Content Strategy as a Marketing Tool

Your online content strategy has a major effect on your marketing. Although content is obviously critical for publishers, it’s also important for anyone with an online presence. Content helps drive traffic, which leads to results.

Content is intricately woven into with your brand. Content attributes such as voice, presentation, area of expertise, markets covered, and points of view define a brand. These factors all contribute to attracting a reader base. The contrarian, irreverent approach to investment advice of “The Motley Fool” differs from in-depth, low-key reporting style of “The Wall Street Journal,” for example.

Factors to consider regarding a content strategy include:

  • How does this content relate to my brand?

  • Is it consistent with the brand image I’m trying to project?
  • How will it extend my reach?
  • How can it be used to expand revenues?

Think beyond the immediate product. While an e-book may not generate significant revenue, for example, it can provide a reason to e-mail your house file or serve as an incentive for another product.

To maximize return on content strategies, promote them on your site, in e-mail, with RSS feeds, and in other customer communications. Consider about cross-promoting products. Include a subscription discount for your site in your book, for example.

Use Content to Drive Traffic

To broaden your site’s reach, consider the following strategies to attract visitors:

  • Use open content to attract readers. At a minimum, place some content in front of your pay barrier to entice readers. Optimize it for organic search.

  • Include site tools, such as “forward to a colleague” and “print this article.” These build a broader audience. Ensure e-mail contains sufficient information to be useful while driving referees back to your site. Give referees a means to register for other e-mailings from the e-mail. Include similar site information on print articles to make it easy for pass-along readers to find your site.
  • Develop e-mail newsletters to establish a relationship with visitors interested in your content. Use these e-mail messages to drive readers back to your site. Newsletters should provide real value to readers so they’ll continue to open and read your messages.
  • Create RSS feeds to reach new readers. Feeds should be targeted. They can link to text, audio, or video.
  • Distribute content through other sites. On other sites, place content that links to content on your site, either for free or as a business development deal. Ensure these landing pages act as gateways to your site with links to related content, top articles or features, e-mail, and RSS feeds.

For paid content sites, capturing new traffic may be a challenge. Content behind a pay barrier hinders search optimization. Google’s recent introduction of News Archive and Book Search features may mitigate this issue for some closed content.

Create Content-Related Revenue Opportunities

Most content sites use a variety of revenue-generation approaches. Each may require its own marketing to attract buyers and maximize return. Sources of potential revenue include:

  • Advertising. Advertising can take a variety of formats, including banners, classified, video, and sponsorships. For many publishers, advertising drives the lion’s share of revenue, since content provides a context for well-targeted advertising.

  • Subscriptions. Subscriptions or payments for content access are often utilized for desirable branded or targeted editorial.
  • Discrete products.Online content products include e-books, downloads, research reports, and past articles. Offline content products include newspapers, magazines, newsletters, CDs/DVDs, research reports, and physical books. Cross-promote these products using the rest of your content offerings.
  • Mobile content. Reformat content for mobile devices to drive incremental revenues. This content should be time sensitive or information people can use on the go.
  • Conferences and meetings. Include online Webinars and in-person conferences and meetings. Revenue can come from attendees and sponsors. When planning these events, consider how to repurpose the content to create additional revenue sources, such as DVDs of the sessions that can be sold after the event. I’m surprised how many publishers overlook the incremental value of this content.
  • Training programs. Explore using your content for educational purposes. The format could be live; via teleconference, DVD, or audio; or with training manuals. Training can be used to engage new readers or extend your relationship with existing ones.
  • Affiliate programs. Though affiliate marketing may not work for all publishers, it can be a passive means for increasing revenue once it’s implemented. Use it to supplement related content, like book reviews on Economist.com does.

Measure Content’s Effect

Once you’ve determined your content plan, establish metrics to assess its value in attracting visitors and generating revenue. Some of the key metrics to monitor are:

  • Traffic. Assess the pageviews and number of visitors sent to your site via different content types.

  • Registrations. Track e-mail registrations and RSS feed use as an indicator of reach. Monitor site tool use such as “e-mail a colleague” to determine content popularity. Some sites use top 10 lists to drive readership.
  • Revenues. Break revenues out by type.
    • Advertising revenues. Measure revenue by ad format. Consider demand by different types of content adjacencies and advertising formats.

    • Subscription revenues. Measure subscribers, conversion rates, and retention rates.
    • Other revenues. This can include other types of products, such as e-books and conferences.

  • Costs. Track related marketing, creation, and distribution costs. Break costs out by product to evaluate return effectively.

Your content is both the face of your brand and a prime way to attract revenue. Remember to consider the marketing implications of the content you create and how it’s organized. Create content that does double duty, as both the extension of the brand and the driver of your revenue streams.

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