If you’ve ever felt the struggle of effectively reaching business buyers with web content, know you’re in good company. Content marketing is used by virtually every business-facing brand online, and according to CMI’s 2013 B2B content marketing study, the majority of B2B content marketers report they have trouble creating enough content and creating engaging content.
Marketers may say producing enough content is the leading challenge, but engaging content is equally important for long-term results. It’s helpful to focus more on consistency than volume, though you can achieve both with the right resources in place. Brands that marry quality and consistency — those that consistently produce content worth readers’ time — are primed for positive results.
To create enough engaging content, you need a strategy that defines why you want to publish content, fueled by a renewable pool of relevant topics. Industry news content marketing is a solution. The practice builds a sustainable approach to content creation. It gets content creators in the habit of brand-specific reflection on relevant trends.
Think of industry news as anything that’s trending around products or services (especially headlines popular within a small, targeted community). The latest research in the field, related op-eds in mainstream publications, and any other vertical buzz might impact buyers’ decisions. If the topics are a fit, they lend themselves to natural keyword use and seamlessly power consistent updates. But do people seek to engage with niche news?
Americans’ hunger for news online has developed alongside content marketing. Pew Research shows more than half of internet users (18 to 64) go online for news at least three days per week, and 36 percent of social users get news headlines on their preferred networks. This partially explains the rise of “newsjacking” — creating branded content around broad trending news to win SEO and social visibility. But a clear industry news or trend focus within a content strategy gives your brand a consistent voice on topics that resonate with your ideal community.
While the demand for niche news isn’t the same as demand for global news, web writers and content marketers are increasingly aware of the prominence and promise of industry-focused, timely content. Pew finds that “search engines continue to be the largest single tool in finding news online,” which suggests that people are interested in the latest information specific to their queries.
Industry news organically builds SEO and social updates to spark awareness, and positions a company as an authority and resource for audiences who make investments in the context of emerging market practices. It won’t be the only type of content needed to engage and influence buyers across the sales funnel, but it provides a research-focused consistency. Below are two case studies from Brafton clients who faced problems creating enough content and engaging content. They found an industry news-led approach solved both challenges.
Challenge 1: Creating enough content
Keith Crosley, Director of Market Development at security-as-a-service provider Proofpoint Inc., needed more content, but wasn’t sure what to write. “We needed more content for authority and awareness — larger players in our market had better search results. At the same time, our busy buyers and customers aren’t always responsive when we ask what they want to learn, and there’s only so much one can add to a site’s core products section.”
PPC campaigns helped deliver new traffic, but Crosley wanted a content solution that would build relationships with prospects. He did this by adding industry news to an existing white paper and weekly blog strategy.
For Proofpoint’s news strategy, writers generate ideas for news articles from web headlines around data loss prevention, email security, and a range of other issues related to benefits of the company’s services that aren’t necessarily described in product-focused content. The writers contextualize or highlight demand for what the brand offers through news, complimented by organic keyword usage.
Moreover, the newsroom environment helps Proofpoint stay ahead of trends: “It’s something we’d be missing if we were looking only at internal questions or assets to drive what we wrote about,” said Crosley.
An additional benefit is that shorter-form content is more sustainable to create than Crosley’s initial approach. Crosley elaborates, “This frequency has enabled us to gain traction with SEO and build a social following.”Proofpoint’s PageRank is now the same as that of organizations that generate several times its revenue, and Crosley attributes ongoing retweets of the company’s content to consistent news headlines. News represents one-third of the site’s cached pages in Google, and in the first quarter of Proofpoint’s news content program, its organic search traffic increased 18 percent quarter-over-quarter and 12 percent year-over-year.
Industry news powers continued traffic growth for the company: News was a top content section on the site in Q4 2012, generating thousands of unique page views among organic search visitors. More, the articles’ industry focus delivers positive interactions for the brand. Entering 2013, Google Analytics show Proofpoint’s news readers view more pages per visit and spend 6 percent longer reading the information than site visitors not exposed to industry articles.
To use industry news to create enough content (without creating content just for content’s sake), it’s best to have a system in place to support consistent, shorter-form writing and know where you can reliably find new story ideas.
These practices can help you stay at the pulse of trends in your sector:
- Create Google Alerts for key phrases, so breaking industry headlines get delivered to you as soon as they are posted.
- Subscribe to niche web magazines or columns in leading newspapers that cover topics in your field.
- Follow relevant publishers and research institutions on social media for real-time updates.
- Consider partnering with media sources your target audiences are most likely to read.
Challenge 2: Creating engaging content
Amber Newman, Senior Marketing Communications Manager for cloud-based phone provider ShoreTel Sky, understands her buyers have various job roles and different motivations. Product-focused content wasn’t resonating with all site visitors.
“News was an opportunity to engage buyers looking for information that makes a decision to use cloud-based phone systems feel less risky,” said Newman.
The company focuses on reports showing adoption trends, cloud headlines from mainstream news sources, and (non-competing) blog posts that demonstrate relevant use cases or success in different verticals. Each piece takes a direct and authoritative tone, presenting facts and developments clearly and then analyzing the meaning for readers. According to Newman, “The news was a way for us to break into timely conversations, and now we’re not just involved, but our content guides the conversations.”
Adding industry news articles and news-focused blog pieces increased ShoreTel Sky search traffic by more than 50 percent year-over-year at the end of 2012; but Newman is more pleased with results that show “news keeps visitors around and converts them.” The average time on site trends higher among ShoreTel Sky prospects who read news-focused pieces. Moreover, at the end of 2012, the brand’s site visitors who read industry news demonstrated a 42 percent higher goal conversion rate than traffic that only viewed commercial content.
Good writing is always key to engaging eager-to-learn audiences, and news offers a unique launching point to become part of a conversation that can impact when (or why) people buy.
Be sure to follow these guidelines to keep the conversation flowing in an organic way:
- Be transparent. This lets you contextualize with your products or services and ensures people aren’t misled because industry-relevant trends are presented by a brand with commercial interest.
- Tell both sides of the story, and don’t shy away from a lead because it might go against offerings — use it as an opportunity to confront misconceptions.
For example, ShoreTel Sky created a news piece responding to a popular headline about what doesn‘t belong in the cloud by acknowledging the author’s assertion, but using research to show why phone systems do belong in the cloud.
Industry news should be used as an ingredient in content marketing — it complements other commercially focused efforts, and it won’t solve a problem of manpower. For those looking for consistency in the face of the challenges of producing enough and/or engaging content, relevant trends and headlines are a sustainable resource for creating timely, search-friendly, social buzz-worthy content.
Want more ideas on how to leverage the latest trends in your own content efforts? Read CMI’s Content Marketing Playbook for some inspiration.