Do you sometimes quietly question your content team’s work? In spite of all the “good” stats they show you, there is still a nagging feeling that you might be throwing your money away?
You should never be in the dark about your content’s performance.
With that in mind, we decided to show you how to evaluate your content team’s work and assess the quality of their output.
Why Is Content So Critical to Your Business’ Success?
Take a look at the typical digital marketing strategies, and you will quickly see that content is the foundation for practically every single one of them. In fact, I don’t think you could achieve any meaningful marketing results without content today. Some quick examples:
- You need well-optimized pages to rank, and content assets help you acquire backlinks.
- Blog posts and other content-types help provide information your potential buyers are seeking, and in the process, educate and pull them closer to your brand.
- Landing pages, social media content, videos, and countless other forms of content support your various campaigns, from online advertising to lead generation to public relations and beyond.
The Content’s Influence Goes Beyond Marketing
Take sales, for example. The majority of today’s buyers review a company’s content before engaging with it. And nearly half of them consume at least 3 to 5 pieces of content prior to speaking with a sales team. According to Forrester, on average, customers read 11.4 content pieces before making a purchase.
Content helps drive your customer’s success. Educational content helps guide customers in using your product or service to meet their goals.
As the guys at Chartmogul point out:
Our success team frequently shares content from our blog with customers during the entire customer journey. When explaining a feature or use case, content often connects theory and practice in a more engaging way than technical documentation can.
Why You Must Keep a Close Eye on Your Content Strategy
A poor content strategy will bear no meaningful results, and this typically happens due to some common errors or flaws content teams make. Here are just a few you should be aware of.
Focusing on Quantity Over Quality
Your team might produce an insane amount of new content every week, and it all might give an impression of a robust content strategy that can drive substantial business results. In reality, such an approach often results in publishing irrelevant pieces that fail to reach and engage your target audience.
Quality should be the #1 focus, and a high-quality piece of content makes you stand out and offers your audience(s) what they need.
Poor Audience Targeting
For content to deliver the results you need, content must engage your audience, pique their interest, offer a solution they need or educate them on a topic they are researching. In practice, this means two things:
Publishing content types your audience prefers/needs/wants.
Targeting their real-life problems and pain points.
To meet the above requirements, a content team must first identify, research, and understand each audience you hope to reach.
Unfortunately, too often writers and editors work off of assumptions. They conduct only initial research and base their work on what “they” consider to be critical for an audience. They fail to understand that there are several personas amongst even one audience; each persona has different needs and wants that need to be addressed specifically.
When audiences are not considered, the result is often lost money on anything (or everything) from writing, editing, publishing, buying images, marketing efforts, and other resources on content that stands little or no chance of engaging the audience.
Lack of Industry-Specific Knowledge
This point is particularly relevant when working with external teams. Content agencies often:
a.) Have insufficient industry knowledge.
b.) Lack of in-house industry experts to deliver meaningful results.
It is true that reputable agencies would conduct in-depth research to acquire such insights, but not all do the work or even know that they should. Choose agencies carefully.
So, let’s see how you could learn if any of the above is true for your strategy.
How to Evaluate Your Content Marketing Strategy – A Company Owner’s 6-Step Checklist to Assess Their Content’s Quality
Q1: Is the strategy based on the data?
You already know that a solid content marketing strategy will consider the audience and the market. For that, the content team should base their every decision on data and hard evidence.
So, the first thing to look for is the data a content team may have used to inform their strategy.
Action: Ask your content team to present you their original research conducted to create the strategy.
Some of this data should include:
Information about the audience(s), its size, common characteristics, and pain points.
Top keywords relevant to their pain points and your product. (and how did they choose these keywords? What methods did they use to find them?)
Top domains you compete with for the audience’s attention.
Most popular content pieces in the target market.
Q2: Does your content team have clearly defined and documented objectives for both the strategy AND individual pieces?
It is shocking, but unfortunately, only 37% of companies have a documented content strategy.
This graphic suggests that the rest have absolutely no clue as to why they created content in the first place.
Why no strategy and objectives? The answer is often because it takes too long. Many content strategists, as our joint research with the Content Marketing Institute discovered, consider developing a content plan as their most consuming task. And 22% admit to having problems deciding what to write about.
Unfortunately, as we have already discussed, to hit the bullseye, your content must match the audience’s preferences and appear where they might be looking for it; this is true for each piece of content.
Action: Review the content team’s editorial calendar. See if it, apart from basic information about each piece, includes such elements as:
The objective for each content asset.
Timeliness for production.
Q3: Do they map each content idea to a relevant buyer persona?
Buyer personas help marketing teams understand their target audience segments better, and this helps them deliver a laser-focused message guaranteed to entice a particular audience.
The situation is no different with content. Your strategy should target different buyers, with specific pieces aiming to engage relevant segments. That is one reason why the best content teams map their ideas to relevant buyer personas.
This way, they know what to say, and how to engage specific audience segments.
Action: Review the editorial calendar, checking if every idea/piece of content has a corresponding buyer-persona defined.
Q4: Has your team identified specific audience needs to build the content calendar upon?
If there is one thing that so much of today’s content lacks, it is relevance. So many brands write about what they believe might engage the audience, and more often than not, these ideas flop completely. Why? Because they are irrelevant to the audience’s needs. Or, they don’t provide the advice the audience seeks…all while such insights are openly available.
Every day, customers leave a trace of topics they care about. They ask about it on Quora, social media, or industry forums. They use Google and leave data about the keywords they have used, and this allows marketers to research this information and trends.
Using tools like SEMrush’s Topic Research, marketers can quickly identify what information their intended target audience finds valuable. And in turn, what advice they might be looking for online.
Action: Review your content calendar to assess how well those ideas match the audience’s needs.
For this action, you might need to use tools like the Topic Research above, the Keyword Magic Tool or Google’s Keyword Tool.
You can find more information on how to use them here:
Q5: Do they have a documented distribution strategy?
It doesn’t really matter how good and well-targeted your content is; if nobody can find and read it, it will flop anyway.
Which means that, at a minimum, your content team should have a documented distribution strategy including the following information:
A list of channels they plan to use to promote content — based on the channels targeted audiences are using.
Specific distribution ideas for each content type — based on audiences and personas.
List of social media sites your target audience frequents.
List of paid promotion channels together with information about distribution rates
Action: Use tools like SEMrush’s Content Analyzer to assess the effectiveness of your content promotion efforts. The tool collects all the data about each piece of your content, allowing you to review promotion and SEO efforts so far.
Q6: How difficult is each piece? Is it written in a tone of voice your audience would appreciate?
To engage the audience, your content must be easy to read, and the vocabulary must be similar to the target audience. If you make a piece of content too difficult to understand, and the reader will move some on to find the information they are seeking elsewhere. If you write in too much of a simplistic tone, and your customers could start to think that your company isn't as professional or educated as others.
Remember: Readability – a content’s difficulty level plays such a crucial role in its success.
In the last stage of this assessment, you should also see if what the team produces matches your audience’s expectations/needs/wants/pain points.
Many online tools allow assessing a content’s readability. We use our own, the SEO Writing Assistant, and apart from helping write better-optimized content, the Google Docs add-on also reports on many common writing mistakes like lengthy and complicated sentences.
Finally, the plugin will also grade your content, telling you specifically how easy or hard to read it is.
Action: Run some of your content through the SEO Writing Assistant plugin. Assess if it is well-written or the content might be too difficult to read.
Fabrizio Ballarini shares some insights on how TransferWise's internal content team started producing a more SEO-friendly content:
If you ask an agency to deliver 10x organic search growth through content, they will assign a large team to your project and charge a considerable amount for junior talent. Our content team, in contrast, can run activities with SEMrush without having an army of people specialized in SEO
You should never be in the dark about your content’s performance. But metrics and data can sometimes cloud potential issues with your content team’s output.
Hopefully, after reading this guide, you have a good idea of how to assess their work, and ensure that they deliver content capable of meeting your business goals.