2021 affords marketers an abundance of channels and platforms to publish and promote their content – but not all marketing teams are utilizing them.
While recent research suggests nearly every marketing team is using blogging and video to get the word out, there are plenty of other ways to create and share content as well. However, marketers are left wondering how to prioritize their efforts in order to see the biggest impact. To round them up in one place, I reached out to 14 of my content marketing colleagues at HubSpot and asked them what piece of advice they would share about finding success in their area of specialty.
14 content marketing best practices from HubSpot
From friendly reminders to set your standards high to practical tips around historical optimization and non-organic content, here are 14 tips straight from the content experts at HubSpot.
1. Set your standards high
Lisa Toner, HubSpot’s Director of Content, names holding your team accountable to higher standards as her recommendation for leading a content team.
“In my experience, you know a piece of content isn’t ready to publish if the people creating it aren’t super excited to publish it and see their name next to it,” she explains. “Ask your team ‘how proud are you of this content on a scale of 1-10?’ If it’s not a 10, it’s not ready.” With multiple subject matter experts on the team, it’s easier to gain that honest, actionable feedback faster.
In addition, Lisa emphasizes the importance of “finding creators who are passionate about delivering exceptional value to the customer” to help differentiate your organization’s output from the sea of other options online.
2. Stay up-to-date with Google Trends
Google is always updating its algorithm and search engine results page (SERP) features, leaving SEO teams constantly on their toes for what’s coming next. HubSpot’s SEO Marketing Manager Amanda Kopen notes that Google Trends – a free tool – opens up the doors for marketers to keep track of what people are searching. This data can help you identify what keywords you should create content around.
“Use Google Trends to identify how popular different search terms are. Also, keep an eye out on the People Also Ask boxes on the Google SERP. This can allow you to do some very basic keyword research to see what your company should include in their content.”
These People Also Ask (PAA) boxes are expandable questions that someone searching for a term may also search for. These boxes may answer searchers’ questions more directly, and since this feature tends to rank high on SERPs, securing placement in one can boost your effective ranking for your website’s pages.
3. Diversify your traffic sources with non-organic content
At HubSpot, organic traffic composes up the vast majority of our overall website traffic. However, we don’t want to rely solely on search engines to bring us page views, which is why we developed a holistic non-organic content strategy, helmed by Senior Marketing Manager Pamela Bump.
“Make sure you’re not just leveraging search result pages for traffic,” she encourages. “You can also increase traffic from non-organic channels like email, social media, or other websites by including elements like expert quotes, original data, trend coverage, links to related industry news, or real-world examples of what you’re discussing.
“Not only do these elements encourage online sharing, but they also can help build your credibility and boost your domain authority,” she concludes, suggesting that even without prioritizing SEO with this content, you may still reap organic benefits.
This strategy was also extremely beneficial to the content team during the pandemic. As search intent radically shifted, this non-organic approach became a reliable way for HubSpot to bring in blog traffic by offering more timely and relevant data and information to blog readers.
4. Think about the bigger picture
“To create content that resonates, it’s important to consider the factors at play outside of the four walls of your industry,” says Content Team Manager Carly Williams. “Great content creators add value to the conversation by responding to real-time needs with awareness and empathy, especially during times of uncertainty.”
Carly suggests content creators “zoom out and get some perspective before hitting publish.” Thinking about your role in your industry is essential, but thinking about what might be happening socially, economically, and politically in your region – and how that might impact your content and your industry – cannot be overlooked. I
5. Know the “why” behind your goals
There’s no sense in creating content unless it’s intended to contribute to a concrete goal for your business. Whether that goal is something as simple as traffic or engagement, or as far down the pipeline as revenue, goals should be the driving force behind everything you create.
“Before you can set any goals and track the proper KPIs, you need to know why you’re tracking those metrics,” says Growth Marketer, Brandon Sanders. “Starting with your ‘why’ will help you accurately measure performance and build your strategy.”
“For example,” he asks, “are you trying to increase your share of voice, improve your brand, generate more quality leads, or drive more traffic? Once you’ve determined your ‘why,’ you’ll better understand key KPIs you can use to monitor your efforts effectively.”
6. Historical optimization is non-negotiable
For those unfamiliar with the term, historical optimization is the process of revisiting and updating existing pieces of content with more helpful and relevant information.
It’s easy to create a piece of content, watch it soar, expect that it’s in a good place, and then move onto the next project. However, this content creation model could be a huge opportunity cost when it comes to organic traffic and conversions for your top-performing pieces of content.
That’s where historical optimization comes into play. Amanda Sellers, the manager of HubSpot’s Historical Optimization Team, notes the many benefits of this practice.
“Over time, organic traffic performance for even your top blog posts can start to decay – sometimes as soon as six months after publishing!”, she explains. “This is because new, more competitive content is being created every day and can show up on the SERPs, pushing your posts down. With that in mind, make re-optimizing your existing library part of your content repurposing strategy so that your organic channel stays healthy.”
7. Brush up on project management skills
Content – especially content that is created collaboratively – needs to be planned and managed effectively. Communicating goals, establishing quality guidelines, and sticking to timelines all require strict project management skills.
Charlene Strain, HubSpot’s Marketing Manager for Co-marketing & Partnerships, notes the importance of this skill – particularly when working with external partners. “Refining your project management skills is a plus since you’re working with multiple people, from multiple companies, with multiple moving parts and goals.”
Strain suggests documenting an agreement on responsibilities and project scope before anything is created to ensure a clear understanding of who is handling what parts of the assignment, which “can help improve the operational and strategic side of partner communications and content creation.”
8. Get aligned with the product team
While not all of your content can (or should) directly promote your product(s) and/or service(s), there’s still plenty of benefit to staying aligned with your product team so that when the moment comes to mention your brand, you do so accurately and convincingly.
Kristen Baker, HubSpot’s Blogger for Product Content, claims that “aligning your content with your product or service is an effective avenue for driving traffic, brand awareness, and conversions.”
This alignment can happen in a way that best suits the needs and availability of both teams, but some examples might be:
- Forming a Slack channel to keep communication open.
- Having a monthly in-person or Zoom sync to catch up on new initiatives.
- Establishing an SLA and a point of contact between each team.
However, these mentions need to be appropriate given the context of your content. If it doesn’t make sense to mention your product – don’t.
“By naturally inserting relevant information about your product’s features and the types of challenges it resolves, you educate your audience in a way that helps you 1). establish your brand as an industry thought-leader, and 2). show your audience how your product resolves their pain points.” It’s a win-win for education and promotion.
9. Promote content using different creative assets
We all know about the importance of strategically promoting content, but HubSpot’s Social Community Manager, Jennifer Kim, suggests leaning into different creative elements to help spread the word.
“Whether that’s infographics, text-based, or even video content, it’s best to try different types out to see what your audience engages with most. Plus, it adds some diversity to your promotions,” she says.
Over time, you’ll gradually get a feel for what types of creative assets your audience reacts to – especially on different channels. For example, infographics might work well in email, but not on social – meanwhile, your social audience may gravitate towards video. Get creative and see what drives engagement.
10. Advertise contextually
This lesson came from Alanah Joseph, the Senior Marketing Manager for HubSpot’s Podcast Network. The network hosts multiple shows, but each show has a different host. Rather than plug in a pre-recorded ad or give the show’s host(s) a script, Alanah works with these hosts to promote more naturally.
“Part of our work at HubSpot Podcast Network is to deliver custom ads to each of our shows,” she says. “The best ads that we create are a true collaboration with the creator. When you find creators that genuinely align with your brand values, ad production is a smooth process. The best thing you can do is give the creator room to infuse their voice and style into the ad. Let content creators do what they do best: create content!”
This idea of carefully planning advertisements also speaks to the general need for advertising and promotion strategy. How closely do you think about which calls-to-action you place on a blog, or refine your Facebook ad audience? Being more intentional about your ads, what they look and sound like, and to whom they have been exposed increases the likelihood of generating a strong ROI.
11. Invest in an in-depth video strategy
As we mentioned in the intro, video is the most commonly used format in content marketing. But is your video strategy sticking?
Nelson Chacon, the Principal YouTube Strategist for HubSpot, encourages content creators to think about the bigger picture of video content in a business strategy, noting consumers have flocked not just towards YouTube, but also sites “like Instagram, TikTok, and streaming services like Netflix and Hulu in reaction to the pandemic.”
This trend opens the door for more avenues for creating and sharing videos – not just about industry trends, but also about your company. “Having explainer videos or common FAQ videos that can support your customer service department is a good idea to increase sales and improve customer experience,” Nelson suggests.
12. Maximize the reach of your content with cross-promotion
Jennifer Brault, HubSpot Team Manager for Social Media Strategy & Operations, points out the importance of promoting your top content through as many channels as possible. Otherwise, you might miss out on getting in front of a relevant audience.
“Always create content with cross-promotion in mind,” says Jennifer. “If you’re producing a YouTube video, is there a relevant blog post that you can embed it on? Or, if you’re creating a blog post, what key tips can you pull out for a podcast interview, Instagram multi-post, or LinkedIn PDF?”
Jennifer suggests the thought of cross-promotion should be thought of in the planning stage to maximize the chances of cross-promotional success. “The importance of thinking of cross-promotion before you start creating is that you can optimize it to match up better with the channels that will give you more reach,” she says.
13. Make your content skimmable
It may seem like an incidental change, but breaking up those giant text blocks in your blog posts makes content more approachable, consumable, and (ultimately) actionable.
Caroline Forsey, Senior Content Strategist and former Editor of HubSpot’s Marketing Blog, learned this can make all the difference in scaling a blog property’s audience. “Make sure your content is easy for readers to skim and get value from quickly,” she suggests. “This includes using small paragraphs, images, bullet points, lists, or other visual cues to help the reader find what they’re looking for quickly.”
If content cannot be easily consumed and navigated, you risk losing a visitor altogether – even one who may convert and one day become a customer. Sending out a survey to your content consumers or even running more formal UX testing can help you identify quick ways to make your content more appealing to those who see it.
14. Make your own best practices
Finally, you’re probably reading this blog post to come up with a few best practices to adopt at your company. While it’s a great idea to take inspiration from other content teams and test them out at your organization, you shouldn’t formally adopt these ideas without proving that they’re effective for your audience.
Rebecca Hinton, HubSpot’s Principal CRO Strategist, warns marketers to “be wary of conversion rate optimization ‘best practices.’”
“What works on one website for their audience might not work for yours,” she says. It’s important to check your metrics regularly after testing or adding a new website feature to ensure it doesn’t hinder any of the key performance metrics of your website’s content.
Which tips will you use in your organization?
There you have it – 14 tips from expert content marketers to help you plan, create, promote, and analyze your content better. We hope one or all of these pieces of advice can be put to good use in your organization.