Even though content marketing constantly evolves and companies gain more and more confidence about their content efforts….
… marketers continue to struggle to engage their audience!
In fact, the number of marketers struggling to produce engaging content is actually …GROWING! (to put this in further perspective, only 47% admitted to having this problem in 2014).
Why Such a Struggle?
As a copywriter and content marketer I can attest:
Coming up with engaging content ideas ain’t easy.
Not impossible though.
But perhaps the problem lies in the amount of content marketers produce.
With 16% of B2B marketers publishing new content daily and 26% putting out new stuff multiple times per week it’s easy to run out of ideas. After all, there are only so many topics your audience may find interesting.
Not to mention that given the effort required to produce each piece, marketers have less and less time to focus on each individual topic.
Or maybe it’s the lack of belief in their skills. Even though the confidence in content’s effectiveness is growing, many marketers still rate their efforts as only effective or even ineffective (source). And thus, they lack confidence in being able to engage the audience.
But what if the reason is that they focus on wrong metrics to establish engagement? And thus fail to notice trends they could base content ideas on.
The Trick with Measuring Engagement
Many marketers use only social sharing stats and the virality of content as engagement metrics.
But just as both can reveal a lot about your content, they don’t actually indicate if the audience found it relevant and engaging.
For instance, many people simply retweet posts because the headline caught their attention. As Tony Haile, the CEO of Chartbeat, a company that measures real time traffic for many sites noted:
“We’ve found effectively no correlation between social shares and people actually reading,”
Not to mention that as Twitter removed access to social sharing counts, these metrics might soon become redundant anyhow.
And so, you could say that the social success of your content might prove that you did a great job writing its headline. But does it indicate that the content engaged the audience…probably not.
So what metrics can verify whether the audience found the content engaging? Here are the ones I recommend to track:
Traffic. Monitor how many people read the content.
Time on Page and Bounce Rate. Check how long readers stay on the page. And does the content prompt them to visit other pages or they bounce right away after seeing just one page.
Conversions. You should also monitor how many people complete your desired action on the page.
New vs. Returning Visitors. Also, track how many people visit the content for the first time vs the number of visitors coming back after seeing other content in the past.
Sentiment. Yes, you should also monitor how people feel about the content. Do they share it with others using social sharing buttons on the page?
(Content virality report from GetSocial)
Or do they engage in the dark social sharing (i.e. instead of clicking on sharing buttons, they copy the URL and paste it into chat boxes, emails etc.)?
After all, a reader who actively copies your URL to forward it to someone indicates a positive sentiment towards it.
(Dark social sharing report from GetSocial. The data indicates the number of users manually copying and forwarding the content’s URL via live chat, email etc.)
OK Pawel, all great and dandy. I know how to measure engagement now. But how do I come up with content ideas that can truly engage my audience?
That’s actually quite simple.
And below is a list of ways you could use to find highly relevant and engaging content ideas.
1. Review Customers Support Tickets
No one knows your audience better than support agents.
They interact with customers on daily basis, hear their stories, learn about their challenges and problems.
And so, they could tell you a lot about what topics and content could engage your audience.
So, when looking for new content ideas, peek into the support tickets or talk to the support staff to find out:
What customers ask about. Could you answer any of those questions on the blog? Or maybe you could write dedicated guides or tutorials tackling those problems?
What they complain about. Any problems the audience has with using your product could form a basis for fantastic long form content, guides, tutorials, videos etc. too.
2. Interview Sales People
Support staff may have an in-depth knowledge about your current customers.
But no one understands your prospects’ needs better than your sales team.
Unlike customer service agents, sales guys build rapport and develop relations with prospects. And in turn they get a chance to learn about:
- Your prospects’ problems and pain points,
- How do they perceive those problems,
- What situations did they encounter those problems so far,
- What has prompted them to look for a solution, and
- How they deny the existance of the problem (and believe me, all of them do!),
So, schedule regular meetings with your sales team. Ask them to list everything they know about your prospects – who they are, why they would buy from you (and what could prevent them from doing so). Find out all the reasons they’ve become interested in your solution and most importantly, how sales people managed to build connection with them.
3. Flick Through Meeting Notes
I have a habit of taking notes at every meeting. It doesn’t matter if it’s an intro call with a prospect over Skype, a project update with a client or a meeting of the business mastermind group I’m part of, I always have my notebook open in front of me.
And I often peek into my notes for inspiration.
Because, you see, you may have scribbled some ingenious idea for content but no longer remember about it.
So flick through your notes. You may be surprised by what you may find there.
4. Scout Online Forums etc.
I bet you already know where your audience hangs out online.
And you know, these online properties are a true gold mine of content ideas. And to uncover them, you just need to keep an eye on questions that keep popping up.
TIP: Add these site’s RSS feeds to Feedly. It’s a free and super simple RSS reader that can help you keep track of what content the sites you monitor publish.
5. Research What Your Audience’s Looking for
Oh I admit:
Keyword research is so frickin boring!
I mean, sifting through hundreds of potential search phrases to find the one that’s highly popular and no one else targets it yet… MAN!
But you’re not an SEO. You don’t need to worry about things like search traffic volume, Adwords competition level or keyword trends.
You can use keyword research just to see what your audience is searching for.
Tools like keywordtool.io allow to run quick keyword search for suggestions of terms relevant to your topic people have searched for.
Here’s an example:
6. Monitor the Audience on Quora
Quora is one of the best places to get into your audience’s mind.
The site allows you to monitor prospects as they ask questions relating to what you do…
…And in turn, find out exactly what information they lack!
You could use Quora in 2 ways:
Check what your audience asks about.
Or ask them what they’d need to know directly.
7. See What’s Popular
Finally, check what topics your audience found engaging recently.
Use apps like Buzzsumo to find the best performing content on blogs your audience would follow.
But instead of searching for topics, use the tool to review specific sites. You’ll quickly find out what topics resonate with your audience.
However, when using this method, remember that what has worked for others might not necessarily work for you. So use the Buzzsumo technique only to gather ideas for further research, rather than create a definite list of topics guaranteed to engage your audience.