phrases your most engaged audiences are using?
  • What types of content best engage your audiences?
  • What are the most popular paths through your content?
  • Which content and keywords are gaining in popularity?
  • Which content and keyword groups perform the best?
  • Who are your greatest content competitors?

Look critically at your audience engagement data to make sure you’re bridging the gap between their needs and your brand. Armed with the best data and a laser focus on audience needs, you’ll be poised to solve your engagement problems and show real ROI for your efforts.