It’s not only the global pandemic that has made people turn to the Internet for news and entertainment.
With businesses conducting more of their communication online even before the pandemic’s onset, content marketing has taken on a greater role.
This shift started with the drive toward digital transformation in business. Doing business almost entirely online was a reality long before the coronavirus hit our shores.
Consumers, too, cut the cable pre-pandemic and have turned to stream services, podcasts, and other platforms for information and entertainment. Their hunger for relevant information isn’t likely to stop anytime in the foreseeable future.
Then the pandemic hit. According to an October 2020 Statista report, global web traffic and time per session increased by 1.5 percent. Even more significant increases occurred in both transactions (26.7 percent) and conversions (24.7 percent).
If content marketers can leverage the gains we’ve made over the past year to boost those numbers even more, certainly, the best days of content marketing are still ahead.
- The world’s hunger for relevant information isn’t likely to stop.
- Content marketers can provide that relevance, as long as they deliver it in the ways that their audience wants to receive it.
- To stay on the leading edge, content marketing teams need to find innovative ways to meet their audience’s needs.
Optimize for Natural-Language and Voice Searches
Over the past few years, Google and other search engines have implemented a radical change in how they rank sites. The reason? Voice-based searches, like the ones you do every day on mobile or Internet of Things devices.
Now, search engine algorithms rank webpages higher if they appear to be the best answer to users’ questions. Instead of giving top ranking to pages that contain keyphrases like “Elon musk tesla,” they give priority to pages that answer questions like “Who is Elon Musk?”
The best answer goes to the top of the stack, called “position zero,” and is usually the only result that appears above the fold (the visible portion of the results page).
The second list of results people see is the “People also ask” section, a list of pages that provide the best answers to related questions. Everything else, including the formerly coveted position one result, fits underneath these featured snippets.
Featured snippets and natural-voice search provide content marketers with an unlimited opportunity to answer these questions with informative, thought-provoking content. For those content teams that take the time to create top-quality content around each topic they tackle, the rewards are massive.
According to SiteImprove’s Georgia James, landing in the answer box can increase organic traffic by a factor of four. Revenue from that organic traffic enjoys an even bigger boost, increasing nearly sevenfold.
Provide a Superb Customer Experience with Quality Content
Today’s businesses and consumers expect more from the companies they deal with than slick TV commercials. They demand seamless experiences that provide all the information they need right at their fingertips. Done right, content marketing delivers those kinds of experiences.
- Be proactive: It’s all about answering questions before a prospect asks. Paying attention to the comments and questions your social media followers pose can provide you with a rich source of content topics. Collaborating with your customer service and sales teams to uncover potential objections and issues can serve as background research to answer objections and solve problems.
- Write stories that make the customer the hero: To take advantage of content marketing’s potential, leave brand stories that make you or your products the hero behind. Effective content marketing is all about telling compelling stories that put the customer at the center of the action, as the hero, not as a passive observer.
- Personalize with data and segmentation: Personalized messaging that addresses each customer segment’s needs, interests, and pain points are not only possible with today’s AI and email segmentation capabilities. It’s practically a required element to take advantage of the coming content marketing boom.
- Optimize for mobile: Optimizing each piece of content for mobile is a must. More than half of all web searches occur on mobile devices, according to Statista. Make each piece of content as appealing on a handheld device as it is on a desktop.
- Provide visual appeal: Visual appeal and readability matter for today’s busy users. Since 65 percent of your audience are visual learners, use bullet points, subheadings, videos, and images in your blog posts to engage your audience and keep them reading.
- Create problem-solving content: Building loyalty through content that helps your prospects and current customers solve common problems casts you in the role of the wise helper – like a virtual Yoda. That kind of goodwill positions your company as their go-to authority whenever they need what you sell.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that the “new normal” is anything but normal. We had to adjust on the fly to a slew of changes to our normal content production routines.
No one knows what future years will bring. What we can do to prepare is to transform our content strategy into a flexible plan that can adjust no matter what the future might throw at us.
Having a repository of past content that you can repurpose for future needs is a good start. Categorizing your collection by topic allows you and your team to find what they need quickly, allowing them to respond rapidly to new developments.
As for new content, I like Kathy Klotz-Guest’s take on it. Putting your teams’ creative impulses to work is one of the best ways to create content that meets your audience where they are.
When your teams aren’t “afraid to fail and think big,” as Klotz-Guest puts it, your content takes on an experimental slant. Iterative content experimentation with continuous testing and tweaking allows your strategy to soar above the competition, so long as you keep your content focused on your audience’s needs.
When those needs change, your teams will have developed enough agility to switch gears on the fly.
Tie Your Content to Business KPIs
If 2021 brings the type of changes Simplea’s Cruce Sanders predicts, C-suites all over the business world will finally see that an investment in content is every bit as valuable as the investment they make in their material and technology supply chains. I tend to agree.
The pandemic itself forced companies to depend on content to communicate with their prospects and customers. With in-person sales calls and presentations shelved for the duration, content marketers rose to the occasion to keep the conversations going on a variety of channels.
That kind of value rarely goes unnoticed. Once executives see the value in something, they’ll likely buy-in for the long run.
But you need to keep delivering that kind of value to keep the good vibes going. When you tie your content metrics and KPIs to the company’s overall goals, you’ll have success.
Show Some Empathy
It wasn’t only the dumpster fire that was 2020. Even before the last stroke of the clock on December 31, 2019, businesses were beginning to see the value of empathy. 2020 just showed us how much we needed it.
Coca-Cola’s moving video of a young woman sharing a Coke with a Muslim woman at the end of her Ramadan fast evokes a sense of thirst in everyone who watched it. Though I might not be a Muslim, you can certainly feel the parched lips of someone who hasn’t had even a sip of water on a hot summer’s day.
Standing with your customers and prospects through all their challenges says something about you and your company. When you take the time to understand your customers, you’ll have a better picture of what your company can do to help them.
Identifying with your audience has a powerful effect on their purse strings as well. Watch that Coke video again. The odds are good that you’ll crave a Coke as it ends.
Don’t like anecdotal evidence? Studies show that content marketers who toss their preconceptions into the trash, identify with their customers, and create content that meets their needs reap better results.
Provide Ways to Interact with Customers in Real-Time
We’ve always known that consumers want instant satisfaction. Generations of TV commercials discovered the magic of “the pause that refreshes,” the snap-crackle-pop when milk hits your Rice Krispies, and the promise of hitting a three-pointer when we “just do it.”
However, it took a pandemic to drive the point home that people want to connect with brands, not only their products, in real-time. YouTube Live, Slack, and Facebook Groups became oases of human contact as the pandemic marched across the nation, as Monina Wagner pointed out in a Content Marketing Institute article quoted earlier.
Part of your content planning, then, should involve listening. Whether it’s social media comments or conversations on Facebook Messenger, use the conversations these relationships spark to amplify answers at scale for others.
Don’t only provide answers. Asking thoughtful questions can position your brand as not only a thought leader but more importantly, as one who is willing to learn.
Keep It Credible
I know. You and your teams are busy. But you owe it to your brand to do your research and cite your sources.
Trust is a challenge to build, but it only takes one unsupported conclusion to destroy that trust. See to it that you and your teams take the time to do your research and make sure that the conclusions you draw follow logically from your statements of fact.
Today’s customers are as savvy as they come. With information on practically any topic available online right at their fingertips, you can bet that they’ll gauge the effectiveness of your products by the veracity of your content.
When you make content credibility your priority during the next year, your brand can take full advantage of content marketing’s rising importance.
If you are ready to get more traffic to your site with quality content published consistently, check out our Content Builder Service.