Despite the increasing popularity of video, podcasts, and other content marketing formats, we predict text-based content will still win hands-down in 2020.
That is, if you do it right.
Experimenting with interactive content, multimedia, and other new formats is fun and can produce novel results. But text remains top of the heap and most reliable ROI-wise. According to Demand Marketing’s Content Preferences Survey Report, the two most-shared content types in 2019 were blogs and case studies.
Bottom line: Expert-based blogs and case studies build trust in your product or solution. That said, 51% of B2B buyers said they’re overwhelmed by all the information they have to wade through in order to make purchasing decisions. There’s simply too much noise out there.
If you’re currently planning your editorial calendar for 2020, here are three strategies to consider when creating, curating, and distributing your tech brand’s content in the year ahead.
Marie Kondo Your Content
Okay, not literally. But mindful organization of your content is almost as important as the content itself, if not more important.
Even the best blog posts and case studies aren’t effective if no one can find them. According to one report, 91% of all web content receives no Google traffic. Topic clusters and pillar pages organize existing content to make it more appealing and accessible to users and more SEO-friendly.
Your goal here, however, is not just linking to subtopics in the content cluster for the sake of SEO—you’re building a gateway to interesting, valuable information, and curating that information to get rid of the clutter.
Give your pillar pages personality—interweave stories to build a narrative, using humor when appropriate.
A simple text-based CTA at the end of the pillar post will appeal to readers who’ve made it all the way through. And an exit intent pop-up makes sense past a certain point, offering the PDF download, or a bite-sized email course on the same subject.
For a great example, check out Cloud Elements’ Definitive Guide to API Integration. They’ve disguised a massive content clearinghouse as a helpful, easy-to-navigate article.
Work with team leads from across the company, including support, to map out core user problems. These are your categories. Create text to weave all your selections together and establish relevance, including statistics or relatable case studies. Then arrange for ongoing tweaking and curation so your pillar pages stay dynamic and high-interest.
Audit Existing Content
Only 38% of bloggers update their existing content. Chances are you’re sitting on a goldmine. Is an older post still relevant? Is it easily refreshed?
Sound like a lot of work? Diverting just 5% of your new-content budget to hiring freelancers to go over existing content can have a massive payoff.
A site audit can quickly reveal simple ways to leverage existing content. One simple way to start is by identifying and mining longer posts for retweetable factoids. These provide true value and invite users to find out more.
One blogger added a new twist on an old post and boosted organic traffic by more than 111%. And that’s just a single post. When a company tried this strategy, they saw 60+% year-over-year traffic improvement.
Make sure you’re also reviewing existing content to make sure it reflects new company values or a revised business focus so your entire site is 100% on message. This can cut confusion.
Start with a site-wide audit to eliminate SEO cannibalism. Get rid of irrelevant, broken, or outdated content, and identify potential evergreen pages. Could you repurpose a longer blog post as a pillar page?
As mentioned, blogs are still top of the content heap, with 71% of executives using them to guide buying decisions. Blogs are ROI heavy hitters, relatively inexpensive to create, and without a ton of complex media—even factoring in the actual costs of running a great blog, which aren’t always clear up-front.
But in 2020, blogging requires working harder to stay on top. Today’s blog content has to prove its authority. Two ways to achieve this are through research-based content and guest posts.
Original research is proving to be a solid way of generating a whole range of data-driven posts and by extension creating buzz around your brand.
Wouldn’t you love to write a controversial headline about your field? Most of us marketing professionals lack the detailed experience and hands-on knowledge to back it up with stats. Now you can gather your own statistics. Create a survey with a few simple questions for your readers and get ready to make waves.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the best way to make research pay off is to keep it front and center, maybe even earning organic coverage far beyond your own site. That doesn’t mean rehashing the same data over and over in multiple blog posts. Spin research results into innovative formats: presentations, guest posts on other sites, videos, webinars, printed research, and more. But make sure those formats meet your goals—they’ve included a chart showing which content formats best serve three primary goals: thought leadership, backlinks, and lead gen.
BuzzSumo and Mantis research found that 9 out of 10 companies said original research paid off in CTR, SEO, site authority, and more. “State of the industry” surveys are always popular, and this World’s Largest Study on SaaS Churn from ProfitWell, a company aimed at “radically reducing churn”—is a good example of successful and original research.
Don’t get too ambitious in designing original research. Keep questions tuned in to the bigger picture—the problems your product is solving (or trying to solve) for actual users.
Another easy way to establish authority is with interview subjects and guest contributors. Subject matter experts are a great way to demonstrate authority. They can also offer access to a diverse range of experiences. An interview is a quick way to pick the brains of an expert and enthrall your users with real-world inside information.
Inviting guest bloggers is another way to do the same thing. This can seem like a big ask, but there are ways to make it easier. Ask an expert to adapt a social media post or a series of relevant discussion comments as a guest blog for your site. Or, at a conference or meetup, ask a speaker if you can record their talk to share with blog readers. (Offer to let them see the transcribed text and make changes before publishing it, of course.)
Content that’s too basic can quickly harm brand reputation. Nobody wants to have their time wasted and nobody’s going to scroll through fluff. By diving deep into the tech when needed and sharing content your brand’s audience genuinely needs and wants, you’ll establish yourself as an authoritative source that can’t be ignored.
Choose a format you’re comfortable with and an objective. For research, pick a few questions, consulting various departments to make sure you’re not asking questions you already have the answers to. For an interview, choose a CEO, CTO, or VP, or try someone lower on the food chain with a well-known company.
Even 3 to 5 questions can frame a really meaty Q&A post. Ask what they wish they’d known, how the industry has changed, or about their favorite tools or online resources. Share any useful media they send you—infographics, slide decks, or video—to offer even more value. Don’t forget to spin these authoritative posts—they can be invaluable in helping you discover new directions to take your content.
If there’s one core message about content marketing in 2020, it’s letting users be your guide. Most companies already use personas. They’re a great macro-level tool to understand typical users. But analytics and user journey mapping offer the granularity you need to be truly responsive.
What are users telling you? Tune in by reading blog comments, help desk emails, and social feedback. Craft pillar pages, quick-start video guides, surveys, and autoresponders with the goal of listening and responding to these actual users. Then tweak and re-tweak, re-evaluating content often to boost your brand’s stickiness.
Content marketing today is about staying nimble. Yes, text should still be the focus for most tech brands, but be prepared to experiment with diversifying content types while ensuring that all channels stay totally on message. Whether it’s video, live stream, webinars, images, audio, and text—keep it relevant and valuable and you can’t go wrong.