By Steve Smith
The end of a calendar year is a good time for reflection and evaluation. This is particularly applicable to your content marketing efforts. A sound content marketing strategy increases SEO rankings, boosts website visits, cultivates thought leadership and ultimately drives new conversions, leads, and sales.
The importance of content writing in SEO should never be underestimated. But with too much emphasis on the technical aspects of SEO, such as keywords, page titles, internal linking and heading tags, and not enough emphasis on content strategy, the actual content can become an afterthought.
One of the biggest SEO mistakes made in healthcare content marketing is forgetting that while SEO algorithms are always changing, one constant – high-quality content – remains. Remember those wild and crazy days of keyword stacking, when copy that was written for SEO was barely readable? Thank goodness the times and technologies have changed. Sites using those tactics are now penalized, and those featuring authentic content are rewarded with higher rankings. So now it is reasonable to say that a single, well-written, compelling piece of content, posted to a technically sound website, can easily improve search ranking for multiple search terms.
With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to offer a few simple ways to keep your content marketing program on track, improve search rankings and generate more leads and conversions in 2022:
1. Set forth a sound Content Marketing Strategy
Begin your journey with a sound, documented Content Marketing Strategy and you won’t drift off course. An effective CMS sets forth the types of content you’ll be creating for each community and channel. It doesn’t have to be complicated – it’s just determining who you need to reach, what you want to say to them, and what action you want them to take. An important component here is a calendar to ensure you set a steady cadence for content creation and you don’t make the mistake of “going dark” and leaving your communities wondering if you’re still out there.
Content planning and scheduling tools are plentiful. Based on the size of your content generation team, budget, volume and other factors, consider whether you need an application like ContentCal, Asana, Trello or Google Calendar, or if a simple Excel workbook or Outlook calendar will suffice.
2. Let long-form content be your friend
Another mistake is eschewing quality content in favor of brevity. You may assume that people don’t have much free time these days, but if you deliver the right content at the right time, they will happily immerse themselves in a long-form blog post of 2,300 – 2,500 words. Long-form content is directly related to higher ranking in search results. Deliver content that engages and informs, rather than just promoting a product or service, and visitors will stick with it. You’ll also be strengthening your image as a thought leader. Conversions will rise and your website will be stickier than ever.
3. Avoid bells and whistles
Even though we’re in the 21st century, many sites are still using gimmicky graphics and frustrating navigation. Why hide your content behind some meaningless animated nonsense or make visitors navigate through 3-4 screens before getting to the meat and potatoes? Why do some websites literally “hide” their blogs, or don’t even have one? Take a hard look at your website’s design and architecture. Sometimes it takes an objective third party to see what you don’t, and identify what’s working and what’s not. If it’s an easy fix, that’s great. If not, consider building a whole new site that will function better and deliver a stronger ROI.
4. Make the most of increased website traffic
Once visitors have landed on your site, the work has only just begun. Now you have to convert them. That’s why a Google Ads best practice is to link ad responses not to your home page, but to the page that promotes what you’re selling – the product page or, if you’re selling services, the crucial “what we do” page. It’s the page that makes it clear what you’re offering and presents a conversion to move them along the inbound marketing funnel.
Remember that your content, in addition to improving organic search rankings, should educate visitors, encourage engagement, and differentiate your business from others in the marketplace. Otherwise, you’ll find it difficult to compel consumers to take actions that will convert them to actual customers.
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5. Be genuine
Why is genuine storytelling so effective? It’s because authentic stories about genuine human experiences make emotional connections and will “stick” long after marketing messages are forgotten. This is especially true in nonprofit content marketing, where it is vital to improving fundraising and fundamental to developing a deeper understanding of the nonprofit’s mission. A good writer can convey those stories, weaving them into the fabric of your brand.
6. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes
Products and services, whether offered through B2C or B2B channels, are meant to provide solutions to a customer’s problems. When planning content, it’s important to keep in mind what your consumer is going through. What are the current market conditions? What are the consumer’s “pain points?” Develop content with those factors in mind and you’ll be more likely to get better results.
7. Watch the competition
A good look at what the competition is doing is sometimes a good fix for what ails your content marketing program. Think about it – if you consider them your competition, they must be selling a similar product into a similar, or identical, channel. So consider what they’re doing, being careful not to copy something verbatim and risk infringing on their intellectual property and diluting your own brand personality.
8. Research topics fully
A common mistake is failing to search the web to see what’s already out there. I often begin an article by Googling a topic to see what people might be saying and accessing the latest news related to that topic. The quickest way to see results is often with content topics that have decent search volumes, but low competition. Tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner are free, easy to use, and can help identify these “holy grail” topics and search terms. Set Google Alerts to find and curate content that keeps you in the conversation.
9. Outsource content creation when possible
Developing and maintaining an effective contact marketing strategy, and using sound inbound marketing tactics takes a real commitment. In survey after survey, respondents say “lack of time” is their biggest content marketing challenge. Even prior to the Covid pandemic, scaled-down marketing departments were straining to produce more content with fewer staff. Don’t force yourself to do all this heavy lifting in-house if it’s just not realistic. Hiring a valued outsource partner – a team or individual – can help you restore order, get more done and maintain quality.
About Consonant Custom Media
Consonant Custom Media provides content marketing and storytelling for hospitals, health systems, nonprofits, foundations and others who want to make more meaningful connections with their communities of interest. We create original content that is truly consonant, or in harmony, with our clients' brand values and drives profitable consumer action.Clients use our original content strategically, to reach specific objectives in perception management, physician relations, service line development, sales and donor development.