Content Marketing is a combination of subjective and objective elements—any of which can accelerate achieving or leave you short of your core objective: generating a defined response from your audience.
Certainly, the subjective elements begin with the content itself: Is it interesting? Does it offer value? Is it unique? Is it appropriate for your niche? Is it well crafted?
The objective elements begin with visibility: How are people discovering your content? Are you talking to the correct persona? How are you delivering your content?
Of course, woven throughout is measurement for process improvement. One challenge for content marketers is how to add and measure a new, isolated element that can accelerate meeting the core objective. Can you expand your content marketing strategy with a single and accountable element that moves the needle? This is especially crucial if the new element has an associated cost.
Discovery Generation Trial:
Syndicated Publishing Increases Total Inbound Referrers 37%
Building Shareholder Confidence is the industry-focused blog that supports Vintage, the regulatory compliance and investor relations division at PR Newswire. Overall, it is well trafficked and a major vehicle for content marketing. Unfortunately, like many business-to-business blogs, the audience is not infinite: the content is of interest only to 1) personas within a public company responsible for investor relations or SEC compliance and 2) securities lawyers involved in corporate transactions, i.e., IPO registrations. This is a very conservative, coveted and self-sequestered senior-level audience.
Measuring the referring websites
Building Shareholder Confidence was launched in February 2012 and demonstrated respectable growth, as measured by three traditional inbound referring statistics: 1) search engine sites, 2) social media and 3) pushed outbound (predominantly email nurture campaigns). A year-over-year comparison of 2012 with 2013 showed 30% growth of total inbound referrers. However, the 12-month growth rate in 2013 was only 8%. The concern was the blog had hit a saturation point with known referring channels.
Introducing a new objective variable
In January 2014, we began a measured six-month trial: promoting our weekly IPO and Transactions blog post in a Content Release— an announcement about a piece of content that may not be regarded as “ traditional news”—shared via PR Newswire’s content syndication network.
Isolating the subjective variable for distribution
We selected the weekly IPO and Transactions blog content as current traffic analysis has shown it is favored content and, most importantly, the subjective content has very few variables (basically, it’s a templated list), establishing the trial’s consistency. Also, the IPO and Transactions content is already created on a weekly basis. No new content needed to be written. This made the Content Release strategy a scalable, easy-toexecute workflow task.
Crafting the Content Release
Content Releases should be concise. The weekly IPO and Transactions Content Releases do not contain the full blog posts—only a few highlighted client transactions with an obvious invitation to “…click here to read the full list…” That is the defined response we want from the audience. No form. No opt-in. No purchase. We are generating discovery. As you can see in the chart below, inbound from referring sites is up a total 37% in six months.
Analysis of Referring Pages
Comparing the individual search, social and push referrers from Q3/Q4 2013 with Q1/Q2 2014 highlights action items, significant points—as well as reinforces industry trends.
Search: 15% is a healthy increase and warrants a lengthier, deeper dive into the driving search terms. The new Content Releases have no measurable effect on Search referrer discovery.
Social: The light 11% increase is expected. Our target audiences are not social-media denizens. Fortunately, it does demonstrate our content is being “passed around” and driving positive traffic to the blog. The new Content Releases have no measurable effect on Social referrer discovery.
Push: We’ve added no material email distribution lists to this channel which suggests that the 94% increase is a positive indication that our content is accepted into the targeted personas’ inboxes— and they are being nurtured to the blog. The new Content Releases have no measurable effect on Push referrer discovery.
Publish—the New Discovery Variable
Publish & Push: Due to their nurture similarity, we are combining Publish & Push together as both require people to read and react to the content to drive discovery and the defined action. Furthermore, prior to 2014, we had no “apples-to-apples” data to benchmark against—zero was the baseline. This is a germane point: all Discovery Generation from Content Release distribution is net new referrers.
A 218% increase in inbound discovery from referrers is significant. Equally significant is the 124% increase over just email Push within the same trial period.
Traditional public relations newswire providers have built vast distribution networks comprised of both broad and sector-focused channels. Our trial has shown that Content Marketers can generate discovery by publishing non-news content into these traditional PR channels. For lead conversion ROI, Publish would align with a Paid nurture stream within the classic “Earned, Owned and Paid” content marketing framework. Discovery is the beginning of the relationship cycle.
Tips for Content Release Discovery:
Use existing blog posts and white paper content. Review traffic patterns from past posts to identify the most popular topics.
Don’t publish the whole story. Entice and invite the audience to “...read the full blog post here…” Nurture them to richer content. Less word count may also reduce newswire distribution costs.
A Content Release is not an advertisement. Use all the techniques you employ currently when creating content, including adding visuals and other rich media. You are telling a story, not selling a product.
A Content Release is not a press release. Present, don’t pitch.
A Content Release is not a landing page. You are generating discovery. Make the call-to-action light.
Have ROI tracking in place. Referring domains will be news portals and topic blogs—Yahoo, MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, etc.
Set expectations per your content’s value. Discovery Generation is a long tail activity, especially for B2B.
Initiate a measured trial with your newswire provider. Work with your account manager to build targeted sector microlists and industry publication lists.
ABOUT THE EXPERT: BRADLEY H. SMITH
Bradley H. Smith is the Director of Marketing for PR Newswire’s investor relations and corporate compliance vertical. Smith has been recognized as “one of the most talented and creative new marketers” by marketing strategist and bestselling author of The New Rules of Marketing, David Meerman Scott. Prior to PR Newswire, Smith lead the marketing for the corporate solutions division of the Nasdaq OMX joining via the acquisition of shareholder communications pioneer, Shareholder.com. Smith is a frequent pundit on marketing, social media, corporate transparency and investor relations. Smith can be found on Twitter @BHSMITH and @IRandCompliance