It’s the last day of SMX East, and the much anticipated conversation panel on “Content: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” is just wrapping up. It was a killer lineup: Jenny Halasz, the president of Archology, Arnie Kuenn, president of Vertical Measures, Andrew Melchior, the VP and Founder of Avalaunch Media, Dan Shure Owner Evolving SEO, and Casie Gillette, the Director of Online Marketing for KoMarketing Associates. We’ve got a few takeaways below from all of the panelists, but we were also lucky enough to steal a few minutes of Casie Gillete’s time earlier this week to talk content one-on-one.
SMX East 2013 Day 3:
Content: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
- Andrew Melchior recommends that you use Reddit and subreddits as a great place to submit your content to and find content ideas as well as Google News, Yahoo, Bing, and Tumblr. Spend time on the sites where the customer lives. On product pages don’t just discuss product details, but product experiences.
- Arnie Kuenn suggested marketers use Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer to check competitor’s content for back links to see where they got coverage. For B2B find questions people are asking about your services and craft posts about those (not posts about you!). Use whitepapers and guides to track potential leads and demonstrate content success/performance.
- Jenny Halasz recommends you use the who, what, why, where, how method when crafting content for your audience. B2B isn’t just “B to Boring” it’s about connecting with customers and you can shift content to interest your audience, not just about your company.
- Dan Shure says you don’t have to start content through a blog, you could start small with a single piece and see how it goes. Most company blogs get no interaction. You need to add value. Check out Upworthy. Consider doing an 80/20 data analysis with your content. Measure search value (what content is being searched on), an often over-looked metric for performance tracking.
- Casie Gillette said marketers should use video to explain your services, which can be a unique content type that people are actually interested in. Content is a lot of work to keep up with though, be prepared for it. When tracking content success look at page views, shares, submissions/downloads on landing pages, always tie it back to your goals. Cypress North releases content marketing ideas for the upcoming month, which is a great way to find unique content topics. Write for your audience’s needs.
- Matt McGee is moderating, but threw in a tip to write about solving problems with as much detail as possible to flesh out product pages.
Casie on Developing Content Strategy
Casie is a superstar with content. We picked her brain on creating strategy despite obstacles, using local strategies to leverage content, and digital marketing in 2013.
How do you develop a content strategy for a client? What does that process usually look like?
For any client we start with the basics. We take a deep dive in to their business. We learn about what their goals are. Do they drive leads? Are they looking for online sales? Then we’ll start to get in to some of the keyword research stuff learning about the competitive landscape, and that kind of helps us better understand what their content needs actually are. I also love to take a look at like the search results to see what’s showing up for their key phrases. I find that extremely helpful just because it gives you a better idea of what their customers are looking for or at least what Google thinks they’re looking for. But it’s helpful because that way when you’re targeting specific things you know here are some of the things that are showing up. And then we’ll work with them to figure out what their resources are. What their budget is and how we can really get the biggest bang for their buck. If they don’t have a blog you know we’re not going to have them invest like thousands of dollars to create a blog if we can do something else. That’s really it.
How have you dealt with the challenge of creating good content for a client in the face of restrictions? (Whether they are budgetary/resource restrictions, on-site code freezes, or even a client with a different opinion on creating content)
You know unfortunately these things come up more than I’d like. I just had a client who was bought out by a larger company. We’d been working with them for a couple years, and we just developed like this great blog. They just get hundreds of thousands of visits, and it really is the core of our strategy. We have these set goals. We have traffic goals. We have lead goals and it’s driven by this blog strategy. Well, we found out that they’re basically shutting the blog down so they don’t want to invest resources. We’ve actually spent the last couple of weeks figuring out what else we can do. Now we have to look at offsite options. We have to look at their main site to think about do we add content there, what can we do there? We had to restructure what it is we’re giving them, and I think that the key.
There’s always a way to help a client with restrictions; it’s just thinking about what that actually is. Thinking outside the box if a client doesn’t have time is a big thing. It’s always budgetary or resource restrictions. If the client doesn’t have time to come up with a post one of the things that we’ll actually do is we’ll come up with topics, and then just do a short outline for them so that way they have it, and they don’t have to spend all that time coming up with topics. I think there’s always a way to work around. It’s just a little bit of restructuring and thinking about what else you can do for them that will help in the same capacity.
Have you ever worked with any clients that have industries that are just really difficult creating content for? How have you combated that issue?
Actually, we have a lot of tech clients and clients that it’s a very technical product that’s hard to understand, so we started doing content for one of my clients probably about six months ago. We had said, “All right. Let us help you write some blog posts,” and what we found is that despite how great our content writers are, it just really wasn’t what they were looking for in terms of technical capacity and knowledge, and they would spend a lot of time going through and correcting it. So what we just decided was the best way for us to give them useful content was to write things that were geared towards their marketing demographic versus trying to write things geared towards their CTOs. We just had to switch who we were writing for. Instead of trying to write those technical posts we just started writing posts that are more geared towards the marketing crew that are a little more basic and still giving them good content.
What’s one creative or overlooked content strategy or method that you’ve been using?
I’m a huge fan of using your customer service, which isn’t necessarily overlooked, but it might be underutilized. At my old company we actually had a couple of our customer service reps sit in on our marketing meetings to let us know what the biggest issues they were seeing were. I tell clients all the time who are using live chat or looking to use live chat, get a tool that actually keeps those questions and responses. It’s great for content. It’s easy to write, and then more importantly it’s what people are actually looking for. Those are the things that you’re not answering on your site. If someone is calling or someone is asking you things make sure you’re answering that. I always think it’s a really easy place to look and something that people don’t tend to think of.
Casie on Bad Content
What are some of the most common content mistakes that you encounter when you take on a new client? Or that you see in your day to day marketing?
I think sometimes what happens is we assume that what’s worked for someone else will work for this client, and sometimes it just doesn’t. Sometimes what we find is that a client isn’t as receptive as a different client, or their goals are different than what I thought their goals were. That’s why we’ve really started doing a lot more vetting at the onset to figure out what they are looking for and what they are open to, especially around content, because if there are brand restrictions, if there are things that they’re just not comfortable doing, and you know that we need that to do them to be successful, sometimes you just have to say, “This probably is not going to work.”
A lot of time, I think the other things is that people think I have to get content up. I have to get content up. I have to get content up. And you don’t have to get crappy content up. Take that extra couple days and spend the time to get good content up. We’ve dealt with that with clients and even internally going from we have to give them tons of content to just let’s give them more in-depth good content.
Speaking of content and outreach, there’s been a lot of news about Infographics, guest posts, and press releases being devalued. What do you think that the average business should be focusing on content wise?
You know I think it’s always smart to start with your own site, build it up, but yeah those third party things are valuable. Just because you hear Infographics are devalued, that doesn’t mean there’s not value in doing one. You can create one that’s really good and really relevant to your business and it’s going to be picked up. It might just be brand exposure. It’s the same thing with press releases. I tell my clients, “Don’t hesitate to issue a press release if you have something great to say.” Don’t issue them all the time just because you feel like it’s helpful. If you have something good to say, say it. Get that out there.
But I do think it’s always important to start with your own site, and then expand out. We do still try to get our clients guest posts but they’re on valuable sites. They’re on relevant sites where their customers are, and they’re going to get some exposure. I think that’s a big misconception: people get scared when they hear, “Oh don’t do this. Don’t do this. Don’t do this.” I think there’s still value in those things if you’re just not trying to exploit it.
Casie on using Local Strategies to Inform Outreach & Content
You did a post on local strategies and real life strategies for link building on Search Engine Land. Could you talk a little bit about kind of leveraging local connections for content or for link building and using your community to think about what you could be doing with your site?
Absolutely, I think even if you’re not a local business, or you don’t do business locally, there’s still a lot of advantages of interacting with your local community. I’m a part of the American Marketing Association, the Boston Chapter, and I’m involved with their social media team. It’s good for me but it’s also good for co-marketing because we get to go to some of these events. We’re talked about in the social media platforms and any business can do that. One of the things I had noted in there was just that when you think about the cost of doing national marketing or going to these national conferences it’s kind of crazy. People can’t afford to do that, but some of these local events get your name in front of smaller businesses or just people who could connect you better, and it’s a lot more affordable. Even if you’re going to be a sponsor for a local event, it’s definitely more affordable.
And then one of the other things is that I don’t think people think about that you tend to get a link when you sign up for events. If you have a bunch of people going to an event, that’s an opportunity to meet people, and an opportunity to get links.
Recaps are always another great opportunity and can help build locally-focused content. It’s also worth seeing if there’s any sort of community site associated with the organization putting on the event. For example, AMA Boston has a site called Connect where members can sign up and post. You’ll see articles on there discussing events, local marketing news, and it’s great for establishing local connections. On top of that you get a profile with your name, bio, a link (hooray), and it’s pushed out on their social channels.
I’m also a huge fan of the “What to do/What to see” posts that companies put out when a conference is in their city. I think it’s such a clever way to create content about your city, it’s helpful to industry friends and potential customers coming to the show, and those things get serious shares!
Casie on Keyword Research & Content Inspiration
What’s your toolbox look like for researching, gathering inspiration, and creating content?
Well, I use Feedly, I have had a blog reader since I first started in this industry and a lot of those same blogs are on it, but now I use it for clients as well. I love Twitter. I’m on it because there’s people based on your client or just even based on what you’re interested in. You can see some of those conversations happening. What the things are that people are talking about. What are the things that are happening in that industry? It’s a great place to get good ideas. Also, I still subscribe to Google Alerts. You know some of the basics are really helpful. If you’re looking at the right things I think you can get those tools to really work for you. A lot of times just doing a Google search is a great tool. If I’m out of ideas, just checking out what already been written helps. I use a lot of basic but valuable tools, nothing too groundbreaking.
Along the same line as restrictions, how do you think you are going to move forward with a big chunk of keyword data now not provided? How are you planning on working around that?
Probably for the past six to eight months I’ve already been incorporating Webmaster Tools data in to my report, in to the data, in to how we’re like looking at things. It’s super unfortunate, especially for our clients that are lead driven. They still need to know how people get to their white papers or get to their forms. Without that data it’s tough. We’re just using the tools that we have right now, looking at the Webmaster Tools data, etc. A lot of our clients do use ad words so there’s that, but it’s a little bit unfortunate that that’s the route that we have to take.
What SMX session are you looking forward to the most, and why?
You know I wasn’t sure until Googles announcement yesterday really solidified my response. The Life Beyond Google session I think it already looked pretty cool and it certainly isn’t groundbreaking idea but like, “Hey you need to do some different things here and not completely rely on Google,” but I think it looks cool, and the speakers are good. I think it’s just really important as a reminder, like don’t put all your eggs in like one Google basket. I think it will be good to hear and see some of the other things that people are doing to supplement their traffic.