Content marketing is one of the highest-ROI marketing practices, coming in 3rd on a list of 9 of the most popular marketing strategies.
This is largely in part due to its unique, long-term, compounding effects.
Don’t believe me?
Dan Murphy, the former VP of business development at Import.io, once stated that quality, “trust building content” has the ability to not only “warm-up cold leads,” but also “re-ignite sales opportunities that have gone silent.”
Content marketing can be powerful stuff — and the best part is that you are the genius behind it all.
Content is an asset, and unlike many traditional marketing strategies, its value can prove indefinite.
But even the best content will fall flat without a solid content marketing strategy in place.
Effective strategizing is the basis to all successful marketing pursuits — content marketing is no different.
The truth is that you can’t face cutthroat competition without spending half of your energy in devising a perfect game plan.
Well-strategized content strategies generate leads, leads convert, and the higher your conversion rates — the higher the ROI.
So how can you guarantee high ROI for your clients?
First, it’s important to understand what factors into the concept of ROI.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, there are three main components to ROI, which include:
In order to achieve high ROI for your clients, you have to develop a well-planned, documented strategy that takes all three of these things into consideration.
Unfortunately, there’s no way you can shortcut this process, and your approach must be razor sharp.
If you master it, however, you’ll give yourself a much-needed leg-up on your competition.
When you have a well-planned strategy, you can effectively generate the results you need because you’ve documented every aspect of the process from start to finish.
This will also help you stay on course, as opposed to becoming scattered and directionless once you start the implementation process.
Achieving high ROI isn’t rocket science — it’s strategy.
So, I’m going to give you five essential tactics that will guarantee success in your content marketing efforts.
Step 1: Establish crystal clear content marketing goals
Unfortunately, you’ll find that many clients don’t have crystal clear goals when they bring you on board.
And in fact, many clients will be hiring you to help them with this.
By doing this, you’re setting yourself up for success since your clients will have clear expectations as to what you can — or cannot — do.
This will also help you choose key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess your content marketing performance at specified intervals.
So how do you go about establishing goals?
Communicate with your client about their specific needs.
Ask probing questions that will give you the information you need to help them define specific marketing goals.
Examples of typical content marketing goals often include:
Content should always be created to serve a specific purpose and to create actionable results.
How can you realistically do this without clear and concise goals?
As Vertical Measures put it, “The decision to invest in content comes with the expectation to see results across the digital marketing performance sphere: traffic, leads, and sales.”
Establishing baseline goals with your client gives your efforts direction and keeps you accountable.
Step 2: Identify the best distribution channels to focus on before you start
Once you’ve established your client’s baseline marketing goals, you need to identify the best channels for content distribution so that you actually hit them.
A general rule of thumb here is to not overwhelm yourself.
Don’t try to be anywhere and everywhere, all at the same time.
Many people make the mistake of publishing content on every channel imaginable in the hopes that it will “stick,” and their efforts will yield high results.
Unfortunately, this type of scattered approach is a huge waste of your time, energy, and efforts.
Focus is key in the world of content marketing.
Targeting a handful of channels will help you hone in on your efforts, which in turn, will make you more effective.
When it comes to choosing the best channels for content distribution, your client’s goals and target demographic should always be at the front of your mind.
So, if their goal is to increase brand awareness, and their target audience is business professionals, then a platform that caters to business professionals — like LinkedIn — would probably be a great option.
And a specific strategy might be to publish high-quality content there.
KPIs might include engagement metrics such as likes, comments, or shares.
Let’s say one of your client’s marketing goals is to drive more traffic to their blog.
If so, organic search may be something on your radar, with a heavy focus on SEO content optimization.
Guest blogging on authority sites may be another strategy you choose to use.
The best KPIs for both of these content marketing strategies would be an increase in traffic, an increase in time spent on the website, and a decrease in bounce rates.
Keep in mind that there may be times when you run into a situation where a client is already performing well on a specific channel.
If that’s the case — great.
You can always leverage the success of that channel to help your efforts elsewhere.
For example, let’s say your client already has significant traffic to their website, but they want to build out their mailing list.
On their highest-performing landing pages, including email opt-in forms that offer something of value (e.g., a newsletter) in return for their information could yield some pretty awesome results.
Your KPIs would then be the number of email signups and/or landing page conversion rates.
Once you have a core foundation to build on, your content marketing strategies and associated KPIs begin to flow almost seamlessly.
Just don’t forget to document your results.
This is an extremely important step since you’re holding yourself accountable to your client.
You’re also noting what’s working well, as well as what isn’t, which is critical when it comes to campaign optimization.
Step 3: Create high-quality, valuable content that’s better than your client’s competitors
Once marketing goals are established, channels are chosen, and KPIs are identified, you can then begin creating valuable, high-quality content to distribute.
Gauging the value of your content is subjective in nature and completely depends on the channel on which your content will be distributed.
For example, valuable content on a direct channel like your client’s website is not necessarily valuable on a social channel unless it’s re-packaged and tailored for optimization on that particular channel.
Also, keep in mind that if it’s not engaging, it’s not going to convert.
There are a few key things you need to keep in mind when creating content for your clients, regardless of what platform you’re planning on using for distribution:
- It needs to be targeted. Make sure it’s reaching the right audience and that it’s tailored to their interests.
- It needs to be consumer-centric. People need to find it useful.
- It needs to have singularity. It needs to stand out from the competition.
- The headlines need to reel them in. In a sea of search results, your content must grab attention, but not at the cost of your credibility — so always avoid clickbait.
- It needs to incite action. CTAs have an enormous impact on engagement when done properly.
Another important factor to take into consideration when creating high-quality, valuable content is relevancy.
There are two main forms of content: non-evergreen and evergreen.
Non-evergreen content typically performs well initially, but after it delivers a powerful marketing punch, the content loses relevancy.
Evergreen content has a longer shelf life than non-evergreen content and can be used over and over as well as repurposed into a variety of different assets.
Examples of non-evergreen content are current events, numerical or statistical reports, and trending topics.
Evergreen content includes assets like how-to guides, case studies, and listicles.
Both types of content are acceptable, but evergreen content has higher value and better ROI.
Outdo the competition.
Outdoing your client’s competitors with the quality of your content is key to achieving high ROI.
It’s not enough that your content is valuable to your audience and high-quality in nature — it has to be better than the competition’s.
This is one of the main ways readers decide how your client stacks up in terms of authority and credibility.
So check out the competition, and find ways to improve upon what they’ve already done.
Outshine them by publishing more in-depth, engaging data in different formats on a variety of different platforms.
Also, keep in mind that interactive content converts better than static content.
So, if a competitor’s website has written content only, you may want to consider creating visual content for your client that will come across as more engaging.
For example, infographics are great for conveying information in a visually pleasing manner.
By taking these types of additional steps, you’ll increase people’s perceived value of the content you’re producing, which in turn, will improve marketing ROI for your client.
A word of caution, however: There’s a fine line between producing a high-quality deliverable and seeking perfection.
Never waste your time trying to be perfect since it will come at the expense of your time and your client’s ROI.
Step 4: Update consistently
A recent B2B Content Marketing report noted that a whopping 50% of survey respondents said consistency was their biggest challenge.
Most content marketers understand that content needs to be created in a consistent and predictable manner — but this certainly doesn’t mean it always turns out that way.
If I can give you one single takeaway from this section, it’s that consistency will make or break your strategy.
Your content is nothing without consistency.
Whether you’re distributing content through email to convert leads into customers or on a company’s website via their blog to drive traffic, it needs to be consistent, scheduled and reliable.
- Establishes authority. It’s one of the single most important ways you can help to distinguish your clients from their competitors. Your consistency has a direct impact on their credibility.
- Builds brand awareness. Successful content marketing incites action and promotes sharing on an ongoing and consistent basis. When the process is regular, awareness is a natural byproduct.
- Engages the audience. When high-quality, valuable content is produced on a regular basis, it continually engages the audience and constantly reels them back in.
- Generates leads. By publishing high-quality content like white papers and newsletters on a consistent basis, you’re much more likely to generate new leads for your clients.
- Improves traffic and SEO. Frequency and quality are two of the most important factors that impact SEO.
So, produce and promote content in a predictable manner in both quality and format to shape your customer experiences effectively.
Through consistency, you’ll remind the audience about the products, vision, and values of your client.
This is where automation comes in handy.
Automation is an excellent way to optimize your efforts and increase efficiency, but only when it doesn’t come at the expense of personalization.
For example, let’s say you plan on using email marketing automation.
Don’t forget to add a personal touch by adding receiver names in subject lines and in the text to keep it engaging.
Step 5: Measure performance with analytics
Successful content marketing isn’t based on feelings — it’s based on authentic data and metrics.
Measuring performance gives you the ability to analyze the strengths and weaknesses in your content marketing strategy.
By doing so, you’ll be able to capitalize on your strong points and improve upon areas of weakness.
In order to analyze the performance of your content marketing efforts, you need to have a robust analytics program in your arsenal, such as Google Analytics.
Sophisticated analytics tools go beyond standard metrics such as traffic and engagement and give you valuable resources that other less robust tools don’t, which can help you calculate ROI based on campaign goals.
They also provide more detail and typically work across multiple channels including email, social, and mobile.
Core KPIs and metrics
So how do you know which metrics to focus on?
This all goes back to having concrete marketing goals and selecting the proper channels to achieve these goals.
After all, your KPIs will depend on both.
Regardless of the niche your clients work in, there are a few core KPIs that every content marketer can — and should — be measuring:
- Traffic volume
- Popular and problematic content
- Content effectiveness
- Resolving audience needs
Metrics: Visits (by source and channel)
Why it’s important: It helps you better understand where your traffic is coming from as well as track its reach.
Driving traffic isn’t enough.
To be successful, you must also understand your traffic.
Knowing traffic sources can help you expand your client’s reach, as well as analyze which sources provide the highest-quality traffic.
And by high-quality traffic, I mean traffic that is engaged and has the highest potential to convert.
Typically, you will need about three months of data as a baseline before you can make future projections on traffic.
Once you have this baseline data, you can set performance goals for specific categories and hash out strategies for optimization.
Metrics: Pageviews per session, bounce rate, and average time spent on page
Why it’s important: You’re able to assess the performance of the content you’re producing.
Content, at its most basic level, should be of value to your end readers and encourage them to continue to explore more.
So, if you get a lot of pageviews, but the bounce rate is 70%, this might be cause for concern.
Something as simple as keeping content consistently updated or eliminating annoying popups may be simple solutions that deliver big results.
Monitoring traffic channels and sources of visitors is also a great way to measure engagement.
When you combine this information with other data you’ve aggregated, you’ll be able to easily identify which traffic sources are sending the highest-quality website traffic.
Popular and problematic onsite content
Metrics: Top folders, top landing pages, top exit pages
Why it’s important: You can use this information to fix problem areas on a website and capitalize on its strengths.
Top folders show you how well your content is performing at the folder level.
This is an often overlooked metric that I absolutely love because it can help you identify potential issues with how you’ve organized content.
Once you’re armed with this type of information, you can then re-evaluate underperforming folders and optimize them for peak functionality.
You can also take a closer look at high-performing folders and emulate things that are working well in other areas of your client’s website.
Evaluating metrics on top landing pages can also be extremely helpful.
After all, they are instrumental in converting visitors to leads.
Here’s a good example for you: Let’s say your metrics show that your client’s homepage receives the lion’s share of incoming traffic, and one of your primary goals is to generate more email signups.
An opt-in or piece of gated content like a white paper or webinar invite could be placed there to help you drive more leads.
Your top exit pages are the main pages where your audience has become disengaged.
Exit pages are a great source of information because they provide a tremendous amount of insight into areas you really need to improve.
For example, if you have a page with a high exit rate, chances are you need to assess the content for effectiveness and optimize it for better performance.
Metrics: Goal completions and event tracking
Why it’s important: These metrics show you how effective you are at getting your client’s audience to take action (e.g., email signups, purchases, content downloads).
By assessing content effectiveness, you are essentially gauging how well your content is converting.
If goal completions are low and event tracking shows that you aren’t generating the actions you were anticipating, it’s time to re-evaluate your content so that it’s more effective.
Resolving audience needs
Metrics: Onsite search queries
Why it’s important: It enhances the user experience while also assisting in the content creation process.
You should always have a way for people to search for content on your client’s website.
When you’re able to connect this with your analytics software, it can provide you with powerful insight, which in turn, can help you to create better-performing content.
Trying to evaluate data from analytics often feels like an overwhelming process.
And with so many tools and metrics, it’s easy to go into sensory overload.
The good news is that when you have a good understanding of core KPIs, you’ll be able to focus on the information that truly matters, which means you’ll be more successful in the work you’re doing.
As a content marketer, your primary goal is results.
Results will determine whether you sink or swim in the proverbial content marketing pool.
But don’t just strive for positive results — strive for excellent results that’ll help your clients truly stand out from their competitors.
Stephen R. Covey once said, “You are what you choose to do repeatedly.”
And what he means is that success isn’t something you can just hope for.
Luck isn’t a factor.
If you want to achieve high content marketing ROI for your clients, remember these five key steps:
Step 1: Establish crystal clear content marketing goals.
Step 2: Identify the best distribution channels to focus on before you jump in and start the process.
Step 3: Create high-quality, valuable content that’s better than your client’s competitors.
Step 4: Update consistently.
Step 5: Measure performance with analytics.
Unlike SEO, content marketing success doesn’t depend on search engine algorithms that constantly change.
And if you follow this outline, you’ll be well on your way toward hitting the holy grail of content marketing — happy clients and high ROIs.
What strategies are you using in your content marketing that are delivering impressive ROI for your clients?