Creating, Distributing, and Measuring Your Content Marketing Strategy

Most early stage startups want content marketing to be a part of their growth marketing playbook…

Content can bring in new customers and engage existing ones.

As we have seen from companies like Hubspot and Moz, a well-executed blog can own valuable real estate on the first page of Google’s search results, bringing “free” traffic to your website.

And, as you can see…

Content Marketing Trend

(content marketing google trends from 2004-2016)

 

…content marketing, and the ROI it’s consistently delivering is quickly becoming a mainstream strategy in the marketing world.

There are a few popular content marketing frameworks on the web…

They work well, but can require a dedicated marketing person or a lot of time, which is something that early stage companies don’t have.

Before making a marketing hire focused on content, there’s a much easier way to test if the channel is going to work for your startup…

 

Content Is King But Distribution is Queen and She wears the pants. Jonathan Perelman, Buzzfeed

Content Is King But Distribution is Queen and She wears the pants. Jonathan Perelman, Buzzfeed Image via Stacy Minero

Quick Blog Setup

Before running a content marketing test, it’s important to have a place to put said content.

Start with setting up a blog on your domain; it can be in a subfolder domain.com/blog or a subdomain blog.domain.com.

If you’re using a subdomain you can host your content on free Tumblr account and use one of their themes easily. If hosting on a subfolder, you’ll want to set up a content management system like WordPress. This latter is recommended most by Moz for SEO purposes.

While keyword research is great, it takes a ton of time to do and the performance of a post after it’s written can vary depending on factors outside of our control.

If I’m an early stage company running a content marketing test, I want to send as much traffic as possible to a post and see how many of those visitors I can convert to customers to determine if this is a channel worth investing more resources in.

Keyword Planning

There are a few popular tools to use when creating content. My favorites are:

The idea is to create content around topics that are already popular on the internet. This is a good way to join the conversation by having people link to it or by ranking in google’s search results.

If you’d like to go that route, Nat from SumoMe has written a great post about generating topic ideas from google’s keyword planner data.

This type of keyword research provides a framework that will help posts rank well in Google’s search results and get organic traffic.

We now know that getting a piece of content to rank well depends on two factors: links and content. Andrey Lipattsev – senior search quality strategist at Google – announced this during his March 2016 Q&A:

 

And for a healthy backlinking strategy, I recommend starting with Brian Deans skyscraper technique.

Overall, when running a content marketing test, don’t rely on organic traffic. It takes months of consistent publishing to rank well, and can be very hit or miss on an article to article basis. While keyword planning should still be an aspect of your strategy, writing one post isn’t going to “break the internet.” Rely on other methods – paid, social, referral – to get the traffic to your test post.

Data-Driven Content Creation

The way to do this is by publishing data about your current customers.

Every startup holds a unique set of data about their customers, and it’s not hard to tell a shareable story about that data. Turning that data into a story is both interesting will help acquire new customers. This isn’t a new concept and startups like Zumper and Thumbtack have done this with infographics and small business surveys.

I highly recommend against publishing content around any customer’s personal information or anything revealing about the secret sauce that makes an individual startup work. (business model, technology, etc.)

That being said, let’s look into a few examples that will create a framework for publishing non-sensitive data.

Take this blog for example, Growth Marketing Conference, a conference for growth marketers and startup founders. They have unique data about startup founders who want to grow their company. This data includes the size of each company attending, the name of each company, and if the startup is currently hiring for growth marketing.

We can look up each company in the Growth Marketing Conference database on Crunchbase, Mattermark, or AngelList to find more about them. It can be helpful for us to know how much funding each startup has raised and if their Mattermark growth score shows they’re growing fast. Using third-parties (Mattermark & AngelList) helps us fact check data and remove any personal bias.

From here we could sort create a list ranking the top 50 companies that are hiring for growth and build a blog post around that.

This would help accomplish two things for Growth Marketing Conference:

  1. Attract new companies that will soon be hiring for growth to our conference.
  2. Help current attendee’s fill roles if they are ready to hire or provide growth services to them.

Imagine if a company that attended our conference was able to make a key hire thanks to us publishing about their startup and quick growth. That startup will A) love us B) tell their friends and C) save a ton on recruiter’s fees.

We did this type of test at Trove Market by creating blog posts about vintage furniture stores that are located in cities where we were acquiring customers in. This post about 25 Amazing Vintage Furniture Stores in Los Angeles did extremely well, receiving over 5,000 shares on Facebook thanks to all of the stores mentioned and local blogs like Hidden Los Angeles.And this Facebook post alone brought in over 500 shares and 500 likes.

We tracked all of this in the Priceonomics Content Tracker. This post received over 5,000 shares on Facebook and brought over 10,000 new website visitors to Trove. Content Tracker played a large part in that blog post’s success.

It effectively, helped us measure visitors coming to post while telling us where they came from. We also set up Google analytics goal conversions to measure if our new users were taking the actions we want. And it integrates nicely with Slack and pinged our team’s channel when reaching certain milestones. Just for the virtual high fives.

It was motivating to see the progress and helped us continue to step on the gas with distribution after initial momentum.

For more examples of how to use this process, Priceonomics goes into further detail explaining this concept in their content marketing handbook.

 

Content Distribution

As a general rule, content creation should be 20% of effort put in and distribution should be the other 80%.

You should think about your distribution strategy before writing your post.

Having the capability to answer questions like, “Who will find this interesting” or “What will make people want to share this with their Facebook friends” is a great place to start.

For our example, we want to publish data about the startups attending that are or will soon be hiring for growth. It would be in that startup’s best interest to share this piece of content and bring visibility to the fact that they’re looking to hire.

Growth marketers would also be incentivised to share this with their network on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Now that we have an idea who will share once completed, reach out to everyone mentioned. The best way to do this is through email and facebook messenger. Use your favorite mailmerge + template plugin (Mine is Mixmax) and start reaching out. They will be thrilled that you’ve included them and happy to share with their audience. We’ve seen anywhere from a 60%-80% conversion rate of people willing to share.

Next, we’ll reach out to the conference speakers that we’ve quoted and ask them to share as well. We’ll then submit this piece of content to submission blogs that startup founders and growth marketers follow. Growthhackers, Inbound, or join any of these Slack groups and post under their respective jobs channel.

The point is that if you build sharing into your piece of content before distributing it, there are endless ways to promote it, bringing traffic to your site, converting that traffic into paying customers.

 

Measure

Data Driven marketing

If you can’t measure, you can’t improve it. For content marketing, there are four essential tools used to measure results. I’ve listed them below and how they’re used.

  • Priceonomics Tracker – Tracks how well content performs. (Integrates with Slack)
  • Google Analytics – Tracks what visitors do on page and then journey through website.
  • Mixpanel – Get’s user data after they signup for your product or service.
  • SumoMe – Captures website visitors email.

I’m sure there are competitors of each that do similar things. But these are the four we used at Trove and found easiest to set up and implement.

And while these tools will report everything you need to measure content marketing, each startup’s reporting might be weighted differently with each metric. An e-commerce company might want to track a funnel from blog post to conversion in Google Analytics for immediate gratification. A Saas company might rely more heavily on Mixpanel because software has a longer sales cycle and people.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to test and sort out your repertoire, so here’s 17 other content marketing tools that might be worth looking at for your business.

 

Your Content Marketing Traction Test Checklist

Ready to run your first test? Set aside 20 hours and $500, and follow these steps:

  • Setup blog on subfolder or subdomain.
  • Dig into customer data and tell a story about that data.
  • Look for channels to distribute before writing.
  • Quote experts who have a following and would be willing to share.
  • Ping channels to share on Facebook, Reddit, Meetups.
  • If content resonates with people it will get shared more.

Use shares, likes comments to determine the ease and value of the distribution of your content, use sign ups, leads, and sales to determine the core value of content marketing as a whole.

And remember, a single content marketing test will NEVER yield the results you are looking for because A) You aren’t giving yourself enough time to rank properly in Google, and B) one piece of content is not content marketing, it requires 100s of pieces to “complete the test.”

Your sole job when running the initial test is to estimate traction and distribution, then decide if you want to double down on the channel. Odds are, content marketing can work wonders for you when properly executed, but you still need to test.

 

Final Thoughts

From my experience, content marketing has worked well. We’ve seen a huge lift in website traffic that we measured in both Content Tracker and Google Analytics. We’ve then been able to use that content to get links pointed back to our website which has helped our overall SEO goals.

We did not see success overnight. This strategy has taken two of us six months to learn and perfect. However, I’m confident that an early-stage startup could use the information above to see results in a fraction of the time.

 

Max Mackey

Max Mackey

Max Mackey is a growth marketer with a background in content marketing, SEO, and paid acquisition. He’s currently leading growth at Trove Market: the marketplace for buying and selling vintage furniture. You can check out more of his work published on his website.