Advanced content marketing training course has aged well

By now, you know that I’ve asked people to stop buying YouTube and Video Marketing because the second edition of my book was published eight years ago and it needs to be thoroughly updated. But, I have no problem recommending that you take the Advanced Content Marketing Certification Training Course that I created for Simplilearn three years ago because it has aged remarkably well.

So, why is my book woefully out of date while my course is still relatively up to date? Yes, one was completed five years earlier than the other. But, I think it also has something to do with the nature of the content created for different target audiences.

Willem Knibbe, the Senior Acquisitions Editor of my book, wanted me to write a step-by-step guide for marketers, advertisers, and small business owners. So, much of my book was focused on tactics – and half of this type of content was obsolete within 18 months. But, Scott Milrad, the VP of Education at my certification training provider, wanted me to create an advanced course for professionals in digital marketing, online content planning or writing, business development, social media and search marketing, public relations, organizational communication, and branding. So, much of my course was focused on strategy – and the vast majority of this type of content turns out to be more evergreen.

Plus, I had figured out what worked and didn’t work in video marketing through trial and error as well as by interviewing successful (and unsuccessful) YouTube content creators. But, I figured out how to become a best-in-class content marketer after reading a post by Amit Singhal in the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog that was entitled, “More guidance on building high-quality sites.” The post was written for webmasters in May 2011 shortly after the first “Panda” algorithm change and it shared “some questions that one could use to assess the ‘quality’ of a page or an article.” They included:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?

Singhal added, “We encourage you to ask yourself the same sorts of questions we ask when looking at the big picture. This way your site will be more likely to rank well for the long-term.”

That’s when I had an epiphany: Google was sharing the right guidance with the wrong people! With rare exceptions, webmasters don’t have the skills, education, and experience to create high-quality articles and content. But, the vast majority of content marketers do.

And that’s why I started including the questions above in the Content Marketing Strategy and Tactics module that I taught in the Rutgers Mini-MBA program in Digital Marketing. The program was designed for seasoned marketers who were well versed in digital platforms. This included marketing managers and executives who led internal teams or partnered with outside providers. They were the right people to keep questions like the ones above in mind as they focused on “developing high-quality content rather than trying to optimize for any particular Google algorithm.”

Now, my epiphany in the spring of 2011 served me well as I developed my Advanced Content Marketing Certification Training Course in the fall of 2016. And it’s been verified by several of the experts who write for the Content Marketing Institute Blog. For example, check out these recent posts:

  • Will This Real-Life Search Turn Up a Keyword Ranking Opportunity?” Published on October 21, 2019, this article by Andrew Dennis does some keyword research for a real brand. He asks, “Will the step-by-step process lead to a viable content opportunity for Wild Willies? It should help you identify the path to pages that bring rankings and traffic.”
  • The Best Reason to Do Content Marketing? Organic Search,” which was published on October 3, 2019. Michael Brenner says, “Only one channel satisfies every reason your brand has for distributing and promoting content – organic search. And that’s not an overstatement.”
  • Why You Should Do This Helpful SEO Audit Once a Year,” which was published September 19, 2019. Amanda DiSilvestro says, “SEO audits of your website can be tedious and time consuming. And it takes time to see results after you make fixes. But they’re necessary to drive success on your site. Can you commit to doing this at least once a year?”

These posts look like they were written for the readers of Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, or Search Engine Watch instead of the readers of the Content Marketing Institute Blog. But, I would argue that content marketers need to know as much about optimizing useful articles and helpful content as search engine optimizers need to know about creating high-quality pages and information-rich sites.

This recognition that content marketing and SEO are joined at the hip helps to explain why the advanced content marketing certification training course that I created three years ago has aged remarkably well. Although, now that I’ve read B2B Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends — North America, which has just been published by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, I realize that my old course could use a little freshening up here and there.

For example, I think Section 1: Introduction to Content Marketing has held up fairly well. I crafted this outline of the sections in my course around two strategic insights. The first was a model of the steps people use to search for and share video content, which first appeared in the second edition of YouTube and Video Marketing. The second was my analysis of the key findings of B2B Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends — North America, which identified what differentiated top performers from their average peers three years ago. Now, some things have changed dramatically since then, but a surprising number have remained the same or evolved in foreseeable ways.

For example, I’d argue that Section 2: Developing a Vision of Content Marketing Success has passed the test of time even though this is no longer on the latest list of what differentiates top performers from all B2B marketers. Then, why keep it? Because the survey’s methodology changed last year and only respondents who say their organization has used content marketing for at least one year are now surveyed. So, developing a vision of what success looks like may still be an issue for those just getting started. Plus, I used four case studies to illustrate the similarities and differences of successful content marketing in different fields. And this anticipated the latest list of what differentiates top performers who have used content marketing successfully to achieve different goals, which includes:

  • Build a subscribed audience
  • Nurture subscribers/audiences/leads
  • Generate sales/revenue
  • Build loyalty with customers

I’d make the same argument for Section 3: Developing a Business Case for Content Marketing, whichstill provides very useful advice. Although this doesn’t appear in the latest list of what differentiates top performers from their average peers, developing a business case for content marketing may still be an issue for those just getting started even if it isn’t for those with a year of more of experience. Or, it may have morphed into two new differentiators that are on the latest list:

  • Has a centralized content marketing group working throughout the organization
  • Has KPIs to measure content initiatives

I’d also keep Section 4: Creating a Successful Content Marketing Strategy as is. It shared the two-step model that first appeared in the second edition of my book. I’d argue that it was ahead of its time, which is why it has remained relevant and useful today. And although the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs still emphasize the importance of having a “documented” content marketing strategy, I’d argue that documenting your strategy only helps your organization if it is effective and successful.

I wouldn’t change a thing in Section 5: Creating a Remarkable Editorial Mission Statement. Ironically, this no longer appears in the list of what differentiates top performers from all respondents. However, the latest survey says top performers prioritize their audience’s informational needs over their own organization’s sales/promotional message. And I would argue that a remarkable editorial mission statement will help you to resist pressure to publish corporate propaganda. So, they are related.

Section 6: Targeting Customer Intent Instead of Demographics remains excellent advice. Now, this didn’t appear on the old list or the latest list of what differentiates top performers. But, the latest list says that top performers craft content based on specific stages of the customer journey. And I’d argue that customer intent changes at different stages of the journey. Why? Because mobile has fractured the customer journey into real-time, intent-filled micro-moments. And knowing your customer’s intent helps you create content for the moments that matter more effectively than demographics alone.

I’d also keep Section 7: Targeting Key Influencers even though this doesn’t appear in the old list or latest list of what differentiates top performers from typical B2B marketers. Now, the latest list does say top performers work in organizations that prioritize delivering relevant content when and where a person is most likely to see it. And I’d argue that prospects are much more likely to discover the content created by key influencers than the content currently cranked out by most brands. Unfortunately, branded video content like “Volvo Trucks – The Epic Split feat. Van Damme (Live Test),” which has 94.9 million views and 671,000 engagements, is still the exception to the rule.

I recently used the concepts in Section 8: Producing Help, Hub, and Hero Content Consistently in a bespoke (customized) digital marketing training program for marketers at a Fortune 500 company in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industries. So, I wouldn’t touch this section. The concepts are as relevant for B2B marketers as they are for B2C marketers.

But, I would update Section 9: Producing Engaging Content More Frequently. Why? The latest list of what differentiates top performers from all respondents says their organization provides customers with optimal experiences across their engagement journey. Yes, this may require you to produce engaging content more frequently, but providing your customers with optimal experiences across their engagement journey now seems more important. And it would set the stage for the next section.

Section 10: Using Effective B2C and B2B Content Marketing Tactics needs to be thoroughly updated. Why? Because it covers 23 tactics – and about 50% of these are more effective than the other half. So, I’d revised this section to focus on just the most effective tactics to build brand awareness, generate leads, nurture leads, and convert leads. Even with the differences between effective B2C versus B2B marketing tactics, this should still cut the total number of tactics covered to a more actionable amount.

Section 11: Using Successful B2C and B2B Social Media Platforms covers Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. That made sense three years ago, and all four of these four platforms still make sense today. But, I would definitely add Instagram and probably add Snapchat to keep the course up to date. Why? Check out the chart below, which eMarketer created using data that the Pew Research Center published on October 2, 2019. These findings are based on a survey conducted July 8-21, 2019, among 5,107 U.S. adults who are members of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel. That’s a really large sample from a very reliable source, so marketers should pay attention to these latest findings.

I wouldn’t change much in Section 12: Helping customers find the information they seek. Optimizing your content is still the best way of helping customers find the information they seek. But, according to Google, 20% of queries on its mobile app and on Android devices were voice searches in 2016. And a widely quoted prediction (from a disputed source) says 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. Now, people tend to use longer queries when they speak into their smartphones than when they type them on their laptops. So, I’d want to make this point to ensure that the course remained relevant.

I’d update part of Section 13: Helping key influencers impact the buyer’s decision-making process. Again, this doesn’t appear in either the old list or latest list of what differentiates top performers from their average peers. But, it’s still important to develop focused, value-added relationships with key influencers and to plan initiatives that will let you work together. So, what’s changed over the past three years? Well, 90% of all content shared by users on social media these days is video. And the fastest growing marketing channel is sponsored video. According to Tubular Labs, 185,000 brands have sponsored 117,000 influencers and publishers to create over 1.4 million sponsored videos over the past three years. So, collaborating with established video creators who are already reaching your target audience remains a viable option, but many marketers will often get farther faster by sponsoring the right partners. For an example, check out “Ping Pong Trick Shots 3 | Dude Perfect,” which is sponsored advertising by Oreo Cookies. It has 235 million views and 6 million engagements.

I’d also expand Section 14: Measuring content effectiveness using metrics that matter. Which metrics matter the most these days? Well, as my recent article, “Digital analytics vs web analytics is a lot like a bear vs an alligator,” indicates, I covered half a dozen metrics in the course that I created three years ago. But, B2B Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends — North America says that B2B marketers have achieved eight or more goals by using content marketing successfully in the last 12 months, so it wouldn’t hurt to include a couple more metrics to measure goals like:

  • Create brand awareness (86%)
  • Educate audiences (79%)
  • Build credibility/trust (75%)
  • Generate demand/leads (70%)
  • Nurture subscribers/audiences/leads (68%)
  • Build loyalty with existing clients/customers (63%)
  • Generate sales/revenue (53%)
  • Drive attendance to one or more in-person events (52%)

Section 15: Measuring the return on marketing investment (ROMI) was ahead of its time when it was created three years ago and remains ahead of its time today. Yes, the latest list of what differentiates top performers says the most successful “Measure content marketing ROI” and “rate their ability to demonstrate ROI as excellent/very good.” But, this section explains why “ROI” is the wrong metric because it measures money that’s “tied” up in plants and inventories (capital expenditure or CAPEX). Since marketing is typically expensed in the current period (operational expenditure or OPEX), the right metric is return on marketing investment (ROMI). So, I’d continue to make this argument despite the latest survey results.

Section 16: Improving by experimenting with new initiatives remains evergreen. However, I might mention one or two new tactics or platforms just to spruce up this section.

Section 17: Improving by becoming more sophisticated or mature also remains evergreen. As Joe Pulizzi said in Content Inc., which was published in September 2015, it often takes between 15 and 18 months (or more) to become an effective content marketer. That hasn’t changed.

Finally, Section 18: Content marketing in the foreseeable future needs to be thoroughly updated. Why? Three years ago, I correctly predicted that video content was becoming more important. So, I could rest on my laurels. But, a forecast of “where content marketing is headed in 2020” is going to seem woefully out of date in the foreseeable future. So, it’s time to re-examine the latest trends.

So, there you have it. The roadmap that I provided three years ago will still get you where you need to go today. But, there are a few recent developments that are worth noting and some new ways to go farther faster. So, it’s time to update the Advanced Content Marketing Certification Training Course even though it has aged remarkable well since it debuted in the fall of 2016.

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