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For our Content Marketing Survey Report, published in association with Outbrain, we asked over 1,300 members of the Econsultancy community for their views on content marketing.
While the dozens of charts and in-depth analysis provide an excellent foundation for understanding the state of content marketing, the real value came across in some of the qualitative responses provided.
One of the open-ended questions we asked was, “What single adjective or phrase would you use to describe the type of content which is most effective for marketing?”
Some of the most entertaining responses are provided below.
One of the questions we asked in the survey was targeted specifically at publishers. We asked, “How important is generating a second click for each unique visit?” Over three-quarters (76%) stated that it was “very important”.
For B2C e-commerce sites, keeping people ‘lingering’ on site is likely to end up in them making a purchase. Amazon’s recommendations are a clear winner here.
For B2B sites, the consumption of content will help nurture the prospect through the buying cycle. Product and content recommendations are one way of improving ‘stickiness’, while using images to entice visitors to scroll below the fold is another technique.
For publishers, offering sticky content (rather than irritating repagination) will help to keep people on site and increase the number of ad impressions.
In short, sticky content is good.
One prime example of sexy content is the website of that highly esteemed publication the Daily Mail.
Here, the so-called “sidebar of shame” makes extensive use of paparazzi obtained beach footage which is most likely to be one of the main contributing factors to making this the most popular 'news' site in the world.
And if the sidebar isn’t enough, and there’s reason to, the Mail definitely enjoys an excuse to splash even more flesh as the lead header – even if there is something that actually matters happening in the world.
Topical / newsworthy
One example of highly topical content that performed well recently on Econsultancy’s blog was this post about the Red Bull Stratos jump.
Part of the inspiration for this was the fact that exploding search volumes, combined with a relevance to Econsultancy’s audience, made for a perfect combination.
Another area where Econsultancy had content marketing success in this regard was targeting of the phrase “EU Cookie Law”. By producing topical content that lots of people were searching for, we were able to achieve high levels of traffic.
If you haven’t checked it out already, I would recommend looking at Google’s Hot Trends when you start work in the morning. There may be a perfect opportunity to deliver content at the right time to the searching masses.
Tells a story
I’m a strong believer in the power of narrative. Great stories are easy to absorb, retain, re-experience and share later with others. In other words, great stories are great content.
One area that does this particularly well is the world of business publications. For example, Harvard Business Review often supports the theories of its contributors by using vivid stories of success and failure. It even goes so far as to develop fictional case studies to cement these in the minds of executives.
For marketers, this is an area where social can come in to place. Can you share a story from one of your customers? Failing that, could you use a persona to illustrate how your company can solve a customer problem?
One company good at using personas in video is Common Craft, as illustrated in the video below.
Having great content that no one has elsewhere will mean that people will share and link back to your content.
This doesn’t mean that you have to go and send journalists on clandestine missions to grab a scoop (although if they get one, this will help). Rather this comes back to providing something uniquely valuable. Is there an angle on a product that hasn’t been taken before?
One classic case study here is Blendtec. When nobody else would throw things in blenders for the pleasure of the viewing public, Tom Dickson started doing so. Results: sales of Blendtec blenders soared.
When people search for something on the web, they are not searching as an end-goal, but rather they are looking for information to serve a purpose. Often this is information to help them achieve a task or to support a purchasing decision. Informative content can also help to support a brand.
McDonalds Canada have recently been releasing a series of videos on how their products are made based on questions consumers ask. While some will always refuse to eat at such a store, videos like these help debunk the myths that can occur on the web.
When users arrive at a web page, they expect it to contain content that is relevant for them. As users spend more time on a site, the hope is that they will eventually convert.
An indication that a page isn’t relevant to customers is a very high bounce rate. However, bounce rates should be taken in context. Econsultancy’s blog typically has a bounce rate of around 80%, as much of our traffic arrives to read one specific article before moving off site. Although sometimes, as with this dancing-on-ice blog post, it can be much higher.
On an e-commerce product page, a bounce rate this high might be a sign that something is seriously wrong, although I wouldn’t be surprised if many aspirational products saw such high rates as the proportion of those with the means to purchase is likely to be small.
One thing that definitely gets a lot of shares as we have seen from Matt Owen’s post on Facebook promoted posts are cute fluffy animals.
In an analysis of over 100 branded ‘viral’ videos, Dr Brent Coker identified four elements that in his opinion made a video go viral, which he listed as “congruency, emotive strength, network-involvement ratio and paired meme synergy”.
In English, this means a shareable video is likely to have a high degree of brand congruence, is highly emotive, strikes a chord with the audience to which the video is shared, and (in my interpretation) shares something with the zeitgeist that propels the message forward.
This four-part list could form the basis on which a content creation meeting could be kicked off.
If someone reads your content, but they do not trust it in some way, there is no way they would share it or link to it unless there was some form of perverse incentive place. Google's search for quality and authority is a significant reason why content marketing has been growing in importance.
What I am happy to see is that more companies are letting their employees speak for them using their real names on their channels. Customer service on Twitter is an area where this can really help for two reasons. One, people are less likely to be nasty to a person with a name rather than a faceless corporation. Second, having a real person behind a response adds validity and transparency to the comment being had.
Sidebars on Twitter pages that show your staff are an easy way to build that trust.
One comment that made me laugh was that great content consisted of an “engaging stream with wow-effect synergy and buzz-word effect.” While I would not agree entirely with this statement (buzzwords and terms such as ‘synergy’ are strongly prohibited by the Econsultancy style guide), what is important is that content is a pleasure to read.
Well-written content does not jar with the user and makes it a pleasure to consume. And as James Gurd has written, “Poorly written pages drive customers away.”
Content that really offers value will have visitors coming back time and time again. In some ways, this goes back to old-school marketing lessons. By offering a clear value proposition for the customer through your content, you will ensure they keep coming back for more, tell their friends about it, and for those concerned with links, will link back to it.
One area where the value proposition should be most clearly stated is in the headline of any content or blogpost. The headline should clearly and succinctly communicate the value of the post, and preferably, do it in a way that adds suspense, intrigue, or uses any other device that gets users to click and read. The right headline can make the difference between hundreds or thousands of visitors reading your post.
When people tweet, blog, or share on Facebook, the overwhelmingly most common way they will communicate that content to others will be to use the headline. If your headline doesn’t offer that value, don’t expect it to go much further.
Crucially, the headline should also deliver on its promise. If your list of 74 most-awesome-things-ever contains five mediocre examples of whatever you were talking about, don’t expect people to be fooled for very long.
With the digital world being far more data-driven than traditional media, businesses are looking for their departments to return numbers and results that indicate value.
While digital content is easily measureable with tools available to marketers, this means that there have to be processes in place for gauging success. This doesn’t mean dropping a huge amount of money on a full-blown analytics suite that will says it will allow you to see messages from God; rather, there should be some procedure put in place as part of the content creation and management process which applies the TIMITI (try it, measure it, tweak it) principle to content. This will allow your content to improve over time.
Ideally, content should encourage users to take some kind of action. This can be done in either a soft fashion, or in a way that triggers a direct response.
One of the soft-responses commonly seen in B2B marketing is to report some findings from a report in a blog post, but then offer that report in return for contact details. There’s no hard sell, just an enticement of value that encourages users to take action and move them down the sales funnel.
On Facebook many marketers go for the “like this to get that” approach, or offer apps in return for contact information. While this form of pandering is often derided, done right it can prove valuable for business.
Another comment that I strongly considered sharing on Twitter was “Our emails have conditioned our clients as Pavlov’s dog.” While e-commerce managers might get hot under the collar about customers buying their wares through convincing content, what this boils down to is the process of continual improvement which all businesses should be looking to achieve.
Through testing and improvement, look for the bell that will make your customers salivate.
What words would you use to describe great content marketing?
These are just some of the responses that were given to us for the content marketing survey report. But have we missed anything out? What describes great content marketing for you? Can you sum it up in just one word?
Let us know in the comments below!