Out with the old: Modernising content strategies

7th Sep 2020

It is impossible to build a cutting-edge skyscraper with a hammer and a box of nails. Modern construction projects call for modern tools designed for the job. And the same is true for a content strategy. Businesses can’t deliver the experiences that modern markets expect using tools designed for a different era.

But because technology and content marketing evolve fast, businesses often face legacy tools and methods from a bygone era without even realizing it. And at the enterprise scale, chances are the business is being held back by misaligned goals and knowledge silos that make it difficult to adapt.

So how can businesses create a modern content strategy that makes the best use of emerging technology?

Take stock: Find the weak spots in the current content strategy

As technology and marketing practices have evolved, so has content strategy.  But there are always weak spots – typically tactics and tools that once worked, but have been kept well past their expiration date.

Meanwhile, the information that an audience wants has shifted, in large part, because technology keeps providing new ways for them to access content. As a result, businesses need a content strategy that takes advantage of emerging technology, just like those markets.

In an age of the Internet, this means going far beyond a website with necessary information and a periodically updated blog -  a business must be active across other digital platform.  An effective content marketing landscape requires much more than just being present, and target audiences — no matter who that is today — expect more.

New content formats (including video), platforms such as the IoT and advanced content management and distribution tools allow modern content marketers to share content more widely and personalize it for each customer. To be competitive, this is just the first benchmark.

Growing up beyond the SEO years

SEO is undergoing a much-needed evolution. Search engine algorithms, led by giants like Google, are continuously updated. They can now spot, and often lower the ranking of content that stuffs keywords without adding value.

The new best practice is to create high-quality, long-form content that naturally uses relevant keywords instead of stuffing them where they don’t belong. And for those businesses looking to get ahead of the curve, all of this content needs to be optimized for the coming onslaught of voice searches.

In an era of deep content saturation, businesses are trying to maximize SEO results by doubling down on content creation — using different keyword variations, of course.

However, the top search engines have learned to spot duplicate and low-quality content, which gets penalized in search rankings. Today, search engines place more emphasis on page quality and relevance, which makes it easier for people to find the information they want. Modern best practices emphasize high-quality content on well-designed web pages that are easy for visitors to navigate. Considering that more than 90% of unique website visitors are using mobile devices, today, a well-designed website is a mobile-ready website. And of course, with all things mobile, the aim is to ‘go viral’.

Overcoming the race to go viral

Marketers are now obsessed with decoding the magic behind online successes, in the hopes that they will crack the formula that will draw massive traffic to their digital platforms.

However, the conditions that cause a piece of content to go viral are mostly unpredictable, and the effects can be short-lived once people grow weary of over-the-top headlines. Even if a business hits the holy grail of huge sharing and interaction, there is no guarantee that this will attract the target audience. Trying to force it only diverts energy away from creating consistently credible content that will keep people coming back in the long term.

This commercial realism is critical as businesses embrace digital platforms as a sales opportunity.  This now goes far beyond just including a call-to-action encouraging people to make a purchase.

Complete digital engagement is crucial – and the great content that drives this focuses on the customer, not on the brand. Content strategy should align with the sales cycle, which includes different tactics for engaging people at the top and the bottom of the funnel. Content marketing excels at the top of the funnel, where a business can cultivate a digital following by positioning itself as a valuable and credible source of information that helps customers solve their problems.

Forward momentum: How to modernize a content strategy

Updating content strategy isn’t rocket science. It begins the same way that processes have begun for a very long time — by documenting it. Gartner’s research shows that nearly two-thirds of the most successful marketing leaders have a documented content strategy versus only 14% of the least successful.

Clarifying the goals of a content strategy

Content marketers can only create compelling content if they know what the company needs that content to achieve, and the answer isn’t always obvious.

This demands in-depth discussion with internal stakeholders to learn about their priorities. Once they are clear on the overall direction that sales and leadership teams want to go, marketers can develop a content strategy that delivers.

Equally important are the buyer personas that underpin any content and this is another opportunity to consult with colleagues to ask some key questions and refine the understanding of the target demographic(s) and the associated buying habits.

This will inevitably lead to a content audit that must balance the invested energy (and money) of maximising a return on existing content, with cutting irrelevant or inaccurate material. Any inventory of content needs to include not just its topics, but also the personas they speak to, the type of content, and – critically - how well it performs.

The goal is identify those pieces that still align with business goals and buyer personas, then emphasize this best-performing content, or look for opportunities to update older material. While revisiting and removing old content might seem counterintuitive to developing a new content strategy, editing and auditing are essential to the content lifecycle management process.


Identifying new content

Whilst businesses can often reuse old content, the chances are that an audit will reveal gaps to fill, not just in the substance, but also the type of content. This demands new content creation.

Marketers love to brainstorm new ways of delivering content and any portfolio that develops will likely include =visual assets like infographics and video, long-form content like case studies and ebooks, or even a series of email campaigns to follow up with people who purchase specific products.

Because modern consumers trust a variety of different content types, website and application analytics, social media listening, SEO research, and even discussions with customer service and sales teams can inform which topics should be covered.

Going omnichannel

The final consideration is that today’s customers expect to have a seamless experience no matter where they engage with a brand. An omnichannel distribution plan allows a business to reach the target audience wherever they prefer to be, increasing the chances of meaningful engagement.

As part of persona research, businesses must learn where a target audience spends their digital time. Using this information, the creation of tailored content for each audience on each channel is made much more simple.

Managing all this demands a modern content management solution that eliminates the need to recreate content by separating content creation and storage from how the content is published. Application programming interface (API) technology is then used to locate the right content module, run it through whatever personalization and optimization platforms that have integrated (such as CRM, translation, A/B testing, etc.), and then distributed to the chosen channels - no more hammers and nails.

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