Content Marketing Performance Checklist: 1H2015

10 Step Content Marketing Performance Assessment

Girl playing flute-Content Marketing Performance Checklist If you’re like me, you probably can’t believe 2015 is half over.

Before starting your 2016 content marketing plan process, assess how your 2015 content marketing is performing to-date. (To help you, here’s a content marketing checklist.)

There are two good reasons to assess your 2015 content marketing performance to-date:

  • Figure out what’s working so you can do more of it.
  • Find out what’s not working so you can fix it or stop doing it.

If you don’t, there’s a good chance you won’t make your 2015 milestones. Even worse, you’ll build your 2016 plans on a false base, a recipe for failure.

As a point of reference, let’s examine recent online marketing data from Millward Brown Digital. In the April 2015 study, almost 50% of US brand marketers ranked their ability to reach target audiences as a key factor in media budget allocation.

A deeper look reveals that, ideally, marketers would spend the lion’s share of their time and effort on content marketing. 25% of marketing time and effort goes to content in the form of website and email.

Assuming half of the effort and budget for social, search, mobile, direct mail and conferences is content marketing. This adds another 22%. Then roughly half of marketing effort (47%) is content marketing. (Note: These are my assumptions.) Time Spent on Media Activites-2015-MillwardBrown-eMarketer

10 step content marketing performance checklist

Here’s a 10 step 1H2015 content marketing performance checklist. Use all or part of it to assess your content marketing to-date. Girl playing flute-Content Marketing Performance Checklist

1. Measure your results to-date

Start with the easy stuff. Skip the fluff such as social media shares.

Think like a doctor. Go for the essential indicators of your business’s health. (Here’s a full list of 53 content marketing metrics.)

  • Traffic
  • Visitors
  • Email registrations (Leads generated)
  • Unsubscribes
  • Sales
  • Expenses

Then figure out how you’re doing versus your own past performance. Check these results against your performance last year and the prior period.

Many businesses compare these numbers to their budget or latest projections. Do them if your finance department requires you to but understand that this will give you a false sense of security. Budgets and forecasts are too dependent on political negotiations.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Document internal, environmental and/or competitive changes. You probably think that you’ll remember them but you won’t. It can explain significant variances from past results.
  • Check your run rate. While not a great metric, it gives you an idea of whether you’ll make your numbers, especially since many businesses have higher sales the second half of the year. Full Year Run Rate = [Total to-date/ #of periods or months] * 12
  • Get your Google Analytics up to speed. Need help? Follow my colleague Andy Crestodina. He regularly writes on the topic. To start use this Google analytics article.

2. Answer customer questions

Many marketers would start their assessment by checking their big, high visibility projects, While I appreciate this approach—It’s where you put your big marketing dollars—here’s the problem with it:

  • Most customers start their research before you know they’re in-market. They’re on a mission to get an answer to a specific purchase-related question. If your big fancy content doesn’t give them the information, they’re gone. Even worse, you’ll never know.

Therefore you must attract them before you’ve got any indicator that they’re even thinking about buying. To accomplish this, you must provide detailed product information and answer all potential customer questions.

It’s straight out of the Marcus Sheridan playbook: “They ask you answer.” This qualifies prospects and reduces time to purchase. While it’s not sexy content marketing, it’s attracts prospects. Don’t take my word for it—read the case study: One blog post generated $2 million in sales!

  • Provide detailed product information. Give your prospects every piece of information they need to buy from you. Include photographs and videos. Add customer reviews because they make your information more trustworthy.
  • Answer every potential customer question. Gather the actual questions your customers ask via your sales team, your customer service and other customer facing personnel.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Optimize each page of product information. The goal is to make your content as findable as possible and to provide your audience with the ability to contact you or buy. Think search, social shares, chat, phone number and purchase.
  • Link to related articles. Make it easy for customers to find related information that they might want. Always link customer FAQs to product pages that enable prospects to call or purchase.

3. Tweak your landing pages

A good landing page can make or break your campaign. It’s where you start your conversion process. They’re the gateway to your funnel. (BTW—check out Jason Miller’s Welcome to the Funnel).

A landing page can be a separate page, a product page, or a microsite.

Among the landing page factors to check are:

  • Do they continue the scent? (Hat tip to Bryan Eisenberg) Does it look and feel like your initial content? If not, you’ll loose prospects.
  • Do you limit activity? Offer visitors too many choices and they leave because they can’t decide what to do. Once visitors get to your landing page, you want to reduce options.
  • Can you reduce activity and distractions landing page further? Don’t force visitors to click through. The lower the bar you set to taking action, the greater your response will be.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Test, test, test. This is a major aspect of content marketing where testing matters. Among the elements to test are buttons (size, color, text, and placement), pricing, hero image, and/or incentive/give away.

4. Make your email signup alluring

Face it no one wants to get spammed. Treat your email subscribers like you would want to be treated. (I know this isn’t an original idea.) Protect them like they were your own family. They’re important people and deserve respect.

To this end, you must provide a regular dose of useful, fun information. One of my favorite examples was the old Lands End emailings that talked about life in small-town Wisconsin. (Sorry I couldn’t find an example online.)

Here’s what to check for in your email registration.

  • Do you have a targeted landing page? Where possible keep the scent consistent so that potential subscribers know that they’re in the right place.
  • Do you minimize the number of questions registrants must answer? Less is better.
  • Do you maximize the follow up email? Your email needs to be confirmed. Use this correspondence to show your brand.
  • Is your offer of value to your customers? Check your incentive. Does it make prospects want to sign up?
  • Do you have a welcome series? Before dumping new subscribers in with the rest of your list, do you give them a special series of emailings.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Remail your email. No matter how well your email open rate is you can always increase it. Change the subject line and remail it again. This tip is from Noah Kagan of OkDork.com and AppSumo.
  • Use your top performing pages to drive sign ups. Look at Google Analytics. Make sure that your tip 10 pages drive email sign ups.
  • Ask new registrants what their pain points are. Use your thank you email to find out more about your readers. It can help you create additional content. Hat tip to Derek Halpern of Social Triggers.
  • Promote your email list on social media. This is another Noah Kagan tip.

5. Offer regular servings of useful information.

Like many college professors, you have to publish or perish. In the constant stream of content, you need to keep yours flowing.

For most businesses, this translates to blogging. It’s your social media homebase with sharing and commenting functionality. Further, A blog provides an easy-to-use CMS (content management system). Need help? Get the ultimate blogging checklist (BTW—it’s free!)

Include servings of the 5 basic types of content: Product information, Customer FAQs, How-tos, Styling and Customer Ratings and Reviews.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Create an on-going editorial calendar. Make sure that your content appears on a regular timetable to attract readers.
  • Develop regular columns. This helps attract a following. It also helps you to create content because it’s more tightly focused.
  • Get your employees involved. Of course, you have to remove the risks by providing copyediting and optimization. It helps if you make content creation part of people’s jobs.
  • Ask your customers for content. Don’t assume that your customers will create publication ready content. Instead, gather their photographs and commentary as part of a regular series.

6. Develop major pieces of content

This is your lead generating hunk of information. The objective is to get noticed and build other entries to your business.

Skip the excuses. Even with limited or no budget you can take a group of your past articles and rewrite them into an ebook or presentation. Add a checklist. Voila you’ve got big content.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Create at least one major piece of content each quarter. Integrate it into your promotional and editorial calendars.
  • Plan for reuse in advance. Use your big content to pull together other ideas and provide a launching platform for a series of related content.
  • Enter into awards. This helps you attract attention. If you have a PR department, put this on their list.

7. Create content for other media entities

Known as guest posting, syndication and/or influencer marketing, most marketers overlook its true goal.

  • Tap into other people’s audiences. In a nutshell, write your best stuff for other people to publish. Why do this? Because they have bigger audiences than you have.

Neil Patel is a whiz at this. He regularly writes extremely high quality stuff for top blogs and media entities. He provides useful content that’s search optimized with useful images tailored for their audience. For example, check out 5 Mistakes that Hold Back Your Content Marketing on Content Marketing Institute.

  • Check whether the blog or entity accepts guest posts. (Note: We do NOT accept guest posts.) If so, determine what their requirements are. An email contact form is NOT enough!
  • Be a real person. Don’t send your requests from a general email address.
  • Understand the type of information they provide. Read other articles.
  • Follow their process. This may require work on your part. For example, Social Media Examiner puts every article through a rigorous month long process before it’s ready for publication.
  • Be prepared to promote your content. Think of it as your own. Answer comments and share it widely.

Until you get noticed it can be difficult to get media entities to select your content. Most likely you’ll need to work your way up the process.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Respond to HARO requests. This is free. Help others craft their content.
  • Exchange articles with people who follow you. Provide content for others who are interested in your topic. It helps if you build a relationship on social media first.
  • Comment on other people’s blogs. Show original thinking and participation. Be selective. Participate on blogs where the owner is present.
  • Build relationships offline. Don’t underestimate the value of building relationships in other venues.

8. Optimize every piece of your content

You can put a ton of effort into your content marketing creation but if it’s not optimized for findability, readability and shareability, it won’t yield the results you hope for.

Think of search as your content marketing safety school. If nothing else works, people can still find it.

The key areas to optimize are:

  • Images
  • Search (or keywords)
  • Titles
  • Readability

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Include at least one image in every piece of content. Make sure that you’ve added relevant keywords to your images.
  • Write amazing titles. It’s your one chance to make a good impression or your content is lost in the stream. Check out Jon Morrow’s 52 Headline Hacks.
  • Facilitate readability. Skip the long paragraphs of dense text. Use outlining and easy words.

9. Reuse your content

In Content Rules, Ann Handley and CC Chapman recommend that you re-imagine your content as part of your creation process. This provides you with multiple servings of content that are tailored for different media venues. I totally agree.

I’ve put this point near the end because if you’re like many marketers, your budget, through use and corporate changes beyond your control, may be getting tight by the middle of the year.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Audit your content. Okay, if it’s too much then try for the stuff that you did this year.
  • Give your old, forgotten content a facelift. Take the time to see if you can give it new life. Add a new title, new images or new facts. Here are 42 ways to re-spin your content.
  • Rewrite poor performing content. Forget trying to fill the gaps in older content. Use the good stuff and create something totally new.

10. Curate content: your own and other people’s

Many marketers overlook content curation totally.

There are 2 parts of content curation.

  1. Spotlight your peers. The objective here is to position yourself as a tastemaker. Chris Guillebeau does a great job of this on his blog, the Art of Non-Conformity. Content Curation by Chris Guillebeau via ActionableMarketingGuide
  2. Repromote your existing content (Internal Content Curation). The biggest benefit of content curation is that more people see it. It’s the secret behind high growth media brands like Mashable and Refinery29. They have staff dedicated to promoting their content on social media, etc. to maximize visibility.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Curate your own content to provide next context. Give your content another chance to thrive and attract a readership.
  • Augment other people’s content with your own commentary. This is what distinguishes curation from aggregation.

 

The bottom line is that it’s worth your time to review your content marketing performance to-date.

Even if you don’t follow all of these steps, use them as a guide for building your plans for the rest of 2015.

What’s your favorite tip for assessing content marketing performance and why?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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