Giuseppe Fratoni had a simple battle plan: he would put his business blog at center stage, create great content to position himself as an expert, and drive loads of traffic to his blog (ultimately generating more leads and more clients).
Beginning with the well-known content marketing method of interviewing experts, he had visions of his blog and business driving traffic very quickly, resulting in what he thought would be an overnight success.
The problem is, none of it worked out as planned.
Fratoni’s content marketing was a complete failure.
Sadly, this seems to be a common thread for small and large businesses alike.
In fact, only 7% of B2C’s and 9% of B2B’s believe their content marketing is “very effective,” leaving 90%+ of businesses clearly not seeing the performance levels they’d like.
And, considering that more than 90% of digital marketing includes content, this is a staggeringly low percentage of people using content effectively.
Not only that, but 80% of buyers actually want content. They prefer content over advertising.
However, in 2014, TrackMaven did a Content Paradox Report, stating that:
“We analyzed 13 million pieces of content from 8,800 brands over 24 months and found that while the output of content per brand increased by 78%, content engagement decreased by 60%.”
That’s not exactly a great outcome.
If you’re producing more and likely spending more, you want your content to deliver a positive return on investment (ROI), not a return that’s moving in the opposite direction.
So, what exactly do you do if you find yourself in this position? How do you diagnose ineffective content? And, more importantly, how can you turn that performance around?
Look, content marketing isn’t rocket science.
The truth is, most of the businesses that think content marketing has failed have actually neglected to implement some simple criteria for content marketing.
Let’s look at some of the critical factors of content marketing in greater detail. To help you get a greater ROI, I’ll pose a series of simple questions that will help you troubleshoot various aspects of your campaign, as well as implement the tweaks and changes needed:
Do You Have A Content Marketing Strategy?
Long-term being the key here.
One of the major reasons Giuseppe Fratoni failed in his grand content plans was that he gave up too early.
Like many business people, Fratoni expected too much too fast. And, when he didn’t see the results, he stopped producing consistent content.
Just as your business is a long-term venture, so too is your content marketing strategy.
The solution here is a simple one. If you aren’t seeing results, and it’s been less than a year, try to be patient a little longer.
Do You Track And Measure?
Approximately 79% of businesses are flying blind with their content marketing. They simply don’t track and measure their progress, their performance, or their results.
Are you one of them?
If so, how do you know what works and what doesn’t?
It’s impossible to measure the true ROI of your campaigns unless you have some kind of analytics in place, and this is exactly where you need to get started before doing anything.
What Is Your Target Market Really Looking For?
Many businesses produce content, but if that content doesn’t hit the mark, it’s virtually wasted effort (or money).
Are you creating content that solves your readers’ problems and gives them what they want?
Drill down and find out what your audience really needs, and you’ll start hitting the target.
There are a few simple ways to do this:
- Look at your on-site analytics. Which of your content pages have the highest average time on site? Do you see any common threads that could give you insight into the subjects your readers care about most?
- See what kind of content is performing well for your competitors. Tools like Quick Sprout can help, as can simply viewing “popular posts” lists on your competitors’ sites (when available).
- Spend some time in community forums. What questions are people asking? What pain points are they complaining about? Every post could give you a new idea for a content piece.
Is Your Content Really Good Quality?
Assess your own content creation and ask yourself two questions:
- Is this something people would want to consume?
- Is this something you’d spend your time reading?
If the answer is “No, it’s really rubbish,” or “The content tends to fluff over things,” well then, therein lies the issue.
The content you create has to be useful to people – that is, your target audience.
With the amount of content that’s already been published online, you have to work hard to stand out in the crowd.
The standard 500-800 word posts simply don’t work anymore. Instead, you’ll find that more detailed, lengthy posts, and short, sharp, snappy pieces work better with today’s readers.
The truth is that an average of 75% of content gets no links and no shares, rendering it almost useless.
As the content landscape continues to grow, people will become even pickier about their choices of consumption.
And, in this environment, poor content equals poor ROI, period.
Are You Driving People Into Your Sales Funnel?
Another step that frequently gets forgotten is the use of content marketing in conjunction with a defined sales funnel.
Andy McCartney, from the Content Marketing Institute, says:
“Only 2 to 3 percent of websites earn the respect of visitors such that they identify themselves, become named contacts, and enter the funnel.”
I’d have to agree with him that this is an appallingly low number.
It’s all very well to spend time or money creating content and getting traffic. But, are you optimizing what that traffic does when those people get to your site?
It’s essential to think about your site as an “engagement zone,” the purpose of which is to have several different ways people can enter your funnel.
Then, on the backend, you have most of your funnel automated to nurture leads and eventually convert them into paying customers, which inevitably is the goal of most businesses.
Are You Using Data To Drive Your Ongoing Content Campaigns?
If you answered no to the second question (Do you track and measure?) and aren’t tracking any data, then this question will be of little use to you at this point.
But, it will become more important on your next campaign venture.
You see, it’s one thing to go with your “gut feeling,” but there’s a good reason you should track, measure, and utilize the data you gather. It provides real insight into what works and what doesn’t, plain and simple.
Use your data to inform what your ongoing content marketing campaigns should look like, including detailing the types of content you’ll produce, where it’s rendering the best results, and so forth.
That way, you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
Keep in mind, however, that this is also an area where you need to be careful.
While traffic is a good outcome, it’s not the sole piece of data that should be measured. That’s a common mistake of many companies and marketers.
To measure true ROI, you need to be thinking about things like:
- Are you generating leads (subscribers to your email list, calls to your front desk, etc.)?
- Are you making sales (how many people are making purchases as a result of your content marketing)?
- Are you saving costs (especially compared to traditional advertising, for example)?
Did You Forget The Marketing In Your Content Marketing?
While it’s great to post content on your blog every day, if that’s the only place it’s going and nowhere else, then you’ve forgotten a fundamental step – the MARKETING in your content marketing!
You have to get your content “out there” and share it on various channels, which could include:
- Social media platforms
- Email marketing
- Paid search
- Better SEO
Moreover, if your channels are small and silent, they’re not likely going to result in massive gains for your company.
Derek Halpern, from Social Triggers, suggests that in this situation, you need to reach out and get other bloggers and businesses to send you their audience – basically, so that you can leverage off what they’ve already built.
You’re not going to be able to do that with crappy content, though. Instead, focus on being part of the 25% who do attract attention.
Are You Consistent?
As Neil Davey, from MyCustomer, says:
“The main reason most content marketing programmes fail is not actually because of the quality of the content, it is because it stops or is inconsistent.”
The sad truth is that more than 70% of marketers lack long-term consistency.
Yep, there’s that word again – long-term.
The fact is, more than 70% of consumers like to get to know a company before they purchase.
Your content marketing can enable this to occur, but only if the impression you make is one of consistent quality.
At the end of the day, if you have all the above set up, you just have to keep on working at it consistently over the long term.
As I said earlier, this content marketing thing really isn’t rocket science. And, turning around poorly-performing content isn’t usually all that difficult.
It may be that you’ve missed just one part of this puzzle. Or, it may be that you haven’t set the right foundation to begin with.
Either way, strip it back, ask yourself the questions above, and use your answers to diagnose and tweak your campaigns. Who knows? Better results may be just a few quick changes away.
Which of these issues will you address first on your site? Share the question that stands out the most – as well as what you plan to do about it – by leaving a comment below.
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About the Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands, including IBM, Coca-Cola, Target and others, to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, his blog, Facebook, Twitter, Googl