February 2016
By Ute Klingelhöfer

Image: © arcady31/123rf.com

Ute Klingelhöfer is a technical writer supporting companies to compile the right content for more visibility on the social Web. She teaches at universities and educational academies. Of late she has been providing the option to connect classroom workshops and self-paced online learning in blended learning.


uk[at]contentwerk.eu
www.contentwerk.eu


 


 

This article was originally published in the German professional magazine 'technische kommunikation'. For more information visit www.tekom.de.

Content as a selling point

Clear information is important not only in every manual but also for product-related texts on the Internet. Online, the placement of the text is just as crucial as the content itself. Finding the right place and the suitable form is, however, not always easy, at least until now.

Marketing has developed a new discipline over the past few years: "content marketing" or content promotion. Anyone who thinks that they are already practicing content marketing "because marketing has never worked without content", is wrong. The new discipline does not deal with creating valuable content but with distributing the content to appropriate points. Therefore, it is important to understand the potential customers and their behavior as precisely as possible.

Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, defines content marketing as the marketing and business process, where relevant and valuable content is created and distributed such that it reaches a clearly defined target customer group. The objective of content marketing is to support, inform and delight the customers such that they are ultimately motivated to buy products [2].

Significance for purchasing decision

When looking for solutions, B2B decision makers preferably obtain information from the Internet. With the growing volume of information available, they no longer rely on advertisements but trust specific recommendations from their network or results of Internet searches.

Their search is mostly triggered by a problem or an issue, for example, "Comparison of content management systems in technical documentation" or "Image editing program for technical illustrations". Three different types of content are displayed in the search results:

  • Paid content
  • Owned content
  • Earned content

Examples for paid content include conventional display advertisements, banner promotion and Google AdWords. The advertisement has the advantage that the production cost is mostly limited to a short duration and can quickly achieve high coverage. The coverage and placement, which are achieved or even promised, are paid for.

Owned content, on the other hand, has lesser scalability and has a limited coverage, if it is not supplemented by paid plans. Contents that are distributed on the company's channels are examples of this type of content: everything available on the company’s homepage, published on the company’s Facebook page, in the corporate blog or on Twitter. The advantage is that one can start without huge investments, apart from the manpower required for creating the content. The company still has control over all the content, in terms of its initial placement and deletion. If a company is not well known, then the coverage is limited and the contents are not taken seriously.

Earned content describes the most valuable type: Information created by someone else about a company or a person. This can be in the form of links, references or reviews. The bonus point is the high credibility. Assuming that the reports come out well, earned content does not have any disadvantages.

Search results obtained from reviews and reports of other users have a high impact on the further purchasing process, as shown by a Google study in 2011. The study investigated the information sources used by consumers in the purchasing process and their consequences. The result is the Zero Moment of Truth concept [3].

User behavior on the Internet

The Zero Moment of Truth describes how a prospect and potential customer initially rates and decides on a vendor. At a time when the Internet and social media did not exist, the customer had to blindly trust the information provided by the seller and the advertisement. To put it simply, the customer looked for a vendor and explained his problem, the seller presented him with one or more solutions and the customer went back home hoping that the product would deliver its promises.

Today, the customer has unlimited access to first-hand information from those who have already had experience with the product. What is new is that the experiences of previous buyers significantly influence the opinion of new prospects. This behavior determines the "Zero Moment of Truth".

Figure 1: The model was developed based on a study in 2011.
Source: Google


If the customer shares his experiences with the product, then they ultimately impact the Zero Moment of Truth of the next prospect. Consequently, a brand is not just what it conveys about itself but also what others say about it.

Another inference is: Anyone who is not on the Web, does not exist. The saying "The best place to hide a dead body is page two of Google" describes this very well. But how can a company present itself on the Internet? In what content should it invest?

The appropriate format

The content formats in which a company invests are a matter of prior knowledge, technical resources and the speed with which measurable results are expected. An overview of some formats, their advantages and disadvantages are described in the following sections.

Blog articles: The average blog article contains 800 to 1,500 words and can therefore describe a problem more precisely. A characteristic feature of every blog article is the personal opinion of the author:

+ relatively quickly to implement (without the use of external service providers and tools)
+ high impact on the search engine ranking
- regular frequency required, continuous effort


White paper: A white paper discusses typical issues and problems the customer might have. It presents solutions in form of case studies and successfully-executed projects. The average white paper is six to twelve pages long:

+ good option for obtaining leads
- high compilation effort


Videos: Videos convey a lot of information in a short duration. The potential customer can get to know the product and the vendor very well. However, please note that the attention span is much shorter when watching videos on the Internet. Anyone who wastes the time of a customer with a lengthy prelude, will lose him before the content has even been presented:

+ relatively low competition
+ conveys a lot of information in a short duration
+ very likely to be shared
- high costs for production and editing


Webinars: In these live seminars, an expert presents a subject to a large audience. Using webinar software, the customer can chat with experts and login via video conferencing and ask individual questions:

+  provides direct feedback
+  builds trust due to the proximity to the vendor
- paid webinar software may be necessary
- very brief usage period, if the recording of the webinar is not made permanently available

Infographics: Results of a study can often be illustrated in highly compressed form using such graphics. They are willingly viewed and shared owing to their appealing visualization:

+ are often shared by consumers, for example via Pinterest.com
- require the involvement of a graphic designer


Newsletter: This conventional method is particularly suitable for key customers. The opening rates depend on content-related factors, such as subject line, personalization, structure and design, besides aspects that cannot be influenced. These include email client of the customer or a company’s firewall:

+ cost-effective option to share information with contacts on a regular basis
- professional newsletter tool is required


Not every content format is appropriate at any time. Thus, a customer uses a webinar if he has already gathered enough information about a topic and now needs some expert information. The customer is willing to invest time for a webinar (at least 45 minutes) and is also willing to leave his contact details at the end.

The overview in Table 1 can only be used as an example because every customer has his own preferences. One customer prefers to watch a detailed video, whereas another prefers to print out a comprehensive white paper and read it.

Ideally, a company should offer the content in different formats allowing the customer to decide how he gets the information.

 

Purchasing phase

Information product

Attract attention, popularize

Videos, Infographics, Blogs

Inform, research

Experiences of existing customers

Purchase decision

White papers, webinars

Post-purchasing

Newsletter in addition to other information products

Table 1: The various purchasing phases and appropriate information products
Source: Ute Klingelhöfer

 

Methods

Three terms are frequently used in content marketing: storytelling, content curation and blogger relations. These are methods that can be used, as soon as the 'what' (what content?) and the 'how' (in what form?) have been defined.

Narrating rather than describing

Storytelling is the use of stories that engage customers by their narrative to the point that they share it with others. It is important that companies learn to change the way they think when communicating: Product and promotion are no longer the focus, but rather the customer and his experiences. Hence, the question should be "what can the customer do with the product?" and not "what can the product do?".

Collecting content

The content curator selects third-party content like the curator at the museum. The contents are then presented to the target group in the selected form. The curator is responsible for including only those selected pieces in his collection, with which he can identify himself and those that match his quality philosophy. After all, recommendations enable inferences to be drawn about those who make them.

Blog articles that present additional information about a topic are examples of content curation in its simplest form (linking) and the use of topic-based message boards on pinterest.com. Here, each user creates message boards for the topics and presents the links which are most important to him about a preferred topic in the form of infographics.

Blogger relations

Similar to public relations, this method pertains to establishing relations with a special public: the bloggers, those who are thrilled about their experiences with products and report on them in their personal blogs and share them. Depending on their coverage, bloggers can be recognized as opinion leaders and sought after by companies. The use of blogger relations is criticized if the relationship between a blogger and a company is not clear. This is the case, if a blog post about a product leaves it unclear whether the article was supported by the manufacturer. An example is a software vendor who develops content management systems and engages a blogger to test a system free of charge. The blogger would report but without revealing the relationship with the vendor to the reader.

Suitable tools

Anyone dealing with visibility on the Internet, cannot get past without tackling search engine optimization. There are more than 200 OnPage factors. Google, for example, takes these factors into account in its algorithm, and thus your website should be improved accordingly. This also includes the so-called OffPage factors, which mainly relate to links on other websites to one's own page.

A lot of misuse has taken place in the past in OnPage and OffPage optimization. Methods such as using as many keywords as possible in the text and exchanging as many links as possible with other sites, have lost their importance. The content is now the deciding factor even here. But where do the ideas for good content come from and which keywords are suitable for one's subject area?

Tools that can help the writer to compile the right content and use the appropriate keywords, are presented in the sections below.

Automatic notification

Monitoring tools make it possible to monitor the Internet for specific search terms. An email is sent as soon as a new message is published that matches the search term.

A corresponding alert can be setup to prevent the misuse of a name or to know about it well in time. An alert is also triggered if the name appears in a press release or blog post.

A company also benefits from monitoring for content creation. Thus, current industry trends can be monitored. A company can get to know the issues and problems of one's customers, as soon as they are discussed, for example, in forums:

https://alert.io
www.talkwalker.com
www.google.com/alerts

Right keywords

To get a feel for frequently searched keywords, it is enough to just type the most important keyword, for example "Translation memory system", in Google and wait to see what results are suggested by the AutoComplete function. The application "ubersuggest" exactly uses this function. Starting from the entered word, it suggests additional keywords in order to find suitable combinations.

http://ubersuggest.org

Identifying trends

Certain topics run only at a specific time. The frequency with which a term is actually searched for and how the search volumes are spread across months and years, are shown by Google trends. Thus, the writer can compare, for example, the search volumes of two similar search terms or find out the suitable time for publishing his topic.

www.google.de/trends/?hl=de

Determining the social coverage

Socialyser helps you to find out your competitor’s extent of coverage in social networks. The frequency with which subpages of a website were shared, commented on and "liked" in social networks are shown here. Socialyser is currently analyzing the signals from Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.

http://socialyser.de

Website analysis

Google Analytics provides data to check: how many visitors have accessed the website? How long did they stay on the page? What sub-pages were viewed? What keywords were used for searching and finding the page? How many visitors used organic search, paid search and social media?

www.google.com/analytics

Suggestions and ideas

The keyword planner integrated into Google AdWords provides keyword suggestions and ideas, in addition to a forecast on how frequently keywords are searched for.

https://adwords.google.com

Success with keywords

Keywords are the basis of every search. "Longtail keywords" are combinations of words, which are less common and are not searched as often as main keywords. Longtail keywords result in comparatively less traffic to a website. However, when added up, longtail keywords can also provide a significant amount of traffic. Moreover, a user who enters a longtail keyword is likely to be much better informed and know what he's looking for. Example: "TMS" is one of the main keywords for a supplier of translation memory systems. Many companies want to land at the top of the results using this keyword in the search engine. The amount of competition makes this target difficult to reach.

On the other hand, the chances of success are much better by optimizing longtail keywords, especially for a new website. This, for example can be "TMS interface for text editor". That way, one can avoid the extremely high competition for main keywords.

Objectives and success factors

The objective of content marketing is to increase sales and customer loyalty using strategic placement. Success can rarely be attributed to one measure alone. The interaction between the various formats is important here. If a company hasn’t been very active in the area of content marketing, then easy objectives are better suited at the beginning. For example, counting the number of visitors to a website to identify whether a measure has been successful.

 

Objective

Success factors

Brand recognition

Website visits, number of sites per visit, clicks on the site via brand keyword

Interaction

Comments, forwarded content

Lead generation

Sign up for newsletter, filled in contact forms

Sales

Filled shopping baskets, orders

Customer satisfaction

Recommendations, positive ratings

Content consumption

Dwelling time on website, playing time of videos, downloads

Table 2: Initial objectives
Source: Ute Klingelhöfer

 

Initial steps

To get started with content marketing, a company should first determine its position.

  • Analysis: What website contents are accessed most frequently? How do prospects find the website? How is the website positioned compared to the competitors’? What content gets the maximum responses on social Web?
  • Monitoring: What is the market preoccupied with? What problems are customers facing? What is being discussed at trade fairs, conferences, forums and blogs?
  • Strategy: With which topics does the company want to position itself on the Internet? Which target groups are being addressed and via which channels? How are the channels linked to each other? What actions has the company taken to track its measures and how are they measured?
  • Implementing the initial measures: Providing resources, setting up content writing plans, creating and distributing the content
  • Analysis and optimization: The initial assessment of the measures is worth carrying out after three months. B then you can already see, if and what content will bring the desired success and whether the method selected is the right one.

Task for technical writers

The structured approach and the critical view of information and their content are important skills that are also required in content marketing. Here are some options where technical writers and their skills are required:

  • Monitoring – Analyzing and evaluating reports and third-party discussions, identifying opinion leaders
  • Content curation – Searching and selecting suitable reports for use in their own reporting
  • Technical writing – Writing articles and creating infographics
  • Keyword indexing – Generating taxonomies and selecting suitable keywords for better retrieval of the content

To successfully use content marketing as a technical writer, trends have to be followed as a matter of priority. This also includes visits to trade fairs and bar camps, as well as regular searches on the Internet. This is the only way to keep in touch for the technical writer, because new possibilities are constantly being developed for optimizing content marketing.

Further reading