Dave, it’s so great to have you on the show.
Thanks for having me.
Let’s talk about content and how important it is to incorporate great content and a lot of it into your overall strategy for SEO, for just marketing in general, of course, content marketing. That’s the core piece of it is to have great content. Let’s talk about why that is such a critical component to the overall picture.
Obviously, us both being SEOs by the original status of what we were, we know content fuelled everything. What happened over the last two years that I’ve seen is, it has become even more critically important for most businesses because Google’s moved to this very intent-focused algorithm. Information results are everywhere. You see rich snippets everywhere. If all you have is basically what our money page is, how are you going to compete with that need for information? Beyond that, content is something people really silo but shouldn’t. It’s not just about SEOs, it’s not just about content marketing. Your sales guys need content to share with prospects. People want to be informed before they go on to a purchase decision. We try to get our customers to think about the funnel, the actual purchase funnel with content.
That’s a great point. What are some potential funnels? What do they look like?
Going back to that informational structure, we work with a lot of B2B customers that are plagued right now because so much of the results have skewed information. The first that they do before they come to us is just start up a blog and start throwing content on there. What they end up getting is just people hitting those content pages and bouncing off because they’re getting the answers they want but they’re not sticking. The first part of the conversion funnel has to be how am I going to get a person from my initial informational page deeper into my site? It means optimizing a site beyond just a CTA on the right-hand side, putting CTAs in the middle of your page, using a system like Intercom or we use SalesIQ and CopyPress, too.
Pixel your user. Deliver fresh messages to them within the content that they’re actually reading. It’s figuring out how am I going to get a user from this singular page to a conversion? How do I map that path for them? And then how do I collect as much information during that path as well? This goes back to Facebook pixeling. You talk to so many customers that are doing all of this content but they’re not doing retargeting campaigns on the content. You’ve basically hit somebody at the top of the funnel but then you’re saying if they don’t move to the funnel immediately, you’ve lost them.
That’s a really great point. If you have this great content that you haven’t done anything to leverage to its full potential, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.
We see people investing thousands of thousands of dollars and just being like, “Well, it didn’t convert.” The likelihood of somebody coming in for a question-related term like how do I prepare my taxes and then immediately getting a CPA to do their taxes is very low. What are you doing to move them down that funnel?Content fuels everything. Over the years, it has become more critically important for businesses because of Google's updated intent-focused algorithm. Click To Tweet
Do you have an example of a client or maybe it’s yourself, your own agency, or your own company that’s doing a clever approach to this?
Right now, I’ll use CopyPress because that’s probably the safest thing for me to do. We’re currently redoing our entire website and what we noticed in our space is that there are some head terms from a search perspective that do get traffic and conversions, but a majority of the buying decision, because our purchases are typically pretty large from a content marketing budget are over a ton so we actually are taking the bold step to destroy our blog. We’re pulling off 10 years of content, moving it away, and building up a knowledge-based section where we’re focused much more on evergreen informational content. Use our blog for branding.
The game plan there is just how can we hit people at different points in the funnel? And then when they’re on those pages, as we get more data from SalesIQ on different pages that they’ve connected with, how can we deliver them more related content via chat popup? Using Chatboss to say, “Okay, you visited three pages on infographics. Here’s our whitepaper on infographics.” Then, once we get that sign-up for the whitepaper on infographics, put them into drip campaigns and LinkedIn campaigns with more content around what? Infographics. Schedule a call around infographics.
We’re essentially multi-touch stepping them through the process of buying and not relying on that initial page to just schedule an appointment to talk. That option is there on all those pages but we want to be able to hit them each time. Furthermore, when they hit that first page, we’re also pixeling them for Facebook and for Google so they’re getting multi-touches from us and we were able to acquire because that retargeting traffic is cheaper, all of those touches based on that first information page.
We’re not looking for that to give us the main conversion, but to move us further down the funnel and to widen our audience because again, somebody is searching for just content at scale, which is really our bread and butter. It’s only a few hundred people a month so we need to cast a wider net. And furthermore, people, for our particular buying situation, may not even know that we’re the thing they need. We need to educate them along the route.
That reminds me of an acronym I heard from Keith Krance (a past guest and a Facebook expert) on the show. He shared UPSYD, which stands for unaware, problem-aware, solution-aware, your solution aware, and then decision time. If somebody is completely unaware, they don’t even know what kinds of keywords they should search for the problem because they’re completely oblivious to it. They’re blissfully ignorant. Whereas if they are solution-aware, they’re searching for your brand keywords or maybe your competitor’s keywords and so forth. But if they are just problem-aware, they know they have weak content, they have thin content, duplicate content, they’re overly reliant on manufacturers to supply the content, and thus they just are not different from any other distributor, reseller, retailer on the web, and no differentiator. Given that model of UPSYD, where would you say most of your target market is and how do you move them through that funnel of getting them solution-aware, then your solution aware, then finally to the decision?
What’s been interesting for me for the last decade since I moved out of the search space and into content primarily has been that our customers, people creating content, we’re very much focused on just commoditizing the product. It’s just like, “Oh, I need to create content so I’ll do it.” People are becoming savvier. With that said, there’s a long way to go. From helping our people become solution-aware, when we’re talking about the customers we’re marketing to, and how we’re using our content, we start creating that in the actual content drip cycle.
Again, it’s where so many people silo their content out and I see it all the time where it’s like, “Well, I’m just in-charge of SEO content. Brad is in charge of content for mailers.” It’s like you’ve immediately created a division that’s going to lead to a loss in revenue because each piece should be working together. I should be feeding people that want to know more about our solution into our email drip and then helping them to find and realize, “Oh, I have a problem. You guys have a solution for this problem,” during that email drip and then wanting to learn more about that to get on a sales call.
It makes total sense. You capture through the process of them traversing your site that they have an interest in infographics.
What if you have a quiz or an assessment or something on the website and they go to more depth and find out what their content marketing expertise level is? Kind of like a Pokémon card or whatever for yourself based on how well you do on the assessment or the quiz. That would be great information to load into a CRM.
Exactly. You’re talking about a high engagement point so you can increase your CRM scoring of that lead as well. Again, now you’re serving them different content. All of that segmentation is what a lot of people are missing. Also, to go back to something else you said, the people that are really hurting right now and cannot wrap their minds around what needs to happen with content are e-commerce and retail marketers because it’s a bear.
If you have 10,000 products, how do you possibly go about creating what you need? At least that’s the problem they envision. With the differences we’re seeing in search results when you type in BioMattress, you get one set of results that are highly commercial. If you go to a guide to buying a mattress or even how to, you’re getting informational results.
So much of the mindset is, “Well, I need fresh product descriptions,” and then they take this really macro view on product descriptions like, “All right, we got to go create a bunch of them.” We worked with lots of retailers where it’s like, “No, let’s create really great buyer’s guides on these and put those on the web, let’s not make them downloadable. Then let’s focus on your main category pages, and then let’s take the top 100 products and create amazing product descriptions for them.”
Every product is not the same. You’re not going to sell 1000 units of one product and 1000 units of another product on the site. It’s an [80:20] rule with most of your products on site. Trying to reshape those patterns because when anybody comes to us and they’re like, “Well, I need to get penny-a-word content because I need to write all of these descriptions.” You’re just still flushing money down the drain at that point in time.
It’s like penny wise and pound foolish. You’re thinking, “I’m going to get this really good deal. I’m going to buy content at scale from Mechanical Turk or Textbroker,” and then, the ROI isn’t there so you cut it all together and like, “Oh, content creation doesn’t pay for itself. Let’s just get back to the same old that we’ve been doing.” I just critiqued and tore apart in a somewhat gentle way in a webinar this morning for Internet Retailer Magazine readers a bunch of e-commerce websites that all had the same problem. They had really poor category pages with no content on them except for product thumbnails, prices, and product names. That’s thin content.
The product pages are full of problems, too, because they’re using manufacturer supplied product copy that’s the same as everybody else. They’re putting the user-generated content like the product reviews in a separate tab on the page so it’s nice and clean. The technical specs, all the product reviews, all the great additional content is not visible by default so that gets partially discounted, all that extra stuff. On the home page, there’s not much to see there either. It’s just mostly visual. Not a lot of text, whatever text is there is usually just anchor text pointing to other pages. What’s this site even about? It’s a train wreck. It’s just time and time and time again, the same exact problem.
They’re not thinking about content as a differentiator. They’re just thinking content as a way to either get higher rankings on Google so it’s just SEO copy, it’s just a means to an end and they’re not writing it for human consumption, or they’re just writing it for existing customers to make sure that their amount of returns and customer satisfaction are within certain parameters or both. They’re not even thinking about how do I be remarkable with my content so that I’m worthy of remark and I get links, mentions, buzz, social shares, and all that. That’s just so far outside of the realm of what they’re even thinking of. It’s like it’s off the radar.
It’s almost like they have a checklist and content is one of those checks. They put a check on it once they’ve achieved that check but they’re not thinking about what does this actually means in the scope of my work and how do I actually utilize this. Specifically, buyer’s guides and brand pages, if you work in any retail space that has brands and the brand itself is part of the thing that drives people to you, that’s where your focus should be. Take your focus off the individualized product to start and put it on the brand and the buyer’s guide because so many people are researching. You’re adding value to the user. Again, you can send those things out with your e-commerce mailers.
Having those brand pages rank, all that value is going to siphon off. But I also think, to a point, on your best products, don’t go cheap on what’s really catalogue copy. I remember getting an actual physical catalogue when I was younger. I would read it for products I like and they would drive you to buy this stuff. That’s the same way that copy on the web should work. It shouldn’t just be there to be there.
Like the copy that you see sometimes on these landing pages, category pages, or whatever that don’t have a copy on them. They know that that’s bad for SEO, so they add this wall of text near the footer with just a bunch of keyword repetitions and some keyword-rich links dropped in there as well for good measure. It’s like screaming to the search engines, “I have SEO-d this page and not for humans either.” I hate that stuff.
How do you get folks that are earlier in the buying cycle, in the buyer journey where let’s say that they’re not ready to figure out what kind of product they want? They’re not even thinking about that whole product category.
This is an example I use all the time. If you’re a listener who’s heard this example before, my apologies. Let’s say baby furniture is your product category. You’re an e-commerce site and the way to get earlier on in the buyer journey is to go after informational keywords that are before they start thinking about nesting.
The mother-to-be is just coming back from the ultrasound, finding out the sex of the baby, and what do you do? The parents hop onto Google and search. What are they searching for? Baby names. Not searching for bassinets or anything like that yet. That’s later. So, searching for baby names.
The less-than-creative retailers won’t go after that keyword thinking, “I don’t sell that. How do I monetize that?” But this is the exact audience that you want. Expecting parents. What would be equivalent to that in some of the spaces that you work in? I don’t know if you even have any baby furniture.
No baby furniture, but one of our customers is a large boot retailer, like western boots and work boots. We actually write content for them talking about forage type of topics like farming, rodeos, things like that. It’s more audience segmentation than it is for selling directly like, “Hey, how do you buy a cowboy boot?”
That’s a great analogy. I love that because again, you’re going earlier on in the buyer journey and you’re going after the type of person, in my case, in my example, expecting parents, and in your case, the country, western fan or aficionado.
If you brought this idea to some people, again, they would stare at you blankly. If I had a customer that had a really cool set of headphones that was geared towards urban culture, I’ll be like, “Hey, we need to create content about hip-hop artists on your site.” Why? Because those are going to be the people buying these headphones.
What do we do with them from there? Again, going back to Facebook pixeling and retargeting, if I’m able to build you the best demographic where you can buy really cheap advertising, whether you take it, that’s what you’re doing with the content there.The ultimate game plan in content marketing is how you cater to people at different points in the funnel. Click To Tweet
Again, people don’t plug those pieces together to where you get on a lot of these sites you say. There are like, “Oh, we created a blog.” But what are you doing with that? You see, it’s just like this weird dead end. It’s not like, “Hey, how can we start connecting with different channels within our marketing to move these people down this buying cycle?”
Do you know what I would equate the typical blog to? The junk drawer in your kitchen. It’s like, “I don’t know where to stick that. That doesn’t go to our product catalogue. I’ll just put it on the blog.”
That’s what we found with our personal blog account so what I’m killing a lot of it is 10 years of junk drawer where it’s just like, “I got a bunch of stuff in here and stuff we don’t even do.” At one point, we had every employee writing a blog post monthly, so you can imagine what was coming out.
I said, “Okay, we don’t need all this. Let’s turn the blog into a corporate blog so people know what’s going on at CopyPress, but let’s put really valuable content in a directory that is about valuable content.” People are scared of that because of their mentality, specifically, retailers like, “I have my products. We have this blog. We create content that’s either for the products or the blog.” It’s like, “No. Hey, you should create a buyer’s guide section.”
Again, going back to the boots world, they’re all very different. Every single boot fits differently. Every single boot has different leathers to it. All of these things, people are going to be researching this product before they buy it because a lot of them cost several hundred dollars as well. They’re not just going to go to your product page and see the product and buy in most cases, unless they know exactly what they want to buy. In that case, they’re way down the funnel anyway. It’s just going to come down to pricing.
So here’s your opportunity like if you’re selling country, western ware or you’re selling baby furniture is to do that soft sell. Not just the retargeting, Facebook pixeling, and all that, but also if you have some sort of soft-sell value add, maybe it’s an essential nesting checklist, for example. The 33 Things You Most Need for Your New Baby’s Room.
That guides you towards making the purchase that would be from you, the e-commerce site because you’re helping set the criteria. These are the buying criteria. “You should get a wooden bassinet, or a metal, or a plastic one, or whatever. It should have these sorts of attributes and oh, I just happen to sell all those.” What’s the equivalent of that for your client in the space? It could be just hypothetical.
Even going back to the baby furniture one, a great idea with the baby naming idea is why don’t we put together a baby naming app or widget? Put in criteria, name the baby, to get the results, put in your email address. Now, I’ve got the email. In that app, you can actually tell you how far along they are in this process. Now, I’m able to hit them times throughout this process when we know our target buys.
That’s great. You don’t have to be just the most useful or helpful app, widget, or tool out there, you could just be fun or Seth Godin’s terminology remarkable, worthy of remark so you’re maybe putting out a Magic 8 Ball. It gives you silly baby names or silly ideas for criteria for naming your baby.
The great thing for quizzes and widgets is you can re-skin those things. People see them as cause prohibitive but the basic logic can probably be re-utilized over and over again. Just tweak the logic a little bit and re-skin it for something else. Have a whole library of calculators, quizzes, or little widgets that do different things that have partner content with them as well from an article standpoint or some infographics, too.
Each part of that journey has some way that they can connect with you either sign up for guides or sign up for discounts in the future. You’re just collecting that information and then pushing it into your email marketing as well.
For sure. You mentioned infographics several times. What are your thoughts about using an infographic construction kit sort of tool? Like a Canva or anything, but more specific to infographics. I’m thinking specifically like Piktochart.
I think they’re great. Infographics come down to the story you’re telling with the information. You can have a beautifully designed infographic that’s garbage, that’s custom design because it’s not either telling a story or giving useful information. I go on reddit sometimes and see stuff that people have done with really basic charts and I’m like, “It’s really good information to look at. Highly linkable.”
I think too few people put enough time thinking about what they’re going to be visualizing when they visualize data because that’s really the core of it. And then, you can use a whole bunch of things. Like you said, Piktochart or you can just get a vector kit online that has everything premade for you if you’re pretty good at Illustrator to make those infographics.
In fact, speaking of things that are out there that allow you to shortcut the process, or just have automated tools already built, or libraries of clipart, or whatever it is, Piktochart is one example. Lumen5 is a great example for makings social videos. You can also just use PowerPoint to create some PowerPoint decks that you upload into SlideShare. Now you got embeddable SlideShare decks, embeddable Lumen5 videos that you upload to YouTube and Facebook natively so it’s not a YouTube link but an actual, uploaded Facebook video. Do the same thing with Twitter, LinkedIn, and all that.
With regards to the quizzes, personality tests, and all that, re-skinnable widgets, so many of those already exist out there. They’re in libraries and marketplaces like Envato. You just go there and you pick your favorite personality test/quiz tool. Thrive Themes has a great little WordPress plugin for quizzes and personality tests. There are a bunch of free ones in the WordPress Plugin directory as well. There are just so many options. You don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel or starting from nothing and trying to do that all on your own.
I actually tell our customers not to. Somebody out there is winning right now and you need to follow the map they’ve created in a lot of ways when you’re starting out, what’s working today and then how can you tweak that to make it your own. But there’s no reason to think about how do we go about this completely rogue because you’re increasing the likelihood that you won’t win if you’re just doing something completely new. If it wins, you look like a hero, but if you’re spending somebody else’s money as a marketer, you better win. So, it’s better to look at what the competition is doing.
For sure. Not just your traditional competitors because they’re not the most innovative. Look at the ones who are ranking at the top of Google for the keywords you care about because they might be affiliates or they might be content hubs or something else that’s not an obvious direct competitor to you.
I would even look outside of your niche. NerdWallet comes up a lot because we do work in the finance space. They exist with content to drive affiliate revenue to credit cards in the finance space and they’re always doing really interesting things with content. If you play in a B2B space where it can be less for retail, then an interesting one to go and look at is say, “Okay, how are they approaching this B2B content and then driving it elsewhere because they’re really maximizing the value they get out of content?”
Back in the day, when Google came out with the Panda Algorithm Update and just smashed a lot of these content farms. I’m thinking of sites like eHow and that sort of thing where it was a lot of low-quality content.
Now, it’s 180 degrees different. It’s more about having EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) and so, companies like NerdWallet, they have to go out there and recruit really high-end credible people with degrees, certification, who speak at conferences, have lots of articles published, maybe books published, etc. so that they have ample EAT.
What would you tell our listeners about future-proofing the content that they’re creating so it will pass the sniff test in later times when machine learning and AI are more fully entrenched inside of Google?
Pre-Panda, we made a decision at CopyPress to start moving away from commoditized content mostly because the whole market was saturated with providers that we’re doing penny-per-word stuff. But then the market started moving in that direction so I was like, “Oh, I guess we made the right decision.
One of the things we’ve always done is try to find experts in the areas we’re working in. We’ll go down two paths with this. It’s pretty easy to find a finance writer who has a background and experience. They can write on things in the retail space. Somebody who is a boots expert would be another example. These people, you can find them.
The first thing people listening need to realize is you are not going to be able to commoditize those people. They’re an expert in their space and so they’re going to be wanted to be paid a certain amount of money. The other thing is with people like that, you have a certain framework around how much you can shape their voice to fit your voice. Probably, the reason you’re hiring them is because of their voice and what they bring to the table.The main purpose of content creation is not to convert. Rather, it's a means of widening your audience by giving them the information and solution they are looking for. Click To Tweet
There’s another path you can go down as well, which is you can have co-authored pieces of content. We find this to be in spaces like, let’s say you’re doing an article on machine learning or you’re doing an article on accounting. It’s going to be really hard to find an engineer or an accountant who’s also a great copywriter or even very good at it.
So, partnering them with a copywriter to do interviews and co-author a piece of content, I think if you have those people in-house that can help with at least the outlining in knowledge in interview, a unique way to approach the entire process is then hire a really good copywriter, someone who’s great at copywriting, to follow your voice and your overall tone, and put that piece of content on your site as well.
That’s great advice, dovetails very nicely with a strategy I recommend to my clients. It just takes an interview where there’s a really powerful conversation happening. Nobody wants to read a transcript that’s why when you go to marketingspeak.com, for example, the site for the podcast, you’re not going to see just a written transcript. You’re not going to just have all the back and forth with the person’s names and all the uhms and ahs and all that. You’re going to have something that looks like an article. A legit article is broken up with imagery and captions under the images and click to tweets that are big call-outs to break up the page and make it way more interesting and not the guest and host’s name over and over and over again. This makes it much more palatable and consumable by a reader and I think it looks better to Google and it will rank better.
To go back to this idea, let’s say you have this interview, you have the transcript and even more advanced thing that you could do is instead of publishing an interview, let’s say that you’ve interviewed Seth Godin, for example, which I did—it was a great interview, definitely. If you have not listened to the Marketing Speak Seth Godin episode, you must—let’s say that you want to get it published in HBR (I recently got published earlier in the year on Harvard Business Review; the huge goal of mine to become HBR contributor).
What sort of article would be more impactful? Positioning-wise, EAT-wise, and also in terms of just how it looks, the optics of it. Would it be an article co-authored, you and Seth? Or an interview where you’re extracting bits of wisdom from the interview and turning that into an article?
Now, if you have permission from the thought leader (you have to have that in order to list them as the co-author, so assume that that was a yes), you can go full speed with this strategy and get published on major media sites and so forth with articles where you’re the co-author with these heroes from your life and people you look up to, people who are way ahead in the career space or whatever that you’re in. That is a very cool strategy and very much dovetails with what you were talking about.
For sure. Too many people are trying to figure out, again, “How do I get an accountant to write an article?” You’re just going to freak out your internal people if you’re trying to make and create people. By leveraging what they’re best at, you get the best content or if you partner them with a really good copywriter.
Also, it’s more manageable from a cost perspective. Again, managing freelancers is really tough. That’s what we do every day. Trying to build this table of writers in your space can be pretty problematic so I would always push somebody more towards that co-author strategy when they’re starting out, especially if they’re in a really niched difficult area to write content around.
The stakes get higher when you talk about a more high-profile site like HBR. You better have a top-notch copywriter that you’ve partnered with otherwise the article won’t ever see the light of day. They are very stringent with their requirements of very well-written copy, super high-end stuff. What would you expect to pay for a really good copywriter for this kind of work? Are we talking $35 an hour? Can you get it for $20? Is it by the word?
It’s always going to be by the word. This is something people have a really hard time understanding because we get a lot of people come in and think we’re insane. Our rates start at 17 cents a word. That includes everything we do. When you break down what a writer makes, you need to think about what are they paid normally? Average copywriter let’s say make $60,000 a year if they’re hired somewhere internally. They’re going to be expecting that $40 an hour. How long does it take to write an HBR-level article? Are we talking about with revisions and editing, 10 hours? You better be willing to pay about $500-$600 for that article for that level of copywriter.
That’s if you’re going direct to them. When you’re dealing with whether it’s CopyPress or some other intermediary, they’ve got to make a profit on it so they can keep the lights on. There’s that.
Our business models look different. Originally, we were just the middleman. We’ve evolved to where we handle everything that’s why we only take large scale campaigns because we actually project-manage it all. That’s where we cut our margin out of it. If you’re going to a content company like Scripted—I think Scripted more handles one-offs—they’re going to take 20% or 30% on top. People lose that site, unfortunately, it’s because sites like Fiverr exist. You can go out there and get 500 pieces of content for $500 or something like that. I’m not saying everybody on there does that but the reality is that if somebody sees that opportunity for low-cost content, they’ll at least try it.
They will. I’ve tried it too. It’s a real hit-and-miss. You can even luck out and find a really great writer in a third world country but it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
For sure and you’ll end up spending more money. Depending on how much you value your time, you’ll spend more money on it because you’ll be editing it, revising it, and talking to the writer. People leave that part of the equation out as well.
What would you say a total budget should be for content creation for a company that has, let’s say, a total overall marketing budget of $1 million? I’ll just make a round number here. How much of that should go towards content creation?
It’s interesting. It would be based on the company and how are you going to utilize this budget. We’re very KPI-focused. If somebody came into us and they’re like, “We just want to create content,” we’ll probably maybe take that project but I’d rather work with a company that’s like, “Hey, we want to grow conversions by this much and we want to grow traffic by this much. Here’s how much we’re looking to make off of this.” Then, I would always create a budget based off of what their KPI is like how much revenue are they trying to make? Or what problem are they looking to solve within their funnel?
It could be, like the million-dollar company who’s like, “Hey, we have $1 million in marketing but right now, we’re only seeing 1% of our customers that hit the site convert and we want to increase that to 2% and enhance our sales by 100% online.” The goal then becomes how do we drive content that’s conversion-driven more than traffic-driven? What does that mean? Again, creating the email stuff, creating things on the site to lead people further down the funnel and that budget maybe pretty small but have a huge return.
Other customers may have a huge traffic need. If you’re talking about a huge traffic need, you’re talking about lots and lots of content most likely because pages are going to peter out on how much traffic they can drive on an individual basis. It’s all up in there. Sorry, I can’t give a more direct answer but I think it’s going to come down to KPIs and what you’re trying to achieve, how you should figure out how you move that budget needle.
I agree with that. That brings up another point for me that I think is helpful. You got to be delegating the outcome with those KPIs as part of it and not a bunch of tasks. If you’re delegating tasks or activities like, “All right, write these different articles. Create these writer’s briefs. Create these infographics from these articles,” well, you’ve got a whole bunch of tactical stuff happening without an overall strategy.
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” You’re just going to get slaughtered if you’re working on that very tactical on the ground level. Delegate outcomes and that’s where companies such as CopyPress would really shine I would imagine.
And it’s running a business. When I run a business, I don’t just blindly write checks to people and hire as many people as I want. Do you need to know how much do you plan to grow this year? How much is our profit? You need to know all of these pieces in order to make solid decisions. You need to use data to back up your decision-making process. And then within that decision-making process, now you need to start monitoring. That’s what we do.
We have a piece of software, a machine learning here called Keyword Juicer, that we’re actually able to say, “Okay, the entire market for your content space is $1000 in value or 1000 visitors. If we’re able to give you 1% of that market through what we do, we think we’ll be able to get you 10 visitors so we’re going to charge you $10 for the content we’re producing. Over time, here’s how much the 12-month value will be once we started seeing back growth.” Not playing around with rankings or guaranteeing rankings but just looking at the traffic volume as the main piece of the pie that we’re trying to resolve.
That strategy has worked super well for us for the last year-and-a-half of consistently setting up KPIs that matter and then hitting those KPIs on an ongoing basis. Some of the times with us, it can be difficult because we only control the content portion of the project, but it’s also why it’s important if you own an agency and set your KPIs realistically. We always lowball the baseline so that way, regardless of what some knucklehead in tech does at a big company, it’s not going to interfere with what we’re trying to do.
What would be a typical good campaign or initiative for a client in terms of the ROI metrics? Are we talking like invest $1 in and you get $5 out? A typical client is spending, let’s say, $100,000 a year with you. How far are these numbers off?
No. Our minimums right now are $5000 a month that we’ll work with a customer. When you break that down, some customers are like, “Oh, that’s a lot.” But if you could look at hiring an internal writer, that’s what you’re going to pay for. We’re looking for somebody who basically has the scale of an internal writer but needs more than that with the help and planning.
We look at it falling 24 months after a campaign is rolling to get between 5X and 10X on the initial budget. When we’re planning out the campaign (this is specifically for a search-based campaign) looking for keywords and opportunities that have high value and high traffic amount. If you’re spending $5000 a month with us, the goal would be to, within a year, get to the point where you’re making $25,000 a month off of that content production.
Okay. Cool. Do you have case studies or client testimonials or are they all super secretive?
We’re pretty open. Just some of the customers we work with don’t. You know how big companies are. They never let you do anything. We have all kinds of case studies and testimonials. We have some companies we don’t work with anymore like Hipmunk. We ran a really interesting campaign for them starting in 2014 where they were making a transition from being only a mobile app to a website.Let credible and high-quality content be a part of each step in the customer journey. Let it be a form of connection where your audience finds value in reading or consuming what you publish. Click To Tweet
We ran a campaign where we went out and got actual travel writers to write all of the hotel and airline content on their site. We gave them bylines and images. It’s going back to the EAT thing of these published travel writers that we were giving on what people would normally consider money pages, the ability to write content on those.
They jumped from zero to about two million visitors a month in about nine months. There was linking going on and there were healthy PR campaigns. It was just a really interesting strategy that I’m not sure why more people don’t take that initiative to say, “Hey, let’s go a completely different direction with all of these pages we need to create and not just throw copy. Let’s put real people that travel to these cities writing about these cities.
You’re all about content at scale. Give us a sense of how big this scale was with Hipmunk? Are we talking about 10,000 pages? 1 million pages?
That was 14,000 pages in a year. We’re currently doing a project where we’re pumping out 400 pages a week for a customer. At a certain point, the wheels fall off on any scale. What’s interesting is you brought up AI and machine learning earlier and the question I keep getting from people is when is AI or machine learning going to take out the content writing space? To be honest, I don’t think it ever will for what we do. I mean maybe not ever.
I’ll argue on that one.
Let’s take that one back.
And so hopefully by the time I’m done with this, that’s when it will start happening. But for the near future, you need really good copywriters and if you’re looking for really good copywriters, writing 1 million pages of content is doable, it’s just a matter of time. How long do you have? We have to work into the equation.
With any of this, the scale is really difficult because it’s not just can we get it written, but can we make it cohesively styled the same? Can we have editors that are all on the same page and QA people that are all on the same page? Then, how do you interlock the technologies to publish that much and manage it? That’s where things become really hard. It’s where we’re really good.
Usually, a lot of our customers, honestly, come to us after they’ve tried another provider that’s lower cost and the wheels have completely fallen off. We take over from there because it’s just easier to work with us because we do everything.
Because it’s super important to have a consistent brand voice or personality and not just all over the place with your resource library and all the additional stuff you’re creating.
A thing I point back to customers or people I talk to is to look at magazines. Magazines historically have created the template for us to go online. They’re doing infographics before we call them infographics. The interview stuff you discussed, that’s the core of what they do, co-authored pieces, really great content.
When you read one magazine, even though you got a bunch of different writers, stylistically, usually, they’re similar in nature because there’s an editor-in-chief managing that process and managing what goes into that. I think those are a good source to go back and be like, “Does my site look like this or does it look like a site that’s taking a bunch of guest posts because it’s just a bunch of people saying random stuff all the time?”
I hate that. Magazines, the really good ones, even have specialized copywriters that only do the headlines that appear on the front covers. Like Cosmo magazine, there’ll be a very high-level copywriter who’s in charge of writing those little bait-y headlines that are on the front cover that get you to pick up the magazine while you’re waiting in the checkout aisle.
If you think about how we create stuff, it’s all, “Whatever! Put the title on it. Just put it out.” Even though it’s going to affect our CTR and whether people actually read this. Just put it out there.
Let’s talk about something that we haven’t given enough focus. This idea that content is king but outreach is queen. I’m sure you can get away with it if you’re Hipmunk not doing a big old outreach campaign to get the word out on all this awesome content, but if you’re like Joe the Plumber, or something with a website, or just some regular old e-commerce site, nobody is thinking, “Gee! I wonder if they launched a learning center. I’m going to go check.” And then, “Oh, wow. They have. Look at that. I’m going to blog about it.” You have to outreach to these journalists, bloggers, influencers, the Linkerati in order to get some traction happening when you have this content out there.
As much as Google tells you to, you have to do something besides just create it and let it sit there because nobody is going to know you exist. Ongoing outreach campaigns are a great idea. The problem that we have today is so many people rely on email for that when people should be taking a much more STR kind of approach like sales dev. “Hey, I’m going to reach out via LinkedIn. I’m going to publish a couple of LinkedIn-only articles that link back to my main piece and then use InMail to send those out to key people. I’m going to actually see if I can get phone numbers of people and call them. I’m going to contact them on Twitter because I have their information and use a multi-touch process to get in contact with them.” Rather than just defaulting to, “Hey, I’m going to put an email-driven through a bunch of emails in and see what happens.”
You can even do ad campaigns. Dennis Yu, who is a guest on this show a while back, his dollar-a-day strategy where you’re laser-targeting people on Facebook who are journalists, bloggers, and so forth and putting ads of all these great content pieces in front of them that way.
You could also, with the email outreach—email is not dead—still get decent deliverability if you do it right and if you have a really good offer and not this stupid guest post outreach stuff like Matt Cutts wrote about years ago (in 2014 or whatever), “Guest blogging is dead. Put a fork in it.” No, this is still valid that you can also use email as a touchpoint.
I highly recommend the Michael Geneles episode from a few weeks ago that really dives deep into email outreach using a tool. In the case of Michael, it’s his tool Pitchbox, but regardless of which tool you’re using, you need to use a tool. You’d use salesforce.com, or Capsule CRM, or Zoho, whatever, to manage all your prospects in a CRM database. You’re going to want to use an outreach tool and not just do it by hand.There's no need to start from scratch. Somebody out there is winning right now, and all you need to do is follow the map they've created. Do what's already working and tweak it to become your own. Click To Tweet
We use Pitchbox internally here. Like you said, what I look at is a touchpoint. The problem is to who we can silo it into that single touchpoint where people are living elsewhere, depending on who you’re trying to contact and what you’re trying to contact them around. Somebody is more likely to open my email if I connected with them the day before on LinkedIn.
How are we utilizing multiple touchpoints to make sure the open rate deliverability is even better than what it currently is? I get sales emails all day and link emails where it’s just generic headlines, same person every single day contacting me. It’s not going to happen. Where if I’ve recognized that person’s name because I’ve connected with them here and they send me an InMail and now they’re contacting me somewhere else, way higher possibility that I’m going to actually interact with them.
Right. You don’t make your pitch in a LinkedIn message. I spoke at Internet Retailer Conference in the summer and I added a bunch of these folks who opted in. I had a text, The Lead Digit Campaign, that I did in my presentation and I got a whole bunch of opt-ins. Now, I can connect with them on LinkedIn but not some sleazy, spammy kind of outreach thing with a big pitch in the connection request or as soon as they grant the connection request because they really liked my presentation, then they get to pitch as an immediate message after that. No.
Our top-of-mind is like, “Oh yeah, it’s been a few months since the conference and there’s Stephan reaching out and adding me as a connection. That’s cool.” Then, let’s say, a week later, you send an email. That makes a lot of sense and it’s that one-two punch where what I see happen all the time is they’re just hammering on people in the same platform. They’re not strategically using the platforms together so that it seems seamless and not sketchy.
Another good strategy is to find conferences where the people that write about your topics are going. I recently went to FinCon where all of the personal-finance writers are going. Go there and meet those people. It’s not a conference where it’s your people like going to Pubcon for us or some marketing conference. No. What vertical are you in? And where are the people that are writing about that? Meeting up? And how can you get real-life connections with them? So much more valuable. Your message in person is always going to resonate better with people.
From those people, you can then ask for referrals to others. You’ll be amazed by how many writers interact with each other or influencers and you’ll be able to build up a pretty big network immediately just by this small investment of going to a conference where those people are.
I’ve not been to FinCon; I’ve heard good things about it. This is a secret weapon, this particular conference, it’s BlogHer. Especially men never even think about it. It’s not on their radar at all. It’s a women bloggers conference. There are some men there. It’s probably 10%. I’ve actually spoken at BlogHer. My oldest daughter has spoken at BlogHer multiple times. She actually started her speaking career at 16 years old by doing her first talk at a BlogHer conference.
If you go to BlogHer as an attendee, even if you’re a guy, and you network with all these mommy bloggers, either they’re going to have an opportunity to work with you if it’s going to be a fit or they’re going to note people that are a fit. Just like you say, writers hang out together. They send work to each other because they know it’s going to end up being reciprocal like, “I don’t know. I don’t really write about that topic but I’ve got somebody who’d be perfect for you.” And then that person is going to return the favor at some point.
It’s all about creating relationships. That’s what syndication has to be. Yes, you have to get your content out there and it’s where you have to think about like, “What am I putting out? Why am I putting it out? Why would people link back?”
Going back to the Hipmunk campaign, that actually drove a ton of links, too. Why? Hipmunk is a brand that travel writers knew because we hire travel writers. So what do they do? They ended up writing about Hipmunk as well. So, it was just a natural progression that happened. As you’re building that brand up and hiring people to write for you and get your brand out more, create relationships with people, people start sharing your brand naturally.
Like that Hipmunk example, it’s a virtual cycle.
Very cool. We’re out of time. I just wanted to give you a moment here to share where folks can go who are listening and thinking, “Wow. This CopyPress company is pretty darn cool. I should hire them.” Where do they go? How do they get in touch with you, and all that sort of good stuff?
Awesome. That’s very generous of you. What’s your most active social platform? Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, or what?
I’m not super active on social media anymore. I think I went on Twitter once in the last six months and that was a good decision for my life.
Right. There’s a great book out called Indistractable that’s all about cutting out all the fluff and the candy out of your life, the attention candy, and getting really focused. I’ve interviewed Cal Newport, the author Deep Work, and now I’ve interviewed Nir Eyal, who’s the author of Indistractable on my other podcast on Get Yourself Optimized. A little plug there for my other show. If you haven’t subscribed to that, you should.
Thanks. I appreciate you for having me.
All right, listeners, we’ll catch you on the next episode of Marketing Speak. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.
- Twitter – Dave Snyder
- Keith Krance – previous episode
- Seth Godin – previous episode
- Dennis Yu – previous episode
- Michael Geneles – previous episode
- Get Yourself Optimized
- Cal Newport – GYO previous episode
- Nir Eyal – GYO previous episode
- How to Make Any Business Trip Less Boring – Stephan’s HBR Article
- The Art of War
- Deep Work
- Keyword Juicer
- Mechanical Turk
- Internet Retailer Magazine
- Seth Godin
- Thrive Themes
- WordPress Plugin directory
- How to Make Any Business Trip Less Boring
- Sun Tzu
- Cosmo magazine
- Matt Cutts
- Capsule CRM
- Internet Retailer Conference
Your Checklist of Actions to Take
Always tie my marketing efforts with a lead generation strategy. Take the opportunity to get my prospects’ details, such as name and email, by offering them something valuable.
Visualize the customer journey and come up with specific marketing strategies that aim to nurture, follow up, and deliver every step of the way.
Create a funnel so that my team and I are working towards the same goal. This will help us understand what we’re trying to accomplish and what we need to implement to achieve something.
Do a site audit at least twice a year and continuously find ways to optimize my website..
Incorporate Facebook pixels on my site so that I can see where my visitors last left off when they’re browsing. This will help me improve my remarketing or retargeting approach.
Always have the ROI in mind when doing content marketing. It’s not enough to produce outstanding content, it should be something so valuable that people are willing to like, comment, and share it with others.
Start with soft-sell content where I create something that’s purely just being informational and helpful. This gives way to catch my readers’ attention to spark their curiosity. Eventually, this will lead them to want more until they finally purchase.
Utilize infographics that either tell a story or give useful information. It is easier to read and understand than a 500 to 1000 word article.
Don’t feel pressured to start from scratch. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Find people who are successful in our shared industry and apply what’s already working.
Check out CopyPress for more information on how to create content with guaranteed massive ROI.
About Dave Snyder
Dave Snyder is the CEO of CopyPress, a content production company with a focus on ROI. Previously, Dave has founded several agencies in the earned media space. He has worked with companies such as Indeed, Uber, Stitchfix, QVC, and Hearst to scale content programs.