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Episode Overview: Content collateral are like bricks – a single brick doesn’t hold much value but assembling thousands together provide a foundation and create a superstructure that can take your content marketing efforts to new heights. Join Ben as he concludes his interview with Robert Rose, chief strategy advisor at the Content Marketing Institute, as they discuss how to develop and grow a powerful content portfolio and how to evaluate a single piece of content’s worth in relation to your greater content collection.
- A core content evaluation metric is to compare a piece of content in context with every other piece of content collateral in creation.
- Publishing a variety of content in a regular cadence with a common theme toward a singular goal is imperative to see gains across a collection of content assets over time.
- Creating dynamic content that can be easily modified and transformed for different operational purposes, like altering a media press release and turning it into a sales pitch for companies, is vital to generating long-term assets and expanding your audience.
GUESTS & RESOURCES:
Ben: Welcome back to Content Optimization Month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro. Today we’re going to continue our month long deep dive into the words behind the numbers and discuss what U.S. SEOs need to understand about content optimization. Joining us for the last time today is Robert Rose who, according to his LinkedIn profile, is both the chief strategist and troublemaker at the Content Marketing Institute, which is a resource that helps marketers maximize their content marketing efforts by teaching them how to attract and retain customers through compelling multichannel storytelling. Today, Robert and I are going to wrap up our conversation by talking about how you should be analyzing and evaluating your content marketing efforts.
Ben: But before we hear from Robert, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise-scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a free trial of the Searchmetrics suite. That’s right, you can now start a trial of both the Searchmetrics SEO and content experience platforms without paying a dime. To start your free trial, head over to searchmetrics.com/freetrial. Okay, here’s the last part of my conversation with Robert Rose, chief troublemaker at the Content Marketing Institute. Robert, welcome back to the Voices of Search Podcast.
Robert: We’re going to have to set up some cocktails here soon. This is becoming a regular thing.
Ben: We’re heading for third base here. I thought that this was going to be a one part episode. We’ve gone so deep that we ended up doing three podcasts, so thank you for your patience and your time. I’m excited to talk to you today about the analytics behind content. We talked so far this week about content’s role in marketing and how it’s becoming more prevalent as advertising is becoming a little less important and a little less effective.
Ben: People are using content not only for SEO but also to syndicate and use as their advertising fodder. They’re building experiences and that leads to changes in the team’s structure, which is what we talked about. All right, great. We understand content’s important. We figured out how we’re going to structure our team and, as it turns out, the SEOs are going to be in charge of everything, of course. Now we need to figure out how to evaluate our content. Talk to me about some of the ways that brands are effectively viewing the purpose of their content, the utility it’s providing and doing their optimization. What’s analytics look like today in a modern content marketing world?
Robert: Yeah. As you might expect, our point of view on this is that it is less about the content than it is about the impact that it’s having on the audiences we want to attract and retain. What I mean by that is that so often what happens in that world where all of the things that we’ve talked about over the last couple of shows aren’t in place, where there isn’t a function of content, where there isn’t a strategy, and where there isn’t a true operating model, what ends up happening is that the production of assets simply become fodder for more classic marketing campaigns.
Robert: Here’s a perfect example. So many times the way that I see content marketing being measured in a business is somebody creates a whitepaper or somebody creates an infographic or whatever it is, and we measure the infographic or the whitepaper’s value based on the promotional campaign that was used to promote it. In other words, we create this amazing whitepaper or this amazing infographic and we spend thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars producing it, designing it, getting it ready. Then it either succeeds or fails based on how much money and/or promotion it gets from the team in terms of promoting it as bait for a classic direct marketing campaign. Of course, when it fails, everybody blames the whitepaper. It was a bad whitepaper. No, it wasn’t a bad whitepaper. It was a bad promotional campaign that fed the traffic to that whitepaper.
Ben: I’m going to interrupt you and use another metaphor. It’s the Glengarry Glen Ross leads. For those of you who aren’t familiar, there’s a famous book and a play and a movie about sales where the salesmen are always blaming the quality of the leads and they’re asking for better quality leads. It’s the whitepaper’s fault. It definitely isn’t the advertising campaign that didn’t work. It was the quality of what we were promoting. It’s chicken or the egg. You need both.
Robert: Exactly. The key there is that when we start complaining about the quality of the asset that we’re getting from the content team, what happens is that the inherent reaction to that is to produce more. Of course, then, quality continues to go down. What ends up happening is that you get this spike when we start to create these processes for producing assets where, initially, it’s all unicorns and rainbows and the things are great. But then as we start to scale, quality inevitably does go down and so the assets become less differentiated, the promotional campaigns become less effective, and ultimately content marketing starts to suffer.
Robert: The key in understanding everything here is to understand that great content, great content marketing is harder, it’s more expensive, and it takes longer than traditional creation of content for direct marketing purposes. It’s just harder to create a great whitepaper than it is to create an ad. It just is. The key is how do we start linking all of this together into experiences that can distribute our content in a way that people want to belong to it? In other words, how do we start creating subscribers? How do we create audiences? Because audiences can be monetized in multiple ways. That’s the measurement of content marketing at its core is looking at what subscribed audiences do versus those that aren’t. I can give you examples of this if you want.
Ben: Well, I think my takeaway here is that you need to separate the quality of the content and you need to be able to evaluate whether the content was quality from the distribution channels. Right? If you can measure the quality of the content and you could separate that from how did we take a quality piece of content and distribute it, and what was the impact, that God’s-eye view of what was the value of this content and its impact on business, then you’re really talking. Let’s talk about the first of the two parts there. How do you evaluate the quality of a piece of content?
Robert: You evaluate it based on the overall impact that it has on a particular audience. The way that we do that is we look at it in context with all the other things that we’re creating. In other words, looking at content much more as a contribution toward a product. We talked in the last show about these portfolio of experiences. Each piece of content should contribute to one of those portfolios, one of those portfolio pieces. Whether we call that a blog or a resource center or a digital magazine or whatever it may be, how is it contributing to that? Did it create more subscribers? Did it create more engaged leads? Did it create a more impactful lead? What did it create in terms of an impact over the course of time?
Robert: A perfect example of this, worked with a business one time that created this amazing whitepaper. They put this whitepaper out through a social campaign and a Google Ad campaign. It did okay. The promotion of it was fine. It created a few leads and everybody went, “Great.” Then it sat in the dark place that always things get sat. Somewhere on the SharePoint server in stat in the dark place. Nobody used it again because it had served its purpose as part of that content promotion campaign and we always promote new stuff. But interestingly, it sat out on the website and then about two quarters later, all of a sudden it produced 25 leads in a week and everybody was freaking out. What happened here? Well, what happened was some influencer found it just by happenstance through a Google search. Found it, shared it, got it really rocking-and-rolling and created this wonderful distribution that they’d never even thought of. All of a sudden it started producing leads again.
Robert: The question is, what’s the value of that whitepaper? Was it the true value of it on day five when it had created a few leads and it suffered through a mediocre promotional campaign? Or was its true value after it had created 30 leads six-and-a-half months later? You can’t know. You can’t know until it actually starts working in context with the other things that you’re doing. What we have to do is we have to start thinking about how does each piece of content, like a brick, like a piece of raw material, contribute to the overall value of the thing that we’re trying to get audiences to subscribe to? That is where SEO can become a huge piece of what it is we’re doing. Monster.com, just a quick example here, they won one of our content marketing awards a couple of years ago. They created what they call their Career Advice Center. It’s a microsite, which is basically as you might expect, full of infographics and whitepapers and articles and videos on how to interview better. Right?
Robert: Basically how to be a better interviewee, how to get a job. Each asset they create contributes to the overall value of that, quote unquote, resource center. Now, 18 months later, 20% of all of their organic traffic goes there. Why? The obvious answer, because they’re answering every question that their job seekers might have rather than talking about themselves. The more important part is what happens when those audiences get there. 65% conversion rate from an asset there to a job search, which of course is their bread and butter. That’s their money. The key is, is that it created 48,000 new members. When they looked at the 48,000 new members to their database that they would have had to have spent paid media to go get, that came organically through organic search, that equaled $3 million in paid media that they didn’t have to spend. Now did they spend $3 million to build the Career Advice Center? No, they spent much less than that.
Robert: That delta between what they received over the 18 months treating their Career Advice Center as a product, as a portfolio piece to create value for audiences, between what they had to spend in paid media is the value of the resource center.
Ben: A few important takeaways here. First off, you need to think about content as building out a collection, a content franchise. Right? An individual piece of content is likely only going to have so much value. When you continue to invest and you’re publishing regularly and with a purpose and a theme, then you start to see incremental gains of the entire content asset over time. Same thing that we’ve done here with the Voices of Search Podcast. If we had just launched one podcast, even if it was with Robert Rose and it was the conversation on the planet, nobody’s going to stick around. Right? We have to build out cadence and that’s an important part of content production.
Ben: For me, the evaluation part, when you’re trying to evaluate an individual piece of content, there can be multiple different purposes. Right? How good is that piece of content for lead generation? How good is it for engagement? How good is it for conversion? Right? You have to look at these different metrics for each individual piece of content. Then the distribution strategy and how you evaluate that comes separately. To me, that’s a little bit after the fact is, great, I know that this piece of content is great for driving somebody through the funnel. It gets a high conversion rate. I need to figure out a syndication campaign where this piece of content is going out to everyone that we think is close to converting. This piece of content, these content assets, are great for lead generation. Like the monster.com example, we need to figure out how to get this content to people that we don’t know yet.
Ben: When we talk about content evaluation, I do think that there is a understanding of the purpose of each piece of content and building out the tools to be able to evaluate what piece of content fits into a couple of different buckets. Is it a lead acquisition piece of content? Is it meant to be retention and engagement or is it supposed to drive leads?
Ben: Robert, am I thinking about this the right way?
Robert: Absolutely. Here’s the magical piece of all this. Right? This is going to the Monster model, if you will. By focusing in on how they build a valuable experience, and then for them it’s this Career Advice Center, here’s an interesting thing that happens. All of those assets that they’re creating for the Career Advice Center, all themed, all editorial calendarized, all wonderful building upon each other, et cetera, they also make great sales promotion assets. Right? In other words, if I create this amazing article of this original piece of research, for example, which they do, they create original research because as you might expect, they’ve got tons of data to be able to do that. They create an original research piece. They put it on the Career Advice Center.
Robert: But they don’t only put it on the Career Advice Center. They also create a version of that that they give to PR. PR uses that to go get coverage and fast in a company or Inc., and get an article written about this original research. They give that original research in another format to the sales guys who could actually go out to their corporate customers and use that asset to actually generate more leads for corporate customers. They give that asset to demand generation and let them do a Google campaign on that and let them do an immediate lead generation campaign that’s paid in nature. You can still use all those assets for the on demand needs of the organization as you start building the long term asset that is building an audience.
Ben: Really interesting stuff, Robert. I’m afraid that after our third episode, we’re finally running out of time. Let me just say, I always appreciate having you on the show. It means a lot to me and a lot to us here at Searchmetrics to have your voice be included in the Voices of Search Podcast. Thank you for being our guests and thanks for the insights.
Robert: Thanks for having me.
Ben: All right. That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast. Thank you for listening to my conversation with Robert Rose, the chief content strategist and troublemaker at the Content Marketing Institute. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Robert, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can send him a tweet. His handle is Robert_Rose, or you can visit his company’s website, which is contentadvisory.net. If you have general marketing questions, question about this show, or if you’d like to be a guest on the Voices of Search, you can find a link to my contact information in our show notes, or you can send me a tweet @benjshap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. If you’re interested in learning how to use search data to boost your organic traffic online visibility or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/freetrial for your test run of the Searchmetrics SEO and content experience platforms.
Ben: If you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed next week. All right. That’s it for today, but remember, until next time, the answers are always in the data.