11 questions to determine if you should keep content in house (or not)

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There are reasons why companies might or might not choose to outsource their content marketing.

As an online marketer, your main focus is to provide web results that match the goals and objectives of your company – and content marketing is a leader in web success. At the halfway point of 2014, two trends are clear:

  • Content marketing is no longer a new concept; it’s a web requirement.
  • Marketers want to produce engaging content, but they’re still struggling to find the time and creative resources – 69 percent of marketers said their biggest content challenge is lack of time.

Most marketers are forced to weigh the pros and cons of outsourcing content. It’s important to be practical about time and resources on one hand, and on the other, carefully consider subject expertise and branding requirements. But to determine who should handle your content, first you need a clear idea of what content marketing success looks like for your business — then you can figure out the best approach to achieving it.

Here are 11 questions that can help you decide whether to keep content in house or get help.

1. Do I understand what content formats will best match my goals?

Different content types have different values, dependent on the goals of a website, and smart choices will save time and money. A blog is a great feature for bringing traffic to your website – but if the point of your website is lead generation, a downloadable resource might be more effective.

Becoming or hiring a content expert – not just a marketing expert – will be essential for launching a content strategy internally. Do you have someone with an editorial AND marketing background? And if you outsource, make sure it’s with a consultant who can make clear recommendations for different content types.

Additional resource: Why it’s wrong to approach content like an all-you-can-eat buffet

2. Do I have the in-house talent to create multimedia, like graphics or videos?

A website that has several different content formats is optimized for multiple goals and audiences – but creating a variety of assets requires teammates with diverse skill sets. If you have writers, designers and video producers in house, you’re way ahead of the curve. Otherwise you’re a candidate for outsourcing at least some part of your strategy.Creating diverse content formats

The benefit of having an in house team or an all-in-one agency is that you’ll have a clear and recognizable brand voice across formats. No matter which route you go, be mindful you’ll need insights on optimization practices for various types of media.

Additional Resource: Brafton case studies have shown that videos paired with text on landing pages increased conversions 257 percent, and images accompanying written blog posts resulted in a 47 percent engagement increase.

3. Do I understand which metrics I should be measuring based on content type?

Analysis of metrics is critical to content marketing – it’s the only way to measure what’s engaging audiences and worthy of your investment. You’ll need to understand which analytics you should be looking at across different content types according to each pieces intended goal.  

Keeping efforts internal means you’d (presumably) easily have access to a spectrum of cross-channel data, and you aren’t sharing login info or sensitive data with external parties. On the other hand, data overload isn’t productive… Agencies with expertise in content may offer new technology or build reports analyzing metrics you didn’t even consider. (And if they’re your partner you should trust them with that login info…)

Additional resource: Setting up Goals in Google Analytics: How and why you should be tracking ROI

4. Do I understand how to optimize my content for Google’s evolving algorithms?

Search engines are constantly making user improvements, and with that comes changes to SEO and website rankings. Keeping your content optimized for maximum visibility requires ongoing attention as new algorithms, Schema markup and Knowledge Graphs play a bigger role in SERPs.

Your content can be full of engaging and rich information, but if the visitor is unimpressed with the look and feel of the page, credibility is lost.

An SEO point person will be necessary to collaborate directly with a writing team, or better- that layer of SEO knowledge needs to be known by writers and baked into your strategy. Internally or with freelancers, you’ll need to ensure optimization isn’t an afterthought. Consider that industry-wide SEO trends may be spotted in an agency that works with several verticals.

Additional resource: Speaking Google’s language: Optimizing content for Hummingbird and the semantic web

5. Do I understand the relationship between content and website UX?

Your content can be full of engaging and rich information, but if the visitor is unimpressed with the look and feel of the web page, credibility is instantly lowered. If you’re in a company where tech and dev resources go hand-in-hand with marketing, you’ve got a leg up toward internal work. Outsourcing can be a good dev solution – and a way to set the right strategy for UX; consultants or agencies creating strategies for hundreds of clients, the opportunity to observe common UX mistakes and then suggest small design tweaks with big impacts is unparalleled.

Additional resource: A marketer’s guide to UX: The ‘invisible’ elements that fuel success

6. Do I understand how to turn one idea into a LOT of content?

Around 93 percent of marketers produce content from scratch, which explains why 69 percent say their biggest content marketing challenge is time. What marketers often fail to see is that they haven’t spent all of their content’s worth after it’s first published. This concept is known as repurposing.

Repurposing content can be difficult and it comes back to talent.  A blog series could make for an excellent eBook, but a graphic designer is needed to format it. An interview with the company’s CEO could be a great written resource, but it could also be an excellent video opportunity, which requires a video producer. And every piece has potential as a social post, but the effective Tweet won’t be the same as the article headline. The ability to turn one idea into a lot of formats can turn a great way to build ROI to a hassle or headache – so it’s key that there are several teammates – or an agency team – all on the same page.

Additional resource: Reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose: How to get more out of content

7. Do I have the needed editing skills – with knowledge spanning AP Style and storytelling?

Clicking the publish button on a piece of content can feel like crossing the finish line, but the truth is, it’s far from the end of the road.

Coming up with relevant industry topics that will engage your audience is a task in itself.  The in-house web developer you enlisted for a blog post may have tech expertise that’s unmatched, but he or she may not be able to produce grammatically correct copy that pulls readers in.

If written content is produced in-house, you know exactly who is accountable for it, but if they’re not a professional writer, you run the risk of less engaging stories. Regardless of in-house or agency, content assets will need to have multiple eyes on them to ensures quality standards are met – Google has suggested it correlates spelling and grammar with credible sites.

Additional resource: Sloppy copy kills credibility: Why you need an editor “who knocks”

8. Do I know where to share my content after it’s published?

Clicking the publish button on a piece of content can feel like crossing the finish line, but the truth is, it’s far from the end of the road. Creating a content strategy means having a plan for your content to get maximum exposure after it’s been published – and simply posting content to your website and expecting visitors to come is not a strategy.

Additional resource: Have content, will travel: Where to post content for maximum impact

9. Do I have the resources to post on a frequent basis?

Many marketers do not have the bandwidth to flood the web with a fresh stream of content every day, but Google rewards what they consider “fresh” content.

Where to share contentProducing content in-house under a strict schedule ensures posts will go live exactly when you want them to, but then sticking to a calendar must be enforced. In this case, make sure contributing is part of at least some teammates’ job descriptions. When working with an agency, strategists will determine a content calendar that is best suited for a particular client and its industry. Every strategy is unique to a client, so schedules can vary between posting multiple stories daily, to three times per week. Having a team is essential – if one person is on vacation or sick, content is guaranteed to be published on a regular schedule.

Additional resource: How often do you need to publish for effective content marketing?

10. Do I understand how content aligns with PPC? It’s not either/or…

A lot of marketers mistakenly think they have to choose between organic and paid strategies. If you’re already using PPC, you may be leery of making an investment in web content and worry about the money it will take away from your ad campaigns that are already working.

The happy reality is that these strategies are two peas in a pod – and most companies find they work better together than apart. Having a teammate or agency who comprehends paid and organic metrics, can draw conclusions to help a client make more strategic budget allocations across the two.

Additional Resource: Will investing in content hurt my PPC campaign by taking money away from what works?

11. Am I in a position to keep my content at the forefront of marketing media?

Where quantity of pages on a website and keyword were once a basis for strong content marketing, the real content winners are now dedicated to quality. Brand storytelling has taken the forefront, and Google algorithm updates all are working to reward content that satisfies the end user. More, those who have the resources and agility to try new formats and projects stand to gain by setting themselves apart.

A content marketing strategy will not be successful if it does not stay on top of industry trends.

What else do you find yourself asking as you weight the pros and cons of outsourcing? Leave us a comment!

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Molly Buccini is Brafton's marketing communications coordinator. She joined the team with a background in digital journalism and community engagement. Likes: All things Boston, beaches and black labradors (especially her own).
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