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When we think about 'good’ content, we might think about high numbers of views, clicks and likes. A written piece which creates conversation or debate, or a video memorable enough to stick for days or weeks. In one word, we think about the illusive, but all-too-frequently-hailed engagement.
These are worthwhile goals to reach for as part of a holistic strategy, but engagement on its own begs the question of 'so what?'. If there's no intention or call to action in a piece of content, it won't support lead generation, increase a sales funnel, boost search engine ranking - or achieve any other much-coveted result.
'Vanity metrics' aside, the difference is that engagement is led by research; action is led by insights.
So the solution? Steering content back to the beginning and keeping insight as the driving factor for all your content.
First thing's first: research and insights aren’t like for like.
Research is the ‘how’.
Insights are the ‘why’.
A straight-forward way to think about research is to link it to your content plan. In fact, research itself is intrinsic to the content production process. In its most fundamental terms, it provides the ‘how’ behind any blog, email, video script and so on; it’s an effective way to cite references, introduce link-building for SEO purposes, ensure content is accurate and up to date, and so on.
Insights are the equivalent to your content strategy. Insights shouldn’t just feature, they should determine the very presence, creation, process and methodology to your content structure. Think of insights as in-depth business intelligence which simultaneously underpins and oversees each and every piece of collateral that sees the light of day - and holistically too.
It’s the difference between a good understanding, and a deep understanding. And the difference between seeing a piece of content (engagement) and absorbing a piece of content (a call to action).
So what does this mean in real terms? There’s really no limit on what an impactful insight could be for you, but there are a few central examples.
Let’s break it down.
The research: customer demographic The most fundamental details about any client or consumer base. Identifiers like age, location, lifestyle etc. compiled neatly to make a buyer persona.
The insight: customer decision-making behaviour Getting to the core of the decision-making process helps you better understand behaviour, nuance, needs and pain points - and how to effectively communicate for each stage of the journey.
The method: analytical learnings Focus groups, surveys, 1-2-1 interviews will all provide strong insights into the decision-making journey. Alternatively, some CRM platforms (like HubSpot) and software can provide analytics to help you better understand the ways a customer interacts with information, and how it ultimately can lead to action.
The research: target keywords Anyone looking to create well-performing content - be it a blog or a webpage - will turn to keyword research (KWR) to boost SEO - among other benefits.
The insight: search queries and intention The lesser-used strategy of copywriters. This isn’t about what people are typing into Google, but why and when, and how you can cater and leverage your content to reach them at the precise moment they need it most.
The method: smart tools SEO-driven platforms like MOZ and SEMrush provide a wealth of technology which will boost your understanding of search intent, and can help you build a better picture over time - in turn informing your content strategy. Another for the roster may be Answer the Public, which effectively provides related searches and intention through analytical data.
The research: tone of voice Keeping a consistent tone of voice across your content will ensure your brand is aligned and instantly recognisable. Even better?
The insight: narrative style A narrative style will carefully sync content to how its intended audience receives information. Their driver might be analytical or emotive, it might provide quick facts or all the facts. That’s what your narrative style is there to capture.
The method: a comprehensive guide In the urgency of gaining audience insights and applying them, it can be easy to let consistency fall. A guide which lives and breathes how your outreach consumes information will help eradicate this, and make it a simpler task to effectively communicate in the long-term - even if the content process changes hands.
The research: content views Whether it’s on a website, social platform or other, seeing the views and even duration of visits can say a lot about the type of content which does well.
The insight: content audit Not for the faint-hearted, but certainly one of the most insightful, vital and long-term actions you can take for strategic content insights. An audit takes you from start to end of everything you’ve produced to better inform if it’s performing, and where you need to go next.
The method: enlist a website crawler Once you’ve started with clear KPIs which you can measure against - and a way to measure it - determine how you can use manual work and analytics to support your content audit, and review whether a web crawler tool can help with your website work. An effective tool will find eroded pages or duplicated content, broken backlinks and so much more.
When it comes to insight-led content, it isn’t a question of this vs. that. On the contrary, research and insights are designed to work together effectively - if they’re done right - and create content touchpoints which more truly speak to your brand.
But research alone will likely lead to tick-box content. A nice to have which might increase engagement, but the chances of it feeling disparate, lacklustre and the ‘what now?’ effect could also increase.
Ultimately, your content objectives are there to help achieve your brand objectives. So if all your content does is look or sound good, or tally up the ‘likes’, or is achieved after trawling through pages of buyer personas or reviewing LinkedIn pages, it’s possible you’ve missed the mark.
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