To see the greatest return on investment, it’s necessary to continually improve our content marketing. In order to boost our efforts, we must understand our marketing objectives and how these differ by journey state. In this episode, we explore the best ways to deliver content, measure engagement, improve and successfully optimize our content to the ‘See’ audience, the people that are qualified, but aren’t currently in the market, to make a purchase.
The Objective With ‘See’ State
- ‘See’ audience is the audience that is qualified but not currently in market
- The objective with the ‘See’ audience is to gather a consistent, sustained group of people around our brand
- We can use meaningful and relevant content to aggregate and establish a means to stay in front of the ‘See’ audience
- Even though the ‘See’ audience isn’t ready to make a purchase, garnering their trust and affinity for our brand benefits us long term.
- We shouldn’t try to move this audience to purchase or engage with sales-heavy content. However, if the ‘See’ audience has a high degree of brand awareness, products and services can be beneficial
Measuring Success Based on the Objectives
- Our content marketing goal is to increase engagement and drive repeat visits to our content
- We don’t just measure content engagement, but also our audience’s conversion into a known audience, allowing us to reach the same, qualified people again in the future
- The most common, and generally most effective, method to convert prospects into a known audience is newsletter signups
The PESO Model
- The PESO model, established by Gini Dietrich, helps marketers identify new opportunities to integrate channels into a new or existing content marketing program. It updates the Paid, Earned, Owned model of marketing to include Shared.
- Paid – buying an audience to increase awareness through native advertising via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
- We are looking for:
- Which channels drive the most subscriptions?
- Which content drives the most subscriptions?
- Which channels drive the most repeat traffic to our site?
- Tips to achieve:
- Make certain that newsletter subscription is set up and tracked as a goal in Google Analytics
- Pick paid media channels and structure media buys that allow you to continuously market to the same, qualified audience
- Strategically use retargeting technologies to build first-party data allowing you to aggregate an audience of non-subscribers
- In order to iterate on paid media we must:
- We are looking for:
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- Earned – trading the value of our content in exchange for access to a third-party’s audience by utilizing influencer marketing and traditional PR. In both cases, we are measuring the quantity and quality of audience we are able to acquire.
- We are looking for:
- Which media outlets and influencers drive the most traffic?
- Which media outlets and influencers drive the best traffic?
- Which media outlets and influencers drive the most word-of-mouth?
- In order to iterate on earned media we must:
- Identify what is resonating with our target media
- Identify which media outlets and influencers drive the most subscribers, repeat visits and engaged visitors
- Measure branded searches after higher profile press mentions to gauge a lift in awareness
- Focus on the influencers and media that have the greatest impact
- We are looking for:
- Shared – amplifying our content by getting non-influencers to share our content with their networks.This is attained through our own social media presence and providing sharing mechanisms on the content itself
- We are looking for:
- Which content is most “shareable”?
- What can we do to ignite sharing of content?
- Tips to achieve:
- Use BuzzSumo to find which content gets shared and focus on the content that has an audience in common
- Provide multiple, prominent opportunities for your audience to share the content
- Pick a couple of key social platforms and learn their algorithms and best practices for getting content shared
- To iterate on shared media we must:
- Test different social posting formats to find which types of headlines/lead-ins and images lead to the most shares with different audience segments
- Test posting frequency and time of day for owned, non-paid social channels
- Test placement, prominence, etc. of sharing buttons to maximize sharing from our site
- We are looking for:
- Owned Media – to achieve this a body of evergreen content needs to be developed that will be sought-out by the target audience. Also, obtaining links to this content to drive inbound traffic and search engine ranking. Then, retain and stay in front of a subscribed audience with relevant content
- We are looking for two very different things:
- Are we attracting new, subscribers and repeat visitors via search and referrals (backlinks)?
- Are we retaining our subscribers and driving engagement via our targeted distribution?
- Tips to achieve:
- Make sure that the boxes have been checked on basic technical SEO
- Put a program in place to build backlinks with every post published
- Pay special attention to the title and meta descriptions of every published piece
- Set a target for the percentage of your content that is evergreen
- Set a regular cadence for publishing and a standard process of promotion
- Leverage both email and first-party data to establish your audience
- To iterate on owned media we must:
- A/B test email subject lines and body copy
- A/B test HTML vs. plain text email
- Watch unsubscribes and flag content/emails that result in spikes in unsubscribe rates
- Never compare open rates across lists or sends
- We are looking for two very different things:
How to Iterate on Content in the ‘See’ State
- Understand which content contributes to a successful customer journey
- Robust metrics must be in place
- Engagement metrics beyond sessions:
- % New audience
- Dwell time
- Scroll depth
- Newsletter Signups
- Work with your web team or a third-party vendor like Brilliant Metrics to establish metrics
- A/B testing and applying what you learn requires additional content
- Engagement metrics beyond sessions:
- Effective content marketing requires continual improvements
- The objective with the ‘See’ audience is to gather a consistent, sustained group of people
- Look to measure and increase engagement and drive repeat visits to our content
- Implementing the PESO Model allows marketers to identify opportunities to integrate additional channels into a new or existing program
- Metrics will help to understand which content contributes to a successful customer journey
We hope you want to join us on our journey. Find us on IterativeMarketing.net, the hub for the methodology and community. Email us at [email protected], follow us on twitter at @iter8ive or join The Iterative Marketing Community LinkedIn group.
The Iterative Marketing Podcast is a production of Brilliant Metrics, a consultancy helping brands and agencies rid the world of marketing waste.
Onward and upward!
Hello everyone, and welcome to the Iterative Marketing podcast. I am your host, Steve Robinson, and with me as always is the smart and quick-witted Elizabeth Earin. How are you doing, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Earin: I am good, Steve. How are you?
Steve Robinson: I am doing great. Gearing up for Thanksgiving.
Elizabeth Earin: We are doing that at our house as well. Have you planned out your Thanksgiving menu?
Steve Robinson: We aren’t hosting, but we’re responsible for a very important part: We are responsible for desserts, but with three children in the home, we are not baking much. So I think Kim is going to make her world-famous apple crisp and then we are purchasing pies from that point forward because that’s about where we end up.
Elizabeth Earin: So it sounds like you subscribe to the philosophy that you need more than one dessert at Thanksgiving.
Steve Robinson: Absolutely, the dessert should outweigh the rest of the meal, right?
Elizabeth Earin: Yes. I think that we should – I am excited this year because we have friends coming over and I am making pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake and then someone else is bringing something else not pumpkin related, but my other girlfriend is bringing banana cream bites but she’s serving them as an appetizer. And I am very excited about this this year. So we’ll see if there’s any room for turkey.
Steve Robinson: And is the turkey usually delicious at your Thanksgiving?
Elizabeth Earin: Yes. My husband smokes the turkey, so it is phenomenal. And we buy a really big turkey because our after-Thanksgiving tradition is turkey curry, which we have a phenomenal recipe for. So I actually sometimes get more excited about that than I do actually for Thanksgiving. So lots of eating, lots of food.
Steve Robinson: I take it them if you’re smoking the turkey, then you’re also hosting, so…
Elizabeth Earin: Yes, we are hosting.
Steve Robinson: Great! Good luck with that next weekend. What are we talking about today, if we’re not talking about turkey?
Elizabeth Earin: So today, we’re talking about content marketing to the “see” state. And what this really is, the intersection of Iterative Marketing and content marketing, specifically when we talk about continuous improvement in content marketing. And in order to do this, we really have to understand what our objectives are. And these differ by journey state.
Steve Robinson: So originally, we are going to talk through all of the journey states in one podcast and then we started talking about everything we wanted to say and realized that you would have left us about a quarter of the way through the podcast, if that. So rather than do a marathon to our podcast here, we figured we break it down and start with content marketing to the “see” state because, to Elizabeth’s point, the objectives change a bit. So you have to understand what your goals are behind content marketing, and they change as you move through the states.
Elizabeth Earin: So, we’re going to start by talking about the objective of our content in the “see” state and how we target or deliver that content to our audience. Then we’ll move on to talking about how we measure success of that content based on the objectives that we’ve identified earlier in the podcast, and then how we iterate on that content. And then finally, we’re going to close out the episode talking about what you need to have in place to be able to successfully optimize your content. Unfortunately, it does — it’s not something that you can just do. There is some pre-work that has to be done and we’ll walk through that at the end of episode.
Steve Robinson: So what’s special about “see” state? What are we trying to do here that we aren’t trying to do everywhere else?
Elizabeth Earin: So I will quickly recap this because if you are an avid podcast listener, we talk about this a lot, but our “see” audience, as a reminder, is the audience that’s qualified but not currently in market. So they’re people that are — who we want to buy our product and who are in market to buy a – or who are the right audience to buy a product. They just don’t know that they want to buy our product yet.
Steve Robinson: Absolutely. And for our “see” audience, our goal is a little bit different from the other audiences. Here, we’re really trying to aggregate or pull together a known audience that we can continue to market to for life until they decide to finally be our customer, right?
Elizabeth Earin: Um-hmm, yeah. We are really looking to bring these people together so we can start talking to them with the appropriate content, which we’ll get into in a few minutes here. Because it’s unrealistic for us to take this audience who is not yet ready to buy and start throwing sales messages out at them. If we do that, we’re going to turn them off and potentially lose them forever and we don’t want to do that. Instead, what we want to do is make sure that this specific audience has a very high awareness of our brand, our products or our services in a way that we can nurture them over time until they are ready to make that purchase and then help them along those journey states.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. We all do business with those that we know, like and trust. And in the absence of a human, that becomes a brand that we know, like and trust. And so our goal with content is to build up that relationship between our brand or maybe people within our brand and our audience and to grow that audience over time.
Elizabeth Earin: And the key to doing that is talking to the same people consistently, whether that’s weekly or bi-weekly or monthly. It really depends on your product and your service and your brand, and you’ll know what feels appropriate and what feels like too much. But the key is being consistent and talking them with meaningful and relevant content.
Steve Robinson: That means that our measurement is going to be completely different, because the majority of our marketing is really measured around conversions and measured around how do we connect this to our sales, and you can’t do that at this point. Instead, we’re really trying to measure an increase in engagement and repeat visits at the same people over and over and over again to know that we’re building and nurturing this audience.
Elizabeth Earin: And the way that we do this is through the PESO model. And we talked about this in our last episode, Episode 35, and we will link to it in the show notes. If you missed it, it’s a phenomenal episode. But really, it comes down to a model that was introduced by Gini Dietrich and it stands for Paid, Earned, Owned and – I am sorry. Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned, as I put it in the right order there. And it talks about the different ways that we can go after finding and nurturing this audience.
Steve Robinson: So when we take the topic of content marketing and then we break that down — and we’re going to talk about content marketing as it relates to the “see” state, the “think” state, the “do” state and “grow” and “give”, now we’re going to break it down one more level. So now, we’re going to get really, really narrowly focused here. And now let’s loop through the four different elements of the PESO model as they relate to content marketing to the “see” state. I know we’ve now managed to put enough layers in this onion that it’s pretty hard to unravel, but it will make sense as we get into it. So we first are looking at content marketing in the context of paid when we’re trying to reach and nurture this audience of “see” state. What does that mean? What are we trying to do?
Elizabeth Earin: Paid is when we’re exchanging money in exchange for an audience. So, we’re going out and we’re actually buying our audience at that point.
Steve Robinson: This is key, particularly early in any content marketing effort because you don’t have an audience yet, so you’ve got to go and get them somewhere and so your paid channel and your earned channel are going to be key to doing that. So to do that, we’re going to buy basically advertising, right? Now, it can be a variety of different forms of advertising and certainly some of the newer native advertising formats and social media advertising are some of your best bets when it comes to content marketing. But there’s lots of other ways that you can introduce paid to increase that audience to build awareness for your brand and the great content that you’re producing and bringing them in.
Elizabeth Earin: The second way that we can increase that audience is through earned. And when we talk about earned, what we’re talking about is when we’re trading the value of our content for access to someone else’s audience.
Steve Robinson: This is basically coming back to traditional PR, right? Plus some more modern takes on PR like influencer marketing and some other stuff.
Elizabeth Earin: It gets a little complicated. We will get into that in a bit.
Steve Robinson: And the third one is shared. So this is one of the probably hardest to get your head around because it can mean different things to different people and it can be a bit challenging to understand. But shared is really when we’re not using influencers or media to spread the word about our content or our brand, but instead, we’re actually using our own audience to spread the word about our content and our brand.
Elizabeth Earin: And finally owned, that’s when we’re building our own audience and serving with valuable content. And again, you may have some of your “see” state already in owned, but more likely, you’re going to be relying on the first three avenues here to really build up that audience. I want to take one step back real quick before we jump into paid. And you said that we were making it more complicated by introducing this new level. I think I disagree with that, because what I love about this episode, and I hope our listeners feel the same way — and if you don’t, let us know. We love feedback. But what I love about this is it makes us very actionable. It tells us, based on where you are in your marketing strategy, what you’ve set up, here are some actionable steps that you can take to help to grow your “see” audience today. So I am excited to get into this conversation.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. And I think it makes it comprehensive so that we’re actually making sure that we’re touching all four corners of marketing and we’re not leaving one kind of hanging out there.
Elizabeth Earin: Definitely. So, why don’t we start by diving a little bit deeper into paid?
Steve Robinson: Sure. So as I said earlier, paid is really when you’re using advertising to grow your audience. And you need to do this early, otherwise you’re not going to have an audience to nurture. And if nobody knows about you, nobody’s talking about you either. So really nothing else works unless you introduce some paid early in the model. Most common forms of this are native Facebook, Twitter, a lot of your social because content sits neatly inside of those buckets. When we do this, what are we looking for from a measurement standpoint? How do we know that we are being successful in our paid efforts?
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah. So we’re looking at some unique things here when we talk about the “see” state. Specifically, which channels are driving the most subscriptions? Which content is driving the most subscriptions? And which channels are driving the most repeat traffic to our site? And when we take a look at the answers to those three questions, we can really sit down and optimize our programs in a way that we are able to maximize our marketing spend to bring the most new and qualified visitors to our website or to our brand.
Steve Robinson: And I want to come back to that third point that you mentioned about repeat visitors. This is really key when you’re building a new content property or building an audience, because if you don’t have repeat traffic, it can mean two things. One, it can mean your advertising is not hitting the same person twice which is bad because you need that repeated exposure to get them to trust you enough to subscribe or become part of your audience, right? Or it can mean that you’re not hitting the right audience and they come in, they see the content, the content doesn’t interest them enough to come back, so that means that you’re hitting the wrong audience. So in general, you really want to pay a lot of attention to this repeat traffic on metrics to see if you’re getting the same people back to the site over and over again to know that you’re building a true core audience over time with your paid channel. Otherwise, you’re just kind of either firing at random people in a crowd or you’re bringing in people that have no interest in sticking around.
Elizabeth Earin: So once we figured out the channels that are driving the most subscriptions, the content that these new subscribers are engaging with and that they’re coming back and visiting us more than once. What do we need to have in place to really make sure that we’re maximizing this new audience?
Steve Robinson: There’s a couple of best practices that I think are important on the front end before you start getting into iterating. And those really come into making sure that you have a clean, clear path to newsletter subscription. For some brands, this could be like an SMS type subscription. But the point is that they’re giving you permission to reach out to them on an intimate channel like SMS chat or email. And most of the time, that’s email because that’s where most of our audience is today, but that may change if somebody’s watching this two years from now. But it’s getting that permission so that we can hit them in their inbox where they’re going to engage with our content on an ongoing basis. If you don’t provide that easy path of subscription and have the ability to track it, then you’re really not coming out of the gates.
Elizabeth Earin: I want to touch on something that you mentioned earlier, and that’s making sure that your audience is seeing your message more than once because they need to if we’re going to start building awareness for a brand. If they’ve never heard of you before and one ad appears in there or one piece of content appears in their news feed or one ad appears in the sidebars, they’re scrolling through their favorite online publication, we’re not necessarily going to catch their attention. And so I think it’s very important to pick those paid media channels and structure your buys in a way that allow you to continuously market to that same qualified audience. Repetition is key here. This is where we’re looking for our frequency of our messaging.
Steve Robinson: We all have way too much stuff in our inboxes right now, and we’re a little bit more hesitant to sign up for something else these days unless we are darn sure the value is there, right?
Elizabeth Earin: Definitely.
Steve Robinson: The other thing is that you probably — along with those lines, you can take advantage of some of the retargeting capabilities that are out there to further nurture and grow your audience that has come to that site once. Make sure that you invite them back again, particularly if they haven’t subscribed to your newsletter. It seems unconventional, necessarily, to throw retargeting at content instead of throwing retargeting at a product but it actually works really well when you’re trying to nurture those subscriptions. Because people forget that you exist. They don’t really even – maybe they don’t even remember the name of the blog that they were reading because that just popped up in their Facebook feed. And you need to bring them back before they’re going to – you’re going to earn their trust and awareness to get to the point that they subscribe.
Elizabeth Earin: Well, I love retargeting, because we’re all so busy. And so sometimes, we are sitting at our computer and we have the time to read something but maybe we’re picking our kids up from school and we have 30 seconds before they come out the door and we see something that catches our eye but we don’t have time to engage with it. So retargeting gives the chance to get that content back in front of that person again in the hopes that maybe it just wasn’t the right time the first time they saw what you had to offer.
Steve Robinson: So how do we iterate on our paid channels? How do we ensure that we’re always improving? So we followed some best practices. We know we’re measuring, but we want to get better at this, right?
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah, definitely. So one way we can do that as we start to pick different media channels and targeting methods against each other in an effort to figure out sort of what makes the most sense and what we can do here is use new subscriptions as our KPI to determine which of those channels is performing best for us.
Steve Robinson: And you can refer back — we have a past episode where we really do a deep dive into paid media and iterating on paid media. Basically all of that stuff holds true here. The key is that we’re looking at net new subscribers, and as our primary KPI for success, so that’s how you determine whether or not a channel or our creative or something else is hitting correctly as if it results in more subscribers. Another area you can do some testing is with headlines. So this gets into the quality of your content. Is that content engaging for the audience that you’re trying to bring in? And so we strongly recommend testing headlines. There are some great tools to do this on-site, things like Optimizely. You can also test as well on the edges. So as you’re pushing this stuff out into people’s feeds, run two different Facebook ads with two different headlights on and see which one attracts more right-fit traffic. And you can run that test early, even before you publish a piece of higher-profile content to see, on a very limited audience, to see which one is the right headline and then expand that out once you know.
Elizabeth Earin: I love headline testing. It’s very eye-opening because we all have those sort of favorite headlines. And whether it’s a favorite headline because we came up with it and it’s kind of catching, it just has a special place in our heart or we think the audience is going to like it. It’s amazing to me where I will look at two headlines and think for sure they’re going to pick A and then they pick B and I am totally shocked. We also have some internal processes in place where, before we even get to headline testing, we do some background research on that, where we’re looking at keywords. We’re looking at other trending topics. I personally love that Coschedule has a headline analyzer tool. And we use that sometimes in an effort to help sort of narrow it down to our top few headlines that we want to put out to market and test with our audiences.
Steve Robinson: And tools like BuzzSumo, I know Ahrefs has a new content tool as well, help you figure out what’s igniting out there for other people. The key is those are other people. And you have your audience. You have your personas that you’re trying to cater to, and you’re going to want to do your own testing for sure so that you can enrich your knowledge of those personas as well as put yourself a little bit further ahead.
Elizabeth Earin: Fantastic point.
Steve Robinson: So I think we’re at a great point now to take a quick break. We’ve talked about one of our four channels before we take this break, that was paid. When we get back, we’ll run through earned, shared and owned as they relate to content marketing to the “see” state. And without further ado, let’s go help some people.
Elizabeth Earin: Before we continue, I would like to take a quick moment to ask you Iterative Marketers a small but meaningful favor, and ask that you give a few dollars to a charity that’s important to one of our own. This week, we would like to ask our very generous listeners to make a donation to Feeding America or your local food bank. According to Feeding America, 44.2 million Americans live in a food insecure household. This includes more than 13 million children. Help feed a family this holiday season by making a donation to your local food bank. To learn how you can help or to find a local food bank near you, please visit feedingamerica.org or visit the link in the show notes. If you would like to submit your cause for consideration for our next podcast, please visit iterativemarketing.net/podcast and click the “Share a Cause” button. We love sharing causes that are important to you.
Steve Robinson: And we are back. So, before we left, we talked about kind of high-level what content marketing to “see” means, some of the metrics that we’re looking for high-level, talked about the paid, earned, shared, owned model, PESO model that we’re really kind of using as a framework for this episode and we touched on paid. Next up in paid, earned, shared, owned is earned. Do you want to refresh our audience’s memory on what earned media is?
Elizabeth Earin: Sure. So when we talk about earned, again, we’re talking about where we’re trading the value of our content in exchange for access to someone else’s audience. And so we often do this through traditional PR efforts and also more recently through influencer marketing. And in both cases, we are looking to measure the quantity and the quality of the audience that we are able to acquire.
Steve Robinson: And the key here is that it’s not just anybody’s audience that we’re trying to capture. These are authorities or influencers that have either large audiences or audiences that they have a lot of sway with, and usually they don’t personally know these people all that much.
Elizabeth Earin: So what is it that we’re looking for?
Steve Robinson: Well, similar to our paid channel, we’re trying to figure out which influencers, which media outlets, when we partner with them, when we get a mention or a placement or a link or whatever it is that we’re trying to get, which one of those drives the most traffic? Which one drives the best traffic? And which one’s also drive the most word-of-mouth? Because if we are positioning our brand as a content authority, we want to know which other media outlets we align with can amplify that position as an authority, and so that gets into tracking. Did this ignite something that got picked up elsewhere? Looking at quality again, we’re coming back to subscribers, who gets us the most subscribers, right?
Elizabeth Earin: Exactly. So, how do we iterate on this?
Steve Robinson: Well, what you’re going to want to — when you’re early in your – I know pitching is the wrong word. When you’re presenting content to a variety of different media outlets, take the time to do some A/B testing and try some different content ideas and see what resonates with those other audiences that would also resonate with yours, because not all media outlets want all different types of content, so change it up and try some things. And then once this is in place, you’re going to want to take a look at, over time, who’s driving repeat visitors and how can you amp up those repeat visitors? In other words, by maybe focusing on certain media outlets over others, certain influences over others. So it’s kind of a prune and grow process. We’re going to prune back some of the stuff that’s underperforming and then we’re going to go hunt for some new influencers, some new media opportunities that might allow us to grow in a different direction.
Elizabeth Earin: I think another opportunity too is measuring branded searches, especially after you’ve had higher profile press mentions, so that you can really look at that lifts in awareness that you’ve had. Because I think that’s another great indicator of whether or not this is the right fit for you.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. We’ve done some research on this in the past for clients, and it’s always amazing to see what will result in all of a sudden everybody Googling your name. Now that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily in your target audience, but it means that they’re Googling your name and that’s, in general, a good thing and a good indicator.
Elizabeth Earin: And once you see that, once you’re able to see that lift that will allow you to then focus on those influencers and media that have the greatest impact, again, looking at a variety of different aspects, one, that lift in brand awareness but also who’s driving the quality and quantity of subscribers that you’re looking for.
Steve Robinson: So, next up is shared. How do we – this is really getting your content to be shared by people who aren’t influencers, who aren’t media, your audience itself to help give it greater lift and spread to their peers who are likely also qualified audience members.
Elizabeth Earin: We do this through our own social media presence and by providing sharing mechanisms on the content ourselves. So like, for example, when I am in LinkedIn, I have the ability to then tweet that out to my network as well. And so there’s some opportunities there within — I know the Brilliant Metrics and the Iterative Marketing blogs, we have the ability to share content out to other sites. And so those are all different ways that you can help to share that content. I think it’s also important to note – I know you touched on what shared content is, but I think it’s important to note that there’s an overlap here with earned. And this isn’t the only overlap we see as we talk about the PESO model, and we really get into this in our last episode, but there is overlap between these channels because they’re not the standalone by themselves pillars here. They work together, and so there is overlap and it’s important to note that.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. The better job you do as shared, the more likely you’re going to get picked up by an influenced — a respected media outlet. And then also, there’s that spectrum of when do we go from just somebody who knows a lot of people to somebody who is an influencer? And that’s not really — your micro-influencers are kind of also the same as your shared audience. So yeah, it’s fuzzy at best, but the key here is that we’re looking to find out what can we do to encourage or do our best to make happen this sharing — so that was awkward wording, wasn’t it? But that means – it means two things. It means putting content out that is shareable, that is something that people do want to share with their peers because it’s either entertaining or it adds value or they think it’s going to make them look good and it also means what we need to do to make sure that we ignite that sharing of content or at least reduce the friction associated with it. How do we put our best foot forward to try and do these things?
Elizabeth Earin: Great question, and you mentioned this earlier, but BuzzSumo is a phenomenal resource. And there’s others out there like it, but to help you really find out what content is getting shared and then focusing on content published by others who share your same audience and using that to help determine what kind of content you want to create that potentially could be shareable with your audience in the future.
Steve Robinson: You want to make sure that you’ve got your sharing button setup, so share button is prominent, frequent, easy to use because that’s invaluable free exposure for your brand and your content.
Elizabeth Earin: And then finally, I think it’s very important to really understand the channels and the social platforms that you’re on. So, pick a couple of key social platforms and really understand their algorithm and their best practices and how they decide how content gets shared and then try to make changes or create content that takes advantage of what it is that you’ve learned.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. And your brand will be sharing its content, but some of these algorithms are going to do their best to prevent anybody from seeing it but your brand will be sharing content on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram. Learn which platforms do get you the free exposure and the free reach without having to pay for it, and what you need to do to maximize it. Like how many times do you need to post on Twitter? Another key tip here is part of your shared audience isn’t just your audience, but it’s also your team, your employees because they have the opportunity to share on their personal networks out to their networks which are also very likely overlapping with your target audience. So make sure that you are using the employees of the organization that you work with, particularly sales teams, customer service teams, those that are connected to your customer base or those that would be part of your audience, to get this content shared.
Elizabeth Earin: So how do we iterate on this?
Steve Robinson: Well, we’re going to – when we go to post things to social, we want to try and A/B test the best we can. So this might mean putting a little paid stipend along with our organic shares to see which social lead-ins are going to drive the most traffic and how we can best position our content. We want to also test different platforms to see where to put our best effort in as well.
Elizabeth Earin: Another opportunity is to test the posting frequency as well as the time of day for your owned and non-paid social channels, because this is really going to vary. And you can go out and you can Google best practice articles, but to Steve’s point earlier, every audience is different. And even from within your own competitive set, how your audience interacts with your brand is going to be very different. So those are great guides to get started, but make sure you test this and figure out what works best for your brand.
Steve Robinson: And I get an opportunity to eat my own words here briefly and suggest that you test the sharing buttons on your website, where they are, how big they are, how many times they show up to see if you can make tweaks to maximize sharing. This is not an insight driven test which I, of course, rail against doing non-insight driven tests. I think this is one of the examples of an exception though, where the benefit certainly outweighs the lack of insight that you’re going to get out of this. Because if you can increase the sharing of your content by 10-15% over a couple of tests, that’s well worth the opportunity cost of running some more of those insight-driven tests where you’re going to learn more about your audience other than where they like their sharing buttons.
Elizabeth Earin: I laugh because I cannot even count how many times you’ve said, don’t do a button test and you are literally telling our audience to do a button test right now. This is a historical moment people, take note.
Steve Robinson: Okay. So we are on to the O in PESO because I need to keep moving now. So what is O? What is owned?
Elizabeth Earin: So owned are the channels that we own, that we control, that people shouldn’t be able to take away from us. So things like our website and our blog. And this is important because we control this. We control the messages that we get to put out. There is no algorithm that’s dictating when someone’s going to see our content, and so this is a very unique channel for us.
Steve Robinson: And what we’re trying to do here is we’re trying to build – we are trying to actually accomplish two different things with our owned channel here. We’re trying to develop a body of evergreen content that will continue for the lifetime that it’s published to bring in new people through referrals, through backlinks, through shares, and through search, okay? In addition to that, we want to provide the content that is relevant to stay in front of the audience that we’ve earned, right? So we’ve taken this time and this money to build this audience. We need to be continuously publishing to nurture that audience in an ongoing way, and so it’s two separate objectives with one owned channel that we’re trying to accomplish these.
Elizabeth Earin: When we talk about what we’re looking for, it’s really two very different things. One, are we attracting new subscribers and repeat visitors via search and referrals, so we’re talking about backlinks here. The second thing that we’re trying to do is, are we retaining our subscribers and then driving engagement through our targeted distribution? Are these people coming back? Are they engaging with our content? Both of these help to determine if this is effective for us or not.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. So unsubscribe rate is going to be key. A lack of repeat visits is going to be another key indicator. Something might be off with your content and your content isn’t hitting it with your audience and it’s definitely something to look at. How do we put our best foot forward? How do we make sure that we are at least starting from a place of success with our owned media channels?
Elizabeth Earin: So I think it starts with making sure that you have the basic technical SEO, can your site be reached by search engines? And that’s key, that’s really the first place to start. Just make sure that you’ve got those basic setup.
Steve Robinson: And when you publish a piece of content, you’re going to want to put some effort in place to build some backlinks for every single post that you publish because it’s not a matter of if you build it they will come. You need to be making the search engines aware that you are publishing content, that it’s quality content and the biggest signal the search engines is still backlinks. I know it sounds like I am in 1999, but it’s still true.
Elizabeth Earin: And it doesn’t necessarily have to be. I mean, yes, if you get a link from –
Steve Robinson: New York Times or something?
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah, The New York Times would be phenomenal but maybe not realistic. I know we personally love to use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, I am active on inbound.org, great place to share content and introduce new subscribers to again to our owned channels.
Steve Robinson: And you’re going to want to, along the same line of this SEO piece and trying to create that evergreen content that’s going to drive people in, is you want to pay special attention to the title and the meta descriptions. This is a technical kind of a thing, but it’s really important because that title is what shows up as the blue link inside a search and the meta description is what shows up right underneath it. So if this is somebody who maybe would be new to your brand and your content, you want them to click on that link when it comes up in search results, so it becomes very important from a technical standpoint to make sure that those are in place.
Elizabeth Earin: It’s also important to set a target for how much of your content is evergreen. Obviously, we want evergreen content, it’s fantastic, it’s something that we can use in the future but there’s going to be other things that maybe don’t have as long of a shelf life but are very good at attracting a new audience and so you want to make sure you’ve got the right balance. Again, this is going to vary by business. It’s going to vary based on what your goals are, and so definitely something to consider as you’re putting together your plan.
Steve Robinson: Absolutely. I mean there are some brands that do a great job of news jacking and being able to poll on whatever the current topic is. Get some content out there that’s being shared, highly shareable content and then maybe get a few search queries on it. Get it to rank while that topic is still hot and drive traffic for that stuff, but then there’s not a long-term value to that content. It kind of fizzles and fades. And likewise, you have some brands that have done a great job of building up just a huge library of how-to content and rich deep content that is referenceable by a large segment of their target audience in the course of their job. So you want to do a mixture of both and keep both in mind.
Elizabeth Earin: And finally, sort of the last two points. One, you want to make sure that you’re setting a regular cadence for publishing and you have sort of a standard in place in terms of promotion, so that you, again, are getting that continuous message out to this new audience. And finally, you want to make sure that you’re leveraging both email and first-party data to establish your audience while we are trying to build a new audience. But once they’ve subscribed to us, don’t forget to continue to talk to them. And so that’s where we really look to leverage both email and first-party data.
Steve Robinson: Or SMS or chatbots or whatever is current two years ago – two years from now, while you’re watching this, but definitely email. So when it comes to iterating, how do we continuously improve on our own content? This is going to sound kind of similar to a lot of what we’re doing for shared because the objectives are to some extent the same. We want to A/B test our headlines as well as our subject lines for our emails, because that, again, will give us insights into our audience and allow us to, over time, improve the distribution of our content and make sure that we’re getting content that is being opened and clicked on by our audience.
Elizabeth Earin: This A/B testing also extends to HTML versus plain text emails. I think a lot of times, we forget about, this but this is another great place where we can really look in and see if we’ve got opportunities to iterate on.
Steve Robinson: Yeah, and along with those plaintext, is this coming from a person? Is this coming from the brand? Is this coming from someone, so-and-so at the brand? We’ve seen great uplifts if we can figure out exactly how people want to hear from you, if they want to hear from an individual or if they want to hear from your company name. You always want to be watching for unsubscribes. Make sure you have a good process in place. When somebody unsubscribes and they fill out that comment box, is somebody reading that? I know it’s anecdotal evidence, but it sets you up for understanding what you need to test in the future if you aren’t processing those unsubscribes and analyzing which pieces result in unsubscribes, and more importantly, why, then, you’re missing out on a great feedback loop as to how you can continue to nurture and grow that audience.
Elizabeth Earin: And finally, you want to make sure that you’re never comparing open rates across different lists or different sends. You really want to make sure that you’re only focusing on those open rates as a metric for your A/B testing, because not all lists and not all emails are created equal, and so if you start to compare these, you’re not necessarily having equal data.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. I kind of flipped out on Twitter week or so back because IBM published a benchmark study where they had benchmarks for every industry on their open rates and their click-through rates. And no, you can’t compare yourself to somebody in the other side of the country with a completely different list. No, you want to make sure that you’re comparing apples to apples. And the only true way to do that, because time is also a factor in your A/B testing, so A/B testing is the way to get better, not comparing this week’s from last week’s or that list to this list or some industry benchmark to what you’re doing.
Elizabeth Earin: You have not caught on yet. Benchmarks is another one of Steve’s pet peeves. Maybe we’ll have an episode in the future to talk about that.
Steve Robinson: Okay. So we have talked a lot about this stuff. Before we sum up, I do want to hit on some of the things that you need to have in place in order to really set yourself up for success when you’re trying to implement content marketing to your “see” state and trying to, more importantly, get better at it. The first component is making sure that you understand the journey that you’re trying to introduce content into, because if you are simply throwing content out there without understanding what your “see” audience wants to read or wants to consume or wants to watch, then you’re going to miss the mark more often than you hit it.
Elizabeth Earin: And it’s not cheap to develop content. It takes time. It takes money. It takes resources. And if you don’t have a sort of — at least somewhere to start from, then you are kind of – you could go anywhere and that can be dangerous.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. You’re going to want to make sure you’ve got the right metrics in place. We’ve talked a lot about a lot of metrics up until now. I know the one — the kind of — the golden one that we’ve been throwing out there is that new subscribers. And certainly, your subscription rate is one of the key metrics, but you’ve got other metrics that we referred to that can also be very important to understand, whether you’re getting the right audience to your site. Because if you’ve got people coming to your site but they are the wrong people, it doesn’t do you any good even if they do subscribe. So you’re going to look at what is your percentage of new audience versus returning visitors? What is your dwell time? How long are they staying on a given post or scrolled up? This is another way to gauge that — excuse me. And you’re also looking at conversions. If you have the ability to track these people from when they are in “see” all the way through to when they’re in “do” and they’ve converted, and that takes time. You have to have good metrics in place for like a year before you start getting this data back, but it starts to tell you where those people came in from in their “see” state and whether or not they were good quality contacts because you may find out that, at the end of the day, all of our sales came from these two initial sources of new traffic at the very beginning and the rest of them weren’t all that relevant.
Elizabeth Earin: That’s powerful data.
Steve Robinson: It’s powerful. It’s really hard to get because it takes a long time of having consistent data collection in place and then, again, key metric is newsletter subscribers, newsletter subscribers, newsletter subscribers, newsletter subscribers.
Elizabeth Earin: If you don’t have these in place, you need to work with your web team or an ad tech team or some other third-party vendor like Brilliant Metrics, shameless plug, to make sure that you get this right, because, to Steve’s point, it has to be set up correctly and you need to start collecting data and have it for an extended period of time before you can start using the data.
Steve Robinson: Last thing you want to put in place is, anytime you’re starting a content marketing effort, everyone underestimates the amount of effort that has to go into the content. You start talking about doing it iteratively and introducing A/B tests on a regular basis on a regular — different points in there, that actually pushes that underestimation kind of over the edge, right? Because now, not only do have to produce the content once, but we got to produce two versions of it on a regular basis. And then we learn something that invalidates a bunch of other content that we got to go update, right? So the better you get, the more work you have to do. And unfortunately, that’s part of playing the game here. But make sure that you’re setting reasonable expectations on content effort, either as you’re launching a new content marketing initiative or amping up an existing one or just introducing more Iterative Marketing into an existing content marketing initiative.
Elizabeth Earin: Great point.
Steve Robinson: So I think that wraps things up for today.
Elizabeth Earin: I think this may be our longest episode yet, so thank you for sticking around.
Steve Robinson: Perhaps we’ll try not to do this to you too often, but we will be publishing a lot of stuff in the show notes if you want to go back. We’re not going to try and summarize because it was way too much content, but I want to thank everybody for making this excessive amount of time for us this week and I want to encourage all of you to come back and join us again next week. And until then, onward and upward.
Elizabeth Earin: If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to the podcast on YouTube or your favorite podcast directory. If you want notes and links to resources discussed on the show, sign up to get them emailed to you each week at iterativemarketing.net. There, you will also find the Iterative Marketing blog in our community LinkedIn group, where you can share ideas and ask questions of your fellow Iterative Marketers. You can also follow us on Twitter. Our username is @iter8ive. Or email us at [email protected] The Iterative Marketing podcast is a production of Brilliant Metrics, a consultancy helping brands and agencies rid the world of marketing waste. Our producer is Heather Ohlman with transcription assistance from Emily Bechtel. Our music is by Seastock Audio Music Production and Sound Design. You can check them out at Seastockaudio.com. We will see you next week. Until then, onward and upward!