Content Marketing Strategy (100+ New Content Hacks 2019)
In order to maximize the results of content marketing, this blog explains 100+ New Content Hacks that used in 2019.
Content Marketing Strategy Trends
The search engines and other technologies are evolving steadily to improve the user experiences, and to comply with their changing requirements, marketers now need to transform their strategies whenever a new trend comes into the play. Otherwise, their brand will suffer.
The trends do not appear out of the blue. These trends are often guided by the needs of the consumers. And if a marketer is observant enough, he may be able to anticipate the trends before it can hit the market.
If you couldn't foresee the trends, don't worry. Here's a list of latest trends in content marketing strategy which according to predictions will gain momentum in 2019.
Videos are more engaging
Videos have been quite useful as a marketing tool over the years, and it is only going to get bigger from here. Now, the marketers don’t even need high-end equipment to create an engaging video. A simple smartphone will be enough to produce results.
Apparently, the consumers are finding videos, especially the live videos, to be more interesting than other forms of content. In fact, digital video consumption has grown steadily over the past few years.
The average time of video consumption used to be 39 minutes a day back in 2011, which became 115 minutes in 2015. It continues to climb with each passing year. In 2016, Buffer released a survey report that said 83 percent of the marketers would love to create more videos if they did not have any obstacles.
Social media platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter, are showing excellent results on marketing videos. In fact, Facebook videos receive 135 percent more organic reach than images, the SocialBunkers’ study suggests. According to Facebook, the users spend 3X more time on live videos than regular videos, and they comment 10 times more on live videos.
Interestingly, 82 percent of Twitter users watch videos on the platform. As a matter of fact, 55 percent of internet users watch videos every day. It’s no mystery why social videos generate 12 times more shares than text and images combined.
Let’s not forget the fact that the mobile internet has become a lot more sophisticated in the recent years, and as we proceed towards the full deployment of 4G LTE and 5G networks, videos are only going to get more attention from the marketers as well the consumers.
Hyper-personalized content is a necessity
Even though people spend significant time on the internet every day, it will be a mistake to think that they consume anything and everything, provided to them. Of course, a quality piece of content is always appreciated, but the consumers are more interested in content that is tailored to their preferences, needs, and longings.
It goes without saying that the marketers will also be interested in serving consumers with highly personalized content to boost the engagements. In fact, a survey suggests that 94 percent of the marketers identify personalization as a key to present and future success. Not just that, personalized lead nurturing improves sales opportunities from leads by 20%.
Furthermore, personalized account-based marketing has shown 4 times better conversion rate than generic marketing approach. It's important to note that the trend of personalized content is actually consumer-driven.
Research from Invesp shows that 57 percent of the online shoppers are ready to provide their personal details to get more personalized results.
The idea of personalized content is nothing new, but now marketers need to level up their games to meet the requirements of the consumers in 2019. Just knowing the preferences of the audiences will no longer be enough.
Marketers also need to consider the elements like the geographic locations, age, sex, and economic background to create the perfect content for a consumer.
Screen-less searches are gaining popularity
We don’t need Gartner to tell us that we are moving into a world of screen-less searches. It is quite clear to everyone that voice searches are going to a big deal in 2019.
Google has already revealed that 20 percent of mobile searches are done using voice search, and as the smart devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo gain more popularity in the market, the numbers are only going to shoot up.
The millennials are more likely to use the voice search in their day-to-day lives than the previous generations, and the report from Thrive Analytics only describes the same.
According to the report, 71 percent of the people within the age bracket of 18-29 use voice assistants like Siri, Google assistant or Cortana, where only 39 percent of 44-53-year olds use the same.
The trend is pretty clear. And since the millennials are going to be the future customers for the brands, it has become quite necessary for the marketers to alter their strategies to comply with the voice searches. Since there's a significant difference between the way we speak and the way we type, it will be better if the content is created accordingly.
The voice searches are also affecting the search engine algorithms, which means the content marketers now need to change their approaches towards SEO to appear at the top of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). This is something the marketers cannot afford to miss.
Longer posts are no longer being ignored
Quality of text content definitely matters more than its quantity. But it will be a mistake if a marketer thinks quantity has no part in marketing strategy. In recent years, there has been a steady growth in the average length of a blog post, and surprisingly, that has offered some “strong results” in most cases.
In 2014, a typical blog post used to contain 808 words on an average. That number has grown into 1,142 in 2017, according to Orbit Media. The explanation is quite simple. Longer posts (2,000+) are 3 times more likely to receive strong results than a post with 500-1000 words. In fact, a longer post also ranks better in search results.
It sounds a little weird, given the fact that the average attention span of the consumers are reducing constantly, and it’s the lowest among the millennials, the future consumers in the market. But somehow, the long and detailed posts have seemed to work in most cases.
Even though longer posts are showing better results in most cases, it is important to note that consumers want quality. They are willing to invest their time in reading posts that are relevant, detailed and useful. So if those requirements can be fulfilled with a shorter piece of content, even that can offer positive results.
As a content marketer, you don't always need to invest in longer posts to gain better results. You can achieve the desired results with a shorter post as well. It will be wiser to publish a longer post when the content is rich and offers enough details for the readers to consume.
Influencer marketing works
Influential people have always been quite effective in driving customer engagement, and as influencer marketing keeps gaining momentum in 2019, it is safe to say that the technique is going to play a crucial role in shaping the strategies for content marketing.
A report by Nielsen suggests that 9 out of 10 people trust recommendations from individuals (even though they don’t know them personally) over the brands. Also, Twitter users report an increase in purchase intent by 5.2 times when they receive promotional content from the influencers.
In the last few years, influencer marketing has increased significantly. And it seems to be closing the gap with video advertising when it comes to search interest. The significance of influencer marketing will remain unaltered. However, the way businesses use this technique may need to change in 2019.
Readers are no longer interested in lengthy roundup posts that offer generic content. Readers are more interested in finding authentic stories that offer actionable stories.
Perhaps an interview with an expert, where he shares insightful details and analysis about the brand he is representing, will be more effective than simply using the influencer to advertise the brand.
A certain level of transparency is always appreciated
As mentioned in the earlier point, brand advertisements aren’t exactly going to be effective in 2019. Consumers have started to distrust the promises, made by the companies to drive more consumer engagement. As a matter of fact, people’s bullsh*t detectors have become more sensitive nowadays.
The idea of “cause marketing” has been effective in the past, but consumers are starting to perceive this sort of promotions as a desperate move from the brands. Over the past few years, only a handful of companies could actually embrace the causes, which they employed for advertisements.
Brands now need to be more transparent about their vision, and now that consumers are becoming more cautious about everything, it is wiser to maintain a relationship with them. Besides, the Federal Trade Commission continues to take measures to protect consumer interests from companies that aren’t transparent enough.
Influencer marketing is supposed to play a greater role in improving customer engagement this year. But that might not work for the brands who have already failed to gain the trust of the consumers. To succeed in 2019, marketers need to focus on branded content that offers enough transparency to consumers.
What should you do to stay relevant in this dynamic environment
Well, the list does not end here. There are several other trends are capable of transforming the whole dynamics of content marketing in 2019, and as the latest technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, mobile optimization, augmented reality and display ads keep changing the requirements of search engines, it will become a lot harder to achieve success with the conventional way of content marketing.
The best thing you can do to survive in this market is to do your own research and see how the consumers respond to the approaches that you have adopted in recent times. These trends that we talked about may be supported by facts and information, but there are plenty of instances which tell us how quickly trends can fade away.
You should do your experiments as per the changing requirements of the consumers and keep an eye on the top performers in the market. We have already come halfway to 2019, so you may have already witnessed the major changes in the industry.
To make sure the rest of 2019 goes well for you as well as your brand, just look out for all the changes that are going on and revise your content marketing strategies accordingly.
Scaling Content Like a Production Manager
If your goal is to build an audience and bring long-term, high-quality attention to your content, you are better off investing in steady systems than one-off hacks. And that is, above all, what wearing the production manager’s hat means. I will share three basic steps:
Create your calendar: determine what needs to be produced.
Establish systems and routines: learn how to produce it.
Build a plan for quality assurance: figure out how to ensure that it is consistently good.
Creating an Editorial Calendar
Essentially, an editorial calendar contains your plan for content production in the upcoming days, weeks, or months. Anticipation can be as much as you want and are able to maintain.
The calendar is a roadmap that should bring clarity, not impose harsh rules. The idea is to have a living, breathing document to go back to when you are trying to learn when certain things need to happen so that other things can happen later.
Let us look at an example: if you know that 20 days from now you have included a whitepaper in your editorial calendar, it will be much easier to calculate when you need to produce each one of its components. You will know when you or your creator will have to finish writing the document in order to get it done in time.
You will also be able to determine, based on known lead times, when supporting graphics need to be designed or requested.
Having a certain piece planned within your editorial calendar shouldn’t be an impediment for making needed changes. This internal document is meant to facilitate, not hinder, content innovation.
If some brand comes up with a time-sensitive partnership that needs to go out on a certain date, or you realize that there is a better opportunity to release a piece of content on a different date, by all means, go ahead and create changes.
Here are the five steps to create an editorial calendar:
Define your constraints.
Collect content ideas.
Design extended content products.
Enter tasks by date on your calendar. Let’s examine each of these more closely.
Step 1: Define Your Constraints
We would be terrible production managers if we did not understand that what is possible is determined by various constraints. We operate within the bounds of the existing resources, available time, and prioritized goals.
Resources such as the content budget affect what type of assistance we are able to contract and how. The time available, which can be calculated based on the number of content team members, is also finite. Every time you decide to engage in one activity, this is time inevitably taken away from others. Lastly, we are also constrained by what has been prioritized.
If you operate within a larger team, there is a high likelihood someone else made this decision for you. If you are operating solo, you have still set some goals to which you will need to adhere.
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Creating a content budget
Given that constraints will be significantly determined by your budget, spend some time creating a list of items and costs that you will need to manage as you build your content marketing machine. Here’s a list of common expenses:
Tech infrastructure expenses
External authors or author platforms
Distribution platform fees
Take action: what is possible based on what you have?
After you have defined the time and resources available, decide what cadence works well for your team. Is it possible to produce five eBooks every month? Is it reasonable to think you can create one infographic per week?
How long can your articles be, and how many are you able to ship each month? Use this information as the foundation of your calendar.
Step 2: Identify Personas
These are reader or viewer profiles that you are betting on to complete a specific action at some point in time. The importance of understanding who these personas are as you create your editorial calendar can’t be overstated: no calendar would ever make sense if it isn’t built around them.
Decide how often you want to share content for each of these personas. Say, Charles, Thomas, and Susie are the three content personas you have identified for a blog about innovation. You know that, out of the three, Thomas is a more strategic reader to target in the long run. Perhaps he is more prone to share your content, or his follow-up purchases are of higher value to you.
Charles and Susie, on the other hand, are equally important. In this scenario, it would make sense to dedicate three out of five content pieces to Thomas every week, one to Charles, and one to Susie.
Something to remember is that these allocations took place from a purely internal standpoint. Publicly, nobody knows who you are targeting with each piece in your calendar. What this means is that you might find your content appealing to all three or two of these personas, and that is perfectly fine.
Sometimes, you will end up affecting viewers or readers completely outside of your target audience, and that is fine, too. As long as you are clear on how efficiently your resources are being spent, reaching a larger (unexpected) audience is always a great side effect.
Take action: how will you split your calendar to appeal to each persona?
Now is the time to ask how many pieces you will dedicate to each of the identified personas in the time period you have set for your calendar. Decide on weekly or monthly distributions that make sense for your team.
Step 3: Collect Content Ideas
You will find that support tickets, audience comments, and online question-and-answer platforms are great sources of potential content ideas. These forums provide insight as to what people don’t fully understand or are intrigued about.
Review content pieces that have worked well for you in the past and tweak them to come up with something new.
Look at interesting topics, headline formulas, structures, and supporting visuals from brands in other spaces.
Search interesting topics, headlines, structures, and visuals from brands in the same space.
View online question-and-answer boards where your brand’s core topics are being discussed. Identify common questions that you could potentially answer.
Read your own audience’s comments and support tickets related to topics they would like to see more of or understand better.
Review your keyword research and detect opportunities to create SEO-driven content.
Look at underperforming content pieces in your catalog and add a new twist.
As you complete step 3, remember to introduce variety in the content formats you include in the calendar. As we have learned throughout the book, even within the same persona, you will find various levels of engagement that call for particular types of content. Back to the personal example in step 2, there is a chance that you will find a low-involvement Susie and a high-involvement one.
Susie is still a single person who you want to target with content, but you could think of more visually-focused content pieces to call her attention when she is distracted and long-form content when she is focused. Ensure that your editorial calendar is diverse in relation to content formats.
Having a concept is just one of the layers that makes up a full content piece. Earlier in this blog, we saw how the core content product (main benefit) and actual content product (article, video, etc.) need to be amplified with the third layer of features so it is effectively consumed in the market.
This is where you need to think beyond the Publish button. Your calendar looks full and the ideas are there, but it will take much more than that to achieve your content goals. For every piece, there are a few items that you will want to plan for and include in your editorial calendar:
You might have a strong idea, but unless you come up with an equally compelling headline your online audience might never even see it.
Even if you have arrived at a great concept and headline, you have not shaped what the actual piece will look like until you add notes about its structure. These notes can be as detailed as your time allows, but a basic high-level outline will suffice.
The more you trust your content creators (internal or external) to elaborate on your team’s ideas, the less detailed your outlines usually need to be. Some creators inevitably require more hand-holding. In these cases, be sure to provide a thorough outline that leaves little space for deviations.
Ensure that you prepare a set of supporting visuals that accompany your pieces wherever your audience might find them. Remember that your content pieces might live in many places outside of the platform where you originally hosted them.
It is your job to plan the production of these visuals, and the editorial calendar is a place to include information about which of these will be required.
Call to action
Plan and make a note of what viewers should do after interacting with each content piece in your calendar. Should they be prompted to sign up for something, comment, or share? Confirm that this is clear from the planning stage.
How are you planning to share this with your audience? Are there any paid placements or brand partnerships involved? Add the content piece to your calendar knowing how you intend to give it visibility after it is out.
As I mentioned earlier, some of these distribution opportunities will require previous outreach, making the planning phase an essential component for distribution success.
Social networks, for example, are also places where you need to optimize for discovery, not just traditional search engines. Your editorial calendar should include notes regarding the concepts or needs that the pieces are most likely to be searched for to fulfill — regardless of where that discovery takes place.
Step 5: Fill Out Your Calendar
At this point, you know what cadence is possible with what you have, understand which personas you need to aim for, own a list of content ideas to bring to life, and have augmented those ideas to make them distribution-ready. You are all set! The next step is actually filling out the calendar to reflect your decisions. It is important to record aspects like the following:
Is it going to be a long article or a two-minute video?
A tentative title for the piece.
Who is in charge of bringing this piece to life? Are there multiple producers involved?
A rough outline of what the piece will look like.
Will there be any images, files, or videos to create in support of this piece?
What do you expect the user to do next?
Name the target audience for this piece in terms of the personas you have designed for the overall content strategy.
How do you anticipate this piece will be promoted? Which channels would be ideal? Is there any outreach or partnership to plan for?
Establishing Systems and Routines for Content Production
After you are done creating the editorial calendar, you will find yourself in front of dozens of pieces that need to be produced before a certain date. Without a plan of attack, these tasks will quickly become overwhelming. Being able to create a nonstop content machine hinges on your ability to split processes into manageable, repeatable tasks.
Some creators shy away from systems because they seem overpowering and rigid. However, in reality, strong systems are the only way you will ever have time and space for flexibility.
This is true for content production, business, and many other areas of life. Here is an example: you have included four infographics in your editorial calendar for a certain month. Without established systems, this is what it might look like:
Define when infographics will be published in your editorial calendar.
Start working on them in disorder.
Send whoever is designing them vague instructions.
Receive something that does not match what you originally intended.
Rework the entire thing.
Freak out because you won’t make it by the due date.
Miss your date(s); eventually, publish.
A completely different approach is to tackle these pieces as follows:
Define when infographics will be published in your editorial calendar.
Split each infographic into data collection, data visualization, and distribution. Make a note of the lead times required for all three tasks and compare that to the final publication date.
Assign the task of data collection for each of the four infographics with a due date based on the desired date of publication.
Add instructions for each infographic as the data comes in for each.
Assign the task of data visualization, sending over instructions and a data package for each infographic, and adding a due date based on the desired date of publication.
Receive infographics in a specific order and publish by the set date.
Assign distribution tasks to someone who can conduct outreach, build links with other sites, or share using various owned, earned, or paid channels.
A key difference between the first, undefined process and the second, systematized workflow is that the final content product was broken down into smaller tasks. Successful infographics were understood as the end result of researching some facts (data), visualizing those facts, and distributing the piece to a certain audience.
The fact that you don’t have an internal or external team to rely on for these three types of tasks shouldn’t be an impediment. Especially if you are a one-person operation, knowing how to work your way to the final content product is crucial.
Also important, as you split these processes into manageable chunks, is to make a note of standard lead times for each activity. Consider that it might take one week to collect data for an infographic and two to design it. This means that you should always be thinking of your next infographic as a content product that won’t be live for another three weeks.
Granted, there are exceptions: sometimes tasks are executed faster than expected, and sometimes they take longer than expected. Early delivery isn’t a problem, but delays can seriously affect your ability to maintain an editorial calendar.
One healthy way to prevent delays is to add some buffer time on top of the standard lead times you have established so that the creator has additional time to deliver without ruining your planning.
To ensure that your content production process yields high-quality pieces on an ongoing basis, you will need to consider the following:
Defining what “great” looks like for your brand
Reverse-engineering what is required to achieve “great”
Checking for the presence of certain items that allow for “great”
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
Defining What “Great Content” Looks Like
Reverse-Engineering What Is Required to Achieve “Great” CONTENT
Reviewing past audience behavior, other brands’ successes/failures, and industry best practices, you will be able to generate a list of factors that enhance (for instance) how often a piece is shared. Continuing with the previous example, you might detect that the following factors contribute to article shares:
The text is broken up into digestible parts
Supporting media has a clean design
Social buttons are present and prominent
Wordcount is above (or under) x
For the time being, try to dissect your own content success factors depending on the goals you have set out to achieve.
Quality assurance, or QA, is a process commonly used in the software industry among many, many others. The idea is to constantly verify your products so that they meet or exceed a given set of standards.
With time, you (or your editors) will become acquainted with the factors that improve your content’s chance of being great. As blog 2 describes, you will constantly look at metrics that shed light on the type of content that performs best. However, I can’t overemphasize how important it is to have documents in place that allow anyone to understand and participate in your production process.
Sometimes, you won’t be there, your editors might change, and memory is something we can’t really rely on for long-term success. Instead, make it your policy to come up with guides like a Content Quality Assurance Checklist.
Creating Your Own Content QA Checklist
To build your own QA checklist, define your expectations in terms of the following line items:
Should the piece’s title be a certain length or include a certain type of words?
Wordcount or length specifications
Should the piece itself be a certain length (minimum or maximum)? With articles, this is usually set in terms of a word count. Duration works well for video — this is typically delineated in seconds, minutes, or hours. Images and other graphics pieces might require width and length guidelines.
Should the creator mind certain design rules? When referring to an article, is there anything special for which she should be using heading tags (h1, h2, h3)? How about underlined, capitalized, bolded, and italicized text? Should links use a specific class, or open in a new tab? Think about how the piece should look and feel, and add rules that ensure it.
Any specific patterns or outlines to follow here? Should the introduction be a certain length, for example? Do you always want to close with a question? Should paragraph and sentence length stay within certain parameters? Decide what works and add it as a checkable item.
Are the supporting graphics shareable? Is type/background contrast sufficient? Do attached files need to stick to a certain size for the sake of page speed? Should they include captions, and what kind of alignment are you expecting (left, center, right)? Are there any visual rules to which they need to adhere?
Is this piece ideally laid out for distribution? Does it contain proper references to any specific number of influencers, for example?
Intellectual Property (IP) considerations
Is every source cited properly? Are we using third-party assets appropriately? Do we have licenses for the resources we are modifying, and do our licenses allow for such changes?
Call to action
Does the piece include a certain type of gated content or call to action? Are we, for instance, linking to a specific number of products?
Are certain terms that can help the article rank higher in a search included? Is there a set number of internal and external links in this piece? Are files and alt tags named properly? Is the URL optimized for search engines?
Categorization and tagging
Has the creator categorized the piece properly and added the right tags? Create a fixed set of categories and tags that he must stick to and make it part of your style guide.
Do creators need to avoid offensive language or themes like gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual preferences, or terrorism? Should they stay away from promoting competitors? If so, who are these competitors? Check for the use of active versus passive voice as well as word precision.
Are there any sources that you should stay away from? Make a blacklist of sites to avoid when quoting information.
These checklist items are small, yet very common human errors that can be minimized if we look out for them. Think about mistakes such as the following:
Typos, spelling, and grammar errors
Proper use of hyphens and other punctuation marks
Stating that you will explain or include something “below” or “later” that never actually makes it into the piece
The mismatch between the number of items offered in the title, the ones actually included in the piece, and those featured in supporting graphics
Capitalization issues — especially with proper nouns (specific products and services)
The broken HTML code in articles
Sound/image mismatches in video
Odd cropping or pixelation in images
Now, inevitably, your creators’ ability to deliver on this checklist is directly related to how clear you have been regarding style guidelines. This is where having a Content Style Guide becomes essential.
Spend some time going over this sample Content Quality Checklist:
Headline fulfills length requirements
The headline is descriptive and includes the main keyword
The piece fulfills word count or length requirements
Subtitles and important ideas are styled correctly using HTML tags whenever appropriate
Key terms are highlighted in important headings
The structure is easy to follow
The introductory paragraph provides a thorough description of what comes next
Introductory paragraph includes key terms
Paragraph and sentence length comply with requirements for improved readability
Supporting graphics are clear and overlay text is legible
Supporting graphics enhance shareability
Supporting graphics stay within file size limits
Supporting graphics are appropriately named and captioned
Third party content is properly attributed
Third party assets are properly licensed
There are links to reputable external resources
There are links to other relevant internal resources
None of those links are broken
Both internal and external links have a descriptive visible or anchor text
The piece contains a clear call to action
URL length and structure is optimized for the search experience
The piece has been categorized and tagged appropriately
Offensive topics have been avoided
Tone makes sense for our brand and the topic dealt with
Competitors are not mentioned in any way that is detrimental to our brand
Active voice is used throughout
Precise terms have been used instead of vague ones
Spelling and grammar have been corrected
The piece solves or answers what it promises
For lists: number of items included in the title matches those in the body of the piece
For video: there are no mismatches between what you see and what you hear
No odd cropping or pixelation in images
The creator has included a complete biography
The Content Style Guide is a document creator and editors can refer to when they are trying to understand your standards. Depending on the types of content pieces you create, you will need to come up with requirements that apply to various formats. Rules for video, text, and imagery should all be readily available for those involved in the content production process.
To put together your Content Style Guide, include the following sections:
A primer on your brand’s voice and tone. This goes along with a description of the style manual you will adhere to for copywriting. For more on this, read the upcoming sidebar.
An overview of your goals with various content channels.
Specifics on what you are expecting for headline considerations, word count or length specifications, styling considerations, and so on, as discussed in the previous section:
Wordcount or length specifications
General structure expected
Supporting media guidelines
Calls to action
Categorization and tagging
Capitalization rules of certain words specific to your space A source whitelist (preferred) and blacklist (to avoid) A checklist for creators to verify their own work before you (or your editors) do.
Managing a Content Team
As you are probably beginning to notice, work quickly starts to pile up on a content manager’s desk. Leave for a two-day vacation, and we return to find chaos, fire…the end of the world.
It is the story of our lives, and although there is no way to escape many of these responsibilities, there are many ways in which you can become incredibly efficient at them. This blog is all about management: providing resources and removing barriers so that your team can succeed with ongoing content production.
This is when a content manager also needs to wear the project manager hat. It takes a certain mindset to think of projects as divisible units that different team members can tackle separately.
The Common Habits of Successful Project Managers
People who manage teams successfully share a few characteristics from which we can all learn.
Habit 1: They Build Out Templates of Routine Tasks
Habit 2: They Ask, “Is This Scalable?” and Act Accordingly
Efficient content managers wonder if what they are currently doing, in the way that they are currently doing it, could take place many more times without them. Could we continue doing this if we grew…a lot? Is this task something we could continue to support for many more content pieces? That is when the automation solutions we will analyze next become crucial.
For now, begin asking yourself “is this scalable?” more frequently and unveil parts of your process for which you might be missing out on automation or outsourcing opportunities.
Habit 3: They Are Clear-Cut on Feedback
Feedback can be assertive and proactive, but to be both of those things, it must be clear. Try to put yourself in your creator’s shoes: would I know what to do if I read/heard this? Will this piece of feedback be useful? When in doubt, begin by stating what is clearly working in your opinion.
Then, proceed to express specific questions or issues regarding what you are seeing. If you have the time, let him know a possible way to fix these issues. Sometimes providing examples of possible solutions is a faster route to comprehension.
Habit 4: They Use Tools and Systems Effectively
Successful content managers are also professional tool hunters. Every time we find something that can save a little time or effort, that is making our content machines spin a bit faster.
And, if there is one thing that Japanese production success has shown us, it’s that small, incremental improvements matter. They matter so much that sometimes they are the entire reason that we are able to maintain our success in the long run.
Given that tools can have such a great impact in those small, significant savings, we will demonstrate how to build your content marketing technology stack in the next section.
Habit 5: They Split Processes Effectively
Content managers who outsource successfully understand that every process can be split into smaller, more manageable chunks. After tasks have been broken down, the content manager can delegate them to specialized individuals (or companies) who are more experienced in specific areas.
Take video production as an example. An efficient content manager might compartmentalize the entire process into the following stages:
Upon doing this, you can easily assign each stage to someone who is ideally equipped to deliver. Whereas someone inside your team can handle ideation, for example, perhaps you can outsource the shooting and editing phases.
Understanding that content production is fundamentally divisible and being smart about who tackles what are the keys to becoming a more efficient manager.
Habit 6: They Document Everything
If you suddenly became sick or had to leave someone else in charge for whatever other reason, would that person know where to find information? Is your team unnecessarily dependent on your memory and personal files for crucial tasks? Creating a clear, consistent documentation strategy prepares you for content scalability.
You should assemble content-related processes in written guidelines that others who work with you can easily follow. Some of the key documents you will want to arm your team with are:
Visual guidelines for how your graphics are built
Visual guidelines for how your written content should look
An overview of the content proofreading and editing stages
Checklists for quality assurance
Instructions on how to submit payments to content creators
Hiring considerations, if any have been standardized
Creator-facing files like your blog’s style guide
Any templates used for standard requests like copy and design
Instructions on how to use your Content Management System (CMS)
Along those same lines, any external creators who you hire to support your content efforts will need documents to guide their work. Consider handing them the following information:
Your content style guide.
this comprehensive document includes notes on voice and tone, your tagging/categorization structure, SEO rules, length expectations, styling considerations, and more.
Any technical notes on using your CMS or uploading directly to any given platform.
Instructions on how to invoice you.
If they are creating visuals, descriptions of what works best for your personas.
Ask them to provide these descriptions as mood boards.
Habit 7: They Establish Clear Terms and Conditions
Your internal and external staff should have no doubts regarding hours, expectations, and content ownership. Do they know where they can log their progress?
Are they clear on intellectual property, and have they signed off to certain provisions? Do they understand the level of quality you expect? Are due dates properly articulated and enforced?
A Content Manager’s Duties
Behind every successful content manager lies the idea that there is always a better way to do something. Driven by this desire to optimize, content managers engage in the following activities:
Regular content audits
No, robots won’t take over and destroy our jobs. What they will do, if we are lucky enough, is take on all the repetitive, noncreative tasks that we are currently wasting time on to set us free to pursue truly innovative activities. This is what smart content automation is all about: freeing your time and that of your team to go after bigger fish.
Even at its most basic level, automation can greatly speed up your content machine. blog 11 emphasizes the importance of coming up with systems and routines to execute your editorial calendar. Think about these routines as you decide which tasks you can automate. To give you an idea, here are some of the content-related tasks you can now partially automate:
Generating content ideas based on keywords
Curating content for social sharing; recommended posts
Automatically creating content production tasks in certain project management platforms
Automatically resizing supporting social graphics for each platform’s ideal size
Automatically repurposing content from one format to another; for example, presentations that can be exported as videos, or images that are automatically stitched together as GIFs
Prefilled or programmatically filled emails for outreach
Automatic sharing to multiple social networks
Automatic social sharing upon publishing in certain CMSes
Semi-automated content translations
The key here is the word partially. There is no replacement for a human being’s sense of empathy and judgment, but certain automation solutions can support those competencies considerably.
As Artificial Intelligence evolves, so do the kinds of tools available for traditionally human-only tasks. That includes certain content production, edition, and distribution activities. We are beginning to hear about automation services that can do the following:
Discover exactly which topics will drive engagement for your brand based on a combination of factors
Analyze your audiences’ behavioral data to predict which related content it will like best
“Read” your content to find and suggest areas for improvement
“Write” human-sounding stories from a dataset
Don’t Repeat Yourself
There is a brilliant principle in the world of software development called Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY). Its main goal is to reduce the amount of repetition and avoid wasting time. This short exercise is meant to help you identify the tasks that you could be completing more efficiently, saving valuable resources that can be invested to grow your content efforts in other areas.
1. On a Monday morning, begin making a note of every task (no matter how big or small) you will take on during the day. Write down the amount of time the task currently takes.
2. Next to each task, tally the number of times you repeat it throughout the week. Alternatively, you can extend this count to a period of 30 days for a more comprehensive review. Use the following table to keep score:
3. When you are done tallying, multiply the amount of time your task takes with the number of occasions in which you have completed it in the past week (or month, depending on what you chose in step 2). Ignore tasks that were never repeated.
4. Sort the tasks according to the amount of time they have taken in the last week or month (depending on what you chose). The tasks at the very top should have taken the most amount of time.
5. Prioritize the tasks you should consider automating. Tackle the first few at the top of your table. Is there a tool that could reduce the amount of time it takes to complete this task?
If compressing an image takes you five minutes, for example, could you find a way to make it take one? To gauge the impact of the automation tool, add a couple of new columns to the table that has been prioritized to reflect the most time-intensive tasks:
Assuming that you can’t purchase every single tool on your list, decide which ones generate the most impact by comparing the amount of time they will save you every week.
The question of outsourcing is always tied to its alternative: internal hiring. Should you make or buy? In general terms, one should always outsource (buy) if the costs incurred by making something in-house (make) outweigh the costs of pursuing the alternative. Make-or-buy decisions are common in business and are studied by accounting departments all around the world.
In deciding which direction to go, you must analyze both quantitative and qualitative factors. It is important to understand that the purchase price of a certain content piece isn’t the only cost assumed in buying it. There are also benefits foregone in terms of learning: your team could have developed that internal capacity if it were not outsourced.
These are the questions you want to be asking at this point. If the answer is yes, you should consider outsourcing as a production strategy:
Would making this in-house deplete the time/resources available for a more critical, business model-centric activity?
Would the learning curve to create this far surpass our deadline for launch?
Is there a potential to waste time/resources out of a lack of experience in this field?
Would it be too expensive for us to allocate team member time to this activity?
Would we be better off if they invested their time in something else?
Finding an external partner can alleviate some of the costs and barriers required to enter a certain space or produce a certain content format. As with everything in life, though, outsourcing comes with its caveats.
Pros of outsourcing
Little/no learning curve to complete the task.
Ability to focus on your core business activity instead.
Implementation of your partner’s best practices and know-how
Demands creating detailed outlines and requests, which formalizes your process.
developed over time.
Cons of outsourcing
Less control over the final result.
Additional time spent in external
No internal capacity development.
Can be expensive.
Less flexibility in terms of meetings, deadlines, and costs.
To formalize your relationship with other content creators, contracts are strongly recommended. These can be standard documents that you ask every writer, designer, or editor to sign. The importance of doing this is that certain provisions can allow you to repurpose content freely without necessarily having to seek approval from the original creator.
This does not mean that you will stop giving credit to the author of the piece — though you can if that is established in the contract. The point of putting everything in writing is to cover your bases legally and allow things to move faster once you spot a piece with potential for getting repurposed. Anticipate these scenarios and get permission in writing for the work you are requesting.
Drafting a contract sounds intimidating, so let’s review some of your options. To make the entire process easier, you can begin by writing a list of those situations you are trying to prevent. Here are some ideas:
You don’t want your content creators to give you pieces that are not original. This can get you in trouble with the original creators. You don’t want to see content produced for your brand being republished elsewhere without your consent.
You want to avoid a conflict with the creator around credits. Clarify what constitutes proper attribution. Alternatively, specify that the public author of the piece will differ from the one with whom you are entering a contract. In other words, the piece will be “ghostwritten.”
You want to prevent misunderstandings around payments. Be very specific about the timeline with respect to content creation and when certain milestones are remunerated.
If your company has a legal department, you can work with that team to add a set of clauses that protect what you are trying to secure and prohibit what you are trying to avoid. Talking to a lawyer is also a great alternative. An attorney will be able to point you in the right direction as far as contracts go.
I know paying a lawyer’s fees might sound unattainable, but if you have a draft of the contract to review, you will find that most lawyers can work on these types of documents fairly quickly — especially if you have done your homework in addressing situations to avoid.
If neither of these options is possible, there are online tools with which you can quickly draft agreements to formalize your relationship with content creators directly.
This is riskier than using professional legal representation but will give you a basic set of terms to protect your working relationship with content creators. This basic document would also make a great starting point for a conversation with a lawyer in the future.
Sites like Democracy and Rocketlawyer can provide access to legal documents signed by others, whereas Shake offers a free template library with popular contracts written by startups.
Intellectual Property and Licensing
Along the same lines, you need to ensure that any third-party assets included in your content pieces are not just suitable for reproduction, but modification as well. This type of license will give you the ultimate freedom to adapt the asset (video, image, photo, graphics) to your specific needs.
If that isn’t possible, secure a license that allows for the types of reproductions you can foresee in the short and midterm. Some of the resources you will use for content creation are installable, like fonts and certain plug-ins. Ensure that you read their licenses carefully because the number of final products in which they can be used may vary.
How to Get Buy-In for Your Content Initiatives with Data
I have always believed that thorough research is the key to persuasion, in business and in life. Find data points that make your case for a given content initiative impossible to turn down. Here are some examples of what that might look like:
You need the SEO expert in your company to help you to optimize content pages. Find data on the positive consequences brought about by an increased focus on SEO from a similar brand in your space. Show her the potential behind the task you would like her to undertake.
You need a designer on your team to create a series of downloadable cheatsheets to launch a gated content campaign. You want users to sign up in exchange for these cheat sheets. Assign an economic value to each new signup and draft a rough calculation of how valuable this gated content initiative could be for the company’s goals.
You need an engineer on your team to develop a feature for the company’s blog. Create a list of benefits brought about by the new feature, which could include time/cost savings and user experience improvements. Articulate the feature’s impact and enlist this expert’s help by making him feel as if he is a vital part of making it happen — because he is.
The worst mistake we can make in our continuous search for internal alignment is to stay inside our own head and forget the importance of clear communication. You know why a certain project is vital, but others can’t read your mind. Your train of thought and arguments need to come across transparently.
Making Sure Your Meetings Stay Productive
Have you ever been on a call that seems to go on forever, reaching no real action points? Ever wondered “why am I here?” far too many times during a meeting?
There is a chance you did not belong in that meeting, or even worse, nobody else really did. Instead, you should have all dealt with the issue at hand via some other channel like email or corporate instant messaging.
Now, to be certain, some meetings are necessary. I would just like to invite you to frame them as what they are: costly allocations of time and resources to add value to your company. If something does not require a meeting, do not call for it. If it does, make sure everyone’s time is being invested strategically.
As a content production manager, you should devote your meetings to connecting content pieces to business opportunities that can add value, instead of everyday reporting that would be best conveyed via email or an internal write-up.
If you do end up sharing routine information, be sure to dedicate time to more analytical, innovative thinking at some point. If you are organizing the meeting, making it a productive space for everyone is in your hands. To avoid waste, verify that you have the following covered:
Before the meeting
Prepare and share an agenda for the meeting. Why are we here? If this is a periodic meeting (happens every month or week) your agenda could live in a single, evolving document. Ensure everyone knows what communication channel will be used if the meeting includes remote attendees.
During the meeting
Make sure someone is taking notes. If what we are saying isn’t somehow recorded, we are not really saying anything. For every item in the agenda, assign someone to be responsible for solving it as discussed during the meeting. If there are any visuals to go along with what is being discussed, distribute them so that everyone (remote or not) can see them.
After the meeting
Turn action points into tasks using whichever project management tool works best for you. Asana and Trello are widely used within content and marketing teams. Assign each task to whoever is responsible for completing it.
If there is a follow-up meeting to check on the status of these pending tasks, schedule it. Although this might not be possible every time, try to send out meeting notes to those who participated as well as those who could not make it.
Regular Content Audits
To do so, you need to make content audits part of your routine.
A content audit is a thorough revision of your catalog that involves deep diving into various types of data to unveil what has worked and what has not. What type of data?
That depends on what you are looking for and what the focus of your content goals is. No matter what data points you decide to collect, the resulting document is called a content inventory. Some popular elements to include in your inventory, before you proceed with the audit, include the following:
Wordcount or size/duration (if multimedia)
Number of social shares per network
Number of comments
Total pageviews or views (if multimedia)
Total sessions or visits
Keyword(s) (position and search volume)
Granted, not all of these will be available for every content format. Wordcount is a unit of length that applies only to text, but could well translate into duration for formats like video. Performance metrics like the bounce rate, load time, SEO, or conversion data will not be available unless you are actually hosting the content.
That is precisely what leads many managers into choosing their self-hosted blog as the brand’s main content hub. If you need a refresher about how to select main and supporting channels.
Your First Content Audit
After you have completed this content inventory, you will be in a much better position to audit or examine what is and isn’t working in your catalog. Suppose that you have already spotted that — what now? After you have finished analyzing the data, add a column that indicates one of the following terms for each content piece:
Nothing needs to change; this piece is fine.
Two good pieces could benefit from joining forces. You could also spot two (or more) pieces that are competing for the same type of topic or keyword — to avoid keyword cannibalization, it might be beneficial to combine them.
This piece is looking dated. Find new data to make it feel current again.
This piece simply needs a little attention to correct errors or improve the content.
Expand on this topic or create a series with the hope of improving the piece’s performance and position in search engines.
This piece has completely underperformed, but it might have a chance if combined and repurposed into another format or rethought.
This piece should simply be removed from your catalog because it might be hurting your site’s search engine rank. If you are changing any URLs that are currently getting organic traffic, you will want to apply a 301 redirect to let search engines know where they can find the new (combined/improved/updated) piece.
A 301 (also known as a permanent) redirect informs search engines that your page has permanently moved to a new URL. In a way, it works like those signs you see in shops when they have moved to a new location: “Find us at X address.”
This will allow the search but that has historically found your content in one place to find it in its new location. Talk to your web developer if you need to implement one or more of these redirects.
Getting in the habit of auditing your content and tailoring it based on those learning’s will save you time and money. Techniques like content repurposing. Becoming a successful content manager is all about maximizing results without wasting resources.
The Content Marketer’s Essential Dictionary
An indicator of how established and reliable is a certain domain. Some of the most popular metrics to track this are Moz’s Domain Authority and Ahrefs’ Domain Rating.
Borrowed communication channels over which your brand has no control. It can, however, secure a presence via outreach or organic referrals.
A qualitative research technique based on observation. It can help you collect data to design content personas (see Personas).
A tactic by which certain content pieces are withheld from users until they complete a specific, desirable action. This might include, for example, submitting contact information or signing up for a service.
A free web analytics platform offered by Google. It connects to your website to track events and provide reports related to traffic, conversions, user behavior, audience, and much more.
Guest articles or guest posts
Content pieces created by other individuals or brands that wish to partner with you, or the other way around. The arrangement is usually an exchange that involves both brands “guest posting” in each other’s content hubs.
A form of data visualization that summarizes dense, complex qualitative or quantitative data into an easily consumable graphic.
A document that collects various content data points scraped from different sources. This inventory is raw material for a content audit (see Content audit).
High-involvement content consumer
A user that faces content in an invested research mode. He requires a specific kind of information and bases his conscious decision to consume on clear criteria like length, quality, and reputation of the content pieces at hand.
Inbound links (also backlinks)
Links coming from external sites that point to you.
Using the platform of authoritative figures in your space to send a message.
Usually a paid engagement.
Links pointing to other pages in your same domain. An internal linking strategy is instrumental in content SEO because it can help pass on authority signals from one page (article, post, piece) to another within your catalog.
Single-page websites that focus on one or a few specific conversion goals. They become the final destination for traffic acquired via earned, paid, and owned channels.
Low-involvement content consumer
A user that isn’t particularly interested in a decision-making process. When presented with the type of content you are offering, he will react (click, like, or comment) based on impulse.
There is no complex, time-consuming, invested evaluation of alternatives in which he checks out other sites for the information you are supplying. You just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
The ones you insert within your site in pointing to third-party sites or resources.
Communication channels that are within your brand’s control. Examples include social profiles, email lists, and website spaces.
An indicator of how established and reliable is a certain page within a domain. Some of the most popular metrics to track this are Moz’s Page Authority and Ahrefs’ URL Rating.
Communication channels where you are buying placement.
Fictional people with very real needs that serve as placeholders when you are trying to create something that is relevant for someone. That “something” is contained in our case.
In finding effective profiles to target, consider the importance of convertible content personas: users you are able to convert. These are readers or viewers that you can effectively guide through your desired conversion funnel.
Return on investment. The results that can be attributed directly or indirectly to the resources that you have allocated to a specific initiative.
Rich site summary (also known as real simple syndication). An XML-based format that your content hub (blog or any other page) can use to allow users to subscribe to regular updates.
A free search analytics dashboard offered by Google as part of its Webmaster Tools suite. With it, you can monitor your content pages’ search appearance and traffic.
A new paradigm in search engines whereby algorithms try to serve relevant content through a deep understanding of the searcher’s intent and the rich meaning of terms as they appear on your content pages. This paradigm’s focus is on emulating a more human thought process that relies on natural language and context to discover pertinent information.
Search Engine Results Page. The page that is displayed when a user types in a certain query on a search engine. Content managers try to secure strong positions for their pages in these results.
Search Engine Optimization. A set of practices to ensure that your content is properly discovered and experienced in SERPs.
These emerge from placement campaigns where another brand has paid you to include a certain piece in your calendar. When they allow you to handle production and agree to make the final product theme-driven (versus brand-driven), these pieces are often denominated “native advertising.”
These native ads comply with your editorial standards, the brand’s awareness goals, and your audience’s expectations about the content experience. You could also play the role of the sponsor.
A guide that provides instructions on how to create and design written documents. The most popular ones used in online media include the Associated Press Stylebook, the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, and the Chicago Manual of Style.
User-Generated Content. Images, text, video, and other content formats that have been developed by your audience independently. This type of content can be used for your own brand storytelling activities with the creators’ permission.
Voice and tone
Although a brand communicates using a single voice, it can make use of various tones to adapt to each communication situation. These scenarios and the overarching direction for brand voice are often captured in a set of guidelines.