In 2020, the number of people using the internet increased because of the pandemic. People spend more time on the internet—both schools and workplaces had to adapt to the lockdowns, which means investment in online and remote collaboration tools. However, our behavior in search is also changing. Many people's preferences in content types and formats are shifting, which affects organic search results.
Digital marketers need to adapt to these changes and deliver content that their audience will want to consume. For example, the increased uncertainty of when things will be back to normal has led to the popularity of 'how-to' videos and tutorials. Businesses that want to connect with their audiences could benefit from exploring this.
If you want to write for search, you must thoroughly investigate your audience and conduct new research into your keywords. The content plans that worked in 2019 won't work today, and you need to evaluate your users to see what they like now. Look at the content they consume, their buyer journey, and what keywords they use today. People might not be searching for the same things they used to before the pandemic.
When you've revised the keywords you plan to target, prepare an editorial plan that responds to these new realities. You will have to do this entire process for several weeks, even months, to see how the patterns emerge. Keep these things in mind when you're rebuilding your marketing funnel for our new normal.
Top of the Funnel: Review User Behavior
Your content decisions should reflect your customers' buyer journey. Don't look at keywords only—study all your assets online. If you have an e-commerce store, for example, your sales conversion rate, email opt-ins, customer acquisition cost, and revenue by traffic source can tell you a lot about your customers today. These things should inform your content strategy as much as keywords do.
If you sell services, you can still track metrics—check the pages which get the most views and the ones where people respond to your CTA. Take note of pages they visit that aren't part of your funnel, like your FAQ, service pages, or the knowledge base. There could be a content gap that your marketing materials aren't addressing.
Finally, when revising your long-form marketing strategy, it's good to incorporate the usual best practices like opting for long-tail keywords and prioritizing user intent. Identify potential mismatches between the posts' target audience and your business' customers. For example, your display ads might be bringing in prospects who are very different from the people who come in through organic traffic.
Middle of the Funnel: Prioritize Website UX
Something most content marketers would never admit to but are true: it's challenging to create content that audiences relate with. It was hard enough before the pandemic when we had to compete with other media. It's even harder now because our constant exposure to online materials has shortened our collective attention span. Solving your customers' problems is crucial, but you won't be able to convert them solely by helping them solve their problems. You have to embody their values. They have to be able to see you as part of their lifestyle.
So, in the middle of the funnel, be ready to design an experience around your content. Involve the sales, customer success, and design teams in brainstorming how to get your audience from one part of the website to another. Some brands even use end-to-end analytics to help them predict how their audiences will act at different stages of the buyer's journey.
Also, be ready to incorporate the insights from your analytics into the editorial calendar and SEO efforts.
Do this as organically as possible; planning too far ahead is counterproductive since you might have to write stories covering breaking news or developments in your industry.
Your priority in the middle of the funnel is user experience. Content formats should vary—instead of just blog posts and webinars, you can create interactive content using tools like Brandcast, Ceros, and Paperflite. Also, ensure that your analytics process is ongoing—you need a system for monthly content audits, ensuring that what you publish addresses your audience's concerns.
Bottom of the Funnel: Leverage Your Data
You will need to deploy your most persuasive messages to move customers down from consideration to purchase. If they are at this stage, they've probably been through other companies' funnels as well. They would likely be inundated with marketing messages and reluctant to read in-depth reviews or anything long-form. But it is easier said than done—the more messages a user gets, the harder it becomes to move them down your funnel.
One solution would be to create lead magnets. However, you have to be careful in doing so—incentivizing people with the right thing is all the more critical at this stage. You need to understand your content marketing funnel and where business results tend to happen. If you aren't after pure lead generation, simply having a CTA won't work.
When creating content for the bottom of the funnel, you need to see the big picture. It means analyzing your entire strategy to see the pieces that are a good fit for conversion.
For example, you could analyze blog performance on several thematic clusters. If you see topics that outperform others in leads, traffic, or both, you could rework these stories to become bottom-of-funnel lead magnets. If you have the data for it, you can also use A/B experiments to create segmented content offers—doing so personalizes your content, which is always good.
Each stage of the funnel requires different messaging and strategies to ensure success. At the top, you're trying to get as much traffic as possible, so introducing your brand is the most important. Tracking what people do on your website tells you about their needs and concerns, which helps you formulate messages for further marketing.
The middle is for making your brand memorable and your content attractive; it should let readers transition smoothly from one idea to the next. Your internal linking strategy and the UX of your website matter greatly at this stage.
Finally, the bottom is where you should have your most persuasive content. This isn't to say that you should bombard your users with CTAs and notifications; instead, their behavior in the previous two stages should inform the messages you choose and the offers you make here.
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