Five Minutes With: Content is Still King, says Mary Ellen Dugan

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Five Minutes With: Content is Still King, says Mary Ellen Dugan
Five Minutes With: Content is Still King, says Mary Ellen Dugan

How important to businesses today is efficient content marketing through platforms like WordPress? 

Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. We believe WordPress is simply the easiest and most intuitive platform for managing content and marketing programs, and you can see why it powers over 25% of the sites on the Web today. But in order for content marketing to deliver any substantial return on investment, content must be high quality, informative, engaging and regularly distributed long term in a non-intrusive way. WordPress has no shortage of plugins to support this, including those for organizing content, addressing images and video needs, visitor analytics, eCommerce capabilities and even real-time integrations with devices. For example, the WP REST API allows webmasters to integrate all kinds of IoT devices with their website. Additionally, combining WordPress with popular automation services can improve user experience, as well as help generate higher user engagement and interactions.

How can a hosting service like WP Engine help with WordPress operations?

All of your company's great content becomes worthless if people can't access it when they want, how they want, and without interruption. There's no argument that a user's digital experience can dramatically impact the bottom line—studies have shown that just a one second lag in page loading can reduce conversion rates by 7 percent! Having the additional layer of a managed web hosting platform on top of your WordPress sites provides critical support and performance tools to empower marketers with actionable insights to boost site performance—no tech expertise required. This results in higher visitor retention, increased conversions and a better overall user experience, which positively impacts a company's brand. 

Furthermore, the scalable cloud infrastructure of a secure hosting platform like WP Engine's ensures that customers' websites don't crash when all their fantastic content creates a surge in visitors.  Beyond the technology,  we arm customers with the most relevant WordPress specific insights and recommendations to help them create amazing digital experiences with high ROI. In a nutshell, teaming up with a managed hosting service allows companies to focus on business growth and innovation—not wrangling with the back-ends of their web properties. 

What's the hardest thing to educate clients about when it comes to using a content platform like WordPress for business?

That it's enterprise-ready—spreading this message and delivering on this promise has been WP Engine's priority for the past few years. Many people still think that WordPress is blog platform and that it's not secure or sophisticated enough for the enterprise, or conversely, that it is too complicated for non-developers or IT folks to manage. This is not the case.

What challenges and opportunities does WP Engine face over the next 12-24 months?

The managed WordPress platform space has grown significantly over the last few years, with increasing adoption of WordPress among enterprises. But there is still work to be done to remove the perception of WordPress as just a web platform for bloggers and startups. Fortunately, one of the core advantages of WordPress is that it is open source, so it's constantly being innovated by a passionate global community of collaborative, brilliant developers. Because of this, WordPress has been able to quickly evolve to offer the integrations, plugins, and security that the enterprise needs. It's our goal to continually innovate our platform to unlock and optimize all the advantages of WordPress.

Another opportunity we're addressing is this new paradigm of the blurring distinction between brands and publishers. Most brands have caught on by now that they need to act as publishers in order to stay competitive in today's market. This requires robust digital platforms that are flexible enough to constantly support dynamic content and scalable to meet intense traffic needs. Going forward, WP Engine is focused on advancing content marketing to encompass not only personalization but also greater contextualization – and at a greater scale.

Is content still king, or is it being overtaken by one-to-one messaging (e.g. text, SMS)?

Content is most definitely still king, but it just looks differently today. And in our digitized, connected world, content is pervasive. But it's clear that consumers still want to discover and be delighted. Brands and publishers need to continually rethink their content strategies to take advantage of the latest technologies and trends, and technology companies need to continue to push the boundaries of what's possible and create the infrastructure to support these new approaches.

Some of the trends we're seeing emerge are things like personalized content at scale, co-creation of content or user-generated content, and signal-driven content. Brands now have the ability to tap into signals of intent when people are talking about everything from car shopping to eating lunch. Brands will use audience signals to target consumers based on what they are doing and the content they're sharing. For example, on Twitter, Budweiser supported its #FriendsAreWaiting campaign (about responsible drinking) through smart distribution that connected with users talking about going out to bars and parties.

We're also seeing opportunities for more content tied to conversion. More and more companies will develop content that maps directly to different parts of the purchase funnel, and they'll use a diverse set of creative assets to accomplish their ROI goals. We'll see holistic content plans that drive transactions in addition to brand awareness. Brands will increasingly use first and third-party data to inform targeting decisions.

What are some unmet needs in the content marketing technology landscape?

I think it boils down to the issue of the noise and ability to both find and discover content that's relevant to each individual and from the brand perspective. It's about creating a customized buyer's journey with content that provides a clear benefit and is timely in a way that helps the consumer move farther down the consideration path, or helps them form a closer relationship to the brand. I think there's also a huge issue in the industry around click bait versus quality content.

--Mary Ellen Dugan is CMO of WP Engine

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