It’s been half a decade since I have been on the content side of marketing, consuming and creating a whole wad of it day in and day out. It’s a challenging field of work. Big wins happen quickly AND fade away quickly. Finding time to adapt and improve is the toughest part of the job, but it’s the one that ensures growth and continued occurrences of these short-lived successes.
These last few months, for me, have been about trying to improve the whale-sized content strategy for a mid-size FMCG brand. Here, the biggest challenge I’ve been faced with has to do with how I can improve what’s already there; “optimize” it all, to speak the trade lingo. And there’s a lot of “what’s already there”. On the company blog, website, communities, social media, and more – you name it. Everything worked on by different sets of people. Out of 2 different locations, too.
The first thing that hit me in this job was that there’s so much going on with these guys that half of my mental energy is spent trying to collate and look up excel sheets with calendars, credentials, file logs and the lot. And then came the actual content.
The secret to achieving wholesome, well-optimized content lies in not one or two tricks of the trade. I have learned that it is, in fact, a gradual process, of doing little things better. It does entail working on the usual moving parts of the equation – following SEO best practices and trailing behind relevant keywords – but these alone very rarely generate the impact one hopes content would.
In this post, I’ll share my experiences with creating content that’s well-optimized and delivers real results, every single time.
Content optimization is about improving the quality of the content, establishing thought leadership, and generating trust for the brand.”
Tackling the challenge
Step 1. Start with figuring out what works
One of the first things I did in this project was to figure out ‘what’ really works for the brand and ‘how much’ does each effort contribute to the outcomes sought. Here, ‘Pareto principle’ really comes in handy. Because, in matters of content, as with any other activity, it is unlikely that all efforts deliver the same desirable results. Some will produce better outcomes than others. It may not always be a 20-80 ratio, but a ratio will emerge that best highlights/captures the ‘effort to outcome’ correlation.
Step 2. Identify areas that need improvement
I figured out 5 content formats that worked exceptionally well for this particular brand. This included their blog, their Instagram, LinkedIn, the weekly newsletter, and some forms of PR activities. However, the brand lacked cohesiveness. Their marketing team’s efforts were not holistic in nature. And by the looks of it, each of these formats was created for very varied purposes – some to drive traffic, some to boost revenue, some with no purpose at all, and all of them going out at once.
My recommendation here was a fundamental, hygiene one – to put together a master marketing calendar and establish clear goals for every month. Everyone was free to choose their drivers, but at the end of the day, all efforts were directed at one broad business goal.
Step 3. Look for predictable patterns
Once the team was organized to focus better on tasks with clear, top-level goals, I shifted my focus to looking for patterns. Any pattern and all patterns. When is the traffic highest to the brand’s website? What’s a typical interaction like on a given page? What are the problem areas on the site? What reactions do certain kinds of content generate? And so on.
Patterns bring out moments of successes as well as pain points. Some patterns suggest an opportunity for something new. Others, then, highlight what needs to be done away with. Overall, the more you look for patterns, the more you keep improving your content strategy.
3 essentials for creating the perfectly optimized content
Creation is the ultimate challenge once all the content fixings have been taken care of. It’s crucial that you establish cornerstones of a good branded content so that optimal impact is always guaranteed.
Essential 1: Insist on high-quality content
Search engines never fail to push your content when it best fits a topic. So, apart from writing content that’s original, factual, and purposeful, ensure that every piece that goes out in the name of the brand is fact checked, grammatically correct, simple, concise and reads relaxed.
Essential 2: Work towards thought leadership
People trust those who possess and share knowledge. They respond to power and authority. They show willingness towards those who stand firm for somethings. And that’s the kind of presence you’d want for your brand. For this, you need to allow your brand to touch topics in a wider way, and in an in-depth way. You could also look at inviting people from your brand’s domain to contribute to your mission to help build and establish trust and reliance.
Essential 3: Satisfy the user’s intent
There’s was an interesting article in Search Engine Watch that talked about how ‘keywords are dead’. The author isn’t saying that keywords are no longer relevant but that no one searches using keywords anymore. That people search with queries, enter specific intents, and search engines today look at satisfying these queries.
So, focus on creating content that satisfies typical user intents – whether it is to purchase, to learn more or to navigate your brand’s landscape better. This way you help persuade people to step into the big business funnel and in a more voluntary way.
When came to content optimization, keyword-based writing used to be cool at one point. And some brands still rely on it heavily. But the best way to make content work for you is to create content that tells a compelling story in the most simple, believable, and experiential way.