On the final day of SMX East, there was a room that tested out a conversation style session where a panel of industry professionals answered questions from the audience. I sat in on the Content: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly session where some of the brightest minds in the search marketing world shared their content marketing tips -
Matt McGee, Editor In Chief, Search Engine Land & Marketing Land (@mattmcgee)
Casie Gillette, Director of Online Marketing, KoMarketing Associates (@casieg)
Jenny Halasz, President, Archology (@jennyhalasz)
Arnie Kuenn, President, Vertical Measures (@ArnieK)
Andrew Melchior, VP and Founder, Avalaunch Media (@atraine)
Dan Shure, Owner, Evolving SEO (@dan_shure)
I was blown away by the quantity and quality of the content marketing tips shared at the session and am writing this post so I don’t forget any of them! While website content was one of the main themes in the session, I saw (as I did in nearly every SMX session) that social is absolutely critical to your content strategy. While the verdict is still out on whether social definitively plays a role in search engine rankings, there is no doubt it can drive high quality traffic to your website and so much more.
So without further ado, here are the key takeaways I got (and want to remember) from the session.
Riff off Trends
While not a revelation, aligning your content with what is trending can be so valuable. Are the news and trending topics dominated by content outside of your niche? Find a way to relate these trends back to your area of focus. A great example that comes to mind is the San Francisco Opera. SFopera.org capitalized on the buzz in summer of 2013 around the comeback of Arrested Development on Netflix by publishing 14 Ways Opera is Like Arrested Development on its website. While it only generated a few links from domains other than sfopera.org, it had thousands of social shares and has likely been one of the most popular pieces of traffic the website has published this year.
Mine YouTube comments for content ideas
Looking for content ideas that resonates with your audience: Look at your YouTube video comment section (or a competitors for that matter). While the YouTube comment section has notoriously been a cesspool for trolls and all around negative people, Google is in the process of linking Google+ accounts to YouTube comments. By tying real people to YouTube comments, Google hopes to clear out the riff-raff and create a space where YouTube creators can get valuable feedback and engage their audience.
If you see a YouTube comment that is getting a lot of “thumbs ups” or is engaging viewers in conversation, it’s a good signal to create a more in-depth piece of content around that set of comments or conversation.
This strategy can also be used on your own blog comments or other discussion forums like Quora.
Use Google Keyword Planner for YouTube search insights
I’ve heard it before, but it always shocks me – YouTube is the second largest search engine on the web. While traditional search engines give us access to tools that show what keywords people are searching for, researching popular YouTube searches can be a bit tricky. While YouTube does provide a Keyword Research Tool for YouTube advertising, I have found Google Keyword tool to be much more comprehensive.
Next time you are researching topics to create videos around, use Google Keyword Planner or your favorite keyword research tool and enter “your niche video” to give you a crude indicator of YouTube search data. While not perfect, it will give you an idea of what types of videos people are searching for on the web’s most popular search engine.
Use subreddits to discover niche trends
Twitter trending topics, Google Trends and other tools give us a good idea of whats trending, but when it comes to smaller niches, Reddit can be a great way to identify trends. While the Reddit homepage is a melting-pot of interests, subreddits can reveal what is trending within a particular niche.
Use Open Site Explorer to find popular content
Use Open Site Explorer to discover what are the most popular pages on competitors’ websites. This Top Pages report will give you a good idea of what other sites are interested in linking to and promoting. As an added bonus, you can also see the social shares on each of the posts. Social shares are yet another indication of what resonates with the website’s audience, and they can inform your content marketing strategy.
Incentivize your Team to Produce Content
Arnie was able to triple Vertical Measures on the back of content marketing. His secret was incentivizing staff to create successful content. Give small spiffs or bonuses to staff for creating successful content. This strategy makes creating content fun and completive, and will ultimately yield better quality content.
Make Content Creation Part of Employee’s Workflow
A lot of businesses may be strapped when it comes to resources to create content. As an alternative to hiring dedicated writers to create content for your site, bake content creation right into the workflow of your business. For example, computer repairmen/technicians can take pictures and video while performing a repair or upgrade. While your employees might not have Steven Spielberg caliber directing capabilities, they do have expertise that is in demand. Leverage this expertise through genuine content marketing.
Jason Fried of 37 Signals wrote about a similar strategy in Rework about repurposing your work, some of which may never see the light of day. I was able to get a little something extra out of one of my least favorite projects by leveraging this strategy – How to Upgrade From WordPress 2.2 to 3.5. Sigh.
Focus on Solving Problems
Too often, search marketers create content with the intention of ranking well in search engines. First focus on creating useful content that solves your customers’ problems. If the content is truly useful, the ranking and traffic will follow. Don’t trust me – look at what Google says about the importance of creating useful content.
Tap High Quality Freelance Market for Your Next Content Project
With the rise in popularity and demand of content marketing as well as the heavy supply of well-educated moms and dads choosing to stay home and wealth of freelance writing markets on the web, buying high-quality content is a great option for some companies. While the quality still varies from writer to writer, hiring a freelance writer for a couple of article a week for $100-$200 can give your content marketing strategy a strong foundation.
Repurpose Meetings & Speeches with SpeechPad
Are you headed into a brainstorming meeting or a presentation to your team on a new project? Why not record it and transcribe it for future content? The ideas and ways we articulate concepts when conversing aren’t as filtered when we sit down to put those ideas into words. These exchanges and conversations can be really fertile ground for mining future content ideas. Speechpad, among other transcribing services, can turn your audio and video files into words for about a buck a minute. Throw in some time for editing and you have a new content source.
Details make the difference
Another opportunity that content creators are starting to take advantage of is the 404 page. Take a look these great ways websites are turning a negative into a positive.
While it may sound silly, a common company blog mistake is to erase the style and identity of the author in order to conform with company marketing guidelines. If these restrictive guidelines sound familiar, maybe it’s time to refresh them. Adding a more informal, personal and authentic element to your blog posts will help your readers connect with your content and brand. And at the end of the day, your people are your brand. Why not let your company’s greatest asset shine through the content you publish?
Putting emphasis on experts inside your company and content they create will also become more important as authorship plays a more and more important role in search engine ranking and driving traffic to your site.
Look at successful content for ideas for future content
For sites that have created hundreds, if not thousands of pieces of content, brainstorming new content can be difficult. Instead of looking for outside sources of inspiration for content, look to your own website. Analyze what the most successful content is on your site not only based on traffic, but also based on conversions or however you are measuring success. Take the top 20 posts and start generating more ideas around these topics. These topics have already proven popular with your audience, so why not dig deeper and deliver more content that has a proven track record?
Branded content mentions as a success metric
Traffic and conversions are two important metrics of how well your content is performing, but they don’t tell the whole story. If you have created a series of branded type of content, look to see how many mentions the name has received. Heinekin put out a new video series that dropped unsuspected travelers in new and exotic locations and filmed their adventures. The campaign was a huge hit over the summer of 2013, not only by YouTube standards, but also in terms of branded search. The Google Trends graph above shows the popularity of their branded campaign over the summer.
Internal page referrals as a successful content metric
With a lot of emphasis and scrutiny on external traffic sources and the quality of the traffic they drive, it’s easy to overlook which pages on our own sites drive quality traffic. In addition to looking at what blog posts and content have the highest conversion rate, look at what pages on your site refer the most traffic to your homepage, contact page, pricing page, etc… The content on these pages has resonated with the viewer and driven them to learn more about your business. What are you waiting for – create more content on the same topic as those pages now!
Seasonal content marketing tips
The brilliant people at Cypress North publish a monthly listing of all the month’s holidays, important seasonal dates and other sports/pop culture-related dates. When plotting out your editorial content calendars, zany holidays like CAPS LOCK DAY can add some humor and timeliness to your content.
Don’t make B-to-B stand for Business to Boring
Are you creating content for a boring business or industry? Forget the B to B mindset when creating content, and realize that you are still selling to a person, not a business. Create a persona of your customer and write to them personally instead of writing to a faceless business. This will help you focus on identifying and solving your customers’ needs. If you focus on helping your customer through the content you create instead of promoting our product you will start earning reader’s trust, which will lead to sales.
Blogging Frequency Tied Closely to Lead Generation
This is a no-brainer, but it’s worth the reminder – blogging more frequently has a direct effect on the quantity of leads your business gets. Hubspot has done some great research that show increasing the frequency with which you blog has a direct impact on website traffic and lead generation. Content marketing tip: While posting more than one or two blog posts a month is optimal, their research shows B2B companies that blog only 1-2X/month generate 70% more leads than those that don’t blog at all.
Before trashing your unsuccessful content…
Did you create an epic piece of content that didn’t get the response you thought it would? Before giving up on the content, try making some tweaks and promoting it again. Changing the headline, pictures used and flow of the content can have dramatic results on whether your content catches fire or not. Just like testing landing pages and calls to actions can have huge impact on conversion rates, so can testing different elements of your content.
Searching for Visual Content Rip-offs
You may be familiar with tools to help you identify websites that steal your written content like Copyscape, but did you know you could use Google or Bing Image search to detect plagiarized versions of your visual content? While not perfect, these free tools are a good way of identifying other publishers that have stolen your visual content.
There were many more content marketing tips shared at the session, but these were the ones that stood out to me. Have you had any experience or successes with any of the points above? I would love to hear about them below!