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How to Optimize your Content with Michael Brenner

How to Optimize your Content with Michael Brenner

Did you know that on average, 60-70% of the content we create goes completely unused?  

If you’re shocked, you’re not alone. This is one of the things that our founder Amy Wood’s spoke to Michael Brenner about on the Content 10x Podcast. Michael is a former VP of Digital Marketing at SAP, he's been a CMO of multiple high-growth startups, and he now runs a fast-growing content marketing agency, Marketing Insider Group. He is also the author of The Content Formula, and Mean People Suck.

Michael delivered a talk at Content Marketing World in 2022, and in it he dropped the above stat, which caught Amy’s attention and since then she has wanted to get Michael onto the show to unpack the reasons behind this, as well as to talk about optimizing content effectively, how to research the topics to focus on and how to measure your content’s effectiveness.

Listen to the full podcast episode here:

Watch the highlights video below or head over to our YouTube channel for the full episode in video format.

Or, if you prefer, keep reading for the main points from the conversation. 

Why is so much content created and not used? 

As a corporate marketer, one of Michael’s biggest frustrations was being stuck between a rock and a hard place when it came to expectations. You’re expected to deliver results for sales and bring in leads, but you are often asked to create content that doesn’t deliver on those sales results or leads.

Ultimately, because there’s no real plan for distribution.

“Many marketers will hear this and think, ‘no that doesn’t happen in our organization’, but in almost every organization where there’s been an audit, we’ve found that on average 60-70% of marketing content is created, but never used”.

The great ‘content disconnect’ 

While marketing teams are being asked by other departments to create the content they need to promote or explain aspects of their product, the question, ‘is this the kind of content that our audience actually wants from us?’ can get overlooked.

The fact is, you can’t not create this kind of content. You need to explain what your product is, the features, the benefits and differentiators and so on, but most buyers are only ready for this content at the very end of the buyer journey. Michael explained:

“One of the things I’ve been doing for the last 10 years is trying to point out to brands that there’s this huge gap where the helpful, educational content that really meets the needs of your customers – and helps to attract them to the things that you’ve created – should be…”

When we connect with people and their biggest challenges, we attract them to our brand they will then want to check out our products. But if we are just talking about our products, people run!

The tools to answer the questions

So how do we find out what our customers actually want from us?

There are a number of tools that Michael uses and recommends for trying to get to the questions that we should be answering:

“Using these tools helps us to understand the questions our audiences are asking and see the content they’re consuming. We should all strive to be creating more of that.”
How to Optimize Your Content with Michael Brenner

The changing face of SEO

Mastering SEO requires a very specific skill set that has changed a lot over the past 10 years.

The Google algorithm used to be very technical but now a lot of those semantics have been built into WordPress and the WordPress-type CMS’s that websites use. So, almost 99% of the technology for SEO success is already built into the platforms we are all using.

“What has happened is Google is saying, ‘we’re going to rank content that people seem to like’. And so all you really need to do is understand how to create content that people like,” says Michael. “But SEO firms are still incredibly important when it comes to helping companies understand which pages should be connected to each other.”

The importance of updating content (and not just creating new content)

Michael creates two new pieces of content a week, and updates two.

Using the tools mentioned above, he was coming across topics that he had already covered, providing opportunities to go back and update and optimize that content. Refreshing it included:  

  • A new image
  • A new date
  • Some new stats and information
“It’s a 25% refresh, not a total rewrite. Sometimes we stumble over an article written in 2013 that’s 450 words and know I need to get it to 1200 words and actually have it answer the search intent.”

Engagement and conversion 

Most people think of engagement as time onsite and bounce rate or social shares, but for Michael, true engagement is identifying the people that are on your site that are engaged enough to sign up to your newsletter.

Then, you need to fulfil that subscription by actually delivering a newsletter and nurturing the subscribers.

There are multiple ways to capture email subscribers – ebook downloads, webinar downloads and of course, simply offering the value of the newsletter. Once subscribed Michael has a 12-step email nurture process.

These nurture steps start by providing background, answering questions and sharing high traffic posts before moving on to promoting their service, a weekly blog subscription service, and then going back to providing content, personal stories and a sales message.

Optimizing your content 

It is really important to know what your high-traffic pages are, and make sure they are high-converting, or have them linked to your high-converting pages.

Your high-traffic pages might not be very relevant to what you sell, therefore they are not high-converting, but they are attracting traffic so that’s where you have a number of CTAs, for example to your most popular lead magnets or inviting them to download a webinar.

Then you do the opposite with your high-converting pages. “You bring traffic to conversion and conversion to traffic. That’s really the best way to raise the bar,” says Michael.

Less than 2% of traffic to B2B websites comes from social

Michael explains that LinkedIn used to bring him 5% of his traffic but now it’s 2%. Twitter brings in 1%. So, his first tip to small business owners is “don’t make your first hire a social media person”, because you’re chasing that 2%. What you want, is to chase that 76% that comes from organic search.

That said, social is still important and one of his top tips is to automate it as much as possible using tools such as Hootsuite, then see if anything gets traction and if it does, then invest time in starting to drive engagement.

TOP TIPS for content marketers

Budgets are tight, revenue is down, profits are being squeezed. Is this time to make a cut when it comes to your content marketing?

“When you cut advertising for example, the results that you get go to zero the day you cut it. But with content marketing, we’re building a platform that’s based on evergreen content that continues to meet the needs of our customers. So it’s an investment,” 

says Michael.

His advice:

  • Do an honest assessment of where you sit in your industry from an organic search perspective
  • Don’t ask ‘how am I doing?” but “how am I doing relative to the competition?”
  • Ask “what is the visibility that I have in the industry and should we be doing a better job?”
  • Then, invest what you need to invest to reach the level you want to reach

If your market share is number one but your organic search position is number three, then you have a big gap. Probably due to underinvestment.

The best way to close that gap is to focus on customer, keywords, questions and content. “I think organic is going to see a good year in 2023.”

To connect with Michael you can find him on LinkedIn or on his company website Marketing Insider Group


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