The date of our latest Sacramento HUG meetup was March 16, hosted at Blast Analytics and Marketing in Rocklin. This event was all about content.
Let's face it—HubSpot (or any other marketing automation platform) doesn't come loaded with strategic, well-written content. You have to do it yourself, or hire somebody to do it for you, which means time or money, so you want to squeeze as much value as possible out of your content.
This is where knowledge of how to write for every stage of the funnel can help you—the Awareness, Consideration, and Decision stages each have a different purpose, tone and channels you should use to maximize effectiveness. This was the topic of Logan Mayville's presentation, which you can download here.
To be totally honest, Logan, er, I, was totally upstaged by the fireside chat between Tod Hirsch of Blast and Josh Unfried of WindFarm Marketing.
In case you missed the conversation, you're in luck! I've typed out a transcription of the word-for-word conversation (Not really, this has been edited, but you get the idea) that took place.
Here is Part I of the content marketing discussion; just a taste of what you'll get when you hop on board with the Sac HUG—it's free!
Q: Let’s say a mature business with a healthy budget wants to make a commitment to content marketing. They’re willing to invest in software and personnel to make it work. But here’s the catch—the content marketing team has to be able to show an ROI calculation at the end of a year. At a high level, what might their system look like?
A: That’s a great question because it’s grounded in the reality of the client environment that many of us live in. First some clarification, I’ll assume you mean that this business will make a commitment to content marketing for SEO, to improve organic search visibility.
Content / Editorial - The short answer is focus. Focus on a topic or two at the most, focus on keywords related to those topics, focus on a single audience. The shorter the time frame, the more focus is required. 12 months is short and probably the bare minimum. Lack of focus is a sure path to a low ROI.
Detailed understanding of all costs (CO) - Costs come in many forms: consulting, software, in-house resources, imagery, copywriters, video production. Work with the accountant to track costs properly. Also, understand what similar costs were for previous period (if any).
Detailed understanding of revenue (R) - ROI is just a comparison of net revenue in Y2 compared with net revenue in Y1, expressed as a percentage. If Revenue in Y1 is $0 because it’s a new project that’s OK.
Develop SMART Goals - Develop your goals using the SMART method. When developing your goals, use Blast’s Rank, Click, Convert framework. Working backward, an ROI needs conversions. To get conversions you will need to get clicks (organic traffic) from the search engine results page (SERP). To get clicks, you need to rank well. So setting up goals for Rank, Click, and Convert is key.
Know your lead-to-sales close rate (CR) - For a lead generation business, get historical data about how many leads you need to close one sale. For ecommerce, the conversion rate can be found in Google Analytics (GA) or your MA system.
Know your Average Order Value (AOV) - Get an idea of your AOV. If it’s an ecommerce system and you have ecommerce set up in GA, you can get this pretty easily. For lead generation business, you will have to talk with the sales/accounting deptartments.
Once you have all these items in place, calculating ROI is pretty straightforward:
(Y2 Revenue - Costs) / Y1 Revenue, where Y2 Revenue is: Conversions * Conversion Rate * Average Order Value
So the rough ROI formula looks like: (Conversions * Conversion Rate * Average Order Value - Costs) / Y1 Revenue
Editors note: When asked this question, Tod's short answer was (paraphrasing):
"We can go through the actual calculations, but really, can you afford NOT to invest in content marketing? Your competitors are doing it, and if you don't do it better your business will suffer."
This is the exact moment the whole crowd realized Tod is basically the Don Draper of SEO. Is there any truth to the legend that he once held a client out the window by his ankles to convince him of the value of content marketing? We'll never know, but it's fun to think about.
Q. Can you talk about the role of analytics in content?
A: Analytics and reporting play an indispensable role in any kind of content or SEO program. You are flying blind if you don’t have proper reports and you’re not leveraging one of the key advantages of the online space: available data.
Q: Can you make content marketing decision by looking at the analytics of existing content? If so, can you give an example?
A: Yes, you can make decisions based on looking at analytics and reports but it should always be done within the context of goals. Goals and reporting go hand in hand. For example, if one of your goals is to increase organic search traffic to a specific content group by 20% over the next 12 months, then you can monitor that report to measure against that goal over the 12 month period. If it doesn’t look like you are going to make your goal, then the decision may be to stop investing in that content group. If it is going to make the goal, then the decision may be to do more of that content group.
Q: Keyword research—why is this important to content marketing? How does keyword research fit into overall content strategy?
A: Keyword research and focused use of your keyword research is vital for both online and other marketing. For online, you have search and social primarily. Search is obvious. Do your keyword research, map pages to keyword themes, put those words on those page. Have an SEO mentality for your website content development. When conversations about web content come up, SEO needs to be part of the conversation. Are people searching on that thing? If not, at the very least, will it bolster and reinforce topics people are searching on?
For social, don’t ignore use of keywords. Especially if your social is indexed on Google––Facebook Pages, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Google sees the words you are using on public social and associates those back to your website and domain through links. So if keyword theme commonality exists between your website and your social media, great! This is another way to reinforce your chosen keyword themes.
For other types of marketing (email, offline, etc.), keywords are important as well. Seeing the same keywords, both online and offline, will continually reinforce the association of those words with your brand. Think taglines: "A Diamond is Forever," "Don’t Leave Home Without It." You associate those taglines with De Beers and American Express. It’s the same benefit with keywords. If customers continue to see the same keywords in offline, email, website, and social, they will associate those terms with your brand.
Blast works with our clients to have this kind of holistic approach to their marketing—which keywords are a part of.
Q: Can you talk about the ROI of producing high-quality, search engine optimized content?
A: ROI is the proper term because SEO and producing content to rank well in the search engines is an investment. Having that investment mentality is so key.
Yes, there is a very high ROI for content marketing and SEO if it’s done properly and if there is a long term mindset. But this takes a focused, disciplined, long term approach to your SEO program. No free lunches, no short cuts. If you’re not willing to invest for the long term (and that’s OK), then be prepared to get traffic from PPC (and other means) where you will still be paying for those clicks day in and day out.
Once you have achieved good rankings, your marketing budget starts to free up because you can spend less on PPC and other paid channels. You can start spending it on other marketing programs: offline, PPC, new markets etc. Also your CPA (cost-per-acquisition) is lower. This reduction in your marketing costs represents a true competitive advantage over your competitors.
Part of what we do at Blast is help clients understand the ROI trade-off conversation, and get their buy-in for using SEO and content as a competitive advantage. Visually, it’s a hockey stick revenue and cost conversation (SEO) vs. a more linear revenue cost conversation (PPC).
See what I mean? And this is only HALF the conversation. To get notified the minute that I get around to posting the second half, subscribe to the Sac HUG blog now.