3 essential questions to ensure your content doesn’t die on the vine

Like perishable produce, your goods will rot if they’re not delivered where consumers will look for them and in the desired format.

You are a rock star.

As a content marketer, you are all about making sure your audience can find your content. You watch your keywords, create personas and make sure nothing gets published unless it’s been hit with the magic SEO stick. You know it’s a waste of time to create good content if you have bad SEO, so you do your part. Your pages will get in front of users!

The problem is that it’s not working. Why? You’re either putting your content where your users aren’t, or you’re trying to force them into unnatural behaviors.

There’s a disease many of us suffer from. I’m not going to try and give it a clever name (mostly because my attempts failed), but it’s pretty easy to recognize. It’s when business owners start making decisions based on their actions instead of those of their customers. It’s when those business owners think because they do something one way, their audience must naturally do it the same way.

Only, often they don’t.

Below are three questions you must ask yourself to ensure you’re putting content where your users will find it.

Are you optimizing for the right screen? (Example: Mobile versus Web)

When you created your website, you assumed that your customers would find you via the traditional Web and that they’d use their home computer to access your store and/or read your blog. Is that what’s happening, or are you finding a growing segment of your customer base is accessing your website via their mobile phone or tablet? Are they bouncing off conversion pages? Have you checked?

If not, it’s time to open up Google Analytics to discover what percentage of your traffic comes from mobile, visitors’ average time on site, how many pages they view, what device they’re using, etc. This isn’t novelty information anymore. It’s an indication of how users prefer to view your content and a sign that you may need to work around an experience you weren’t expecting.

Don’t get me wrong. Every website should be concerned with mobile usability in today’s environment, but for some sites, mobile becomes even more important when you spot trends that users would prefer to convert from mobile than from the traditional desktop. It’s not that they’re looking for directions; it’s that they’re trying to make a purchase, trying to access walled content, or trying to partake in some other conversion-heavy activity. This may mean creating an app to help them do it or architecting your site around a different kind of user. But if you don’t look, you don’t know.

Are you using the right medium? (Example: Email versus RSS)

It’s not that RSS is dead or dying, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re reading this, you are a geek. Congratulations. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. What you have to ask yourself is whether your customers are geeks. If not, forcing them to ingest your content via RSS will not work because they don’t see the “simple” in RSS. Instead, it’s going to alienate them and make them feel disconnected from your brand.

If you’re not serving a tech-savvy crowd, take the additional three seconds in Feedburner and offer your audience a “subscribe via email” option so they can keep up to date with your brand via their inbox. Heck, even if you are serving a tech-savvy crowd, give it to them anyway. You’d be surprised how many people prefer to receive information through that archaic email technology than through RSS. Just because it works for you, doesn’t mean it works for them. This isn’t about you.

Are you posting where they’re listening? (Example: Onsite versus offsite)

It’s fantastic that you’re putting fresh content on your site every day, but is that where people want to go to find it? Or are you trying to corral the cats running around the Internet?

Before you can engage users (that’s what we’re all doing, right?), you have to know where they are and where they want to be reached. The Web enables us to exist in a much more fragmented place. We don’t go to NYTimes.com to get the news anymore, we follow @NYTimes on Twitter. Or maybe we follow one of their reporters. We don’t show up to the local lunch spot to check the specials, we go to its Facebook page to see if they’ve been posted there. We have far more control over how we consume content and the channels we use to do it.

Your stellar content is wasted if you’re not engaging users the want they want to be engaged. Post that content on your site, but don’t ignore the outside satellite communities that your analytics are telling you about. Where are customers coming from? Which communities are linking to you? The people passing around your content—which sites are they from? If your audience prefers to be reached in their satellite communities, then posting your content on your own island and then YELLING about it isn’t going to work.

Everything starts with creating content that users are interested in. But once you have that content, it’s not enough to simply put it on display and wait. It has to appear on the right screen, in the right format, and be where users are ready to accept it. Otherwise, your great content doesn’t matter. No one’s seeing it.

Lisa Barone is the Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media. She’s also very active on Twitter, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

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