In this month’s featured blog post, Dr Dave Chaffey delves into some of his own research on content marketing…

In my previous article in February I looked at how the content marketing technique of guest blogging may have less traction in future to help with SEO, since Google has advised against it – particularly if the quality of the content is low. This begs the question: which other content marketing techniques should businesses focus on?

To help understand which content marketing techniques are working, in the Autumn I set up a research project with inbound marketing software provider Hubspot to explore this. We got around two-and-a-half-thousand responses from marketers around Europe.

The most effective content marketing formats?

In the research we asked which content formats were most effective. The results are shown below.

As we might expect, the core inbound marketing techniques of Blogging and Enewsletters are most popular, but many other techniques are less commonly used.

Of the other techniques, infographics are perhaps best known as a technique that assists SEO through attracting embedded links back to the brand creating them. We have certainly had success with these at Smart Insights.

Making infographics more effective

As editor or the Smart Insights blog, I see a lot of suggestions for us to post infographics, but almost all that we publish we seek out ourselves, because the suggestions don’t work for us. Common problems we see with infographics are:

  1. Poor quality of content. The content simply isn’t engaging enough or useful for our audience in order for us to share – it would reflect badly on us. Infographics need to have that “wow factor” which many lack, plus relevance. That’s a difficult combination.
  2. Poor quality of creative design. When we create infographics, we invest in bespoke design to produce a (hopefully) quality product. It seems many others don’t, using free tools or less talented designers.
  3. Specific embed code recommended. It’s commonplace for blogs to contain an embed code below the infographic. However, this is a risk, as if the infographic is successful, it could attract many links with the same anchor text, which Google would see as a red flag and could penalise the site – the opposite of the intended effect! In fact, we have some infographic providers ask us to remove backlinks to infographics for this reason.

For more suggestions on making your infographics more effective from a marketing point-of-view, see this article by Dan Bosomworth on the Perfect Marketing Infographic. This post references the Content Marketing matrix, a tool to help review existing content, to make sure you have the right balance between educational and more inspiring emotional content. Animated videos or explainers are an example of more emotional appealing content that can help explain a brand proposition. However, these are typically less effective for SEO purposes.

The most effective content marketing management techniques?

In the research we also asked about the best ways to manage content marketing. Developing an overarching content marketing strategy was highly rated. We found in the research that over half of companies did not have this higher-level plan for content marketing although many were active within content marketing.

Other practical tools that were highly rated included:

  • Creating a buyer persona to help understand the challenges and interests of an audience to help develop relevant content for them.
  • Using customer journey mapping to understand how content is consumed in different locations (desktop, mobile site, social presence, offline touchpoints) and how content needs can change.
  • Editorial calendars to schedule content.
  • Using analytics to review content effectiveness and ROI.

The last technique is particularly important, since without this in place, you will be unable to prove which content is most effective and so which should gain further investment in the future.

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About the author:

An acknowledged expert on digital marketing, Dave was recognised in 2004 by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of “50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have shaped the future of Marketing“. Dave is also author of five best-selling books including Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice; and eMarketing eXcellence.