We already know the press release is dead. Put simply, people don’t want to read them and Google doesn’t want to rank them. The next generation of public relations, “PR 2.0” as it’s so affectionately coined, is all about using digital marketing tactics and channels, such as social media and influencer marketing, to directly communicate with and better engage your audience. In today’s media climate there are no more “gatekeepers” and there’s no reason for organizations to wait around for a journalist to tell their story.

Even our president seems to have figured this out:

On the other end of the spectrum, consumers have seized control over the considered buying process and, more than ever, are tuning out traditional, interruptive advertisements in favor of blogs, video and other content that gives them the information they are searching for. Inbound and content marketing strategies have risen meteorically among marketers and PR professionals alike as they adapt to the modern buyer’s journey and figure out new ways of reaching their audiences. In fact, 53% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority this year (HubSpot).

Despite an increased focus on content creation, marketers are still struggling to effectively attract and convert qualified leads.Click To TweetDespite an increased focus on blogging, marketers are still struggling to use their owned channels (website, blog, social media, etc.) effectively to generate traffic and leads. In fact, 80% of marketers report their lead generation efforts are only slightly or somewhat effective (BrightTALK). This is at least in part due to a widening knowledge gap as marketers are challenged to keep up with the blistering pace of change in technology, and technological minutia, involved in content marketing. While new platforms such as NewsCred and Contently have simplified this to some degree, there is still quite a bit of institutional knowledge required to be successful with content marketing.

 

Top 3 Questions to Ask When Your Blog Strategy Isn’t Generating Qualified Leads

As more organizations turn to their blog rather than media, there are a few (seemingly) basic things marketers should keep in mind to maximize ROI. Here are three key questions marketers should be asking about their blogging strategy.

  1. Are we optimizing for the right organic search terms?

While this may seem pretty basic, in our experience it’s one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of content marketing. It’s easy to get excited about an idea, draft a blog post and make it live without considering any search engine optimization (SEO). Before you hit “publish” on that next draft, make sure you’ve identified the keyword(s) you’re targeting first.

Ideally, your organization has done a holistic keyword analysis that you can draw from, but if not, there are tools to help. Start by brainstorming and jotting-down a few (long-tail) keywords relevant to your blog topic. Then plug those keywords into a tool like Keyword Tool or Google Trends to better understand how much search traffic they receive on a monthly basis.

Another underrated tool is the Google Search box itself. Try plugging-in your keyword(s) and pay close attention to the suggested searches. These represent insight into what people are searching most and can be used to optimize the terms you target. Finally, make sure you’re selecting keywords where the searcher’s intent closely matches the topic, outcome and CTA of your blog post. This will help ensure you get highly-qualified search traffic that is more likely to engage with your content, and therefore more likely to convert.

I could (and probably will) write multiple pieces on effective keyword strategy, but for the purposes of this post let’s assume you’ve identified a quality keyword at this stage. Now properly optimize your post. Google is better than ever at recognizing context, so the “keyword-stuffing” days are in the past. However, make sure to reference your selected keyword in a few critical aspects of the post: the headline, at least one sub-head, any image alt-text, the URL and at least once within the body copy.

Taking a few extra minutes to optimize your post for search can be the difference between a post that generates traffic and qualified leads and one that might look pretty but isn’t an effective marketing tool for your business.

  1. Have we included a proper call-to-action (CTA)?

Once you’ve crafted the perfect post and optimized it around a keyword for organic search exposure, one of the critical last steps before you share it with the world is making sure there’s a next step for your readers. Just as you (hopefully) wouldn’t attend a networking event, take in the sights, have a few drinks and then call it a night without speaking to anybody, you wouldn’t want to attract a bunch of website traffic only to have your visitors leave without first having the opportunity to interact.

Consider the content (and context) of your post to help determine why someone would be reading it in the first place. Are they more of a “do-it-yourself-er,” or do they need your help with whatever they were searching for? Make sure you have a clear, compelling and simple CTA that your reader would be hard-pressed not to click on. This is frequently something downloadable, such as an e-book, whitepaper or guide, but feel free to think outside the box and get more creative. Different types of content perform better at different stages of the buyer’s journey. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes and think about what would be most helpful to them at this particular stage (based on the search intent). Then, make sure your CTA links to a persuasive landing page that helps seal the deal.

  1. How would we rate our user experience?

More importantly, how would our visitors and potential customers rate our user experience? This can be a bigger undertaking, depending on how well-constructed (and new) your website is, but it’s certainly one of the most important things you can spend time on.

First things first, you want to make sure your website loads very quickly. Most users won’t spend more than just a few seconds looking at a progress bar before they get frustrated and move on. Second, make sure your site provides an experience equal to or better than your desktop experience. There’s no reason to isolate mobile users when that’s most likely your fastest-growing demographic. Finally, consider the layout of your blog post (and website pages in general). Ensure it’s as “clean” (ample white space), inviting and easy to navigate as possible. As much as we’d like to believe they would, if your users can’t figure out where to find something, they aren’t going to spend the extra time trying.

A Successful Content Marketing Strategy Requires Continuous Improvement

More brands are becoming content creators. It’s an exciting time, but it also means a lot more clutter and choice for busy users who are increasingly well-informed and have little patience for bad user experience and content they don’t feel is relevant or applicable. By putting yourself in the mind of your user and making sure to be as informative and helpful as possible, you are giving your brand the best possible chance at a conversion, which opens the door to much more possibility for your marketing team. And because things are always changing, don’t be afraid to experiment with new tools and tactics. Content marketing is all about continuous analysis and improvement until something sticks.

How to Launch a Content Marketing Strategy in Eight Easy Steps [Guide]
Justin is responsible for leading overall direction on all digital programs and projects as well as overseeing and advancing the agency's digital competency and teams. He works alongside our senior management team to provide strategic and tactical client counsel; help set client expectations; and collaborate with account teams on project implementation and competency training. Justin holds a Masters in Business Administration with a dual concentration in Marketing and Management Information Systems, and a Bachelor of Arts in English, General Literature and Rhetoric from Binghamton University.