About Stacey MacNaught
Stacey MacNaught is a digital marketing professional based in the U.K. A director at Manchester-based agency Tecmark, MacNaught has also enjoyed speaking engagements at numerous events, including MozCon, SearchLove London, and BrightonSEO. With a background in copywriting, she is also a keen blogger and features writer.
In her Learn Inbound talk, Stacey takes a look at promotion tactics including social, outreach and paid media channels for content discovery. She talks about how to expand the number of people who see your content and then turn those people from one time viewers into regular content consumers.
- With 7 million blogs posted every day, your blog post is just another needle in a haystack.
- You need to ensure you get your content in front of the right eyes. To achieve this, you need to treat your content like a product and invest time in promoting it, not just creating it.
- Think of different audiences when it comes to sharing content and how you can get them engaging with it. Someone who reads about your content in an email will treat it differently to someone using social channels and someone visiting your website.
- Bloggers and journalists can play a big part in the content creation phase – give them something they want and get them involved in the planning stage.
So when I try and explain it to my Nan, even back in 2009 when it was a whole load more straightforward, she used to pull that face. I use that photograph a lot and I'm not even sorry. And she did once ask me that question, "Doesn’t Google make t-shirts?" I'm sure they probably have. I'm also convinced it's not their core business. Fast forward a few years, and obviously it's a whole load more complex and let's not even get into that, I'm now more involved on the digital content side of things and content marketing-led stuff. And it's hard work. And when I say this to my friends, they say, "But you get paid to piss around on Twitter all day." That's not actually true every day; Mondays. And the reason is this.
We're drowning in infographics and other content. The seven-millionth blog post published today which is just ludicrous, and it's not all crap. Some of it's really, really good which makes being seen a whole lot harder than it's ever been even if what you're doing is amazing. And there's way too much content out there that gets no traction whatsoever. And I'm not just talking about, like, crap content and blog posts with no real research or meaning. Talking about big brands, investing big budget, development time, design time into creating content that's supposed to be all singing and all dancing. And I'm going to make a bit of an assumption that this kind of content has got tangible marketing goals attached to it.
So this was one that Ladbrokes did; apologies if you're involved in this, but it's awful. I'm pretty sure that they don't use an agency. I don't know. 2013, they did this Cheltenham guide thing. And it wasn't just an infographic. If you scrolled, the horse has galloped in. It was amazing. I wasn't involved in the project so I don't know what the goals of that project were, but at the top right, they had this, "Share with friends." So I'm going to make an assumption that that was a KPI. The social sharing was something they were going to measure as part of this which is a pity because nobody liked it.
So then I started looking around, and I was like, "Well, do you know what? Maybe it wasn't social sharing. Maybe this was an out-and-out SEO project, and they were going for links." Let's hope not. So then I thought, "Well, maybe actually we're not giving them credit," and this was a whole lot more clever than I thought it was. Maybe they were going to go and try and win traffic search and things like Cheltenham guide, Cheltenham odds, and Cheltenham tips. Get these potential betters at the top of that conversion funnel and chase them right away down with content.
But I did so many of these searches and could find no example even with 2013 appended that that was the case. Maybe the benefits were invisible. Maybe it was a PPC project, or maybe millions of people emailed it to their friends and all their friends clicked on it, and they all went to the infographic and they thought, "These horses that gallop along the screen on desktop," but not mobile by the way, "maybe they're so good that I just have to bet with Ladbrokes." And my bet is that wasn't the case, but gaming's tough. Travel, Monarch, "Signs You're In a Serious Relationship." Similar story. Nobody cared on social, nobody cared to link, and they don't have any visibility for the related terms. Again, maybe we can't see the benefits. Maybe the benefits were PPC-led. Maybe millions of people emailed it to their friends, and all their friends came on the site, and they were like, "According to this infographic, I'm in a serious relationship. It's time to book a holiday." But I'm going to hazard a guess that that didn't happen. And I'm not just going to call out people who I've not worked with. I've launched some really, really awful content, too. And as somebody who really hates bad content, I'm sorry on behalf of my entire team.
This, I'm not going to call it an infographic. This is a picture we did. We had a client who did, like, injury claims for people injured at work or too stressed at work or something, and I don't know why. And in 2011, we decided we were going to make an infographic and we decided we were going to make an infographic before we decided what it was about. That was Mistake Number 1 and it went downhill from there. And I look back at this now and think, "Why is there a dinosaur in the background? Why is there a dinosaur in the background?" But that probably didn't explain the fact that nobody gave a crap about this on social that it was a pretty dismal failure from a link-building perspective, too. So what we were really left within that content was a few face palms, and I spent a few days in a state of, "Leave me alone to die." But when you get a situation like that, all you can really do apart from apologize profusely to your clients is to try and learn a little bit from it.
And over the past few years, we've completely rebuilt how we go about content. The objectives of our content marketing now go way beyond just SEO. And some of the kind of things we’re doing, a few months ago, we had the objective of, "Let's make ourselves look something of an authority in the smart phone arena," anticipating this mobile update. We decided that, "Let's make it tangible. What is authority? It must be a name checked alongside some unique research, incredible publications." That did it for us.
So we polled 2,000 smart phone owners looking to get some data that suggested the desktop is dying. And we did get that data actually, but the more compelling headline that we got was this, 221 times a day, people put their mobiles up. And today it has 131 links and I'm in SEO so I care about that, and it's still gathering more. And I'll talk about longevity shortly. "Good Morning Britain" felt the need to go out and interview people about this and broadcast it on TV. The BBC gave us a link. Marissa Mayer gave us a hat tip and The Guardian link as a result. And there's a host of other publications that pick it up frequently.
If you had said five years ago to me that every business I speak to now will invariably have a budget for content, I'd have probably high-fived. And I don't really high five. It's a bit creepy. But the frustration now is that, yeah, they've all got budget earmarked for content but, like, 100% of it is earmarked for the content and the promotion of this bitty tag on the end to send a few emails. And there's this kind of mentality that that's okay, because if you put your entire budget into content and you make something really, really good, then you just launch it and amazingness happens. And it's kind of like a drunk idealism. Its like, "Just do it. It's going to be good, guys. It's going to be good." Drunk idealism, at best lies at worst.
So this exists in-house, in agencies, up and down the country, all over the world I'm sure where promotion of this afterthought and it's a bit of an issue. We tend to adopt a policy of treating your content like you treat your products or services. You wouldn't launch a service and just expect it to sell because you think it's amazing. And we typically invest as much into promotion as we do into production across time and budget. I would encourage that you go and read this. I'll upload it to SlideShare afterwards which goes into far more detail than I'll go into today about using paid, owned, and old media in your content promotion. But what I will touch on today is a few of the tactics that we're using for winning the audience. And this is the first part of your promotion really is winning your audience, and it's the most expensive part.
It starts long before you get a finished piece of content. So it starts when you're asking these questions in those early sessions. That's when your promotion really begins when you're already thinking about how you're going to get under the skin of the people you need to reach. And we don't decide on format at the beginning anymore, the, "Let's do an infographic that turns into a dinosaur picture." We format for audience. So with that survey, if you go to our website, you'll see a blog post stock image and a link to a raw download. In reality, behind the scenes is a whole load more formatting that goes into it. So a few examples.
When we went to the national press with this, what we were doing is giving them a press release and a raw data spreadsheet. The press release for national press was very much angled around people. People use their phones 221 times a day. People spend three hours on their phones. When we went to local press, raw data download and a press release again but it was about the places, how Manchester fares against London, vice versa. And when we went to the tech press, again it was another press release and a raw data download. But this time, it was about the technology. It was our phones do 221 things a day for us. So angling it based on your audience. When we were talking to bloggers and social influencers, we found it's not press releases. The raw data's kind of handy but they'd rather you picked out the key points in most cases, small visuals, and supplementary infographics. There's that word again, and just formatting your approach and building assets that you might not publish but would just help with your promotion.
For the manual element of our outreach, getting in touch with people personally, we tier contacts. In the case of the survey, it was very much national and tech press, local and regional press, and then bloggers. But as a rule, I would look at that as your Tier 1, if one or two of those people cover it, they've got a big enough audience that you can probably consider it a success. You're going to get traction off the back of it. With the midway, we tend to say, "You might need five or six of these before it's really kind of worthwhile." And with the bottom tier, there's a load of bloggers out there or a load of influencers who've got a very relevant audience but it's small. And for your content to be considered a success, you're going to need to get loads of those in. Few tools we're using to find contacts certainly on a journalism level, press.farm, hey.press, and journalisted.com, search by keyword. BuzzStream, Technorati, and Followerwonk for social influencers and bloggers. Recruit’em, which is actually recruit’em.net, is like an advanced LinkedIn search without a premium account. It basically formulates an advanced Google query for you and lets you find journalists, editors, deputy editors, and things like that.
We get in touch with Tier 1 before we produce a thing, and part of that is validating the concept really. But the other part of that is trying to take advantage of a little bit of psychology.
If you're involved in outreach in any way and you haven't read this book, I would really, really, really encourage you to go and read it. And if you do what I do, which is say, "I'm going to go and get that book," and I never do, I've got three copies with me. I'm happy to give them away. I'll be at the bar. But Cialdini has these six principles that he says basically influence our likelihood of saying yes to something, and he cites hundreds of studies that back this up. And as a cynic, I'm completely sold and it works on husbands, too.
And one of these is commitment and consistency, this idea that as humans we don't like to be seen inconsistent. So if you say you believe in something, you're not going to turn around the next day and say you don't. So our approach with journalists for a survey, getting in touch first, "I've seen you wrote this article about rude people on their phone in the pub. If I had data suggesting x amount of hours are spent a day on your phone, would it be of interest?" And there are two things you've done there. In the first bit, you've said, "I've seen that you've already expressed some kind of belief in this," which makes them more likely to say yes to the second bit, "If I had data, is it relevant?" Because they’re going to look a bit stupid if they say, "Well, no. It's not. I'm not bothered about it anymore." So you're going to increase your likelihood of getting a yes to the bottom bit which then increases your likelihood of getting a yes when you've got the data that backs it up and getting some coverage.
Initially, when we go, we've got the content ready, we go and do an individual-tailored contact to our Tier 1: phone, email, social, however you've been communicating. No templating. This is a personal conversation often before publication. Tier 2, similar approach but it's often after publication. And for Tier 3, those working for multiple clients have to scale; you can do a degree of templating without making yourself look like a spam bomb. MailChimp, various mail merge tools, meaning you can still personalize an email and categorize those Tier 3s and get bulk sent out.
The message is really, really important here. I get outreach emails through my personal blog, and its unreal how many times it's someone like, "Could you do me a favor? This content here, could you do me a favor?" And if someone I've never met before opens an email to, "Can you do me a favor?" I just say no and spam it. I mark it as a phishing scam so I don't get anymore. The message has got to be all about what you're doing for them, "I've basically written your feature for you tomorrow. Here's the data that you wanted."
Consider paid press release distribution. So Cision is the one in particular. It's quite pricey. Its a few hundred pounds a month, and I think, like, a 12-month commitment or something. But what it does let you do is generate a list of opted-in journalists and writers for a topic and send a mass press release to them. What we typically do is generate the list. If there's any we're already talking to or know or want to tackle personally, we take those out of the list. We still go by our Tier 1 and distribute through Cision at around Tier 2 time.
Paid promotion. Outbrain and Zemanta, I really encourage you to play with. Similarly, Facebook and Twitter are very, very powerful tools. StumbleUpon if you've got tongue-in-cheek content, cheap clicks, but one worth a bit more conversation is Google AdWords.
Whenever I say to PPC guys, "AdWords is cheap," they, like, shoot me a look as if, you know, "What have you been taking?" AdWords is cheap if nobody's bidding on what you want. So commercial AdWords campaigns are typically set up to negative match to cut out anything that suggests someone who's not in buying mode. When I've got content that's winning research, I want non-buying mode. So some of the examples where we've had really cheap traffic. Mobile statistics, nobody's bidding. What to pack for a skiing trip, nobody's bidding. Ibiza nightlife guide, nobody's bidding. Guide to wasting less food, nobody's bidding. You can get really, really cheap clicks there like pennies.
Before you spend a penny on paid promotion, make sure you're absolutely sure about the content. You can pretty much, with all the platforms out there, spend as much money as you want on this stuff. You can buy all the clicks you want, but you can't buy the action that someone takes afterwards and you can't spend to prevent someone thinking, "Well, brilliant. I just wasted three minutes of my life on this."
On-page SEO. I mentioned the longevity factor, still building links long after you've been promoting actively. On page SEO, making sure the content ranks for the things that people might search in, to which your content is a solution. So the Google tools at the bottom, you might be familiar with Keyword Planner and Display Planner. FAQ Fox is great if you've got a list of forum URLs or magazine pages and things like that. You can put them into FAQ Fox with a keyword, and this tool will scrape it for you and return a load of questions that people ask.
That deserves a special mention because that's amazing. And to the public users, Google suggests data. It scrapes... Google suggests data and presents it to you in a way that you can make sense of. So you can put in a keyword and it will give you a nice graphic with, "Here's all the questions that people have asked in Google about this keyword at some point." And, again, you can sort of start filtering through that and making sense of which one's relevant for you and your content.
The initial title for this, the working title we had was something like "Destination Inspiration Quiz." Nobody gives a crap about that. No one's looking for it. But this suggested 1,600 people in a busy month will look for were to go on holiday. And then Webmaster Tools, or Search Console, or whatever they're calling it, this is taken from the last month. In there, there are all these variants to have as well. An asset that's got that kind of presence does have longevity. So all of a sudden, my client or, if I was in-house, my boss, isn't looking at this and saying, "You've only got 12,000 Facebook likes. I've only had 1,000 visits from this. You're looking at it and seeing about 2,000 this month," and all these other things are crawling up and there's value, and we can promote this again next year.
The bit that we've been weak at probably until about the last six to seven months is following up when you've already won the audience. You can spend an absolute fortune winning an audience, and it's cheaper to bring them back for a second time. And we weren't doing enough of it. And we've still got a long way to go to get really good at it. But we've started making sure that every piece of content has got soft calls to action, something that, you know, says, "Let's get in touch with you again," encouraging clients to distribute content-only newsletters that aren't trying to sell products and getting people signed up. We categorize all our content in the case of a travel client. We know that we've got three core targets for the next couple of months or six, seven months. And it's your destination research where we know nothing about the kind of holiday they're going on, who's going, but we know that they're looking for information. Families and your 18s to 30s, and content is tailored around that, and we drop cookies accordingly.
One thing Facebook does that's awesome is lets you promote your page to people who've been on your website. So if someone's been on a piece of content on your site and they're just browsing Facebook later, you can promote your page to them, turn them into a fan, relatively low-cost to be honest. And you need to make friends with the PPC people. They got a little bit left out when the inbound revolution took over, and frankly PPC people do this better than we do. So make friends. Be nice.
Example, for a travel client, this is how it stacks up. Search PPC clicks, almost £1.40. Non-retargeting display, much cheaper like 40-odd. Retargeting, this time, was 30, down to under 20 pence now. So it's much, much cheaper to bring people back. And you actually don't have to bring everybody back. You can pick and choose. If people take a certain action on your site, share some content, sign up for a newsletter, you can just retarget them.
Finally, something I want to pay Google for. It's taken so long. Retention's really cheap compared to winning an audience. It really is cost-effective but you do need to have realistic expectations. I'm sick of having conversations like this, 10,000 people on my blog and nobody's bought a flight on a private jet. Fair enough. Some content will never ever, ever turn viewers into customers. That's just the way it is. Sometimes your objectives are link-building and social sharing. Sometimes you just need to entertain. But where you are targeting that top-of-the-funnel traffic, accept that it takes time and it might take several interactions. But what you can do with content is become familiar far more cost-effective than when you come by promoting products to people for discovery.
What I would suggest is that you map out the journey from someone discovering your brand, researching your products, right through to them making a purchase and coming back. And your content should follow the map, too. And that's going to make it a lot easier to get multiple benefits. There will be bad days. Learn from them. Thank you very much.