Stephen wants to talk about a bunch of things we can do now to make our next bit of content more likely to get approved by stakeholders, picked up by a journalist, or win you a customer.
This is going to make your life easier, but what’s going to make more money for your client is thinking a little bit bigger.
Stephen and his wife are expecting a child in a few months’ time. He’s very interested in how this child is going to turn out. Dandelions make shitloads of children. No dandelion really cares about what happens to any one seed. What matters is that every spare inch of ground is full of dandelions. We should be like dandelions with our content. What matters is that everyone sees it.
The long term view is important. Amara’s Law states that people underestimate the effect of tech in the short run and overestimate it in the long run. People expect a lot right now and don’t expect it to stick around. The best content, however, is better in the long term. What really matters is whether or not you convinced someone to do something you wanted them to do.
A great example of Amara’s Law is the hype cycle. It starts with an innovation trigger, like not being able to buy links anymore. We needed to find an unpaid way to get links. Suddenly, everyone is super keen on content marketing, because everyone said it was the future. So we get this huge expectation that inevitably doesn’t get delivered on and we fall into a trough of disillusionment. Maybe little PR campaigns are better. Or maybe we should spend more money on PPC, etc.
As months go by we get good at content marketing and get to a plateau of productivity. Maybe yesterday you were in a trough, and tomorrow you’ll be in a plateau. The way to get to the future is to invent it.
Here are some tricks to try.
Laswell’s model of communication says who says what to who in what channel with what effect. We know what we’re saying, to whom and in what channel. SEOs are really good at that. The fact we’re not good at the first ‘who’ and the final effect means that we have something to work on.
The source of our ideas should determine the kind of content we’re creating. Let’s say the desired outcome is short term product sales. In this instance, PPC makes sense. You can get a direct response. Push display ads, paid social etc.
Tension in culture should also inspire the form of the content. Gilette’s ‘best a man can be’ campaign hit on a cultural moment that earned them a lot of links.
We should also look at what our competitors are doing. If lots of competitors are doing something, you should do something completely different and unexpected. This is how you cut through the market.
Don’t forget about customer insights. The best model for planning, the simplest way to understand what it is, is to look at where we are, what we have, where we want to be and how to get there.
Why do we need what we need? Why does everyone else have more links than us?
It pays to think big. If you’re a small brand, you should expect to be a big brand. The beautiful thing about content is that everyone is speaking to the same journalists and the same consumers.
Content is about creativity. Think about the things that you don’t currently have and where you could get them from.
When we launch a campaign we need to ask ourselves if it’s actually getting us closer to where we want to be.
Classic planning models like AIDA – or see, think, do and care – make a lot of sense. If we’re adhering to these models we need to bear in mind that, from a consumer point of view, there’s a rational reason for engaging with a brand and an emotional reason.
Stephen gives the example of one piece of content: which fuel type is right for me? The rational response is road tax, economy, cost, range etc. We don’t consider the emotional response. What is fuel doing to the environment? What’s the noise like? How do customers see themselves? Is there a stress moment causing the core question to be asked?
You can actually use DeepCrawl to find sales-driving content. One of Stephen’s colleagues did an analysis of content on a client’s blog, categorised them based on the AIDA model, then crawled the site on DeepCrawl with Analytics enabled. Simply exporting the data into a pivot table can help you see which categories you’re good at and which require improvement.
When you create a piece of content you should consider its expiration or review date. Try adding review reminders in a shared calendar and form a board of people in the organisation who should care about content. You’ll be able to see which content is expiring when and prompt the right conversations to make sure that the content on your site is always up to date.
Tweaking over a period of time is really significant. Spotify builds products like this. They think for a while, build it, throw money at it and get it out there. The majority of the time is then spent tweaking that content to make it more relevant to its audience. People change and their environments change. We need to respond to that.
Take Black Friday. For most of the year, Google understands Black Friday to be an informational keyword. But when the date rolls around, Google completely changes the SERPs to reflect DO queries. If you’re creating content around a seasonal event, don’t just consider what competitors are doing now, but consider what the SERP looks like at different times of the year. Stephen guarantees that big seasonal keywords will look very different over the course of the year.
When identifying intent, start by searching for the query and taking note of the SERP features and the top results. Then take the rankings and search volumes from Ahrefs and sort them by traffic, not search volumes. Stephen finds it interesting how search intent differs. When people are searching for different queries, they have very different expectations of what they’re going to find. Minor linguistic changes can lead to very different intent and traffic potential. If you’re going to rank well, you need to make sure that your copy matches your audience’s expectations.
To measure the success of a piece of content, measure KPIs across different categories based on channel. The KPI for PR is links, SEO is leads and the KPI for on-site content is traffic. Second and third KPIs can also be added to show deeper insight.
Never ask your boss or client what the KPI of a given piece of content should be. They will not give you the right metrics. Whenever Stephen proposes a piece of content he will recommend KPIs based on his experience.
Stephen now gives Jordan Belfort quotes to inspire us.
He introduces the straight line system, which is how you go from introducing yourself to winning the sale. Between the two points, there are going to be objections. If you’re going to pitch ideas to key stakeholders you should sit down and make a list of objections to your ideas. Write every reason down and combine them into common buckets. If you can answer those objections now, you’re much more likely to get the idea picked up.
Another idea from Jordan Belfort is the three tens. How much do they like me? How much do they like my content? How much do they like my company? If you score low on any of these when pitching an idea, you have to make sure that they really like the other two. In reality, you want to get all three metrics as close as possible to a 10. This is why relationship building is a good idea. It makes your life a lot easier.
Crystal is a good tool – it’s a Chrome extension. It tells you the kind of approach that is likely to work for a certain journalist by analysing LinkedIn profiles. It can help you work out what to include in your email and how to format the content.
Journalists are people too. Like anyone else they will make decisions based on rationale and emotions. They’re also trying to work out rationally if your content is going to reach their audience’s emotions.
Stephen talks about one campaign his business partner worked on – London Under a Microscope. She was working for an Uber and taxi insurer. She got a team to swab the tube to work out which germs are lingering there and, crucially, which could kill you. Unsurprisingly, this provoked an emotional response and they got a lot of coverage for it.
However you take this information forward, your strategic process should help you work. It shouldn’t make work for you.
Categorise your activity based on importance and urgency. Do the important, urgent stuff first and go from there.
Strategy is never an end, it is only ever a means to an end. It is the start.
This post is one of 12 in our Search Leeds 2019 collection
- Search Leeds: Sophie Coley – Search Listening: How and why we should be using Google data way beyond traditional keyword research
- Search Leeds: Jon Greenhalgh – A.I. in Paid Media: strategies you can use tomorrow
- Search Leeds: Stephen Kenwright – Content marketing frameworks that will get you paid more
- Search Leeds: Women in Digital – Confidence in public speaking and the workplace
- Search Leeds: Women in Digital – How to Maintain a Work Life Balance
- Search Leeds: Britney Muller – Machine learning for SEOs
- Search Leeds: Sam Marsden – Overcoming Technical SEO challenges for enterprise sites
- Search Leeds: Emily Potter – Featured snippets – the achievable SERP feature
- Search Leeds: Rory Truesdale – Intent optimisation – why it matters and how it can improve your SEO results
- Search Leeds: Bastian Grimm – Why most SEO audits are sh*t
- Search Leeds: Kirsty Hulse – How science can help you have better ideas