The Definitive Guide To Content Management for Small Businesses

Content marketing is a term most CMOs are intimately familiar with. Marketers know that particularly in highly-competitive industries, the right content can be the key to generating qualified leads and increasing sales. However, as the chief marketing officer for your organization, your responsibilities go far beyond simply your organic content strategy.

While planning your content marketing strategy will certainly be under your purview, it’s only one component under the marketing “umbrella.” Depending on the size of your organization, you are also likely responsible for:

  • Budgeting for all marketing, advertising and PR efforts
  • Overseeing all marketing activities, including both inbound and traditional advertising methods
  • Paid advertising: social ads, display ads, text ads, etc.
  • Market research
  • Coming up with pricing strategies
  • Planning and overseeing live events like product launches and special promotions

This guide will focus specifically on the content management piece of your marketing strategy. It will walk you through exactly what you need to know about your organization’s content, including how to know whether or not your content is helping you meet your organization’s goals. We will cover a variety of topics, including:

What is content management?
Are content marketing and content management one and the same?
Choosing the right content management system (CMS) for your organization.
How to budget for content management.
The 4 stages of the content lifecycle.
How to calculate the ROI of your content.
How to get content marketing buy-in from your CEO.

What is content management?

Strictly speaking, content management is defined as “the administration of digital content throughout its lifecycle, from creation to permanent storage or deletion.” Content management encompasses all the tasks and strategies involved across this lifecycle, including:

  • Budgeting for content, and calculating ROI on content marketing efforts.
  • Choosing a content management system.
  • Planning what types of content are needed, and who will be responsible for its creation and maintenance.
  • Developing a content marketing strategy.
  • Planning for content distribution, promotion, and eventual retirement or archival storage.

To backtrack a little, the content lifecycle is typically broken down into 3 main stages: creation, publication, and management. As you can see in this diagram from Prescient Digital, these stages can be broken down further to include all aspects of content management, including budgeting and governance, utilizing keywords and meta data, and reviewing the maintenance of your content.

As CMO, your content manager likely handles the day-to-day tasks related to content maintenance. He or she will likely be responsible for writing or outsourcing content, tracking standard engagement and consumption metrics (pageviews, social media shares, etc.), and deciding when it’s time to retire or archive content. Overseeing the content maintenance process will likely fall on you, as will budgeting and ROI calculations. And ultimately, it will be your responsibility to prove to your CEO or executive committee that your content strategy is working.

For the purposes of this article we will focus on 4 stages:

  • Creation: Including content budgeting, choosing marketing personas, and finding topics for your content.
  • Distribution: Through all 3 marketing channels, owned, earned and paid media.
  • Maintenance and ROI: How to organize and maintain content, and how to know if your content is helping you meet your business goals.
  • Archive or removal: How to know when it’s time to remove or retire old content.

First things first: Are content marketing and content management one and the same?

As we discuss budgeting, ROI and gaining buy-in for your content management strategy, you’ll notice the use of the terms “content marketing” and “content management,” interchangeably. While they differ in many respects, there are many more ways in which they overlap. Take content creation, for instance: it will obviously be an integral part of content marketing, but it will also be the foundation of the content lifecycle (which clearly falls into the realm of content management).

One way to differentiate between the two is to ask, “Which one could exist without the other?” The answer to this question is content management: content can be created for many reasons (for internal education, formalizing processes, etc.), that have nothing to do with marketing. However, for the purposes of this article, I will be referring to web-based content (blog posts, social media content, white papers, etc.), that helps an organization engage with their audience. For this reason, I will continue to use the terms interchangeably; just keep in mind that outside the confines of this guide, the two may have different meanings.

Choosing the right content management system (CMS) for your organization

This is a more complex topic than can be covered and understood in one guide. However, we will briefly cover some of the major considerations to keep in mind when choosing a content management system (CMS) for your organization. Your CMS is what will allow all members of your organization to access, modify, and manage your organization’s web-based content. It should be differentiated from enterprise content management (ECM), which is another term for content management.

Content management systems vary greatly in terms of price and features, so it can be difficult to know which systems are right for your organization. The main function of your CMS will be to make the creation, editing, and maintenance of your content easy for all users: this includes authors, editors, your content manager, etc.

Choosing the right CMS for your organization will likely be one of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make over your tenure as CMO. Besides the significant costs associated with purchasing and maintaining a CMS, you’ll also be responsible for determining whether or not your system will scale to fit your organization’s needs in the future.

Some of the more popular content management systems that are used by small to mid-sized organizations are WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and Magento for e-commerce sites. For enterprise-level organizations, Drupal and WordPress are popular open-source choices options. Kentico is also a widely-used enterprise-class CMS, with 74 Fortune 500 companies now using the platform.

While your budget will need to accommodate any CMS you choose, keep in mind that the costs will go beyond just the initial purchase and setup expenses. You will also need to consider any costs associated with customizing your CMS, as well as monthly maintenance fees. These costs can range significantly, so be sure to factor these into your decision.

The following examines 4 questions to consider as you evaluate various content management systems:

  1. Is it actually necessary to purchase a new CMS? At times you may be able to take certain steps, such as properly archiving old content, that may lessen your need to invest in a new CMS.
  2. Do we want an open source or propriety CMS? Perhaps, not surprisingly, the most popular platforms are open source. While a proprietary CMS will cost you more right out of the gate, keep in mind you may save money over the long term by having increased functionality and built-in technical support. If you’re looking for an enterprise content management system, you may need the increased functionality of a licensed CMS like Kentico.
  3. Will this CMS scale to enable our organization to grow, without the need to switch to a new CMS? The costs of training your staff on a new CMS can be substantial. Make sure you’re choosing a CMS that can grow with your company’s needs.
  4. Will users at all levels or our organization have the capability to use this particular CMS? How intuitive is the interface? Having a powerful CMS is important, but this needs to be balanced with usability.

Budgeting for content management

As mentioned above, your responsibilities as CMO go beyond simply managing your content. Although your content marketing strategy will be a critical part of your overall marketing strategy, it’s still only that – a part.

The key to the success of your content maintenance strategy will be alloting the appropriate portion of your marketing budget to the creation and distribution of your content. This goes beyond simply designating funds for the actual writing or sharing of this content. Costs you will need to factor in include:

  • Salary and benefits for your content manager and SEO manager. You may also need to factor in costs related to recruiting or advertising for these roles.
  • The actual creation of content, if this is being outsourced to freelance writers.
  • The purchase and maintenance of your organization’s content management system (CMS).
  • The costs related to maintaining the company website; may also include any updates or revamps of site. This will include less significant costs such as web hosting and domain registration, and larger expenses such as web design and programming costs.
  • The planning of events and product launches.
  • The creation of custom graphics or videos, if outsourced.
  • Usability testing to ensure your website is performing optimally.
  • Paid advertising, whether that’s social ads, display ads, or traditional advertising options like magazine or radio ads.

As you have undoubtedly noticed, it’s difficult to allocate funds specifically to content management. Content management overlaps significantly with other departments, personnel and assets. Likely, the costs associated with content management will be wrapped up into your content marketing budget; and if you don’t have a specific budget for content marketing, the costs will likely end up being part of your general marketing budget. Regardless of how these costs get accounted for, it’s most important that you’re aware of the costs of content management, and have the necessary funds to support it.

The average spend on content marketing is 28%; however the most effective marketers spend an average of 42% of their marketing budget on content.

A common challenge for CMOs is convincing boards and CEOs of the necessity of a content marketing budget (of which content management will be a part). According to the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report, businesses allocate an average of 28% of their overall marketing budget to content marketing. While this may seem high, consider this finding from the same report: “the most effective marketers allocate 42% of their budget to content marketing, and organizations with sophisticated content marketing strategies spend up to 46% of their overall marketing budget. Furthermore, an estimated 51% of all B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing spend in the coming year.” Clearly, B2B businesses have become increasingly aware of the benefits of a content marketing strategy, and are willing to invest accordingly.

Stages of content management

The following section will guide you in detail through the 4 stages of the content lifecycle: creation, distribution, maintenance and retirement. While you likely won’t be responsible for the day-to-day tasks related to your content, it’s important to have an intimate understanding of how content functions throughout its lifecycle.

Stage 1: Content creation

If you work for a large organization, you likely have a dedicated content manager and/or team to oversee the creation and curation of your online content. However, even in small organizations, it’s not unheard of for the chief marketing offer to be responsible for outsourcing this task.

In any case, as CMO, it’s important to understand the current landscape in terms of content creation. Everyone, it seems, has jumped on the content marketing bandwagon, creating content about everything — and nothing. According to the 2015 B2B Content Marketing Trends report70% of marketers are planning to create more content than they did last year. If this trend continues, the sheer volume of content that will exist in 5 years from now will be astronomical.
Despite this increased investment in content creation, research shows that the vast majority of content that gets published online gets little to no traction. This is a serious wakeup call for content managers and CMOs: if your content isn’t hitting the mark in terms of social shares, links and conversions, you will have a difficult time maintaining resources for your content marketing efforts.

Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to make sure your content meets the needs and interests of your target market. This next section will look at how to figure out who you’re writing for and how to find compelling ideas for your content to give it the best chance of getting traction.

Writing for your target market: Defining your personas

Your marketing personas are at the very heart of all your marketing efforts. Typically, a persona will encompass all the traits and aspects of one individual customer or reader – often your ideal customer or client.

Sample buyer persona

Nowadays, there are no rules when it comes to defining your buyer or reader personas. You can include as much or as little information as you want, including any combination of factors that would be helpful when writing your content. Some areas you could focus on include:

  • Age and gender
  • Occupation
  • Financial situation
  • Location
  • Marital/family status
  • Patterns of behavior
  • Personal motivations or aspirations

Having a reader persona in mind during the content creation process helps in a number of ways. First, it allows you to focus on the needs, interests, and desires of your target market. As you’re writing or curating content, you will want do so with the thought, “How is this helping my readers?”

Second, it helps to personalize your writing style. Writing for a faceless crowd of generic readers can result in dry, boring content. Because you don’t have a clear idea of who you’re writing for, your content can come across as impersonal or irrelevant.

There’s a good chance that you’ll have more than one persona. Readers come to your website at different stages of the buying cycle, and a good content strategy will take these different personas  into account. For instance, some visitors will find your site through searching for keywords with high purchase intent (e.g., “Buy Timex watch online”), while others may find your content during the research stage (e.g., “What are the best men’s watches?”). The personas you’ll use for these different types of content will likely vary.

Finding topics for your content

Once you know who you’re writing for, finding suitable topics becomes somewhat easier. When you approach the content creation process with your personas in mind, your ability to select engaging topics improves. That said, there will always be pressure to find unique topics that haven’t been covered a thousand times before. This section will suggest some effective strategies for finding engaging, original topics. Although content creation will typically be outsourced or carried out by your content manager, as CMO, it’s important to have a solid understanding of how to source engaging topics.

1. Find trending topics on social bookmarking sites

Sites like Reddit and Digg can be a treasure trove of content ideas – particularly searching through relevant subreddits to find popular and trending topics. You can use what you find in a number of ways: Obviously, you can share this content directly with your audience on social media. However, it may be preferable to create your own spinoff content that references these popular posts.

For instance, look at the recipes from subreddit. You’ll find a thread where users can ask cooking related questions. Looking through these questions, you’ll find common questions that can be answered via a blog post, or even by compiling a number of related questions into a more comprehensive guide or eBook. In other words, you are looking for and filling a genuine need for your personas and followers.

2. Ask your front-line staff for FAQ’s

Your front-line staff are best able to identify common questions and issues your customers or clients have. Ask your sales team, customer service reps, and even your receptionist or VA what questions come up during the course of a regular day. Some questions you can focus on include:

  • What are the biggest concerns our customers have about our industry?
  • What are the most common pain points for which our customers have asked for help?
  • What topics seem to come up frequently in your conversations with your customer base?
  • Are there any “hot topics” that come up frequently?

Once you’ve compiled a list of questions, you can use them to generate new content ideas. Having a prominent FAQ section on your site is always a good idea, but you can also use what you’ve learned to write new blog posts or even to add entirely new categories or tags to your site.

3. Keyword research

You’ve already engaged in keyword research to find relevant phrases to use in your content. But do you use that keyword research to find broader themes or topics for your new content? Most writers and content managers go about the process backwards: first they come up with a topic, then they use keyword tools to find popular, low competition phrases to incorporate into their content.

A better strategy may be to consider entering a broad topic into your favorite keyword tool, and then find long tail phrases you can use as a starting points for a new piece of content. For instance, typing “graphic design” into Google’s Keyword Planner, you’ll see a number of longer phrases that could be great starting points for new content, including “Reddit graphic design.” (see screenshot above.)

I also recommend using Searchmetric’s Content Optimization tool to show you which keywords a particular page should contain if you hope to rank for a certain topic. For instance, as you can see in the screenshot below, the key phrase “online invoicing,” has been plugged in. According to this report, others who are ranking in this niche are also using keywords like “software,” and “billing.”

4. Mine audience comments

Take a look at comments your visitors have left on your blog and see if you can identify any trends. You can also visit other blogs in your niche to see what comments they’ve been receiving. Use these comments to spur ideas for a new blog post, eBook, or even a whitepaper.

A favorite place to find FAQ’s from an audience is on social media. Scrolling through a personal Facebook “Posts to Page,” and Twitter mentions often helps identify new topics or themes you would have never thought of otherwise. You can even use screenshots of the actual post or tweet as part of your blog post (with permission).

5. Engage in social media monitoring

As much as we would like to think that all relevant industry conversations are taking place on our social media properties, this isn’t the case. Social media monitoring not only allows you to see what people are saying about your products or brand, it can help you identify common industry-related questions or issues.

Hootsuite keyword search

Tools like Social Mention and Hootsuite let you search blog and social media posts for questions, keywords and hashtags. Take special note of questions that come up on a regular basis, and of popular hashtags that your target market is using. These can give you important insights into the mindset of your audience.

6. Dig into your analytics

Your own analytics can be a goldmine for new content ideas. Looking at your most popular content can spark ideas for new blog posts or spinoff posts. You can also evaluate top categories or tags to find broader themes that are of interest to your audience.

An underutilized report in Google Analytics is Content Drilldown. This allows you to sort your pages and posts by subfolders, showing your broad topics that tend to do well. Keep in mind that looking exclusively at page views can be misleading; try sorting by time on the page as well, to see which content keeps visitors interested for longer.

Site search is another way to find content ideas that you know your visitors are looking for. It will show you the most common queries your visitors have submitted, indicating which topics were either not available on your site, or were too difficult for your visitors to find.

Stage 2: Content promotion and distribution

As already mentioned above, getting traction for your content can be a serious challenge. Unfortunately, while many businesses realize the importance of content promotion, they just aren’t willing to invest in a distribution strategy. According to a survey by Altimeter, while 53% of marketers know content distribution is necessary, only 26% are willing to invest in it. Fortunately for you, knowing about this disconnect can give you a competitive edge.

When thinking about content distribution, we like to use the model of owned, earned, and paid media.

Image courtesy of Forrester Research

Owned media

Generally speaking, your primary focus should be on owned media: namely, your website, email list, and social media properties. These channels will allow you the most flexibility to communicate with your audience, and will usually result in the highest engagement and conversions.

1. Optimizing your content (SEO)

Utilizing on-page SEO strategies will be the starting point for distributing your website content. If you can get your content ranking for lucrative keyword phrases, there is some level of passivity to the continual distribution of that content (unlike your email list or social media, which require continual promotion through sharing excerpts and links).

Searchmetrics recently published their 2015 Search Ranking Factors and Ranking Correlations report, which provides insights into exactly which SEO strategies we should be using. The following are some of the most important tactics for ranking in Google:

  • Have a meta description: 99% of top ranking pages have a meta description. Remember that your description acts as your ad copy in the search results, so use your keywords and making them enticing!
  • Use H1 tags: 80% of top ranking pages use this tag. Include your most important keyword, as well as your company name for branding purposes.
  • Use H2 tags: Use these to show what your content is about in order to improve user experience and tell Google what your content is about.
  • Use internal links to guide users through your content: The actual number of links you use isn’t so important. Use internal links to provide relevant information and articles so your readers can easily find what they’re looking for (preferably on your site!).
  • Aim for a higher word count. The top 10 pages have an average word count of 1285 (up from 975 in 2014). But Google (and your readers) don’t just want more content for content’s sake. Focus on providing comprehensive coverage of the topic at hand, especially if you are using a topic for which your readers have asked.
  • Utilize your keywords in your content: Top ranking content uses the desired keyword an average of 8-10 times.
  • Use proof and relevant terms: These are words and phrases that show Google you’re doing a good job of covering the topic at hand. Proof terms are words that are almost always present when a particular keyword is used. (e.g., “food” will be necessary when talking about “cooking.”) Relevant terms, on the other hand, are words that are likely to be included. (e.g., “temperature,” “kitchen,” and “recipe.”)
  • Make sure your reading level is appropriate for your audience: The average Flesch reading ease score for high ranking content is 76. This indicates that content is relatively easy to understand and comprehend for the average reader. Make sure you’re focused on writing concisely and in plain language, rather than using difficult words just to impress your readers.

To find out which keywords  for which your content is currently ranking, it is recommend that you use Searchmetrics’ Rankings report. This tool gives you access to the top keywords your domain is ranking for, along with the corresponding URL and position in the SERPs. The ‘Long Tail’ report will also show you longer, more targeted phrases you can incorporate into your content.

2. Promoting your content to your email subscribers

All your marketing efforts should be focused on how to get readers, visitors, and followers into your marketing funnel; this funnel should end at your email list. Unlike other marketing channels, you own your email list, giving you continual access to an engaged audience.

Using an email marketing service like aWeber or Constant Contact is important for managing and tracking your email content distribution. Include links to recent blog posts, and offer free downloadable information products you’ve created. It is particularly effective to tell a story related to a recent blog post, then share an excerpt of the post with a “read more” link.

3. Distributing your content to your social media followers

This is self-explanatory, but sharing your content with your fans and followers is a key part of your distribution strategy. While Google has stated that social signals (“likes” and “shares” on social media) aren’t part of their algorithms, it certainly seems to bear out the fact that social sharing leads (indirectly) to increased rankings. We also know that one of the reasons people follow a company on social media is to receive interesting or entertaining content.

Make a point of regularly sharing your blog posts and other content with your fans and followers. Keep in mind that you can share the same content many times over. Due to Facebook’s filtered feed, and the fact that not all your followers will be online when you post or tweet, sharing content at strategic intervals is a must. In fact, using this strategy, CoSchedule was able to quadruple their traffic. (see above for their exact strategy and results.)

Earned media

Earned media is much harder to control, however, you can certainly optimize for it. Unlike owned media, earned media relies on others sharing and promoting your content for you. Think of it as online word of mouth. If people like what they find on your owned channels, they will share it, extending your reach and “earning” you distribution. Viral content is a great example of earned media.

To give your content the best chance at getting shared, try the following proven strategies:

  • Ask people to share your content. This works well on all networks, but particularly on Twitter. Posts that say “Please ReTweet” get retweeted an average of 51% of the time.
  • Use images in your posts. Looking at the top 10% of Facebook posts, Socialbakers found that posts with photos received 87% of total interactions.
  • If you want more social shares, promote your content heavily on Facebook. According to research by ShareThis, a whopping 81% of all social sharing happens on Facebook.
  • Use social sharing buttons on your site. Make social sharing easy by having “share” icons next to every piece of content on your site.
  • Evoke positive emotions: People prefer to share content that’s likely to make others happy. The top 3 emotions you should try to evoke are awe, laughter and amusement.

Knowing how your content is performing on social media can be a challenge, particularly if you’re promoting the same piece on a number of different sites. Searchmetrics’ Social Links report gives you access to your social media visibility, as well as your social spread: an overview of how many links you’ve accumulated on each social network . This can give you important insights into which networks work best for getting traction for your content.

Getting free PR for your content can also help you extend your reach. Using a free service like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) can help you get national attention for your website and content, as well as earn you valuable links.

Paid media

Using paid media as a supplementary strategy for content distribution is strongly recommend. Here is an example of supplementary strategy: Generally speaking, don’t pay to promote content unless it’s already proven to be successful with your audience. Once you’ve seen a piece of content hit the mark with your audience (owned) or via social shares (earned), paying for additional distribution carries far less risk.

Social advertising is one of the most effective ways to extend the reach of your content. Most social networking sites now provide ways to get your posts in front of a targeted audience: Facebook and Twitter offer promoted posts, LinkedIn offers sponsored updates, and even Instagram will soon be opening up sponsored images to all users.

Promoted tweet. Image courtesy of Twitter

Other paid media options include:

  • PPC ads: Google AdWords, Facebook ads, etc.
  • Paying social media influencers to mention, link to, or share your content.
  • Banner ads on niche sites.
  • Ads on social bookmarking sites like Reddit or StumbleUpon.
  • Using a content distribution network like Revcontent.

Stage 3: Content maintenance

Content maintenance isn’t a topic that gets the attention it deserves. Content creation and distribution are much sexier, it seems; perhaps because they’re more clearly tied to results and revenue. However, properly maintaining your content can also have significant impact on your bottom line.

Web content maintenance is simply the process of keeping content fresh, up to date and ranking highly. It’s taking the time to nurture old content so it continually meets your goals, rather than having to constantly create new content. This section will outline some of the main strategies you should be using as part of an effective content maintenance strategy.

How to organize and retrieve content

Most content management systems will do a great job of allowing you to keep track of your content. Take WordPress as an example: Through accessing your online dashboard, any member of your organization can easily find, sort, or edit all your existing website content. (depending on the permissions you have put in place, of course.) Content will automatically be organized into posts or pages, and you can even set up an editorial calendar using a plugin like Edit Flow.

Sample content inventory

Although your CMS will do most of the heavy lifting, having a content inventory can also be extremely useful for scheduling regular content maintenance. Content inventory can also help you track and maintain content that isn’t hosted on your website, like eBooks, whitepapers, email templates, etc. Typically you’ll just use an excel spreadsheet, organized into the following columns:

  • Content title
  • URL
  • Date it was created
  • Date when it needs to be updated (particularly important for content that uses time-sensitive data or stats)
  • Date when it was updated
  • Who’s responsible for updating it
  • How it’s being used (blog post, eBook, email, etc.)

Best practices for updating and revamping old content

Creating a steady stream of new, unique content, can be a challenge. One of the best ways to save time and resources when it comes to content creation is by updating and revamping old content. Of course, knowing which content is worth this investment of time, effort, and money is part of the challenge.

Generally speaking, nurture content that is helping you (or has helped you) meet a particular goal in a big way, is the type of content that you may want to repurpose. It could be that a particular piece of content is receiving good search or referral traffic, but may need some updating. Or maybe it’s an older piece of content that just needs some updated on-page SEO in order to rank again. Whatever the case, there are a number of best practices to keep in mind as you revamp your content.

1. Get your on-page SEO up to date. Listed above are some key SEO strategies. If you have a high quality piece of content that just isn’t getting the search traffic it deserves, optimizing it and then giving it a boost of distribution via your email list or social media may do the trick.

2. Make sure all time-sensitive references are up to date. Content that includes research, data or statistics should be updated regularly. If you’re not going to keep a post up to date, consider linking it to a more recent, updated post to provide the most timely and accurate information possible.

3. If your content is still ranking well, be careful when amending it. If you need to update a piece of content that’s still generating good search traffic, keep on-page SEO elements as static as possible. This includes your URL and URL structure, headings, keywords in content, and alt image tags and captions.

4. Use tools to improve your writing. If your content is generally sound and up-to-date, but needs some grammar help, use a tool like Grammarly to spot and fix existing mistakes in your content. You may also want to run your content through a tool like Readability Score to make sure it’s easy to understand and meets the readability level of your audience.

5. Check the mobile usability of your page. Content from more than 2-3 years ago may not have been written with mobile users in mind. As mobile usability is now a signifiant ranking factor, ensure your page meets the basic standards of mobile accessibility. Use a tool like PageSpeed Insights to see how quickly your page loads, and use Google’s Mobile-Friendly test to see if your page’s design and elements are mobile friendly.

6. Add elements of interest. Adding quotes, data, images or useful external links can go a long way to improving a piece of content. We also know that Google loves supplementary content, so adding reviews and ratings, maps, calculators and related content widgets can help with rankings as well as usability.

7. Repurpose your content. This goes beyond simply re-sharing or re-promoting old content. One piece of content can serve many different purposes over the years. While the actual content of a piece may stay the same, the delivery format will change. There are conceivably unlimited ways you can repurpose a piece of content, including:

  • Packaging up old blog posts into a topical eBook
  • Taking excerpts of blog posts and sharing them in image quotes on social media
  • Turning an old email newsletter into a new blog post
  • Turning an old blog post into a new email newsletter
  • Using an old recorded interview as a free downloadable opt-in incentive
  • Turing an old slideshow into an infographic
  • Using an older webinar recording as a tutorial

Stage 4: Retiring your content

Creating good content is time-consuming and costly, and I hate to see good value go down the drain. In my opinion, the vast majority of content is worth salvaging, even if it’s poorly written or not getting any search traffic. There was probably a good reason why that content was written in the first place; usually to help you accomplish a specific goal.

Most of the time, using the 7 strategies can give your old content a new lease on life, driving future traffic and revenue. However, in rare circumstances it’s advisable to simply retire (delete) old content. One valid reason to delete a page is if you’ve received a thin content manual action from Google. Thin content may be automatically generated content, doorway pages or scraped pages. It can also simply be really poor-quality content. In most cases, these types of pages or posts should be deleted in order to get the penalty removed. This is particularly important if the penalty is site-wide (meaning your whole site is suffering the impact of the penalty).

There is also the matter of expired content. This is content that, for whatever reason, is no longer relevant or accurate. This is a common issue for e-commerce sites that still receive traffic to product pages (where that product is no longer available), or for sites that have time-limited offerings or listings (for instance a sale or paid business listing). In these cases, deleting or redirecting the content to another page is the preferred way to go.

For content that still receives search or referral traffic, I would recommend editing the page to direct readers and visitors to a more relevant page. This ensures you keep the benefits of your rankings, but that you also provide the best possible information to your visitors. Make sure you clearly state that the current page is out of date, but that relevant content can be accessed elsewhere on your site. Be sure to provide a direct link to the new content.

Calculating ROI for content management

Now we arrive at the heart of the matter: determining how to measure whether your content management and marketing is working. Calculating the ROI for your content management will be an important task on many levels. Not only will it allow you to allocate sufficient resources to the process, it will be the major factor in getting buy-in from your CEO for your content marketing strategy .

Measuring ROI is a challenge, even for the most sophisticated marketers. In fact, 52% of B2B marketers say that measuring ROI is one of their biggest content marketing challenges. Part of the challenge is simply coming up with a consistent plan for which metrics you’re going to track; once you’ve narrowed down which KPIs and metrics you’re going to track, you can reliably calculate whether your efforts are working or not.

Image courtesy of Jay Baer

According to Jay Baer of Convince and Convert, there are 4 key content metrics that CMOs and content managers should be tracking:

  1. Consumption metrics: How many people consumed your content? This can be quantified by analyzing pageviews, Facebook post reach, email opens, downloads, etc.
  2. Sharing metrics: Just as it sounds, these are social media shares. How many people are liking, retweeting, sharing, and linking to your content?
  3. Lead generation metrics: These are metrics that track how often your content is directly resulting in a lead. This could be a signup form, email opt-in, quote request, etc.
  4. Sales metrics: These are the metrics that are (or should) be quantifiable, and should be factored into ROI. These reveal which content directly resulted in a sale.

Keep in mind that not all metrics will be quantifiable, and may not factor into ROI calculations. For instance, a metric like lead quality will be an extremely important signal of the effectiveness of your content, however it’s not possible to incorporate this into your ROI calculations. For this reason, ROI should not be considered in a vacuum; it’s imperative that it’s always considered alongside softer metrics like social shares, links, and lead quantity.

While you might assume that sales and conversions are the most telling metrics in determining the success of your content, it’s interesting to note that B2B enterprise marketers (with more than 1,000 employees) believe engagement is actually the primary goal of their content. This is followed closely by sales (81%) and lead generation (79%) (source). This underlines the point made above: resist the urge to consider ROI independently of other, non-quantifiable metrics like lead quality and audience engagement.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, the most important metrics used by all B2B content marketers (not just enterprise-class marketers) are:

  • Sales lead quality (31%)
  • Sales (23%)
  • Higher conversions (9%)
  • Sales lead quantity (7%)
  • Brand lift (6%)
  • Website traffic (5%)
  • Subscriber growth (3%)
  • SEO ranking (3%)
  • Other (13%)

As you can see, most of these metrics cannot be tied directly to ROI. So, how do you accurately calculate whether your content management efforts are effective? As already mentioned, the metrics and process you use aren’t as important as consistently tracking and benchmarking over time. That said, a basic ROI calculation would look like this:

(Revenue attributable to content – cost of creating content) / cost of creating content = content marketing ROI

This calculation assumes you can track which specific pieces of content are consumed along the path to purchase, and that you consistently attribute a dollar value to non-quantifiable metrics. Keep in mind that not assigning a dollar value to certain metrics can also be acceptable; just be sure your calculation remains consistent for each tracking period.

How to get content management buy-in from your CEO

If your CEO already understands the value content brings to your organization, proposing budget increases won’t be quite as challenging. However, in many cases, CEOs want to see past performance before they allocate resources to content marketing and management. Unfortunately, this can be difficult if you haven’t been consistently tracking metrics or ROI; and it can be nearly impossible if you haven’t previously invested in a formal content strategy.

Following is a 3 step process for laying the groundwork for increased buy-in for your content management strategy.

1. Provide industry stats

For CEOs or executives who remain unconvinced of the widespread use or effectiveness of content marketing, here are some powerful statistics taken from the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Trends report.

  • 88% of marketers use content marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy. Content marketing here is defined as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
  • 80% of B2B marketers have a content marketing strategy. Of these, 32% have a documented strategy.
  • 76% of marketers say they will produce more content in 2016.
  • B2B businesses in 2015 allocated an average of 28% of the total marketing budget to their content marketing efforts.

Whether you’re proposing an increase in the content marketing budget, or simply want to justify your current investment in content marketing, make sure to come armed with the latest industry facts to support your proposal.

2. Provide past metrics and ROI (if possible)

If you’ve been tracking the performance of your content, now is the time to compile and present those results in a way that shows how content marketing and management contributes to the bottom line. Be sure to present soft data like social media likes and shares, but more importantly, connect content to specific business outcomes.

Your ROI calculations will be most important here, but remember to also personalize your proposal by sharing specific case studies. Show how existing content helped the organization meet a specific goal; if possible, outline the ROI of a specific piece of content and explain how these results can be scaled.

You may also want to consider playing the competition card: Share how content marketing is helping your competitors meet their goals. Be sure to share your plan for how your organization can use content marketing with even greater success.

3. Counter common objections

There are a number of objections CEOs and executives commonly make about content marketing, regardless of organization size. Understanding these objections and being able to counter them with well-reasoned responses can make all the difference.

The following are some of the most common objections we see to getting buy-in from your CEO:

We don’t want to invest unless we can accurately measure results“: As discussed above, calculating ROI can be a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. Remember that the exact calculations you use are not as important as the consistency of your reporting. So long as you’re tracking the same metrics over time, you should be able to accurately gauge how your content is performing.

We don’t want to invest fully until we see results.” Consider launching a pilot content management/marketing project. Keep in mind that content marketing can take time to work, so you may not see the full results of your efforts right away. For this reason, use the pilot to launch content that can be tied directly to results in a short period of time. This might include well-optimized sales pages and emails where leads and sales can be easily measured. Once you’ve been able to prove the effectiveness of your content in the short term, you may be able to get increased buy-in for a full-scale content marketing strategy.

Content marketing doesn’t work in our industry.” There’s a common misconception that content marketing is best left to certain types of businesses. However, content can be used successfully in virtually any industry, so long as the focus is on providing informative, valuable insights to your target market. Here are 8 organizations in various industries who are seeing the results of their content marketing efforts.

Conclusion

Having a solid content management process in place will help ensure your content is being used effectively throughout its lifecycle. As CMO, your key responsibility will be to accurately measure and track how that content is being used at each stage, and to encourage buy-in from your CEO and executive committee. Hopefully this guide has given you a framework you can work within and use to successfully manage and scale your organization’s content management process, both now, and well into the future.

John Rampton :Best known as an Entrepreneur and Connector. John was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine as well as a blogging expert by Forbes. He is the Founder and CEO of Due.