Content is king in the modern marketing mix. It’s what gets your business noticed on social media and gets you up the search engine rankings. It builds relationships with prospects and helps customers in their time of need. Done well it will lift sales and reduce the cost to service.
You’ve probably read about how to “optimise your site for search engines” and how often you should post to your blog. When you’ve a business to run and margins and time are tight, all this can seem a bit overwhelming. If only there was someone to keep on top of the writing, image editing and posting.
Enter the content manager
I think of the content manager as part-editor, part-creative with a fair bit of project management thrown in. They take all the ideas and demands from the business for content, give it structure, put it together and once it’s out in the wild, make sure it’s doing its job. Along the way they might write your blog posts and customer service documents. They’ll work with your marketing team to make sure everything’s on time for that big product launch. Your web designers will hear from them with suggestions on how to improve your site.
All content starts with an idea.
It might be a flash of inspiration from a conversation, or the result of a deep analysis of customer behaviour. An idea surfaces and becomes a candidate for a new blog post, a change to a product description or updates to the FAQ.
As a content manager I’ll pull all these ideas together. I’ll give them structure and shape, looking for ones that fit with your business goals and working out what work’s needed. Every few weeks there will be a discussion about priorities, and they’ll go on the “editorial calendar” as content to be created. The calendar keeps track of what needs to be done and helps plan out marketing months in advance.
Making lists is great, but eventually you have to put a finger to keyboard and start creating content. My primary responsibility is to make sure everything is up to the required standard in the correct format by the agreed date.
Perhaps the most important thing I do is coordinate work. Even the simplest blog post will have a small cast supporting it. Creatives will deliver words, picture and video. Your team will contribute their knowledge. There will be approvals before publishing. It’s my role to plan and coordinate the work and nudge people to deliver what they said by when they agreed.
As I work a lot with small businesses, often I’m the one writing the content. It will fall to me to research keywords and backlinks, check whether what I’m writing lines up with your business and fact check. I also source images from stock libraries, edit images you supply, and create basic illustrations such as charts and diagrams.
Editing content provided by your people is another important part of my work. You give your business a personal face, so either you write your own blog posts or profile members of your team. In both cases, I’ll edit the raw content. This can vary from a little light editing to ghostwriting from interviews and your notes.
Ghostwriting is where I write the words, but use your ideas and you’re cited as the author. It’s a great way of building your credibility, particularly if you’re not a confident writer.
Getting ready to publish
Once all the creative’s signed off, it’s time to get it ready for publishing. I’ll usually load it into your content management system, get it formatted correctly, and make sure all the SEO magic is there. After a thorough test and once you’ve approved it, your new content can go live.
There could be other changes you need to make. Links to an older article might need updating, or navigation changed. Some of this could happen in the content management system, some might need web developers to get involved.
Just because the content is ready doesn’t mean it gets published immediately. If it’s supporting a product roll-out or a regulatory change, it might be scheduled for the future. All of this activity will need the watchful eye of the content manager to keep them on track.
Promoting your shiny new content
You’ll want to share your new content across social media channels, email lists and perhaps with customers and suppliers too.
Some clients like me to take the lead on this. I’ll coordinate scheduling of social media posts, provide links to share and images optimised for individual networks. I may design the emails used to announce the new content, or provide sample paragraphs for sales and support staff to include in their personal messages to their contacts.
I always ask clients to include me in their email announcements. It was a lesson learnt after a well-meaning account manager changed the sample paragraph and altered the web address. People were being led to a 404-error page. Now I click every link and if I find someone’s broken something I can get it fixed quickly without having to send out an embarrassing “we made a mistake” email.
Did it work?
When everything is live, I’ll monitor progress. Using tools like Google Analytics and Matomo, I’ll keep track of performance. I’ll be looking for a steady increase in traffic, for new sources of visitors you could reach out to, and for any problems that pop up.
Problems can arise when search engines index pages. I’ve had issues where Google reports a problem on a page that’s around for months or even years. Without changing a thing I’ll tell it I fixed the problem and a couple of days later Google confirms the page is fine.
Traffic takes time to build. Posting a great article on a topic you know your customers will love doesn’t guarantee traffic will double overnight. It can take months for SEO to work on a page. This is why patience and a constant feed of good quality content is vital to your marketing.
So why “outsource”?
Most of the companies I’ve worked with can’t support a full-time content manager. They’re publishing once a week and that’s not enough work to justify the cost. Content management gets rolled up into a general marketing role, or even passed over to web designers. It then conflicts with all their other duties and quality might suffer, or publishing schedules get missed.
Outsourcing gives you access to specialist professional knowledge when you need it. Most of the time you might need support once a week to write, publish and promote a high quality blog post. Using a specialist gives you the same quality as a full-time content manager without the expense of a full-time member of staff. You’re also getting cross-organisation knowledge, so you’re learning from the experience others are having right now.
It takes a little time to get used to an outsourcer. You have to learn how to work best with them, they have to learn how best to service your needs. Expecting results within a couple of weeks is unrealistic – 2 or 3 months is about right.
Sometimes you’ll need more involved support. A new product launch could have tens of pages created with sales promotions and customer support FAQs. Running up to Christmas you might publish more frequently to boost sales. Regulatory changes could mean going through every page on your website.
Using a generalist within your business risks compromising on quality or quantity and swamping the individual. If it’s outsourced, I can ramp up my team to support you for the few weeks it’s needed, then drop back when the excitement passes.
What does it all mean for your bottom line?
From my experience, treating content management as a specific role in your business will bring benefits in quality, quantity and to your bottom line.
The quality of content will improve. My past audits with clients have shown about one in five pieces of content has quality problems. These vary from simple spelling mistakes to entire blocks of text that are unreadable. The issue isn’t limited to blog posts. I’ve found large sections of customer support documentation that’s poorly written and often contradictory. These contribute to customers calling to contact centres or complaining on social media.
The quantity of content you can produce will improve. As confidence grows and you become more efficient, you’ll find you can produce more. You can use this extra capacity for creating new content or revise what’s already there. Both have benefits in improving engagement with visitors.
Better quality and quantity of content will improve your business. Increased revenue will come by easing more people through the sales pipeline. Fewer inbound calls and emails from confused customers will reduce your operating costs. You’ll find your marketing becomes more effective and easier to do.
If there’s a choice between improving quality or increasing quantity, choose quality. Better quality content is treated more favourably by search engines and valued more by readers.
Bottom line: you need a content manager
Content is king in marketing. You need a regular drip-feed to get your business noticed and build relationships with customers. Keeping track of ideas, turning them into content, managing the work and getting it all published on time is the role of a content manager. If you’re publishing anything someone in your business is already doing this.
Turning it from a part of someone’s job into a distinct function will bring benefits. You’ll see quality and quantity improve. Engagement will improve, which could grow revenues or reduce some of your operating costs.
Outsourcing to a specialist makes sense for a small business. You’re unlikely to afford a dedicated person, yet you’ll enjoy having that kind of expertise and knowledge. If nothing else, it’s worth a chat to see if it could work for your business.
Using stock photography to lift your content marketing
Starting a business? Thoughts and reflections on where to begin
What is Search Engine Marketing? An introduction for small business
How to use employees to make your marketing authentic
Fixing “Page Title Not Defined” in Matomo analytics
UK’s Plastic Waste Problem : turning web content to a new use
How I create charts for reports without using Excel
Photographs from December: Reliants, Thunderbirds and shorter nights