Today’s post come from one of our favorite customers, Lexi Mills. Lexi has six years experience in online marketing and communications and spent 2 and a half years at an International SEO Agency becoming an SEO PR specialist. She heads up digital at Dynamo PR.
Determining what content will be interesting and relevant to a large audience is one of the most challenging and sometimes frightening parts of a content marketeer’s job.
One oft-used tactic is piggybacking on a topical event. With over 180 million people exchanging cards and over 196 million roses being produced for Valentines Day, there can be no doubt that this event would be topical.
However many have fallen into the trap of trying to link their product/service/content to a topical story or seasonal event and failed. So what is it that makes online content and seasonal PR stories sink or swim? How do you make your press release and content stand out amongst the avalanche of other brands trying to take advantage of this event?
Below I have reviewed some 2014’s Valentines stunts to help answer these questions and provided my top 5 tips for seasonal PR and content newsjacks:
When I was 7, Captain Planet taught me a lot about marketing. If you’ve never seen Captain Planet, it was a cartoon about a small group of international teenagers who each had a ring that gave them a relatively uninteresting power. (One guy could light things on fire, one woman could make it windy, Levar Burton’s character Kwame could make sinkholes, things like that.)
But when they put their rings together, and their ‘powers combine’, they made Captain Planet:
Captain Planet had great super powers (unlike those kids with their rings), and regularly vanished all sorts of polluters, lobbyists, and other evil doers. (Intriguingly, he also spoke English with a Californian accent and had a mullet. This was not explained.)
Increasingly, marketing is seeming like Captain Planet: while individual marketing experts who know their channel (SEO, PR, content, PPC, analytics, etc.) can do helpful things, when they combine their powers, they can create Captain Planet – a customer acquisition flywheel.
SEO, PR, and Content: Long Lost Cousins with Complementary Powers
Individually, each of these disciplines can do cool things. But by playing well together, they can build a growth machine. Specifically, they can create a growth machine that scales non-linearly with investments of time and money – the best kind of growth machine. Allow me to explain:
SEO has long been excellent at attracting high-intent (and thus high-conversion rate) traffic to pages, consistently, at an affordable cost. However, increasingly pure-play SEO strategies are coming under fire – from a mix of increased SEO competency and competition, an addition of more ads, answers, knowledge graph boxes, and things that seem to combine all of those things, increased risk and cost of certain link building techniques, and an increased focus on user-level metrics.
We hear a lot about earned, owned, and paid content promotion, but what does a campaign look like? And how can a marketer with limited resources put one together?
Recently, we here at BuzzStream launched our Linking Outside the Box ebook and promoted it across paid, earned, and owned media. This content and promotion effort had a meaningful impact on our marketing funnel and our business.
You can download the ebook here:
While we didn’t do everything right and will do some things differently next time, in this post I want to dig into some of the things we did, and how we used tools like Unbounce, Twitter Ads, LinkedIn Sponsored Updates, and of course BuzzStream to get the word out about our project effectively and affordably.
Goals, and How to Meet Them:
Our original goals with the project were:
Get 1000 downloads of our ebook within a month of launch
Get 100+ People Sharing the eBook
Get 500+ new non-customer names on our email list
Achieve a 10% increase in BuzzStream sign-ups over last month with average or greater free-to-paid conversion, 3-month retention and ASP.
(Ed note: If you’re not familiar with SaaS businesses, free-to-paid conversion and retention are measures of how people continue to use and pay for the product. ASP is average selling price. Because it’s easy to drive low-quality traffic that doesn’t convert to paying, happy customers, sign-up goals should also have a quality goal to prevent ‘doing dumb things to move a metric’ syndrome.)
We also had some softer goals like getting positive mentions by industry leaders and improving our brand impression in the SEO space, which were also important but less measurable.
“But what about links?”, you might be asking yourself. This book was a mid-funnel play – we wanted people who had already come to the BuzzStream website to get further educated on both link building and BuzzStream. While we certainly would like to get links (and we did indeed get a few new linking root domains), it wasn’t a key goal for this project.
If you’re curious as to where those numbers came from, they were picked through a three part process: researching comparable ebook case studies, calculating what would be required to see a meaningful ROI, and picking numbers large enough to make the project seem worthwhile and yet not so large as to be thought foolish.
I used the download numbers published by Velocity Partners and Mack Web from their ebook projects. The other numbers worked backwards from that, and additionally worked forward from the business goals that would result in a positive and meaningful ROI for the project. (Once it became clear how long an ebook took, it was easy to see
So once we knew what we wanted to accomplish, we could go about achieving it.
Results (Fortunately Positive)
Fortunately, we achieved our objectives:
Downloads: Goal: 1000. Actual (as of 12/12/2013): 1221
The vast majority of these came in the first few days, but due to onsite promotion we continue to get 5-10 downloads a day.
Shares: Goal: 100 Actual: 127 tweets + 19 LinkedIn Shares + some other shares:
Now, some of these are from corporate accounts, and are from the same people sharing on multiple networks, but it looks like we just edged over this one as well.
New Non-Customer Names: Goal: 500 Actual: 856
Sign-Up Lift: Goal 10%. Actual: 26.9% lift in sign-ups over the previous 4 weeks.
There were other, standard marketing activities (outreach & PR, blogging, social, retargeting) etc. going on during both periods, and the ebook was the only major program we ran in that time. There’s also typically some seasonal decline around the holidays and into the end of Q4, but we didn’t observe that this year.
Brand Benefit: This is harder one to measure, but we got some great feedback from industry leaders on the book:
“That’s great,” you might be thinking to yourself, “But how do I make that happen?”
One awesome part about working at BuzzStream is getting to engage with so many incredible marketers every day. We get to work with a lot of link development/content marketing/digital PR groups – and so many of them are smart, driven people who are trying to make the internet a cooler place and drive great results for their clients and companies.
We talk with some marketers who are killing it – I mean just destroying it – and are putting up amazing numbers. And we talk to some marketers who are doing fine and making strong, regular progress towards their goals, but aren’t getting the results they’d like – yet.
So what’s the difference between these two groups of marketers – especially as they embark on bigger projects?
We see 5 big differences between the companies that are absolutely dominating their content promotion and link development versus the ones where it’s not really working.
Differentiator #1: Investment in Ideas
The companies that win in this space make absolutely sure they get the best ideas together before they go out and make anything or talk to anyone.
Unexpected - Violate a Schema, Create Curiousity, & Do Something Different.
Concrete - Go away from the abstract and create detailed mental pictures.
Credible - Either external validation or a level of detail and statistics to add trust.
Emotional - Trigger emotions – even in B2B spaces – causes sharing and impact.
Stories - Stories drive action and stick in our minds. Help people get the story.
(This framework has been adequately discussed by other marketers and in a best selling book, so I won’t belabor it here. Go read the book – it’s an easy, airplane-type read and you’ll learn something new about storytelling and messaging – both from the book itself and at a meta-level in how they write.)
In addition to hitting these 6 key points, successful content marketers do real research – often spending hours looking through scientific journals, obscure news sources, and forgotten pages on the internet, looking for great new ideas and angles. (And they don’t just ‘make it up’, as some content marketers do.) These marketers have seen that happen and been through a Reddit debunking – and know that bad research risks not only unsuccessful content marketing but ultimately brand damage.
Finally, the best content marketers test their ideas, before they ever put pen to paper or code to IDE. They send it to a few folks, and ask questions like “Is this a fit? How could we make it better? What would it take for this to be the best piece on the internet about this topic?”
How do you measure the ROI of your big content initiatives?
Our process at Moz isn’t much different than most companies. We look at the numbers of social shares, links, mentions and page views. Down the line, we also look at the number of assisted conversions the content contributed to our software Free Trial conversion funnel.
That said, the number one measurement of ROI can’t actually be measured. Our primary goal is to deliver value to our audience, and this is often hard to quantify through traditional means. The numbers can suggest value, but often you go with your gut.
But that begs the question – how do you build a content promotion strategy that gets the word out, accomplishes your goals, and dazzles your clients and/or boss?
Today I’ll show you how to craft your promotion strategy, so you can get seen in all the right places, and ultimately, achieve your business goals and a strong return on investment from your content efforts.
Start with Your Goals
Start by defining your goals and KPIs. Without sounding too much like a management consultant, what gets measured gets managed, and if you can show your accomplishment against goals, you can more effectively lobby for more budget, a raise, etc.
Well-publicized, great content can:
Generate Revenue thru Leads, Sales, or Ad Impressions
Grow Permission Marketing Assets like Email Lists and Retargeting Pools
Increase Customer Retention
Build Inbound Links for Search Marketing
Grow Mindshare and Increase Influencer Awareness of Your Product/Offering
I just got back from MozCon, where I learned the world is changing.
MozCon was a fascinating conference this year. In addition to lots of good food, nice moz swag, and generally spending time with one of the nicest companies in the search space, chatter between attendees showed some deep and fundamental changes in our world.
Old SEO tricks are less effective and even reliable channels like email marketing are being made more difficult by changes taking place in both user and robot behavior. It’s as if the long, idyllic childhood of online marketing is over, and…
Online Marketing Stops Being Nice and Starts Being Real
What was once a simple game of “Rank -> Traffic -> Convert -> Profit” has become exponentially more complicated.
3 Mega-trends – alluded to either directly or indirectly by many presentations – underlie major changes in the online marketing landscape.
These three fundamental shifts – new form factors, less data, and fundamentally smarter search – all change the game in massive ways. These changes will leave the marketers that refuse to adapt behind, while reaping huge rewards for those who embrace the new reality of digital marketing.
Let’s take a deeper look at each of these:
Fragmentation in Device Type and Use Cases
With the incredible adoption and growth of mobile and tablet devices, form factors have rapidly expanded into a menagerie of different device types and use cases. Moreover, this growth shows nothing resembling a sign of slowing down. What was once optimizing for one form factor and smaller range of use cases blossomed to include a variety of scenarios, devices, for factors, and use cases.
NEWSFLASH! Despite what you’ve read, your “epic content” isn’t going to magically go viral seconds after you click the publish button. There is no content marketing fairy. Like it or not, you’re going to have to work hard to promote your content. I mean really hard.
“Well, Hi Paul….Bad Start to the Day?”
Why the rant? Well, Cyrus Shepard wrote a fantastic “blueprint for ranking” post recently on the Moz blog (one of the best posts of the year, IMO). I found myself nodding in agreement throughout it…until I got to the end and read this:
“This blueprint contains 25 steps to rank your content, but only the last three address link building. Why so few? Because 90% of your effort should go into creating great content, and 10% into link building.”
In fairness to Cyrus, there’s more nuance to his thoughts than this quote conveys, but this fits into a theme that seems to be gaining momentum in some circles.
I first saw Rand propose this at a Distilled conference I attended last year. The presentation was titled “F*** Link Building, Content Marketing FTW!” I’m paraphrasing, but in this presentation he said something to the effect of:
“I have this awesome link building tool…you should totally get it. Every time I use it, I get links from 400 unique domains. It’s called the publish button.”
Here’s the Reality
Look, I agree with most of Rand’s ideas about SEO (and marketing in general for that matter), but the suggestion that active outreach and promotion is unnecessary is making me crazy. It’s simply unrealistic.
Pitching content and doing blogger outreach isn’t rocket science. At its most basic level, securing placements for great content is all about understanding what publishers want.
More often than not, writers, editors and bloggers are looking for content that is useful, fresh, timely, and will provide their readers with something nobody else can give them.
As an agency specializing in viral content creation and promotion, we’ve written and spoken quite a bit about the emotional drivers that enhance virality and that increase the chances for content to be linked to.
What we don’t talk nearly as much about is the importance of relevance and freshness, as well as the ability of pitched content to “contribute to the unfolding story.”
Adding to the Unfolding Story
Mining current events is a highly effective technique for content marketers looking to achieve widespread exposure. Entering into a conversation already taking place, and adding value there, is perhaps one of the simplest methods for engaging an audience and generating interactions across a large network of people.
The key is to examine an issue or topic, then find ways to supplement what is already being said in a useful way. With nearly any newsworthy topic, there are a number of things to look for when considering opportunities to create supplemental content.
Content marketing evangelists have spoken – “Create great content that appeals to your customers and you’ll profit.”
While this is true, marketers often forget the importance of promoting their content – people don’t find content by mistake, or by accident. Every content plan needs a complementary promotion plan that combines paid, owned, and earned media.
Beyond Simple Sharing on Corporate Social Accounts
He suggested that marketers should share it from corporate social accounts, and share it with employees, so they could share it if they wanted.
While these strategies are an acceptable start, they overlook the simple fact that for the vast majority of companies (unless you’re a market-leading megabrand), simply publishing content gets them nothing resembling good results.
It’s like writing the great America novel and leaving it on your doorstep. Or creating a baseball diamond in a cornfield in Kansas. Only in the movies do random strangers find your great things and make them a big deal. In the real world, you have to work hard to get anyone to pay attention to what you’re doing.
But that’s why marketers have jobs right?
Building Your Promotion Plan Across Paid, Earned and Owned Media
While it’s become a something of a buzzword, thinking about your content promotion plan in the ‘Paid-Earned-Owned’ matrix is a useful cognitive pattern.
Across your companies paid, owned, and earned channels, how will you promote your beautiful piece of content? How will you get the word out and ensure the right people see it and share it? This can’t be taken care of as end piece – these questions have to be answered before you ever start your content creation efforts.
Owned Media: Using Your Permission Marketing Assets
We’ll start with owned assets – they tend to be the simplest to discuss in this context.