By Rachel Foster published January 30, 2013

Boost Your Content Marketing ROI With These 5 Discovery Tips

content marketing roi - discoveryAsk 10 marketers what “content discovery” is, and you’ll most likely get 10 different answers. With all this variation, it can be hard to determine if content discovery is just a buzzword or something that can add significant ROI to your marketing.

Content discovery has two sides:

1. The customer’s perspective: Finding great content when you either know or don’t know what you’re looking for.

2. The marketer’s perspective: The process of getting your content in front of the right audience at the right time in the right channels. For some, content discovery is synonymous with recommendation engines — those platforms that use your online behavior and social networks to predict what type of content you’ll want to look at next, and serve it up.

“Content discovery became important with the rise of social media,” says Boštjan Špetič, CEO of Zemanta. “Suddenly, marketers didn’t understand how to reach customers because customers were bypassing traditional marketing channels and referring each other to content. Tools and analytics then tried to make this referral process predictable.”

What does it all mean for content marketers? Here are five tips on how to use content discovery to connect with customers and increase your content marketing ROI:

1. You don’t need to “go big or go home”: Many marketers think that they need to come up with a single, amazing piece of content that will go viral and bring them instant fame. However, Gilad de Vries, SVP of Strategy at Outbrain, advises not to overthink your content discovery strategy and not to “try to get to that ultimate piece of content. Instead, you should focus on providing a lot of great information, because different types of content will appeal to different audiences.” Providing your audience with content that they find entertaining or useful can increase your content marketing ROI more than creating one “magic” piece of content that appeals to a mass audience.

2. Stop thinking about individual channels as a strategy: When it comes to content marketing, Facebook is not a strategy. SEO is not a strategy. Twitter is not a strategy. All of these are tactics that can be used as part of your overall content engagement strategy. Instead of allocating dollars to individual tactics, de Vries recommends putting all your dollars in a single content engagement pool. From there, you can determine how much each tactic is contributing to your overall content engagement success.

3. Don’t just focus on sharing your own content: While it’s great to share your own content, you must also link to content from trusted third parties. “A major mistake that newcomers make is linking just to themselves,” says Špetič. “However, if you want to increase your reach, you must link to other content marketers and interact with them via social media.” The more you help other marketers by sharing their content, the more they will recommend your content in return.

4. Optimize your content for engagement first and lead conversion second: A big content marketing mistake is optimizing content for lead conversion, rather than for customer engagement. “Content marketing is more like a marathon than a sprint,” says de Vries. You should develop a long-term content discovery strategy that focuses on delighting your audience with great content. Analytics such as bounce rates, time spent on each page, and the number of page views per session can help you determine how well your content is engaging your audience. From there, you can move to optimizing content for conversion.

5. Share a wide variety of content types: A big content discovery mistake is sharing only one type of content, such as all reports or all videos. However, David Fleck, GM at Disqus, recommends sharing a mix of content in your feed. “Videos, articles, and slideshows all perform differently depending on the audience you are trying to reach,” he says. “Mix it up to ensure you reach them and keep them interested along the way.”

When it comes to getting started with content discovery, many marketers get overwhelmed because they don’t feel as though they have enough to share. “Many brands don’t realize they already have content that they can leverage right from the start,” says Fleck. You can take stock of all of your existing content — from blog posts to case studies to videos — and create an editorial calendar that identifies when you will share this content with your audience.

Applying technology to content discovery

To get you started, we offer a list of content discovery tools for brands, publishers, agencies, and even individual readers. Keep in mind that this list is by no means comprehensive, but rather it provides a sample of the types of tools that are available, and a brief description of what they do.

Content discovery for content marketers:

Platforms like Outbrain and LinkWithin use algorithms to recommend content to readers based on their viewing histories. Marketers can use these to recommend content online on their own content sites —much like Amazon recommends products based on a customer’s viewing history. Outbrain — and other services, like nRelate — also places your content on third-party media sites through “recommended content” widgets — a powerful discovery engine for marketers trying to expand their audience. Taboola does the same thing, but for video content.

Tools like Zemanta, Content DJ, and Percolate offer agencies and brands the ability to dynamically scan the web during the writing/publishing process to ensure that content is optimized, leverages trending topics, and can be easily found through social networks. Content curation tools like Curata allow content marketers to scale and organize their content efforts by helping find, organize, and share content on particular topics.  

Finally, some tools have a uniquely social focus. SproutSocial helps brands manage topics and craft social content based on what’s trending. Disqus and Livefyre are online comment engines that connect conversations on your site with similar topics across the web. A recent entrant to this space is Facebook’s Recommendations Bar, a social plug-in for publishers that highlights recommended articles based on the activities of a user’s friends.

Reader-focused recommendation engines:

And then there are dozens of unique discovery tools for readers. Use content discovery tools to dynamically steer the best content in a particular topic area your way. Some well-known examples include Delicious (a social bookmarking service), Flipboard (a reader-curated magazine for the iPad — though content is limited to participating media sites), Trapit (a discovery tool like Flipboard, but it uses a discovery engine that learns users’ interests and amasses articles based on its algorithm’s recommendations), and Twitter’s Discovery Tab (a new Twitter feature that can be used to uncover relevant tweets).

Care to share what you’re using as a marketer or as an individual consumer of content?

Want more tips on available content marketing technologies and best practices for using them? Read CMI’s eGuide, 8 Content Production Tools To Help Marketers Become Publishing Machines.

Disclosure: Outbrain and Zemanta are both CMI sponsors.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Rachel Foster

Rachel Foster is an award-winning B2B copywriter who helps technology marketers create content that drives action. She works with clients to increase their online conversion rates, shorten their sales cycles and fill their events. You can connect with Rachel on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter @CopywriterTO or check out her B2B marketing blog and resources at www.copywritertoronto.com.

Other posts by Rachel Foster

  • Johny John

    Fantastic post.

  • Sarah Bauer

    Love the suggestion you made for businesses to take stock of the content they already have on-hand ( and that they might not have considered valuable collateral in their content marketing strategy). White papers, instructional videos, and newsletter content can all work as part of a powerful starting point.
    Cheers,
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  • http://twitter.com/CopywriterTO Rachel Foster

    Thanks for the feedback!

  • Jonny

    great so nxie psot s o well!

    essay online

  • Dechay Watts

    Great post! My favorite is number 2. When it comes to content marketing, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn are not strategies. They are channels to help you achieve your strategy. Love all the technology platform suggestions too.

  • http://twitter.com/CopywriterTO Rachel Foster

    Hi, Dechay. Thank you for your comment. You are so right that social media channels are tools, not strategies. So many people think, “If I just got started on [insert social network of choice], all of my marketing problems would be solved.” But, it’s not like that. They are just part of an overall content marketing strategy.

  • http://twitter.com/CopywriterTO Rachel Foster

    Hi, Dechay. Thank you for your comment. Yes, you are so right that social media networks are channels, not strategies. So many people think “Once I get active on [insert social network of choice], all of my marketing problems will be solved”. However, it doesn’t work like that. The social channels should be part of a broader content strategy.

  • http://geniusgeneration.us/ Dwayne Golden Jr

    In this business it still blows my mind how stingy can be with linking to 3rd parties so that was easily my favorite bit of the post. Sharing is caring!

  • http://blogging4backlinks.com/ Anirudh Bahadur

    Outbrain is the king!