How to maintain content marketing focus in long-running SEO programs
Columnist Derek Edmond describes his company's method for keeping SEO and content marketing teams performing at a high level for the duration of an ambitious campaign.
A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation on a SEO-centric content marketing program that members of our team have been engaged in across a two-plus-year run. The presentation outlined preparation and research, steps in execution, performance measurement and communication to teams.
Our goals have been aggressive, requiring a high level of organizational effort, analysis and internal motivation to remain focused.
Take note of the last goal we set out for the program: 250 content marketing assets.
A mix of emotions ran across the audience member’s faces, ranging from disbelief to affirmation.
While hopefully, I provided compelling steps and tactics for realizing success (We have exceeded all of these goals), it is the last component of that presentation that I wanted to focus on here.
Ongoing communication is critical to maintaining a successful SEO-centric content marketing program (or any digital marketing program). It is even more important when an organization is entrenched in the day-to-day execution of tactics, and perhaps results have yet to be realized.
In this column, I will walk you through tactics and examples we use in our internal communication process, designed to maintain production, as well as foster new ideas and motivate performance.
Monthly recommendation sets
When an SEO and content marketing team is in the midst of an ongoing program, monthly content marketing recommendations can be critical in fostering new ideas.
This communication is also important for helping team members understand what has worked in the past and what topics and trends are relevant now.
The biggest challenge that we have faced with this initiative is getting team members to leverage these ideas. In a sea of email, this correspondence certainly can get lost in the shuffle.
To gain greater acceptance and adoption, here are some of the ways we’ve repositioned this tactic to make it more effective:
- Stronger lead visuals and more eye-catching graphics. We basically take best practices we would use in public-facing content development for our internal team communication as well.
- Options and ideas versus specific topics and headlines. Instead of telling people they have to write X Topic, we provide keyword ideas, suggested themes and examples of past successes. This way, more of the creativity and idea generation falls back on individual team members.
- Routine feedback on messaging effectiveness. We look at both the level of adoption in ideas presented and direct feedback from team members to demonstrate the performance of recommendations made (and executed).
It’s worth noting that we also focus on communicating site-specific monthly performance and success metrics, along with topical recommendations detailed above. Visuals are critical here as well.
That said, we could spend an entire series of posts detailing what to present. I would recommend checking out Marketing Land’s Analytics and Conversion section to stay up to speed in this area of focus.
Weekly status updates
While we all hate getting inundated with email, sometimes short bursts of information can be helpful — so long as they provide value. Here are some of the communication updates we send routinely to keep our team motivated and up to date.
- Weekly program updates. These updates are designed to keep everyone in the loop on activities and priorities.
- Industry news updates. If we find news and information that is relevant (and sometimes critical) for team members, we make sure to call it out.
- Content publication distribution. Whenever new content is published on-site or in third-party publications, we share with the rest of team.
As with our monthly recommendation sets, our team does a great job of customizing their communication to make it more effective. Here are some of the ways we make this communication more impactful:
- Pre-scripted updates and suggestions for social media distribution.
- A quick synopsis of impact and relevance in relation to news and information discovered.
- Similar to our monthly communication, many team members lead with a graphic or visual to help catch the reader’s eye and attention.
Email works for our organization, but that’s not to say it’s a universal requirement. Perhaps Twitter or a LinkedIn group would make more sense for your team. Regardless, the key to success has been constant communication in short, digestible formats.
Bi-weekly training sessions
Our organization holds bi-weekly (every other week) training discussions that have recently ranged from an introduction to Google Tag Manager to public speaking 101 to conference recaps and key takeaways.
While many of these training sessions are not directly related to our specific ongoing SEO and content marketing program, several are or could be adapted. Specific topics we have used that directly align with ongoing SEO and content marketing initiatives include:
- HTML best practices for content marketers;
- How to find good writing topics using keyword research; and
- Key Google Analytics reports for demonstrating performance.
For these types of trainings to provide the most value, here are a few ideas to consider.
- Scheduling. Set up a schedule of training dates well in advance. We have a calendar for the entire year.
- Feedback & suggestions. Obtain feedback from participating parties on topics of importance.
- Volunteers & assignments. We solicit volunteers and encourage/incorporate these training sessions into certain team members’ responsibilities as well.
Bi-weekly training sessions help the presenter, as well, since they can provide an open forum to receive feedback and reflect on tactics and successes (or opportunities) learned.
Contests, awards and recognition
Lastly, it’s important to recognize both small wins and the accomplishment of major milestones, even if it’s done only at an informal level. Some of the ways we try to recognize individual team member efforts are:
- internal communication highlighting top posts and campaigns;
- recognition (even if just through email) for outstanding results, influencers reached or links acquired from new/interesting publications and websites; and
- annual awards and recognition for top content marketing assets by traffic volume, links acquired, social shares and lead acquisition.
It is easy to forget to acknowledge people when a team is “heads down” in program work and responsibilities. Quick and simple acknowledgment of hard work and results can go a long way in building needed morale over the long run.
Did you really produce 250 content marketing assets?
That was one question posed at the end of the presentation. The answer is yes, and we even exceeded that total if you counted third-party bylines, presentations and other off-site opportunities.
Did we need to set a goal of 250? Absolutely not — but it was the target our leadership team set based on competitive review and additional goals established.
For the production reason alone, it was important to maintain constant communication and encouragement, but also analysis and performance benchmarks to motivate and equip team members with as much information as possible to be successful.
How do your SEO and content marketing teams keep performance at a high level throughout the duration of a program? Hopefully, these ideas spur new creativity, but drop me a message any time if you want to discuss more.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.