Earn traffic and loyalty through informational content hubs: Michael Brenner

Posted by on Jun 8, 2013 in Conferences, Content Marketing | No Comments
Earn traffic and loyalty through informational content hubs: Michael Brenner

In a mere two minutes on any given day, 1 million pieces of content are uploaded to Facebook, and a half million emails are sent around the world.

Michael Brenner, the senior director of Global Integrated Marketing and Content Strategy at SAP, used this attention-grabbing statistic to support the need to “become a content hub” in his session on content marketing during Confab 2013. With this onslaught on information, marketers face a fierce battle to grab consumers’ attention. There’s too much content — and not enough of the right kind — to reach customers effectively. Most organizations face a similar internal problem with their marketing programs: too much content and no strategy around its creation or distribution.

How do we break through this onslaught of information? Create a content strategy, and tell a story. Brenner defines content strategy as “delivering the content your audience needs, in all the places they need it.” But he also sees content strategy as managing content as an asset with an ROI, and thinking and acting like a publisher.

An effective part of this strategy can be to create a content hub, or a non-promotional content platform to attract and engage prospects early in their search process. By giving them access to customer-centric, knowledge-based content early on, they’ll naturally think of your brand when they’re ready to lay down the cash.

Another way to look at a content hub is as a structured home for your content marketing content. The thing is, it’s so much more.

Content hubs earn traffic

Content hubs earn traffic instead of buying it. A content hub brings people to the site through valuable content that answers the common questions people have in a given space. We know their questions by looking at search patterns.

Brenner talks about the content hub he spearheaded at SAP. There, they were trying to solve the problem of getting far too little early-stage traffic to their site. Since 99.9% of Web traffic came from people searching for “what is SAP?,” fewer than 0.1% were net new customers searching generic terms like “what is big data?”

Armed with this knowledge, Brenner set out to create a content hub with the following goals in mind, all based around the early stage audience they weren’t reaching before the effort:

  • Reach
  • Engage
  • Convert

Let user experience drive the content (and design) strategy

  • Design: One of Brenner’s biggest battles was over branding, and whether the content hub should be “off” or “on” brand. In the end they chose to live on a sub-domain of their own site, but kept the visual SAP branding very low-key. Remember, this is an informational, not a promotional site.
  • Content: Editorially, the focus is on customer value, not promotion. Topics are driven by top long-tail, low-competition keywords. Brenner says it’s a good idea to focus on both late-stage keywords you know convert and early-stage, broader keywords to capture audience you don’t yet have.

As for authoring, 99% of SAP’s content is “OPC”: other people’s content. Most organizations will have a hard time finding budget to create all the content customers want. Don’t bother trying. Curate instead, Brenner says. Find non-competitive authors who are already writing in your space and syndicate their work.

In terms of editorial management, think about forming an informal editorial board that includes representatives from key groups. Brenner’s board meets monthly.

These story types work

Articles have a prime place in a content hub, but don’t forget video, infographics (audiences still love them!) and slideshare decks (according to Brenner, one of the biggest missed opportunities in content marketing today).

When creating your own editorial calendar, include these most popular story types. No matter how cliché some of them ring, they’re all extremely effective at pulling customer eyeballs your way:

  • Top 50 influencers (for each relevant keyword topic)
  • Top 10 blog sites (again, for each topic)
  • Terms you need to know
  • Myths … busted
  • 10 predictions for …
  • What is …?
  • The first step to success in …
  • How to get ahead with …

Don’t shy away from also creating in-depth, deeply researched content. This is your space to showcase leadership in thought.

What about conversions?

Finally, when trying to track conversion from your content hub, keep it big-picture. It’s easy to do at the highest level: measure how much it costs to create content and infrastructure against the return on all of it as a lump sum.

Getting down to the level of ROI from an individual piece of content, however, can be dangerous. You never know at that tactical level what really drives ROI. Remember, in the end it’s probably 15-20 touches that create the conversion, not just one.

But remember, creating a hub for your informational content gives you something that’s greater than just the sum of its parts. It helps build your brand, it attracts early-stage researchers to your site, and it keeps you top of mind when those prospects are ready to purchase.

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