How can we [publishers] keep readers engaged?

2016-05-03 10:27


“It seems that more brands are simply "publishing" because they can and feel they should, instead of executing a strategic plan over time ." - Joe Pullizi, author of Content Inc.

In the digital marketing industry, both in South Africa and abroad, we so often see publishing companies failing abysmally in their execution of their content marketing strategy. Blog posts are left unread, links left unclicked and communities ultimately left unengaged. While advances in content analytics means that it is no longer excusable to ignore badly performing content it seems that some companies are still readily falling into the trap.

So how should publishers work towards that elusive viral formula, "Clickability X Shareability X Distribution"? To get the process going, here a few steps to start implementing:

Don’t move a finger without a planned content strategy

Research shows that those with a well-thought out and pre-planned content strategy are more likely to succeed against business objectives. While you may think you have a content strategy, those passing words or brief brainstorm over a cuppa doesn’t count. Content marketing is far from the thumb suck that so many treat it as. A well planned content strategy needs extensive audience research as well as decisions extracted and guided by data collected - these need to be then written down and visualised. Most importantly, your content strategy needs to align with business objectives, from which KPIs can be tracked and reported on.

Source: (Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs)

What’s more, you’ll need to actually follow that strategy. This means reviewing your content strategy on an ongoing basis to figure out what’s performing and what isn’t, and why not. Content analytics, as mentioned before, should play a paramount role in this process.

Joe Pulizzi, author of Content Inc, swears by having a content strategy. In his words, “Creating and then reviewing a documented content marketing strategy, are the critical aspects that separate the struggling from the great content marketers. “

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Create a list of topics that are relevant to your industry
  • What phrases or keywords are people using when they discuss this topic?
  • What questions are people asking? More importantly, what's not being covered?
  • Find industry-leaders and network with them, promote their content to begin with.

Your content team and your SEO team need to be working together

We’ve repeated it time and time again – and we won’t stop. Good quality content is no longer enough. While it is required, it’s not enough to boost your site’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) ranking and certainly not enough to drive organic traffic. We’ve broken it down into a few easy to follow steps to help you better optimise your content:

1. Backlinks are a must-have

Be sure that your content is backlinking to several sites – especially those with a ton of site authority in the eyes of search engines. Backlinks are links that are directed toward your website, from another website. Research has shown that the amount of backlinks directly correlates to the amount of organic traffic a page receives – the more backlinks, the more traffic. Easy, right?


Unfortunately, it’s a little trickier than it looks but there are several strategies out there for successfully gaining backlinks to your site. It’s all about making sure your content is not only of a good quality, but being promoted too. You’re going to have to put yourself out there a little.

2. Content needs to be driven by keywords

At the end of the day, keywords are what you are going to rank for and what really matters in the eyes of search engines. If you haven’t already selected a series of keywords that you aim to rank for, then we suggest you follow this nifty little guide. Once you’ve chosen your keywords, there are only a few places within your content structure that you can place them to maximise their potential.

  • In the title/headline of the article
  • In the URL string of the article
  • Inside your meta description
  • Once or twice inside the body of the article
  • Image optimisation in file name and alt text
  • Social optimisation using Facebook Opengraph

Wordpress makes the entire process pretty easy for both the advanced and amateur content creator to follow.

3. Now promote your content!

For your SEO to be successful, you need to make sure you are promoting your content. Remember though that ranking in SERPS isn’t something that will happen immediately. It’s a long-tail process and will ultimately take a couple of months for any page to take off. This means you’ll need to give your content the first push it needs to make sure it gets out there.

By getting your content onto social media platforms, you will not only drive engagement but also up your chances of getting an extra backlink or two – and we all know how important those are.

But you’ll also need to put a little more work into it. Whatever your area of expertise or interest is, be sure to find forums of thought-leaders or those already in the industry to distribute or post your content to. Personally, we’ve found LinkedIn very useful in this respect.

Remember – while social shares aren’t a Google ranking factor, they do have an impact on a page's SERP. This is because pages with more social shares tend to receive more backlinks and thus rank higher.


Is your content ‘shareable’?

If your content isn’t worth sharing, then it really isn’t worth much. If it is however worth sharing, then you will see the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy flourish. The moment a viewer clicks that share button, your audience increases exponentially.

So how do you ensure that you are producing content that is shareable? Well first you’ll need to make sure you know who your target audience is. Knowing your audience is the first step in knowing why they’d share something – why are they interested in what you have to say?

The New York Times recently released a study into the psychology of social sharing, asking the question on all of our minds –why do people share? They broke it down into five basic motivations:

  • To bring valuable and entertaining content to others
  • To define ourselves to others
  • To grow and nourish our relationships
  • Self-fulfilment
  • To get the word out about causes or brands

They also went one step further and broke down the sharing population into six personas.

So when you're next typing away at your latest blogpost, take a moment to consider - why would someone share this? If you can't answer that question, then you may as well 'select all' and 'delete'.

It's a little bit of sad truth, but it's one that companies - especially publishers- need to consider.

PS, we use to track our on-site sharing. A bit pricey for the small business but at enterprise level it definitely needs to be in your armoury of toolsets.

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