Content Marketing Tactics from the Trenches: A How-To Extravaganza


Content is on the minds of marketers everywhere, but how do you tackle it? What are some ways to show ROI and what sort of skills do you need on your team to make your brand or agency into an efficient, quality content producer? These are the questions speakers Miranda Miller and Natalie Henley tackled in an SES Toronto session on content marketing.

The Changing Face of SEO

Natalie Henley from Volume 9 Inc. opened up the conversation by talking about the changing face of SEO. Her company was forced about two years ago to adopt content marketing, and she talked about what she learned.

Content marketing is starting to look and feel more like traditional marketing, she said. You’re giving away information to people who aren’t necessarily ready to buy. This is at the top of the funnel versus at the bottom.

Create Personas to Solve Content Problems

The first problem with writing about not-so-sexy topics and companies is to look within. Henley said she solved this with something that transformed how they created content: creating personas.

To dig into personas, she and her team looked at several factors including the personal environment of the persona and environmental influence. Also diving into how this persona feels and what his or her attitude is can be crucial components of this.

Content Creation Ideas

The most important thing, said Henley, is not to to focus on the SEO when you’re writing. A couple ideas she shared include:

  • Write based on personas.
  • Write everything first, edit later.

Henley warned that quality content is really hard to scale. It’s not about volume. But you still have to publish a lot, so it’s a bit of a conundrum. She gives some tips on ways you can outsource:

  • Textbroker is good for inexpensive content.
  • Writers Access is a step up.
  • Zerys is great for low-end agencies.
  • Skyword is more for high-end agencies.

Content Promotion

When your content is good on its own, don’t feel like to have to force optimization, said Henley. A couple tips though if you’re thinking about the SEO side of things. If you optimize your title tag and nothing else, that’s 90 percent of the battle. And don’t forget Google Authorship.

Get a little SEO mileage with social bookmarking, said Henley. Don’t forget to promote on social media. But remember it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Be selective about what you promote.

The Biggest Challenge: ROI

How do you show return on content marketing? That’s the next point Henley explored. The top of the funnel is not as profitable as the bottom of the funnel, she said.

Here’s a couple ways to measure:

  • Low end of your formula: conversions from blog referral traffic.
  • High end of your formula: Percentage of traffic versus overall traffic.
  • Take total number of conversions times blog percentage.

It’s not perfect math, she warned, but it’s a great way to show progress.

She leaves the audience with a tool she loves. BlogDash allows you to pitch ideas to a network of bloggers. If they like it, they pick it up and blog about it. There’s no money exchange, but you offer them something they might like.

For example, if the content is about flowers, you can offer the bloggers a bouquet of flowers for Mother’s Day. She found this wildly successful.

Executing a Blog and Social Strategy

Marketer Miranda Miller talked next about executing a blog and social strategy. Execution matters, she said, because businesses don’t have a lot of time and money.

Think Like a Publisher?

Your blog and social strategy needs to be agile and adaptable. “Think like a publisher” is the motto of the year, she said. You don’t just wake up one day and become publisher though. You have to be trained in that.

Remember, traditional publishing and brand publishing is different. So how do you really think like a publisher? Miller gave a few ways:

  • Have an editorial calendar.
  • Create content guidelines.
  • Implement quality check and balances.
  • Make sure audience needs come first.

The smallest companies need an organizational tool. Miller recommended It allows you to plan out your editorial calendar. Google Docs also works and is a free option. You can also try the Approval Workflow plugin for WordPress.

Style guides are crucial, said Miller. Every person who touches the content in your organization should have one. It’s your Content Bible.

And with regard to quality checks and balances, make sure your communication team is qualified, she said. You need the right people in place who can work together effectively.

Brand Journalist Wizards Don’t Exist for $12 per Hour

The job descriptions coming from companies are getting ridiculous for content creation, said Miller. Businesses are asking for very talented writers who are former journalists along with a boatload of other skills and only paying $12 an hour. This doesn’t exist.

Here’s what you do need on a content team, she said:

  • Bloggers
  • SMMs
  • Professionalism
  • Creativity
  • Grasp of online marketing landscape
  • Topic expertise not as important
  • New media skills

And Miller said the following is what the content team needs from its employer, which is just as important:

  • Clear, detailed expectations
  • Opportunities for input
  • Access to key people
  • Tools for the job
  • Logical working process

Who’s got brand publishing right? Look to brands like Raytheon and Garmin for good examples of brands that are doing well in the content publishing area.

Image Credit: amandabhslater/Flickr

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