Key takeaways from the Virtual Content Marketing Conference 2020

The Content Marketing Conference was held virtually this year. All keynotes, sessions, and workshops are on-demand, with some live Q&As held at scheduled times. If you are a writer, content marketer, or digital specialists of any kind, the CMC is a great place to hear from industry leaders and learn a few new things.

If you happen to miss the conference, I have broken down some of the sessions I found to be the most impactful. Here are my six key takeaways from the Content Marketing Conference 2020.

On Writing

1. Get to the point

With users spending less and less time on any particular webpage, giving them precisely what they need right away has never been more important. In Josh Bernoff’s season, Writing Without Bullsh*t, a statistic highlighted gives ground to this claim, “According to Chartbeat, on average, a reader spends about 36 seconds on a new article.” I do not need to tell you that this is not very much time. You have about a half-a-minute to pull a reader in, or they will leave.

Useless and uninformed writing will not cut-it. If you do not give the reader what they are looking for right away, while finding a way to pull them in for more, it’s over. 

Poorly written content wastes a lot of time for a lot of people! Whether this is your reader or your editor. What makes content hard to read? Too many words, unclear meaning, and too much jargon. Content must be short, simple, and to the point. Here are a few tips Mr. Bernoff gave us to do just that.

How to Keep Your Writing Short & Simple:

  • Always start with a word limit 
  • Avoid passive voice
  • Edit the first draft before you send it out for review
  • Organize relentlessly
  • Rewrite the title and opener after every draft
  • The more jargon you use, the more you are restricting your audience

The best tip he outlined, I believe, was a straightforward writing process. Getting to the point starts at the very source, the writing process. Three steps are all you need; 1. Prepare – do your research and make sure you understand your audience. 2. Drafts – write you the first draft, edit it, and turn it in. 3. Revisions – process the notes you were given and make edits. A straightforward process indeed, to create straightforward content.

2. Write with persuasion

Writing Content

As digital marketers, we write with analytical goals in mind— key performance indicators (KPIs) such as pageviews or leads. Writing with persuasion is essential when the latter is your goal. If you have written for an advertisement or email campaign, this is not new to you. But for those of us who have little to no copywriting experience, writing with persuasion can be difficult. 

During Nancy Harhut‘s conversation session, The ABCs of Persuasive Messaging, various persuasive tactics were discussed. 

Persuasive writing triggers our decision-making shortcuts. These are automatic, reflexive, deceptive responses. Humans have developed these hardwire behaves over millennia. They allow us to get things done quickly by making decisions without even “thinking” about them. How do we trigger these shortcuts as writers and marketers?

Persuasive Writing Technicians

  • Eye magnet words – “easy,” “quick,” “improved,” and “secrets” have been proven through research to pull our attention
  • Wordplay – use rhymes, similes, and try to surprise your audience when you can. These techniques help people understand and remember you.
  • “You” – one of the most persuasive words in the English language. Marketing is not so much about what the writer wants to say; it’s about what YOU want to hear.
  • “Because” – give your readers a reason why.
  • “Deals” – help remove the pain of paying. Don’t use “price,” “cost,” “pay,” or “spend,” these words tend to remind the reader that they must give up something. Using “deals,” instead helps ease this pain.

On SEO

3. Understand (the simplest parts of) Google's algorithm in 2020

Bernard Huang’s session, How Search Works in 2020: The Latest On Google’s Algorithm, offered quite understandable information. (Check out some of the other presentations on his site for more SEO information.)

Content marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) go hand-and-hand. As I mentioned before, as marketers, most of us are creating content for a purpose other than merely disruption or entertainment. We have chosen KPIs even before we’ve begun writing, whether that is suitable or not. SEO helps you achieve a lot of those goals, so it reasons that you understand the most basic levels of how search works.

Technical SEO is still relevant, as it will always be, but I will focus on where Google’s algorithm has made the most significant strides in 2020, content.

Becoming an authority

One of Google’s most significant updates in that past year was EAT. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. What’s the reason for this update? People deserve accurate information. Google wants to give a searcher useful results, so they keep returning, and one-way to help ensure that is by giving them content from known experts.

Creating comprehensive material will help establish yourself as an expert. Each quality page of content you create expands your understanding of that topic in Google’s eyes. The more creative and useful content you distribute, the more your entire site will benefit in search because you will be viewed as a consistent authority.

Unfortunately, this can make achieving favorable SEO results take even longer. Producing a library of quality content takes time. But make no mistake, this time is worth it. There is no replacement for attracting organic users to your site.

Unique Content Research Tools

4. Use these SEO research tactics to write better content

How do you write this quality content? Some tips from Andy Crestodina’s season, How SEO Made Me a Better Writer, will help you.

There are several free tools you can use for research (I have named a few in the past, see here or here). Mr. Crestondina showed us a few of his favorites. This list consists of software that any writer can use, no matter their level of SEO knowledge.

  • Google – Yes, use Google itself! Search what you would like to rank for and check out the top pages. Check out the “People also ask” box, which is Google telling us what people want. Also, scan the “Searches related to” section to some similar searches.
  • Keyword.io – This tool grabs suggestions from Google, Amazon, Bing, and many other search engines. It then gives you hundreds of long-tail keywords or subtopics.
  • Quora.comSearch your questions, keywords, or topic and see some of the most helpful results.
  • Your Ears – No, this not a website; I mean your ears. Listen to your audience – from the sales team, directly from clients, from pitches, from new hires, etc.

After you have checked out a view or each of these tools, pull all of the questions, keywords, subtopics you have gathered into a list and begin to write to cover them all. Remember, creating comprehensive material will help establish yourself as an expert. Even if you do not care about SEO as a writer (you should), but all of this data has given you an outline!

Think about your reader first. We use these tools to gather their feedback. Through them, we interpret what people want and what they deem helpful. Don’t just make an excellent page for the sake of your personal or company’s goals, make the best page on the internet for people to find.

On Strategy

5. Never forget about your buyer personas

Buyer Personas

Your readers were also the central theme of Pamela Muldoon’s season, The Content Strategy Method You Wish You Had Last Year. Her thoughts rang similar, “All content starts with your audience.” Knowing what your audience’s needs at every stage of their buying journey will help you come up with ideas and build a strategy that serves your goals. Clarifying your audience is often overlooked, I feel, when begging to compose a content marketing strategy.

Before you create your strategy, you must know your buyer personas. If you want to be customer-centric, you must actually care about your customers. This means figuring out who they are, what their concerns are, and how they may think and act.

Ms. Muldoon recommended building 5-7 personas before you start working on strategy. A typical buyer persona consists of 7 sections; 

  1. Short Bio – Age, occupation, location, status
  2. Day in the Life – Briefly description a day in their shoes
  3. Goals – What do they want to achieve? (related to what you do)
  4. Pains – What are their struggles? (related to what you do)
  5. Consumption Habits – Which devices and applications do they use most?
  6. Information Sources – Where do they get their news and information?
  7. Brands or Influences – What brand/s are they loyal too? Who influences them?

Understanding your primary audiences is essential to not just you as a content marketer, but your entire sales and marketing team.

This level of preparation opens you to new ideas and opportunities. During development, personas help you prioritize newfound projects. For example, if one section of your audience needs something immediately, simple, that piece of content comes first. Generating personas makes creating a strategy easier by allowing you to make decisions more efficiently.

Taking care of personas before you begin developing your content strategy allows you to be proactive, not reactive. Creating content that your audience will want before they realize they want it is the mission of every good content marketing strategy.

6. Rethink your promotion and distribution

Andrew Davis takes content promotion and distribution to another level. In his keynote, Mr. Davis covered a strategic approach to content promotion and destruction. A plan of action that involves more than your average post on our social media and leave it approach. 

His big idea: the marketing momentum curve. A graph that helps explain your marketing moments and how to tailor your distribution around them. 

Marketing moments can be defined as the reflexive moment you turn to a device or channel to learn something, do something, find something, or buy something. These micro-moments are very intent-based, meaning, you are acting with purpose or intention. Such times often shape the way you think or feel about a person, product, brand, or company.

The marketing momentum curve is centered around these possible moments- trying to take advantage of them by providing you with what you want when you are looking for it.

The curve itself sits on axes of time and volume. Time- from when you publish your content to the end of your promotion and distribution cycle. Volume- in terms of consumption by your audience.

Within this chart, the strategy involves 4 phases. Each phase follows a similar curved shape.

The Marketing Momentum Curve

1. Loyalty Loop (One-to-One Communication)

This is your email list. Customers who have made a purchase or signed-up to receive more information. Well, here is the useful information they were looking for.

In this phase, you will watch your content grow, plateau, and then slow down. Once it hits a point where it is half as popular as it was during the plateau, its half-life, it is time to move into the next phase.

2. Social Media by Channel (One-to-A Few People)

Time to share your content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. All at once? Not so fast! Understanding the content you are promoting, and the audiences of each of your channels are crucial. For example, you may only want to share something on Instagram because you know your audience is much younger. No matter which channel you choose, you will follow the same practices as before; grow, plateau, and slow down. 

No matter if you choose to distribute your content on five channels at once or three channels but one at a time, when your material hits its half-life, time to move on.

Social Media Content and Distribution

3. Paid Media (A Few People to New People)

The third phase is reserved for advertising (PPC, display, video, etc.). Buying ad spends for a piece on content that has already gained some momentum will help your ads perform at a higher level.

4. Earn Media (Newsworthy)

The fourth and final phase involves cashing-in! Your content has now built enough momentum that you have social proof. This means enough people have acted with your content that others will want to join in as well.

In your press released and statements, you can show that this is something people will want. For instance, when trying to get others to share your content, you could say, “20,000 people have already viewed this page in only two weeks.” Factors like this are enticing, why wouldn’t they share something assured to provide results?

You can also use this directly for your own use. For example, you now have the opportunity to say, “Over 1,000 people have already signed up.” Using a fact like this is a very persuasive tactic. People don’t want to miss out, so they have to sign up now as well.

The entire marketing momentum curve strategy could take three weeks or three months. Establishing your KPIs and knowing precisely when to move on from each phase is critical. If so, you can truly maximize your ROI for each piece of content you publish.

CMC 2020 Virtual Conference Recap

Conclusion

This years’ virtual Content Marketing Conference provided us with some great speakers and insights. In my opinion, the on-demand style worked very well. Being able to choose when and where you will check out a speaker was convenient.

Getting to the point and writing with persuasion is something you have talked about doing, but now you have some tactics to practice. If you weren’t quite sure how Google search worked or why you should care as a writer, you should have a better understanding now, and how learning this could improve your writing. Developing your buyer personas will also help you become a better writer. And to get more people to read what you have written, a strategic approach to promotion and disruption is the best way to do it.

All in all, if we continue to be simple, smart, and strategic as content marketers, there is no reason we cannot create pieces that produce results. A quote I think epitomized this very much is:

Copy is not written. Copy is assembled.

Eugene Schwartz
Anthony Schultes

Anthony Schultes

With a degree in digital marketing and imaging, practicing content marketing and SEO encompasses all of my skillsets and interests. I believe that a sound Content & SEO strategy can help a business achieve whatever their goals may be. When not in front of a computer, you can find me at your local brewery, behind the lens of a camera, or in a theatre.

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