Content marketing has definitely become something of a digital marketing buzzword, but the basic principle of creating interesting content to attract customers and improve search rankings is still valid.
A good example of this comes from The Met Office, which recently implemented a new content strategy as part of its plan to boost ad revenues by attracting more visitors.
As a recognised weather service the site was already pulling in an average of 4.5m unique monthly users, peaking at 6m in busy periods, but the digital teams felt that it could improve on this number by producing more targeted content.
To achieve this The Met Office began working with a new analytics platform to gain a better understanding of visitor behaviour and improve its content plan.
To find out exactly how this worked, I spoke to digital marketing and planning manager Simon Swan…
Please briefly explain the problem you were trying to solve?
A key requirement of the Met Office is to disseminate our outputs as widely as possible to ensure that the public can take action for impactful weather and climate outcomes through all channels the public interact with, in my case pre-dominantly through www.metoffice.gov.uk.
In 2009 we were the first government website to introduce advertising and sponsorship, and with this reach targets (measured through analytics) were defined for the team to meet.
How did you identify which parts of the site weren’t performing as they should?
In order to monitor, measure and manage our performance, we have an internal analytics dashboard set up to keep track of specific parts of the site.
80% of visits to the site refer to our weather forecasts where we offer individual pages for 5,000 UK locations including severe weather warning content.
We also create separate pages to support our content plan, which aims to cater for people with specific weather interests (e.g. the pollen forecast) as well as supporting our social media activity with explainers, infographics, blog articles and video.
We also created new pages to support targeted weather related content. For example, we have our events calendar, which has received sponsorship over the last three years.
The calendar is used to promote tailored weather content for key target audiences and at the same time to drive incremental traffic – all linked to KPIs associated with the online marketing strategy.
What were the main areas that you identified for improvement?
A Gaps & Opportunities program has helped us understand where the Met Office is missing content, or has not optimised the content based on search volumes.
It provides a good indicator where new content is required or existing content needs changing. We created Gaps & Opportunities reports for us to identify types of content that we needed to focus on.
Merging this with our social media listening tools, it helps us to look to provide timely, relevant and authoritative content.
How has your content strategy changed since working with the new analytics platform?
It’s provided us with an external viewpoint in a rapidly changing weather sector and gives us insights to assist us in creating digital personas and to know our audience better.
The reporting is used across our digital in a number of ways:
- Clickstream analysis assists our digital sales team to identify prospects to approach within different sectors for advertising opportunities. Clickstream also assists in identifying websites for us to syndicate our content out to.
- Search data assists the development of our SEO strategy and helps us to monitor changes in search terms and phrases entering the weather sector. It also allows us to divide our brand and non-branded search terms.
- Content planning – we’ve created seasonal content dashboards, helping us understand the different types of search terms that users search for, associated with the weather at certain times of the year.
- Data from Experian Hitwise helps us measure marketshare. Growth in the weather sector (visits) means it’s essential we understand new entrants and what we can do to be proactive in growing our own marketshare.
Have you experimented with different types of content, and what kind of things have you found to be most successful?
Targeted content created for a targeted audience always achieves better results in terms of analytics measurement. Take the example of a pollen forecast – it is a seasonal content piece that drives search demand and social media coverage generally from April to September each year.
We begin to make a plan for this content in advance, ensuring our existing pages have been optimised, supporting social media activity is in place and necessary syndicated content has been created, such as video, infographics and weather widgets.
Do you produce all the content in-house or do you work with an agency?
The digital marketing team operates in-house and last year we created a cross-office, holistic content team involving our science, communications, press office and technical team. So there is a team of eight of us working off an editorial plan.
The tactics deployed to launch and promote the content is managed and created in-house including SEO, videos and design.
Everyone is encouraged to add ideas to the content plan and from here we then begin to scorecard the content based on whether it will assist our reach, revenue or brand reputation.
Each bit of content is then measured through analytics and this is shared across the content team so we’re all getting an understanding of performance.
What changes have you made to your search strategy? How much have you changed your technical on-page SEO?
The Met Office is a well-recognised brand within the UK and to get a true reflection of success within a search campaign, it is important to segment the percentage of search traffic that comes from brand and non-branded terms.
This provides us with a series of benchmarks to drive our content and means we don’t have to rely purely on the Met Office brand.
Our SEO strategy is managed in-house and involves several different teams across the business.
How has the increase in traffic impacted advertising revenues?
The growth in traffic has had a direct correlation to the growth in our advertising revenues. Advertising is run across our digital channels (apps, video and website) offering run of site opportunities through to targeted advertising for certain brands that want to align their brand with specific content (e.g. Pollen Forecast sponsored by Benadryl).
We operate in a highly competitive industry where we are constantly looking to differentiate our offering from the competition.
Rather than just providing CPM based advertising we look to build relationships directly with the brand by creating campaigns around their requirements and within our full digital mix (website, apps, social media, blog) – it’s proven to be a recipe for success with a number of our advertisers retaining their relationship.