One of the most difficult tasks in a content marketing program is prioritizing. You have stakeholders from across the business, SEO keywords, lead generation or traffic goals, and pitches from writers. What should be done?
Most content managers would agree with that sentiment.
After all, Content Marketing is not just about producing content within your industry. It involves content creation and optimization that make a significant, measurable contribution to your business goals. A crucial part of being able to fulfill that responsibility is knowing how to prioritize content to make sure your business goals are being met.
To find out how other content marketers handle things, let’s take a look at some of their methods and tips. We’ll also list some questions that you may ask yourself to help you tackle your backlog of ideas.
The importance of marketing goals can’t be overstated
It's important for every marketer to have specific, realistic goals to achieve the kind of business growth desired. If not, they are at risk of getting unqualified leads which could end up in a lot of work without any conversion.
So some marketers make it a point to set goals on a monthly basis. For example, we set a content schedule every month, so we know what needs to be accomplished by the end of the month. In this process, we review content, impact, and SEO performance over the past 4+ months and take into consideration our current content goals.
In addition to monthly goals, the same principle can apply to goals for content at each stage of the funnel. You set an ideal performance baseline for your top content types and check content ideas against them.
For example, imagine the heights of business growth you could reach if each piece of:
- TOFU content generated at least 3,500 organic and paid visits to your site per quarter
- MOFU content drove at least 250 product demo requests a quarter
- BOFU, product-focused content drove at least 15 sales per quarter
Actual metrics and KPIs will be dependent on your business. Setting a standard for content at each stage of the funnel can help you to zero in on the highest impact ideas for content.
You have to be ruthless in the elimination of content ideas.
After goal-setting marketers might choose either:
1. A content idea based on “a hunch” or "gut feeling" that a piece of content might generate some traffic, leads, or sales.
2. Waste time taking low-value ideas through the entire content prioritization process.
Each wastes precious resources that should go toward creating and distributing high-value content.
Imagine that keyword research showed an industry-specific medium competition keyword with 11,000 searches per month. You could rank for it and get some decent organic traffic as a result.
Even with potential traffic of 11,000 doesn't mean that it's a good investment in contact or a good opportunity. Search intent using the query may be unlikely to ever become a customer. As a result, the keyword may have zero value.
This is where having marketing goals come into action.
A quick qualifier for each of your content ideas. is if it doesn’t have the potential to move your target audience, move on.
You want to rapidly eliminate all low and no-priority content ideas and can start evaluating those with potential.
How to identify high-impact content ideas
Custom scoring with a point system is a popular way to prioritize content.
How to set up a point system:
1. Revenue: Prioritize content that’s is likely to have a direct impact on revenue.
2. Sales enablement: Prioritize content that’s going to help sales get deals over the line.
3. SEO: SEO is a longer-term play, prioritize this last.
SEO requires writing and publishing pillar pages based around specific keywords, then publishing additional blog posts that link back to those pages.
Pillar pages are generally broad and link to multiple topic cluster pages for the topic cluster. A pillar page should be about a general category. It should then have internal links to subcategories (topic clusters) that detail each more specific topic. Your ‘pillar’ page should be a topic that is one or two words and has a high monthly search volume,
Typically a good SEO content calendar is for six months and results in eBooks that combine all the blogs published over the six months. This is then used as a lead magnet.
When evaluating content ideas, use a scoring system that takes into account:
Time to complete
Value for the audience
Can the content be well-executed
Can an MVP be created to validate the idea first
All are important factors.
What are some of those considerations and what's the most helpful way to frame them?
Ask the following questions:
Can we communicate our expertise in a unique way from the marketplace?
Ask if you communicate your expertise in a unique way for a different outcome?
Can you address questions /concerns that aren’t addressed adequately by competitors?
Can you tell a story or share a firsthand experience that no one else can?
Do you have unorthodox but successful ways of doing things that would raise your profile?
Can you tell a story or share a firsthand experience that no one else can?
Do you have unorthodox and successful ways of doing things that can raise your profile?
Consider focusing on bottom-funnel, with sales-driven content that addresses a common question or concern in the sales process and showcases our unique expertise or insights.
Add proprietary research can add a new dimension or level of importance to your topic. If you go this way, you will need to go beyond your normal SOP on execution and be extremely honest. Ask yourself, if going beyond your norm will be worth it.
Can you be too competitive?
Weak websites often can rank content in competitive niches.
It’s not unheard of as they create more in-depth, laser-focused content than what already exists.
But you can’t count on being able to do that.
For example, Hubspot search shows over 16,000 results for "inbound marketing” from the HubSpot blog. This content appears in a wide range of hundreds of digital marketing-related search results.
HubSpot has written about inbound marketing from every possible angle.
As a result, it has established impressive search authority on the subject.
Most websites won't be able to dominate a keyword anytime soon without the resources and investment that HubSpot has made.
The takeaway is simple. If competitors are already dominating a keyword and subject, you’ll need to hold off. At least until you've developed enough topic and domain authority to challenge them.
This means searching for other competitive opportunities.
Why aren't competitors not focusing on this?
Researching content gaps to find out where your competitors aren’t focused is not new. That said, finding a content gap doesn’t necessarily mean there's a great opportunity to stand out.
Why aren't your competitors putting resources into an idea?
It could be because:
They don’t have the resources to execute
Search volume is low relative to where people are in the buyer’s journey
There's a low ROI, that would have a high impact on a small subset of your audience
Here's where an MVP can help anticipate potential obstacles and formulate a game plan before you commit resources. Set an expectation for the maximum amount of time and energy you’ll put into an MVP needed to see to add it to your content roadmap.
How long to produce this content in the right format?
When thinking about the content you need to consider the time required and the format.
It's tempting to go with the low-hanging fruit, that takes the least time and energy to create.
However, for a single piece of content to improve your metrics and KPIs, the format has to be a fit for your target audience.
Consider statistics both B2C and B2B content preferences show that buyers want:
- Listicles as top-funnel content
- Assessment tools for the middle of the funnel content
- Case studies - bottom-funnel content
It's critical to have an accurate time estimate based on the ideal format is essential when ranking content ideas in order of importance.
Will the content perform on your website?
Don't get caught up in the allure of popular social media distribution channels.
Never prioritize content on unowned properties such as social media - Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Medium.
These platforms can generate awareness and improve purchase intent for your brand, they have zero impact on your SEO and drive traffic to another site. You’re actually creating competition for yourself, driving traffic to these platforms.
There's a time and place to use these platforms, however, owned properties should be the priority.
What you should be asking yourself is, “Can I produce this content on an owned property?” Most often the answer is yes. A better gauge of priority is whether a content idea will perform at the level you expect on an owned property.
It’s not about where you publish, it's what you publish and the quality.
The more you publish, the more topical authority you'll gain and the more reach you'll have as Google sees you as a topic expert.
Content dependencies can cripple your content
A piece of content is only as good as the research and content linking to and supporting it.
When brainstorming a content idea, think about what data and current posts can be used to support your total content. A content strategy can include internal links to related posts, external links to clinical studies, eBooks, webinars, and more.
Do you have existing content that would help this piece achieve its overarching goal? If so, is it strong enough to do so now or would you need to spend time and resources to improve it?
If updates to existing content (or new content) are necessary, you need to weigh the cost against the expected ROI from both the topic cluster and individual pieces of content within the topic clusters.
Also, estimate the required investment:
- Can marketing create some related content before shifting focus to this idea?
- To get the best results from the topic cluster, does each piece of supporting content be high-impact?
- How do you prioritize content ideas?
There are multiple content prioritization frameworks available that can be templates for your own. Whether they come in the form of scoring systems or others, they all need to focus on business value.
Content marketing needs to offer opportunities for true differentiation and a return on the investment required to both create and support it.
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Carol Forden has written for multiple health care entities ranging from BCBS, The Center for Cardiovascular Research, Modern Healthcare, HealthLeaders, Aetna, and more.