Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Ultimate Handbook for Your Next Content Marketing Hire

Yet another article published by Kapost. Probably among the most helpful suppliers of free info available.

Finding a quality content marketing hire sounds like another item on the to-do list, but it’s about much more than snagging a good worker bee. B2B marketing teams need someone who thinks multi-dimensionally and understands current marketing trends while keeping pace with new ones.

content marketing

More importantly, a content marketing hire needs to work the content game within various marketing channels simultaneously to create quality content for every stop along the buyer’s journey. From keyword research, content strategy, writing, editing, attention to detail, and more, there are a lot of moving parts to manage—especially if a brand wants to ensure their content strategy is appealing to key buyer personas.

At the same time, the B2B marketing content space is increasingly competitive, which means more brands are examining ways to gain tactical marketing competency and consistency.

According to the B2B Marketing Report by the Content Marketing Institute, “Only 30% of B2B marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing, down from 38% last year. Effectiveness levels are greater among respondents with documentation, clarity around success, good communication, and experience.”

This means one way for a brand to create an edge is to snag a top-notch content marketing hire—like now! Not only will this person be a linchpin between marketing, sales, and social media, but they will also understand how to reach monthly sales goals with the right types of content in the right channels at the right time.

So while hiring an intern that rocks Instagram and can write and promote killer blog posts is appealing from a budget perspective, brands need to clarify their goals and find a content marketing hire who can deliver.

Required Chops for a Content Marketer

To make the hiring process easier, start by asking what’s important now and for future growth.

Overall, “B2B marketers allocate 28% of their total marketing budget, on average, to content marketing—the same percentage as last year,” based on this report from the Content Marketing Institute. And, “The most effective allocate 42%, and the most sophisticated/mature allocate 46%.”

As the area of content marketing continues to mature, it’s important to be as savvy as possible with resources—including team members.

Here are simple rules to clarify what’s a “need to have” versus a “nice to have,” and qualities to think about when searching for your next content marketing hire. These key points will help you and your team clarify what you’re really looking for so your new hire delivers much-needed content marketing fuel for your brand.

Personality That Plays Well with Others

Personality is a major factor. People on marketing teams need to communicate clearly and collaborate frequently.

Look for a content marketing hire that can go with the flow at the fast pace often required, while still being a good team player. Are they a people person? Do they fit with the company culture? Do they understand the brand’s message and sales goals?

Content Marketing Articles

Be sure to look at the aspects of content marketing where they excel and which tasks ought to be delegated elsewhere (i.e., freelancers, demand gen, PR, etc.). A content marketer needs to know how all the moving parts work and know when it’s best to hand off a task to a team member.

So, think about making the hiring process a team effort. Incorporating the perspectives of your whole team will ensure you cover all the angles of the marketing process in the interview. It also gives everyone a sense of connection and compatibility before any work really begins.

Know-How, Creativity, and Reliable Documentation Skills

At the most basic level, every content marketing hire should know how to market to buyer personas through a variety of channels. Their repertoire should include developing a unique content strategy and the ability to write the content to match each channel and persona.

In addition, all of this work should align with sales goals. Can your new hire be creative with new ideas and approaches, or are they just doing the same old thing?

But if there’s one thing that can really set apart an okay content marketer from an awesome one, it’s documentation.

Are they consistent with documenting content marketing strategy to track not only ROI but also overall effectiveness of marketing efforts? The more transparent they’re willing to be when pairing strategies with tactics,—and results—the faster a brand can adjust simple changes quickly and easily with a paper trail to match, that explains key marketing decisions.

Connect Sales Goals with Content Creation

Content marketing hires have one main purpose: to create content that improves the bottom line.

They understand why sales goals inform content goals. And they see all the ways to create or rework content to ensure there are clear calls to action and incentives to drive buyers down the sales funnel.

Technical Proficiency in SEO and Social

The role of a content marketer is complex. Even if they have a can-do attitude do they have the required technical skills? Are they able to do comprehensive, usable keyword research? Can they write content that’s engaging, punchy, and technically sound?

Are they good at crunching data to create data-driven posts? Do they actively rework posts as trends shift and insights change? Do they understand the nuances of each social marketing platform and how to tweak content accordingly?

And when it comes to on-the-fly content management, how are their coding and design chops?

Basic design skills in Photoshop or a program like Canva or Snappa are a lifesaver in a time crunch. Basic HTML skills can also go a long way in creating or fixing design elements that are not sitting well on the page or need a tweak at the last minute. Tools like Google’s markup helper are a good resource, but does your new hire have other resources and go-to tools help in these areas without getting the IT team involved?

Content Marketing Channels

Content Marketing within Social Media Marketing

It may seem simple, but the fact that social media is such an important channel for content marketing can lead people to forget that content is the real tactic to use within the channel.

That is to say, social media angles toward creating and bolstering engagement with a core audience. And specifically engineered content is an important aspect of that. Use social media to sell to specific buyer personas in the social platforms where they live and work. Twitter reaches a broad audience while LinkedIn can target more specific personas.

Make sure to leverage the strengths of every channel with the strongest content appropriate to that channel.

Excellent Management and Communication Skills

A quality content marketing hire needs excellent project management skills across the board.

A content marketer has the unique role of interweaving sales goals and brand details. They’re able to engage an audience by telling a compelling story through paced content, calling on their skills as a critical thinker and a visionary. But they also have to be able to communicate all these details in a clear and concise way.

Seeing all of the moving parts and weaving them together effectively takes management and communication prowess.

Resource Allocation and Delegation

No one person can do everything, which means a content marketing hire needs to allocate and use resources well. That includes delegating as needed to stick to a timeline or repurposing something to fit within the deliverable deadlines. It’s a major advantage to have a content marketer who is comfortable using an editorial calendar and/or content management platform to all stakeholders connected to the project.

Finding the right content marketing hire for your brand can be easier than you think when you stick to some of these basic rules. The most important thing is to hit as many qualities as possible. You want to choose someone who has the core skills in place but is also willing to adapt. Never underestimate a willingness to learn. You want someone who will grow with your brand and work to expand their skill sets along the way.



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Friday, July 20, 2018

How NASCAR Drives Better Storytelling With a Unified Team

SEO tutorials.

This next offering was in fact supplied by Content Marketing Institute. They will never fail to create info of the best quality and they're 1 of my favorite must-watch blog writers. I think you'll find it helpful.

nascar-drives-better-storytelling

Editor’s note: Evan Parker is a finalist for 2018 Content Marketer of the Year. We’ll share insight from all the finalists in this blog before the winner is announced in September at Content Marketing World.

Enterprise content marketing is an exercise in collaboration. Planning, creating, distributing, and promoting content typically involves people on more than one team. It also leads to overlapping or conflicting priorities that can slow everything down.

That’s the challenge Evan Parker faced when he set out last year to lead NASCAR’s new content team.

The mission was daunting: to engage NASCAR’s fan base beyond the racetrack and win new fans among a generation that seems to watch any screen but television. But the results his team ultimately achieved – hundreds of millions of online views, a Facebook docu-series, a broader audience – earned him a nomination for Content Marketer of the Year.

Here’s what we can learn from how he and his team did it.

Unite the content team, solve the traffic jams

In 2016, NASCAR tapped Evan to head up a content group that included representatives from social media, digital, public relations, brand marketing, entertainment, and other departments. It was a first step to aligning the teams, but problems remained. The group functioned more as a committee than a unified team: Each department still had its own goals.

“Entertainment marketing created their content, brand created their content, social created their content. Everyone created content,” Evan says, “but it could be at the expense of another group, or we could be leaving opportunities on the table by not thinking how someone else could take advantage of it.”

In mid-2017, NASCAR leaders united the teams and put Evan, who reports to NASCAR CMO Jill Gregory, in the driver’s seat.

The 40-person team handles:

  • Social media
  • Digital media (including all content for NASCAR.com)
  • Videos for the brand website and social channels
  • Creative design for all of NASCAR, including licensing, event signage, executive presentations, and more
  • Partner engagement, which involves helping partners tell stories on their channels, as well as creating content for advertisers and partners on NASCAR-owned channels

The NASCAR entertainment marketing group in Los Angeles, where Evan started with the company in 2011, also has a dotted line to the content team. These connections help make sure content is integrated across the board. And eight people on the NASCAR Productions team help shoot and edit video content for Evan’s group.

“Our structure is unique in sports, and it gives us the ability to be successful. If we came up with an idea and took it to an agency,” Evan explains, “we’d lose control, lose flexibility, and it would be cost prohibitive.”


.@NASCAR’s #contentmarketing structure is unique in the sports industry, says @EvanEParker. Read more >>
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The new structure helps the team focus less on narrow job descriptions and more on creating the stories that help build the fan base.

Tell better stories, win hearts and minds

The NASCAR content marketing team focuses on stoking the passion of core fans. At the same time, it also works to build relationships with new (often younger) audiences who might otherwise only notice NASCAR during major events like the Daytona 500 or Talladega races.


The @NASCAR #contentmarketing team focuses on stoking the passion of core fans, says @CarlaJohnson. #CMWorld
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To get both groups engaged year-round, Evan’s team needed to involve the drivers and help them tell great stories. With the new content team, NASCAR has more resources to get engaging stories into the limelight through social media and PR, and to create long-term content strategies, than the individual drivers, team owners, and tracks would on their own.

For example, when two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. told the story on his Dale Jr. Download podcast about how he stole $80 in quarters from his dad’s change jar, NASCAR helped amplify it. It republished the audio as a video using shots from its archives of the younger Dale.


.@NASCAR curated a video from a story on @DaleJr podcast & distributed on its channels. @CarlaJohnson
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In fact, showing a more personal, emotional side of racing is key to the NASCAR team’s strategy. For example, the team produced a video about Wessa Miller, who met seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. through the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 1998.


Showing a personal, emotional side of racing is key to the @NASCAR team’s strategy. @CarlaJohnson #CMWorld
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The meeting between Dale Sr. and Wessa, who is paralyzed from the waist down due to spina bifida, happened before that year’s Daytona 500, a race trophy that had always eluded the driver. Wessa gave Dale a good-luck penny. He glued the coin to the dashboard and went on to win the race. The two stayed friends until Earnhardt was killed in a crash during the 2001 Daytona 500.

Twenty years after that first meeting, the NASCAR content team sent a reporter and a camera crew to Wessa’s hometown of Phyllis, Ky., to get the in-depth story of what happened in 1998, what’s happened to her since, and what her life is like now. The project brought together multiple groups within the content team, from video production to editorial to social media. The resulting long-form video has more than 14,000 views on YouTube and 20,000 views on NASCAR.com, and the story on NASCAR’s website has been shared on social channels more than 6,000 times, generating more than 60,000 page views.

Build a content studio, and the stories will come

Today, most of the stories Evan’s team produces play out in video and visual formats. Once, NASCAR’s social media posts involved a few lines of text. Now, the team members look at how it can tell a great story through a GIF, a short video, or longer-form video content. They can dive into the story as deeply as makes sense for both content and channel.

In March 2018, Evan flipped the switch on a long-awaited NASCAR content studio built for digital and social distribution. The dedicated space – outfitted for easy production of everything from GlFs to livestreaming to long-form video – makes storytelling a breeze.

Before the studio, content producers always had to find or borrow space, which meant missed opportunities when they couldn’t find space.

Although NASCAR had already built a production studio for TV broadcasting, it wasn’t optimized for the kind of on-the-fly video that lends itself to digital and social channels. Operating the TV equipment requires help from broadcast engineers.

With the new studio, the team members can run the cameras, do Facebook Live sessions, record podcasts, shoot photos, and create GIFs whenever drivers drop by. Instead of the content team chasing stories, drivers now say, “I have a story to tell. I want to come by, hang out, and collaborate with NASCAR around an idea.”

The studio also made it possible for the team to create (and sell to Facebook for Facebook Watch) an eight-part docu-series about the first African-American driver in the Daytona 500 since 1969. Behind the Wall: Bubba Wallace, which chronicles the driver’s road to his first Daytona 500 in 2018, has attracted more than 12 million views to date. The team is now working on concepts for a potential second season.


#Facebook bought the @BubbaWallace docu-series created by @NASCAR, says @CarlaJohnson. #CMWorld
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nascar-behind-the-wall-facebook

The revenue from the sale to Facebook covered NASCAR’s costs, as well as rights and marketing fees. Facebook’s marketing helped the project reach its goal of having as many people see the series as possible.

New structure, new content studio, new possibilities

Although Evan has some P&L responsibility and the ultimate goal is to drive revenue, the content team remains a cost center for now. But that doesn’t mean the work isn’t paying other dividends.

The content engine fired up by the unified team powered more than 3.8 billion impressions on social channels and nearly one billion video views on digital and social platforms in 2017. The department is on pace to eclipse those numbers in 2018.

“This is what you can create when people come together,” Evan says. “It allows us to really figure out what our strategy should be, how to staff, how to make sure we’re nimble and can adapt to a changing marketplace. We’re 12 months into this and we can see our ability to create and build for the future is expanding with the studio we’ve built.”

To find out live who is named the 2018 Content Marketer of the Year (and lots of things to help your content marketing program), register today for Content Marketing World Sept. 4-7 in Cleveland, Ohio. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute


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Thursday, July 19, 2018

5 Research-Based Actions to Improve Your Content Marketing

Content marketing tips and tutorials.

The next coaching was in fact posted courtesy of Content Marketing Institute. I normally look forward to looking at one of their tutorials as they're very enlightening. I'm guessing you'll get something out of it.

research-based-insights-improve-content-marketing

Editor’s note: Because understanding what your fellow marketers are doing and what’s happening in successful content marketing programs is critical to success, Lisa Murton Beets has updated her 2017 article.

A little over halfway through 2018, you may be looking for insights on how to maximize your content marketing efforts. Or, maybe you need some great stats to help you build your business case for content marketing.

Take stock of what CMI’s annual research with MarketingProfs revealed about the state of B2B content marketing in 2018 – and what you can do to focus your efforts for the best return. (And stay tuned for new research results this fall.)

1. Focus on building an audience

Across every vertical examined, the research shows a year-over-year increase in the percentage of marketers who agree their organization is focused on building an audience regardless of their overall level of content marketing success.

And that’s good news, considering the consent-based marketing approach now required by GDPR and other consumer privacy legislation. As Robert Rose recently wrote:

Data given, rather than scraped or gathered unwillingly, is simply more valuable as a marketing asset … Then it stands to reason that providing valuable content-driven experiences where the data is given willingly, trustingly, and actively is the way to not only comply but to thrive in this new business environment. Right?

CMI has preached this message for years. People who sign up to receive your content are people with whom you’ve been given an opportunity to build a relationship.


People who sign up to receive your content give you the opportunity to build a relationship, says @LisaBeets.
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How you can use this insight

Audience development is a key goal for content marketing. Check how your numbers look versus one year ago. Can you tie subscriber growth directly to individual content marketing initiatives? Do you have solid audience personas so you target the right people? (CMI offers a lot of great information on buyer personas; check out Robert’s recent post for new thinking and recommendations around this topic.)

Of course, the quality of your subscriber list is as important as the quantity. Read this post for considerations on why the occasional purging of your list may be helpful.


The quality of your subscriber list is as important as the quantity, says @LisaBeets.
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Finally, evaluate how your audience is nurtured once they subscribe to your content. Although the buyer’s journey is never linear, ensure that your subscribers are receiving a good mix of steady content.

One of the primary ways to nurture audiences is via email, delivered at a frequency rate that won’t overwhelm the recipients. See Jodi Harris’ tips for evaluating the frequency and content of your emails. And make sure you study the valuable lessons the GDPR panic taught about how to communicate with your audience.

2. Get better at content creation to boost overall success

Respondents to our eighth annual content marketing survey cited “content creation” (e.g., higher quality, more efficient) as the biggest contributor to increased content marketing success over the previous year. The No. 2 success factor was content marketing strategy (developing or adjusting).

commitment-overall-success-factors

How you can use this insight

Assess the health of your content planning and creation machine. Are ideas flowing and captured? If you’re stuck, check out these ideas for breaking a creative slump.

Are topics organized in an editorial calendar? If you need to push yours further than a basic spreadsheet, look for ideas here. Do you have enough resources (talent and budget)?

For a broader picture of how to create well-written content and take your content creation to greater levels of success, check out this comprehensive article on road maps.

3. Streamline your workflow

The other part of improving content creation is developing more efficient content production. In most cases, you can improve efficiency by using sensible work processes. In fact, one of the key differences our research found between top-performing content marketers and their less successful peers is that top performers have a better handle on their workflow (70% of the top-performing B2B marketers rated their flow as excellent or very good, compared with 36% of the total sample, and 14% of the least successful).


Top performing content marketers have a better handle on their workflow, says @LisaBeets. #research
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comparison-chart-b2b-content-marketing-top-performers

How you can use this insight

If you’re challenged with content-creation bottlenecks, face the workflow issues head on. I love the tips discussed in this roundtable because the participants share real-life stories on how they improved the processes within their organizations.

If you’re among the marketers whose projects flow well, congratulations. If you aren’t there yet, document the process; it will be valuable to share when new team members and/or freelancers come into the fold.

However, as with most other processes, workflow processes may change rapidly based on shifting priorities and goals. Check out this article by Andrea Fryrear on how to use the principles of Agile marketing to respond quickly.

4. Set realistic expectations about what content marketing can achieve

The good news: Our 2018 research showed higher percentages of marketers agreeing their organization has realistic expectations about what content marketing can achieve compared with the previous year.

But what do realistic expectations look and feel like within organizations? Like so many other things, it depends. For a taste of what one startup achieved during its first two years, check out this inspiring article about Quartz, an online news company.

Your results will vary, based on your goals, resources, industry, and other factors, so walk through the steps outlined here before you get started.

How you can use this insight

Ask if your goals are realistic based on factors such as the size of your organization, its overall goals, management commitment, the nature of your industry and audience, total addressable market, competitive landscape, and available resources.

Undertake this reflection whether you recently started a content marketing project or you’re looking to refresh an existing program. If you’re in the process of overhauling your content marketing, think about what you’re changing and why. Then, read this recent article for tips on explaining your content marketing project to the rest of your company in terms they understand.

(As a side note, the CMI team would love to hear stories from marketers whose organizations have realistic expectations. Are those based on what you’ve learned from past experiences or something else? Please include in the comments or reach me through my contact information in my bio below.)

5. Make a commitment to content marketing and stick with it

Year after year, CMI research reveals that commitment is one of the most important indicators of content marketing success.

Any actions you take based on the insights here won’t get you far if your organization doesn’t have a strong commitment to content marketing.

Each success with content marketing builds upon the next. If you’re operating with a campaign-like or one-off mentality or “trying” content marketing to see how it goes – and you aren’t committed over the long haul – you won’t get long-term results.


If you aren’t committed to #contentmarketing over the long haul, you won’t get long-term results. @LisaBeets
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How you can use this insight

If your organization has a solid commitment to content marketing, great. Keep the momentum going by keeping your company updated with success stories, reports on new things you’re trying (and why), and metrics demonstrating results toward your content marketing goals (be cautious when you use vanity metrics, as you’ll want to show impact versus effort).

Metrics that clearly demonstrate positive impact or results get the attention of upper management and should strengthen or solidify their commitment to content marketing. For tips on how to measure and monitor your content’s performance, see this article by Jodi. To explore a new model for calculating the value of a subscriber, this article by Robert is a must-read.

If commitment isn’t strong in your organization, ask why. Who can you talk with to change this? Check out our updated guide on how to get buy-in for content marketing.

What’s ahead for content marketers? We will begin revealing the findings of the 2019 content marketing survey at Content Marketing World in September. Register today to attend and be among the first to hear the results. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.

To make sure you get the results of the latest research on content marketing in B2B, B2C, tech, manufacturing, and other segments, please subscribe to receive our email updates.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute


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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

How Tech Debt Is Bankrupting Content Marketing

Content marketing tutorials.

Another tutorial published by Content Marketing Institute. Most definitely among the most effective sources of free website content on the Internet.

tech-debt-bankrupting-content-marketingThe pizza was delicious. It was May 2014, and the content marketing team was celebrating the one-year anniversary of its digital magazine for one of the most prestigious financial services brands in the world.

By all accounts, every goal had been met. It launched on time and only slightly over budget. The audience was growing steadily, and the sales group loved the insight and new opportunities that the magazine produced. Content marketing was a hit at the firm.

The lead account director for the content agency sidled up to the content marketing director and congratulated him. “You know,” she said, “we’re ready to start phase two. We’ve got a promotion and audience development plan, and the audience analytics dashboard ready.” The content marketing director smiled. “I know, I know. I think we’re ready. Let’s sit down on Monday and road-map that.”

Monday never came.

Tech credit card hits its limit

The following week, the team learned the new vice president of digital worked with the CIO to institute a new “One Site 2015” initiative. The company was to centralize all blogs and microsites into the main corporate website and integrate it into the main enterprise CMS.

The content marketing director desperately pleaded his case. Re-platforming the magazine’s WordPress site and Google Analytics into the enterprise CMS would take months and hundreds of thousands of dollars. And, it wasn’t even clear that there would be any benefit.

He lost.

The content marketing team spent the better part of six months re-platforming the magazine into the enterprise CMS. Some magazine features that didn’t meet corporate security and IT conformance were lost. The magazine’s look and feel changed because the enterprise CMS “can’t do that.” The audience promotion and development plan, along with the analytics plan, were sidelined.

Then, a new CMO joined the firm, and budgets were put on hold. Her first order of business was to change the corporate brand architecture, and subsequently the website design. All sections of the website (including thought leadership) were part of that redesign. And, they would innovate by upgrading to the newest version of the enterprise CMS, which included marketing automation and personalization capabilities. Once again, the audience promotion and measurement strategy had to wait.

The content marketing team spent a year re-platforming the magazine yet again. As it turned out, personalization took the budget too high, so even after hundreds of hours of planning and architecting, the personalization part of the solution would be phase two for the magazine.

In June 2017, the team quietly celebrated. It successfully relaunched the magazine as one of the website’s phased releases. Gone was the original magazine design and in its place the new magazine section looked much like the corporate website. There wasn’t enough time or budget to create templates to match the magazine’s original design or features.

As it turned out, the upgraded CMS was more complex to use. The content marketing team now spent hours instead of minutes preparing posts. New workflow rules required posts go through extra regression testing through IT, taking publishing from days to weeks. The cadence slowed to a crawl. Subscriber growth stalled. The team now spent 50% of their time working in the technology, managing digital assets, addressing the new configurations, looking at personalization features, and trying to integrate enterprise analytics.


An upgraded CMS was complex to use. Posts took hours, not minutes, to prepare. Sound familiar? @Robert_Rose.
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In November 2017, the content marketing director was called into the CMO’s office. “Why,” the CMO wanted to know, “are there no real results from the thought leadership content?”

The content marketing director started to explain the last two and a half years, but the CMO interrupted: “I’d like you and your team to provide me a business case for why this ‘content marketing’ idea will provide value.”

In February 2018, three months shy of its 5th birthday, the financial services company’s digital magazine was killed. The content marketing team was restructured, and the content marketing director left the company. Content marketing, as a tactic, remains at the company. It is simply a handful of writers creating “investor outlook” PDFs emailed to clients and tracked through the enterprise CMS.

Technology debt: Higher than ever

This story is extreme (and true) but all too common. With the constant pressure of innovation and results, C-suite leaders underestimate the true cost of incrementally upgrading existing technology infrastructure, while they ironically incur more and more time, money, and effort to “innovate” their way out of a constant state of software implementation. This invisible but insidious resource drain is called “technical debt.”


An invisible but insidious drain on #contentmarketing is “technical debt,” says @Robert_Rose.
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Technical debt is an increasingly known IT challenge in larger businesses. According to an Accenture survey, 69% of C-suite executives report that “technical debt makes their IT function much less responsive to changes in the market.”

As a recent MIT Sloan Management Review article put it:

(A)s IT software and infrastructure age, and as more features are added to legacy systems, technical debt grows and puts additional fixed operating costs on the company, diverting precious investment in innovation and new capabilities.  

In marketing, the issue is more pronounced. In a recent study, half of marketers (50%) say “too many technologies” is their top frustration, followed closely by “integrating technologies” (49%). The average number of marketing software technologies in a company is 16 and ranged as high as 98 in larger organizations. Is it any wonder that 80% of marketers say their least favorite thing is “learning and using new marketing technologies”?

In most cases, the primary challenge is the inability for the business to move quickly due to the old, legacy systems that are patched, upgraded, and hacked together to try and keep up.

However, the marketing challenge has an added burden. Many content and digital marketing teams seem perpetually stuck in a software selection or implementation cycle. The net result is either a blindside by corporate IT strategies (as in the above story) or digital content marketing strategies that look at the landscape of marketing technologies, asking “how can we learn how to do that?” The sad truth is teams never “learn to do that” because just as they start, some new technology implementation awaits around the corner.

In short: Marketers continue to make the minimum interest payment on the technology debt that grows every day.


Marketers make minimum interest payments on tech debt that grows every day, says @Robert_Rose.
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Getting debt relief: Realizing the ultimate form is change

There are, however, ways out of this mess. One critical factor for content marketers is to have a formulated strategy, which includes a technology landscape, from the beginning. In other words, as content marketers we must get out of “how can we learn to do that” and get into “this is what we aim to do, and here’s what we need to do it.”

It’s critical to create and maintain an early, often, and honest discussion with both the CMO and CIO about the view of the customer’s journey. The word “alignment” gets thrown around a lot when the relationship of the CIO and the CMO are discussed. But success or true alignment is not built from a mutual understanding of separate agendas. Rather, the technology and marketing teams must come together to develop a single collaborative strategy for customer/audience engagement.


Technology & marketing teams must come together to develop a single collaborative strategy. @Robert_Rose
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This communication – as part of a content marketing business case – can be built on three fundamental core values:

1. Orchestrating content experiences, not guiding siloed buyers’ journeys

Put simply, managing a portfolio of content-driven media experiences should not be focused on pulling people through some singular technology-driven buying path or journey. Rather, companies should look to decouple customer/audience data management, and experience presentation and management, and optimization of those experiences. I spoke to this approach and a new way of selecting technologies in the keynote talk at CMI’s Content Tech event this year.

2. Meaning-driven, not data-driven

Data by its definition has no meaning. It is a collection of facts, figures, and attributes about people or their behavior. To make data meaningful, businesses must develop new strategies to find the emotional value in data that is given rather than gathered. Focusing on connecting interactive experiences is critical. I wrote about this last year in CMI’s original research report: The Symphony of Connected Interactive Content Marketing.


Businesses must develop new strategies to find emotional value in data that is given not gathered. @Robert_Rose
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3. Organizing for agility, not speed

Much has been made about the need for marketing departments to be more agile, but it’s not necessarily about moving faster. The inability to find the calm in the chaos and the constant pressure of more capability are due to a fear of moving too slowly. Rather, a reinvented content marketing team can find joy and reduce technical debt in the balance of creating strategic, customer-centric experiences that evolve customers and reorienting to more agile strategies. I’ve written quite extensively about what we call “content creation management” and some organizational thoughts – most notably outlining a process for content marketing to take root.


Reinvented #contentmarketing teams reduce tech debt by customer-centric & agile strategies. @Robert_Rose
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Technology is not change – it is what facilitates change

Ultimately, marketers cannot measure themselves by how fast they can deploy new technology. That’s like saying that you can get out of debt by purchasing more, less expensive cars. You not only accrue more debt, you spend all your time learning how to drive all the cars you have.

There is simply no way to accurately predict what the content marketing organization will need to look like in five years. It’s only been 10 years since any business could even think about how to address such media disruptions as Facebook, or the iPhone, or Android. It’s been less than two since we started talking about voice-activated search.

What will the next five years bring? Who knows. Virtual reality? Artificial intelligence? Pokemon Go round two?

Instead of looking at each new enabling technology (hardware or software) as a need for a new innovative capability or team, node on a matrixed structure, or even a weed that needs to be pruned in your legacy garden, marketers should look at structures where collaboration, content, and data flow more fluidly to handle any new disruption that threatens the focused strategy.

To get out of technical debt, content marketing organizations absolutely need to be built to change – constantly. You need to deploy technology nimbly and decouple from the mother ship of legacy systems. CMOs and CIOs should stop trying to figure out what content and marketing should change into and focus on giving content and marketing the ability to change.

That would be a huge down payment on the principal of our technical debt.

Get more insight from CMI’s chief strategy advisor and other experts in content marketing to help you avoid tech debt and other challenges to your content marketing program. Register today for Content Marketing World Sept. 4-7 in Cleveland, Ohio. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute


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5 SEO Blogging Tips for Websites

There are a lot of concerns from bloggers about the effectiveness of their blogging in relation to their SEO ranking. There may be some truth to their concerns but the actual reasons are not due to some conspiracy theories or that blogging is now outdated. The answer to those concerns is related to the dynamism of the virtual world. Everything is changing ---from the websites to the audience themselves. The only thing we should do is to adapt to the current changes that are related to SEO and blogging ----and thrive.

Here are 5 SEO blog tips for websites to follow:

1. Write for Your Audience

One very common mistake blogging websites do is trying to stuff keywords into their blogs with the intention to rank high in their SEO rankings. That is writing for the algorithm; and not for the audience. Remember that it is your audience who will be driving your traffic. The search engines will just help them get to you.

If your targeted audience does not like what they read from your blogs, they’ll just scamper and get lost. Who would want to read awkward and unreadable sentences with over-stuffed keywords?

2. Keep Your Content Fresh and Original

If you want to really rank high on your SEO, you should then create high-quality content for your audience. Scour the web for relevant topics that are related to your business then transform them into something that is unique and original. Find out what your audience want. If you can solve their problems through your blogs and other forms of content, people will then start coming in and check your website.

Start creating content that is not just pure text and image. Within your blog, you can use videos, infographics, and audio to complement your awesome writing. These are the kind of content that are getting popular today. If your audience loves your content, it will be most likely shared in social media platforms. This is also a very good way to catch Google’s attention.

3. Build Natural Backlinks

When another website links back to your site, this indicates people are now giving credit to your content. I say content because it is your creation that they love, and not you. Do not take this negatively just yet. Everyone usually says that “authority” in this industry is earned.


Additionally, everything starts from the content and insights that you share with others.


Your backlinks should be natural. Never buy backlinks. Google doesn’t like that.

Backlinks from websites with authority can also provide your blog a boost that is hundred-fold compared to backlinks coming from hundreds of tiny websites. It is also important to use anchor text in your blog content. You can choose your anchor text from your list of relevant keywords.

4. Build an SEO Optimized Website


This is one of the on-site activities that should be at the top of your list. This is how Google determines if your site is trustworthy and credible.


You can optimize your site by:

· Keeping your codes clean

· Maintaining great UX

· Prioritizing mobile responsiveness

· Using attractive yet highly functional themes

Do not forget about the SEO meta tag fields in every blog that you create and publish. Your title, description, and keywords can contribute on how you fare in the SERPs. Formulate your meta tags with the purposes of attracting readers to click to your website and increasing the chances to start doing business with you.

Search engines also index your web pages by using internal links. Blog articles that are relevant to the other areas of your website are given higher values. You can boost your website ranking by an extra mile just by using internal links.

5. Write, Write, and …Write


Constantly producing a constant stream of content tells Google that your website is still alive. Do you know what the best SEO blog sites have in common? They produce a lot of high-quality content on a regular basis ---with emphasis on a lot.

There may be some insights from the market influencers out there that as long as you can produce really good quality of articles on a consistent basis, the numbers wouldn’t matter. This may also be true. Ultimately, the final decision and implementation fall into your hands. Revisit your own marketing strategy and decide which direction is apt to your own goals and objectives.

What do you think of our blogging tips? Did this article help you? Share your thoughts.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Should You Worry About Your SEO and Google’s Mobile-First Index?

Content marketing tips and tutorials.

The next piece of information was first posted courtesy of Content Marketing Institute. I usually enjoy viewing any one of their articles because they are very useful. I hope you find it helpful.

seo-google-mobile-first-indexGiven your vigilance with the all-powerful search engine rankings, it is reasonable to be concerned about Google mobile-first or at least more curious than usual.

Google recently weighed in, knowing its plan led to confusion. In a series of tweets, Google touched on everything from a problem showing cached pages with mobile-first results to clarifying that “hamburger” menus are fine to use.

But confusion still abounds because of the vast number of websites and worry about natural search engine rankings.

Let’s dive into some common questions to learn whether your website is likely OK, where the biggest problems may surface, and how to keep your rankings in perspective.

Why mobile-first?

Until recently, Google’s index was based on desktop usage of websites. But it made the move to primarily use mobile index for search engine result pages (SERPS) because people increasingly search for content on their mobile devices more than on their desktops. Studies detail the trend likely to grow with the number of search queries and time spent on websites with smartphones and tablets.


Google now indexes its search results based on #mobile usage, says @mikeonlinecoach. #SEO
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The Googlebot Smartphone will visit your website on a frequent basis. Google goes into detail in Best Practices for Mobile-First Indexing and explains it this way on Twitter:

googlebot-twitter-mobile-first-best-practices

How will we know if our website is part of the mobile-first? Will we see some symbol in the SERPs?

I don’t know about any planned symbols to distinguish some search results from others. But Google has notified many website owners that the sites are indexed with mobile-first.

google-search-console-mobile-first-indexing

Again, Google took its time with this change. It even made a point to initially migrate websites that appeared to follow best practices for mobile-friendly indexing.

Our team didn’t get that notice. Does that mean we’ve done something wrong?

It’s a slow transition. You’re not being penalized by any delay. Google chose to single out websites it sees as clearly mobile-friendly. My sense is that Google is notifying site owners in waves to identify and minimize issues.

What if we don’t have a mobile website?

You do.

Some marketers may believe that a formal mobile website is separate from a desktop website – like one that’s distinctive with an “m” like m.worldfamouscontentwebsite.com (also known as an m-dot).

In Google’s view, virtually any website that renders on a mobile device is a mobile site – no matter how poorly it appears on the screen. It could violate scores of mobile-friendly guidelines and still be a mobile website.


.@Google considers any website that renders on a #mobile device to be mobile, says @mikeonlinecoach.
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What about our rankings? Will they go up or down?

Your rankings may go up and down but not because of mobile-first. Your mobile friendliness is not a ranking signal like the words in an H1 tag, backlinks, or image alt attribute.

Your rankings depend on how you’ve written and coded your website in light of the competition. Google still has only one index and you’re in it. Google didn’t drop all your content into a new world and expect you to adapt.

Will websites be delisted?

No, not because of mobile-first. Sure, you could violate Google’s quality guidelines with some webspam. But the mobile-first switch won’t trigger websites to fall out of favor.

Websites get delisted for tactics like hiding white text in a white background, generating tons and tons of spammy backlinks, and duplicating a website with a second domain name.

Do we need to worry?

From the start, Google indicated many websites would be fine. For example, if you have a responsive website, you’re likely in the clear. If your website can look decent on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone, nothing really changes. You’re good to go.

Who should care?

Be more worried if your website isn’t deemed mobile-friendly. Take Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test – it’s as simple as typing in the URL.


Take @Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see if your site is #mobile-friendly, advises @Mikeonlinecoach.
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Common problems may be small text, content not sized to the viewport, and buttons or links too close to each other.

If your website falls short, you may not see the impact today. After all, Google insists that mobile-first isn’t a ranking consideration. But if Google is putting this much emphasis on mobile, you should meet mobile standards.

Websites with m-dots could be especially problematic.

Google urged companies to move away from m-dots and embrace responsive websites. Not everyone listened and they could pay a price. On top of that, Google suggests that having both an m-dot and a responsive website isn’t a good practice. It confuses the Google search engine and that’s never a good thing.


.@Google urges companies to move away from m-dot sites & embrace responsive design, says @mikeonlinecoach.
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John Mueller, webmaster trends analyst at Google, underscored the concern in June on Twitter:

john-mueller-m-dot-tweet

M-dots have disadvantages. For starters, they could have fewer pages than the desktop version. If Google indexes only the m-dot, the site loses in a horrific way.

Sometimes mobile pages are shorter, which means the site has fewer opportunities to rank well for long-tail keyword phrases.

Sure, someone could always navigate his or her way to the larger, desktop version. But that’s after the fact. In the meantime, you’ve introduced your m-dot site to Google for mobile searchers who may see limited search results based on the smaller set of pages in the m-dot version.

Could Google combine everything – results from your mobile pages and your full desktop version? It’s not like Google is blind to your desktop website. But it’s moved to mobile-first for a reason. Why risk having some or many of your site’s desktop pages ignored?

Sephora illustrates the issue on a few levels. I don’t know whether Sephora got the mobile-first notice, but it clearly maintains a separate m-dot.

sephora-m-dot-example

Yes, Sephora has some good rankings (more on that in a moment), but Google shows far fewer results on a mobile phone as compared to desktops.

Google shows 8,960 pages/files with the m-dot and 197,000 with the desktop version.

google-sephora-m-dot-indexing

google-sephora-indexingOuch. Maybe Sephora should be concerned 100,000 of its pages aren’t available to mobile searchers. Maybe it’s Google’s way of saying, “You’re sticking with an m-dot? Fine, we’ll give users only some results.”

More likely, Google isn’t done with its implementation.

Fortunately for Sephora, it ranks well on mobile for competitive broad keywords, like first for makeup with 368,000 monthly searches and first for lipstick with 60,500 monthly searches. It has similar results with desktop searches.

Although mobile searchers don’t see as many pages, maybe that’s OK as long as Sephora comes up high for prized keyword phrases. Its authority score is 89 (out of 100) on the Moz index, which tracks backlinks and related factors.

For your part, maybe you’ll be OK too and decide not to pack the bags for your m-dot site. However, if you keep the m-dot, make sure your mobile website has the same content as your desktop version. You can avoid duplicate content concerns if you have the right technical provisions, such as annotations.

What other kinds of websites might be vulnerable?

Old-school websites that don’t adjust to the times are going to suffer – maybe not soon but it will happen.

If you have a website that’s hard to use on a mobile device, you’re turning off visitors who may flee in a couple seconds. You choose to disappoint people with an outdated and inferior design. And that disappoints Google too, which already gives the site low rankings because of navigation issues, page load speed, and dry content that fails to engage visitors.

You can likely improve your rankings with a website redesign that takes mobile into account.

Websites from the world’s biggest brands may not feel the impact as much. Google seems to give them considerable latitude. Large enterprises routinely rank well even though they don’t optimize images, lack keywords in page content headers, and have limited text on pages.


CTT: .@Google seems to give considerable latitude to sites from big brands, says @mikeonlinecoach. #SEO
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Google is well aware of Marathon Petroleum Corp., which appears this way on smartphones:

marathon-petroleum-corp-mobile-site

Cleary, it’s far from mobile-friendly.

But here’s the thing: It’s mobile in Google’s eyes. Although the website has all sorts of other SEO deficiencies, it still ranks well for several keyword phrases. Unlike Sephora, Marathon doesn’t have a standalone mobile website. The desktop has 7,890 pages/files indexed on Google.

Some of the mobile ranking results are lower than the desktop, including “marathon petroleum stock” with 3,600 monthly searches (10th on desktop and 14th on mobile) and “marathon gas card” with 2,900 monthly searches (third on desktop and fifth on mobile).

Marathon has some work to do with its mobile design and it’s also late to the game without a secure site via HTTPS. (Google announced in 2014 it uses a site’s encryption as a ranking factor.)

marathon-mobile-friendly-test

marathon-secure-site-error

What website gets it right?

Do any sites really earn an A+ all the time? I doubt it.

But Cisco is worth a look because the responsive website is essentially mobile-friendly. Google shows 2.3 million results when using site:www.cisco.com on a desktop computer (oddly Google doesn’t display search results total for mobile users).

cisco-mobile-friendliness-test

cisco-mobile-site

How should we monitor the situation?

If you use an m-dot, track any unusual patterns with website crawl data in Search Engine Console. Google may email you directly.

Monitor your website pages with this simple technique:

site:yourwebsite.com or site:m.yourwebsite.com

You will see the number of pages and documents Google has discovered. You don’t want that number to decrease.

Keep in mind this is public data and Google may not reveal all the pages it has indexed. But it’s a good indicator. You also might want to check out a great piece Bridget Randolph wrote for Moz and an article by Glenn Gabe with G-Squared Interactive (GSQi).

Again, mobile-first is not a ranking variable. But rankings are a huge concern. You can monitor them as often as you want. Here are a few reminders about what can affect rankings:

  • Changing algorithms
  • Revisions to your competition’s website content (or new content competitors entering your market)
  • Updates to your website – adding pages, creating new content, revising existing pages, and attracting inbound links

In addition, Google’s SERPs change too. Depending on the keyword, Google can display all sorts of elements, such as featured snippets and related queries, above and among a traditional set of 10 natural results.

Remember, your rankings also can shift anytime for no apparent reason. A keyword phrase may rank for one page this week and a different page next week.

Look at the data.

How much natural traffic did the page generate over the last 90 days or the last year? How does that data compare to the same period the year before?

Maybe one of your pages attracts only five visitors a month from Google. What if the main keyword for that page ranked 22nd and now you’re ranking 34th? How much does it really matter?

If your No. 3 ranking dropped to 12, that might be a reason for concern, especially if the keyword phrase has considerable search volume and reflects buyer intent.

Keep a history of your rankings. If they drop a great deal for many pages, you might begin to wonder whether the move to mobile-first somehow exposed a flaw with your SEO strategy.

What have you experienced to date with Google’s mobile-first? Are you worry-free or still concerned?

Please note:  All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Get the answers to all your content marketing questions. Register today to attend Content Marketing World Sept. 4-7 in Cleveland, Ohio. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute


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Monday, July 16, 2018

Your Editorial Calendar is Not Your Content Marketing Strategy

SEO tutorials and tips.

The following tutorial was uploaded by Content Marketing Institute. They always present you with videos of the highest quality and so are among my favorite must-watch blogs. I think you'll find it helpful.

editorial-calendar-not-content-marketing-strategyEditor’s note: You may have missed this article when CMI published it last year. We’re sharing it now because the misperceptions about editorial calendars and content marketing strategies are still common.

Marketers often talk about how they have a strategy … then proceed to say they are set because they have an editorial calendar.

At the risk of sounding ranty, I’d love to yell from the rooftops: An editorial calendar is not a content marketing strategy!


An editorial calendar is not a #contentmarketing strategy, rants @MicheleLinn.
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While this conflict may seem like semantics, the meshing of these terms points to a bigger issue.

You need to have both a strategy and an editorial plan or calendar. And you need to understand how they differ because the absence of one may explain why you are experiencing uncertainty in your content marketing efforts.

Architect and civil engineer

Let’s say you are building a home. An architect leads the design of the structure by creating an architectural plan. But a civil engineer makes the design possible – implementing and adjusting the plan to realize the architect’s vision.

Do you need an architectural design for your new home? Absolutely. It’s the vision of what you want to achieve. You help your architect understand your needs (your why) – your strategy. Where do you want to move? How big do you want your house to be? Do you want room to grow or something more compact? How much do you want to spend? These are some of the questions you need to answer before the architect creates a plan for your house.

The architectural phase of your new home is akin to your content marketing strategy.


The architectural phase of a new home is akin to your #contentmarketing strategy, says @MicheleLinn.
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With that architectural strategy, the civil engineer can create a building plan to implement the vision. That’s akin to your editorial plan or calendar.

In short, just like when you are building a home, you can’t have an effective building plan without an architectural strategy, and you can’t execute your strategy without your plan. (And, if you are designing a house with your spouse, you both need to get on the same page as well – just like your team needs to get on the same page with your strategy.)

First comes the content marketing strategy

If your editorial plan isn’t feeling quite right, chances are you don’t have a solid strategy – or your team doesn’t have a shared understanding of what that strategy is.


If your editorial plan isn't feeling quite right, chances are you don't have a solid strategy. @MicheleLinn
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In simple terms (this doesn’t account for all the nuances), your strategy needs to answer these three questions:

  • Who are we educating/helping? (Note: I did not say “targeting,” as your goal should be helping. Creating a persona is one way to do this.)
  • How can we help them in a way that no one else can? (This is your content tilt.)
  • How will we know we are successful? (These are the business goals of your strategy.)

You need to clearly understand the answers to these three questions – and having this clarity isn’t as common as you may think.

In our most recent content marketing research, 37% of B2B marketers say they have a documented content marketing strategy, with 38% indicating they have an undocumented strategy. (I won’t rant about the importance of documenting your strategy … but you should do it.)

But not enough of their strategies have a content mission, a deep understanding of their personas, and goals tied to their content. If you don’t have these things, something is going to feel off. And, while your strategy typically comes from the leadership team, don’t make excuses if you don’t have one.


Your #contentmarketing strategy should include a content mission, personas & goals, says @MicheleLinn.
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Here are a few other things to consider:

  • Does everyone on the team have the same understanding of the strategy? Ask your fellow team members the three questions above and see how consistently everybody communicates the strategy.
  • Post simple answers to the three questions on each team member’s wall (or close by). You want team members to internalize the answers. I can’t stress this enough: If you don’t stick to your audience and mission – with a focus on your goals – you will flounder.
  • Unlike your plan, your strategy is relatively set in stone and won’t change often.

Then comes the editorial plan

Each item you publish and communicate needs to support the three key items in your strategy. Every. Single. Thing. And that’s where your editorial plan comes in.

Your editorial plan is tactical and detailed. It explains what you are going to do and who will do it.  If you have your big ideas nailed down and are struggling with execution, chances are you need to spend some time with your editorial plan.


Spend time on your editorial plan if you’re struggling with content execution, advises @MicheleLinn.
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While you must consider many details, include these activities in your editorial planning (many of which should show up in your editorial calendar):

  • Five to seven key areas or categories for editorial coverage
  • Topics in those categories to cover
  • Team members’ responsibilities – who will do what
  • Key pages from your site that require ongoing attention (Not sure which pages require your attention? Learn about the four key reports to help you, as well as the five opportunities to consider.)
  • Content to update and republish (Learn about a system to decide which posts to republish as well as details on how CMI does it.)
  • Social media marketing plan
  • Measurement plan (See a template CMI has used to share insights with the team on a monthly basis.)

As you can see, all these details are tactical and important. A high-level strategy is necessary, but without an editorial plan to support it, your content marketing program will have a tough time gaining traction.


Without an editorial plan to implement your #contentmarketing strategy, you’ll have a tough time. @MicheleLinn
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Remember, you need an architect to draw your vision of a new home (the strategy), but you also need the civil engineer to create the construction plan to practically implement the vision.

Do you have both strategy and a plan? Does that create a comfortable home for your content marketing? Or do you have a plan, but without a strategy – your content marketing program lives day to day but it doesn’t live up to your vision?

Where are you feeling discomfort in your content marketing program? Would it make sense to fine-tune your content marketing strategy or your editorial plan – or both?

Want help in designing and building your content marketing home? Or maybe it’s time for some renovations. Register today to attend Content Marketing World Sept. 4-7 in Cleveland, Ohio. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute


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