08 Dec 2015

Are You Ready to Onboard Content From Your Agency?

I’ve been procrastinating on this blog post for two weeks, which is kind of funny because the topic originated from a discussion we were having about why some clients seem to take forever to publish content:

  • Do they procrastinate?
  • Are they not prepared?
  • Scared?
  • Do they have the tools and knowledge to post content?
  • Lack of time?

Our clients are not content marketers. They make stuff, sell stuff, solve problems, serve their clients and innovate in their industries. They hire us to do their content marketing, which might be why, when it’s time to press the “publish” button, they freeze. Or, they are caught off guard and not prepared with the right tools. Or, they have the right tools, but they don’t know how to use them.

A good content marketing agency prepares its clients for the roles everyone will play in the execution of content marketing campaigns. It’s part of our job to set up clients for success and anticipate their needs. We have to prepare them for what to do when they get their content.

Before I get to the checklist for onboarding content from your agency, let’s talk about content approvals.

Reviewing & Approving Your Content

Here’s some brutal honesty for you: I dread client approvals more than I dread going to the dentist, washing my car, and cleaning my cat’s litter box. Approvals take too long and they can stop production in its tracks. They can be frustrating.

To make the approval process less painful, we set deadlines for feedback and we set expectations for what should happen at each stage of review. If your content has to go through multiple layers of review – brand manager, marketing manager, legal, and C-suite, for example – your production time is going to be painfully long.

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Try to make your review and approvals process as short as possible and involved as few sets of eyes as possible. Keep in mind that copy that’s published on your site can be easily edited and updated.

Checklist for Onboarding Content

Everything is easier if you have a process; there’s no second guessing about what to do or who does it. That’s why I strongly suggest putting together a checklist not only to publish your new content, but also to get the most from it.

1. Appoint or Hire a Content Marketing Manager

Here’s a great idea – hire a content marketing manager to act as the point person between your company and your content agency. The marketing content manager can be responsible for overseeing content development and implementation – including approving agency-developed content and publishing it in a timely manner.

Your content manager will work with the C-level executives to gain buy-in for the direction of content, get executive approval of content and communicate changes to key stakeholders in your organization and content agency.

Having someone in your organization who can move the workflow along ensures that you have fresh content that meets the organization’s objectives.

What should be in the job description?

Your Content Marketing Manager should have experience in:

  • Digital marketing strategy
  • Project management
  • SEO
  • Social media marketing
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Customer service
  • Various content management systems
  • Internal, as well as external, communications
  • Measurement and analytics

This role will work with executives and the digital agency to:

  • Determine content strategies for marketing and editorial content
  • Set a content calendar – including when to publish new content
  • Stay on top of industry changes that may trigger a need for new content
  • Identify the social media platforms your clients use (Instagram isn’t for everyone!)
  • Appoint and oversee internal resources to respond to social media messages
  • Appoint and oversee internal resources for content integration
  • Keep all parties on point with project timelines

2. Set Up Technical Training for Your Team

Why bother getting new content if you don’t post it? It’s easy to find reasons to procrastinate. But, if your team is improperly trained or your content management system (CMS) is overly complicated, you’ll have real publishing obstacles that could derail your marketing objectives.

There is no excuse for a complicated CMS. Today’s best systems are so easy to use that a novice can handle routine updates with basic, in-house training.

  • WordPress is a popular CMS because it’s so easy to understand. I taught myself to use it with the help of a training course from Lynda.com, and you’ll find a number of free tutorials and training videos online. The pro of WordPress is it’s among the easiest CMS’s to use; the con is if you expect to increase the size of your website significantly, it may not be your best choice.
  • Drupal is a better choice if your website is large because it has the ability to scale as your site grows. This php-based CMS is open-source, so the up-front cost is low, but your content specialists will have to have more computer knowledge and training than they would for WordPress.
  • Joomla is often mentioned in the same breath as WordPress and Drupal, because it’s somewhere in between the two – less complicated than Drupal, but more scaleable than WordPress. And, it is a CMS that is easy to use, with training.

After selecting the CMS for your site, set up technical training for your content team. You might think a manual is plenty – but why trust something as important as content to a manual? Get an expert to train your team.

Provide each member of the content team the tools to be successful – including a unique sign-in and password to the secure URL address.

3. Optimize Your Content

You may wonder why your team needs to optimize when you pay a content agency to write SEO-optimized content. Keywords are just the start of this process. A good CMS and experienced marketing content manager can ensure your information is “find-able.”

Get Google-Friendly

Google is the gold standard for search engines, and the majority of businesses shape their site to meet their standards. Google sends “bots” to crawl websites for new content and index them on its huge search engine.

To get the best results:

  1. Create a sitemap complete with the URLs for each of your pages
  2. Upload your sitemap to Google
  3. Make certain some of your content is text-based
  4. Repair broken hyperlinks

If you want to understand more about how Google crawls the internet, watch our short video, “How Google Crawls The Web“.

Add SEO-rich Elements to Content

Don’t be intimidated if you don’t know how to enhance SEO. Your CMS may have tools that help you boost SEO value by adding metadata, page title tags, header tags and alt-tags to your images to make your content even more “findable.” If your CMS doesn’t have this, there are third-party plugins or integrations that can help.

  1. Metadata and page title tags – These elements help search engines determine what your web pages are about so they can categorize them properly. Even though they’re used to identify web pages, adding metadata and title tags to your blog makes them even more searchable.
  2. What the H? – H1, H2s and H3s – Just like your metadata and page title tags, “H-tags” are another element of SEO optimization. As you might guess, the numbers indicate a progression with H1 indicating the primary headline and H2, H3 are subheads. Use H1 tags only once in blogs, infographics, emailed newsletters and more; H2+ tags may be used multiple times. Your H1 should include your primary keyword phrase whenever possible; subheads can include your primary and secondary keywords to add another layer of visibility.
  3. Image optimization: Add another level of optimization by adding keywords to the captions under the images in your blog. Commonly called Alt-text optimization, this gives even more information to search engines about what your content is about.

4. Plan and Scale Your Social Media

If your content marketing agency isn’t handling your social media, you must have a dedicated person or team responsible for updating content on social platforms and monitoring the results.

Your goal for content may be: raising awareness, boosting engagement, providing value or creating connection. These goals are aimed at customers or prospective customers at different points of your sales funnel.

Knowing the purpose behind your content and who the audience it’s aimed at will help social media specialists understand how to create posts:

  • Blog posts: raising awareness, boosting engagement
  • Press release: raising awareness
  • Infographic: raising awareness, boosting engagement, providing value
  • Emailed newsletter: providing value, creating connection
  • Resource pages: providing value, creating connection

Before creating the social media posts, your specialists should understand what the goal of the content is and who might be reading it:

  • Raising awareness: Reader is at the top of sales funnel and might be just becoming aware of the company.
  • Boosting engagement: Customer is further down the sales funnel and interested in the content topic and your organization.
  • Providing value: Prospect is aware and may be interested, and now wants to learn more about company offerings.
  • Creating connection: This reader is a customer or is deepening their connection to the enterprise.

5. Create a Campaign for New Content

After a new blog post, press release or infographic goes live, your content marketing manager should communicate with the social media specialists so they can reach as many people as possible using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms that customers use.

Instagram is great for posts that feature a compelling image, and to reach a younger audience (53% of their users are 18 -29, according to SproutSocial).

Decide on how many social media alerts are needed per content – and which to use. If it’s a juicy topic – think identity theft insurance immediately after the Target data breach – the Content Marketing Manager should increase the number of posts, the platforms and their frequency to take advantage of the wide media coverage and the increase in perceived need for the product or service product.

Each social post should have an easily consumable message that leads them back to the content they are promoting.

6. Nurture New Leads

If you capture new email addresses (yes, please!), make sure you use them. It’s surprising that many people don’t plan how to move beyond awareness and engagement.

When a new person gives you their contact information, it’s an indication of trust and a great way to start a relationship.

It’s standard to follow up with, “Thanks for downloading the white paper” or, “We appreciate you signing up for our newsletter.” If you’ve secured permission to send your new prospects special offers from time to time, place their email address into whatever lead-nurturing marketing campaign your company uses.

Whew – is that all it takes to onboard and get results from new content? If it were easy, everyone would have all the customers they needed and no one would have to hire a content agency to create effective content, manage social media campaigns and report the results of engagement and conversions.

When you do hire an agency, like Vertical Measures, make sure you’re getting all the value you can from expertly conceived and created content. And, if it gets to be too much – don’t let your busy-ness, fear or procrastination get in the way. Call us so you can get the best possible results out of your content. It’s important – the health of your bottom line may depend upon it.