By James Anderson, from Online Marketing Blog – TopRank® –

Content marketing is a tactic that requires research, testing and then a strategy on how to proceed. A lot of businesses tried content marketing for the first time in 2014. Those who didn’t see the results they were looking for shouldn’t rush to throw in the towel.

A Google search for the words ‘content marketing’ pulls up some 355 million results. Narrow that search down to just the past year and the results are around 311 million. That’s a lot of new information out there for people who are just getting started in content marketing.

Even if you include the exact phrase “Content Marketing” (not just one word or the other) you’ll find about 4.2 million results over the past year alone.

Any organization launching a content marketing plan in 2014 was sure to find countless best practices, tactics, tips and tricks online to help them get started. Some of these practices of course are better than others, and tips and tricks are sometimes only as good as the sources from which they are found.

If your content marketing program didn’t see the results you had hoped this past year, you’re not alone. Only 44% of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy according to the 2014 Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs 2014 annual Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report. If you didn’t have a strategy in place, or if your strategy didn’t satisfy your expectations, here are a few things to consider that could improve your next campaign.

You didn’t answer a question

Consumers — whether B2C or B2B — were looking online to find the answer to a question. They found a pain point in their daily lives and they looked to the internet for a solution. A B2C consumer may have been looking for a pair of pants or a new computer. They had specific questions and they turned to a search engine for answers.

The same can be said for B2B consumers. They wanted to know which accounting software to use for their business, so they rang up a Google search to find out.

In both cases, these consumers searched for answers to questions. Was your content there to provide these answers? If you published content on accounting software, but all it entailed was an extensive product description, then you probably missed out on customers.

Instead, be the useful answer to your customers questions. If your content included an example of why your accounting software is a good fit for business owners, then chances are you piqued more interest online. Answering questions is key to any content strategy.

Your content didn’t find an audience

Content produced but not optimized sometimes doesn’t go anywhere. You may have great content, but if you’re putting it out on your company blog and it’s not optimized for search, it may not be found.

Always optimize your content. Know how your customers find information about what concerns them. Whether that is a Google search or through social media, understand how to connect with your consumers, engage them with content, then inspire them towards purchase. Heidi Cohen has a great post here about content marketing optimization.

You ignored them once they got there

Seeing clicks come in is great. Likely someone in your organization is going to measure the success of your content marketing campaign on how much traffic was brought to your site. But if that is the primary measurement of a campaign’s success, it’s quite shortsighted. Only 57% of B2B marketers named web traffic as their organization’s goal for content marketing.

Know how to convert your visitors to buyers. More importantly, know how long it takes, and what the conversion process entails. Once visitors come to your blog or company website they need to know what to do next. Are you nurturing these leads with more content and calls to action? Make sure your visitors can answer other questions and see more content that drives them further through the purchase cycle.

Every successful content marketer has encountered a few fails along the way. In the earlier days of  this blog, TopRank Online Marketing staff for a time only talked about their own services and offerings. “Our content was about our expertise,” CEO Lee Odden said. “It was pointing back to our product and services cases. Engagement went down significantly. When we started to tell stories related to experiences, engagement increased.”

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