Give Your Content Marketing the Effectiveness Edge
Does your content work? Is it effective? These questions sound simple, but answering them can be hard. And answering them is more critical than ever as content marketing becomes a growing part of every modern CMO’s budget.
To take much of the guesswork out of content effectiveness, my team at Content Science analyzed content feedback from more than 100,000 people through our ContentWRX evaluation tool. We uncovered many insights, including not one, but five key dimensions of content effectiveness. Let’s walk through each dimension so you can lead your team to boost the impact of your content marketing program.
1. Findability (More Than SEO)
The obvious reason why discoverability and findability matter is that if customers can’t find your content, it might as well not exist. Today, making your organization’s content easy to find or discover usually takes work, thanks in part to the amount of content and data on the Internet doubling roughly every five years.
Now, you might think findability means optimizing your website content for search engines like Google. Not necessarily. The type or format of content you plan to offer should drive how to make the content findable. A podcast, for example, will need distribution on audio platforms. Shopify makes its podcasts available on iTunes, GooglePlay and Soundcloud. That way, people who like podcasts don’t even have to know what Shopify is or visit the Shopify website to find the Shopify podcasts. So, consider carefully how to make the experience of finding your content as easy as possible.
Additionally, personalize your content experiences so you proactively suggest content about topics and products likely to interest your prospective and existing customers. Aspire to give your content an Amazon-like experience. The more you offer the right content for the right customers at the right time, the less customers have to hunt and peck for it.
A not-so-obvious reason to care about findability? Our research using the ContentWRX data revealed a surprising impact. If your customers have difficulty finding your content, that experience distorts their perspective of the content itself.
In our study, customers who had trouble finding content, but eventually did, were:
- Less than half as likely to view that content as accurate
- Nearly one-third as likely to view that content as relevant
- Less than half as likely to perceive that content as helpful to accomplishing their goal
You could offer the most amazing content ever produced, but it will not matter if customers experience difficulty finding it. Content findability is the first impression you make on your customers, and the stakes for that impression are very high.
2. Accuracy (Real and Perceived)
Whether your customers perceive your content as accurate affects their trust in your brand and colors many other perceptions.
Before I get into the proof, let me note that content accuracy is about much more than whether the content has a typo. When we assess content accuracy, we assess whether customers or users perceive the content as current, consistent and correct — either factually correct or credible enough to trust as factually correct.
In our analysis, we found customers who perceive content as accurate are:
- More than twice as likely to report accomplishing their goals than users who are unsure about the content’s accuracy.
- More than five times as likely to report accomplishing their goals than those who perceive content as not accurate.
3. Usefulness (Proper Purpose)
Usefulness means the content serves a clear purpose for your customers.
Two common purposes in marketing are what I call the two Es: Educate or Entertain.
The comfort technology company Purple actually does both brilliantly in a series of videos showing experiments and behind-the-scenes looks at their technology for mattresses and more. They’re scientific but also entertainingly funny. I highly recommend the human egg drop test.
So, consider whether your content is serving a purpose that your customers will find useful. One easy way to boost your content’s performance in this dimension is to actually state the purpose in the content. Don’t leave your customers guessing. Help them figure out the purpose quickly so they can decide whether the content will aid them in accomplishing their goal.
Then quickly start considering how to make that content highly relevant. Our research revealed that content usefulness and relevance go hand-in-hand. Overall effectiveness scores (or what we call ContentWRX scores) were highest when people perceived content as both useful and relevant.
Let’s learn more about making content relevant.
4. Relevance (Specific = Terrific)
Relevance means the content seems intended specifically for the person consuming it. Now, this might sound similar to usefulness, but it’s actually quite different. If I had a nickel for every time I came across the feedback, “Well, this content seems useful but it’s not really relevant to me”… I’d be wealthier than Jeff Bezos.
Our research has found the top reason people report content as seemingly irrelevant is that the content is too basic.
Lack of sophistication makes the content seem not relevant to experienced, advanced or specialized customers. So, as you make your content plans, consider whether your content offers the same basics everyone else offers. How can you add more nuance, depth or specialization that your audience will value?
And one quick win you can earn with content relevance is to actually state who your content is for and why the content is relevant. In each piece of content answer the question, “So what?” Don’t leave your customers guessing.
5. Influence (On Thoughts or Actions)
Influence means the content has an impact on people’s perceptions or behaviors —or both. For example, the website and podcast Longitudes: Delivered by UPS offers perspectives on the future of business in the age of digital disruption. This focus on the future influences their audience to view the century-old UPS as progressive and forward-thinking.
As another example, Houzz embeds links to product details within its content showcasing home renovations and design trends. It’s easy to add the products to a shopping list or actually buy them.
I recommend that with every bit of content you produce, you ask, “What do I want customers to think or do after engaging with this content?” Then make sure your content supports that perception or behavior.
So, give your content marketing the effectiveness edge. Lead your teams to make your content findable, accurate, useful, relevant and influential. And don’t be surprised when your return on content marketing investment soars.
A content expert and Star Wars fan, Colleen Jones is the author of The Content Advantage and founder of Content Science, a content strategy and intelligence firm where she has advised or trained hundreds of the world's leading organizations to become Jedi Masters of digital content. She also is the former head of content at Mailchimp, the small business marketing platform recognized by Inc. as 2017 Company of the Year.
Colleen has earned recognition as one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Content Marketing by a TopRank study, a Content Change Agent by Society of Technical Communication's Intercom Magazine, and one of the Top 50 Most Influential Content Strategists by multiple organizations. Colleen is a member of Mensa and an active supporter of women in technology. Colleen speaks at conferences and corporate events around the world, from San Francisco to Sydney.