A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.
Topic: Allocating Resources for Content Marketing – We discuss how you can manage the need to create content that drives business goals, no matter your team size.
Ray Grieselhuber, Founder & CEO at GinzaMetrics
Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Erin: Hey, everyone. Welcome to FOUND Friday. Today we’re going to be talking about content resource allocation. We have Ray of GinzaMetrics, who is the CEO and founder. I’m Erin. You can find us on Twitter at #FOUNDFriday. You can also go directly to @GinzaMetrics.
It seems like we’re having a really timely conversation today around content. Just last week at the Content Marketing World Sydney event, there was a conversation around where the future of content marketing is really going. The conversation was led by what’s going on with social.
Talking about social now where it used to just be a department, it has now been ingrained into each department instead of staying a single silo. So there’s a social aspect to many different facets of particular organizations. Now, where does content marketing fit in? Because it seems like we’re running into those exact same issues as well now. Marketing PR, communication, all these different aspects of an organization are focused on creating content.
How exactly do you figure out how to unite these efforts, share best practices, and move forward? If you’re going to allocate resources, do you have to allocate resources across every department? What’s going on with that?
Robert Rose presented a concept called Content Creation Management or CCM during this idea. The gist is CCM – there’s going to be a content marketing undercurrent that runs through every department. This group really becomes responsible for how the company story gets told, including tone and approach.
This is really interesting because it’s actually infringing a little bit on where PR and brand in big companies really go, which is brand owns the story. Because this is a really young idea and it took social a long time, and social is still evolving and hasn’t really figured itself out in a lot of instances, this is one approach that people are talking about that will start to evolve over time. Right now, the prevailing wisdom is that there has to be some sort of content ambassador at a company. They just check in with everybody and make sure that everybody is doing this content stuff.
That’s where we’re starting off. Last week, we were talking about how to really understand competitors and what they’re doing. This week we’re going to talk about – if you’re collecting competitor data, you’re collecting your own data, you’re creating content across a bunch of different places – how do you really go about making sure that these efforts are integrated?
Ray, I want to kick it off to you with an approach – because our background is really SEO. We come from a search background. If we’re talking about really moving content to having this undercurrent or running alongside every channel, where do you think SEO would play on this?
Ray: Your initial example, what you mentioned up front about social and how it worked its way into everything was really interesting. Because I remember listening to a MPR broadcast a long time ago, this was probably 2009 when Facebook was starting to take off and everyone was talking about social. It’s this unique set of features or functions. What the guy said was, at that time, we said everyone is focused on social as a thing now but eventually social itself is just going to be a feature.
I think he was right and you touched on that earlier where everything we do now is expected to have some sort of social component and it’s sharable. It’s something that people interact with. The mindset has changed quite a bit as well. Something similar can and is happening both with search and content marketing.
With search, it’s always an uphill battle because it’s one of those things that people don’t necessarily naturally think of, but I think that content marketing is giving that movement new wings as it’s enabling people to think more about how everything that the brand does is going to be found naturally. How can we make this message appealing to people in such a way that they want to go find it and not so much that it’s being pushed into people’s faces via advertising and so forth?
One thing that’s interesting about content itself – especially when we start talking about ownership – is companies have always been doing some sort of creative content marketing in many cases. If you look at especially companies that spend a lot of money on TV and other mediums, they’re doing a lot of content creation and it’s, in many cases, very creative.
The fact that the distribution medium for that content has been paid advertising has distracted people from the idea that they’ve always had content as a major part of the way they tell their story. I think they’re getting people to understand that and figuring out ways to tie that back to more digitally native medium such as search and social. A few things that can really help people start to put those pieces together.
Erin: Yeah. The interesting part about social here is that – somebody said this a long time ago as well – social media will not be social media anymore. It’ll just be media. All media will be social, so let’s stop referring to Twitter and Facebook as social media, and radio and TV as not. Because even now, you watch shows and they’re promoting hash tags at the bottom and asking you to interact, they’re showing live tweet feeds and they’re having you vote on stuff, all these nonsense.
I think where we have a really unique place to have a conversation is for search, this should have always been an interesting conversation to be having. This should’ve always been something that people should carrying out because, like you said, people have always been creating this content and so they weren’t necessarily thinking of it as social. Social to them became a distribution channel for content alongside paid advertising.
So they were saying, “Okay, now I have another way to throw my content out there at people.” Then it took a while for people to realize you can’t just take your commercial and tweet it out and say, “Do this.” Now there’s a whole industry around this. There are people who get paid to do YouTube videos, people who get paid to do social specific viral content.
The interesting thing for searches, it’s talking about how people are finding these things. Why would every single department not care? Why would PR not care? Because if you’re going to create a press release and you’re going to create this content, right now the journalism and news media is really difficult to get a hold of and work with. There are so many different places. There are all these blogs.
So you do want your content to be findable because you want it to get picked up by as many places as you can. You want to make sure that once there’s the release and the news is out there that it’s getting seen by all these people. This comes into this idea of – we talked about this a little bit last week – the word “keyword” is a little bit misleading because it tells people that you are thinking about one word as opposed to a phrase or a collection or a thought or an idea or some sort of topic that is really what people are interested in.
Looking at what’s working for paid, what’s working for PR, what’s working on your blog, what’s working in social and making sure that whoever this content ambassador person is really understands not just how the content performs once it’s out there, but what about that content specifically is working and then making sure that you’re leveraging that to create better content. I think it’s what you and I are always talking about the interesting crux of search and content starting to mesh together.
Ray: For sure. For a lot of different reasons, search got a bad rep among a number of people in different types of organizations. But, really, content marketing is interesting because it’s giving that entire idea a chance to really grow again. It’s a really good time for search professionals to be embracing content marketing and they are. It’s a really good time for people who have written it off in the past to take another look at it because the idea of reaching people directly through organically created content based on stuff that they’re looking for, it’s one of the most powerful ways to reach people and it always has been.
Erin: Let’s talk a little bit about the actual resource allocation here. We talked about it last week – and it’s always crazy frustrating for me. Paid advertising is paid and so people say, “Okay, I’m going to put $10,000 towards this ad campaign. I’m going to see these clicks and I can measure that specifically.” But they say, “Well SEO and organic stuff and social media is free because you don’t have to pay to use it.” So they don’t want to allocate resources to it or they don’t understand the specific budgeting amount on how to do that.
Let’s not deal with agencies just yet because that is its own animal. Let’s talk specifically the in-house marketers and teams. If you’re one of these people who say, “It’s impossible for me to get money to put towards an SEO or a content marketing analytics tool.” And they say, “Hey, you can just use Google Analytics to see how many visitors came to your webpage,” or “You’re expected to run content marketing and search stuff as part of another job.”
Do you think that it’s best to start with showing the analytics and showing people data, and then vying for resource? Or do you think that you really do need to advocate to have a resource so that somebody can actually run the analytics? I know that there’s a lot of chicken-egg here.
Ray: Yeah, there is a lot of chicken-and-egg. It really depends a lot on the company in question. Every company that I run into is different in some ways. In some cases, you have companies that have been very successful with search and inbound means, and so they really get it. It’s not a very difficult conversation and they understand that you have to invest on the content creation.
Other companies are willing to invest on the content creation as long as it’s going towards paid advertising because they understand the distribution mechanism. They control it. It costs a lot of money to [11:55 – 12:14 audio break]. They can do it.
The [12:17 inaudible], the way you get around that is you point to the companies that have been really successful. If you look at the companies that have been most disruptive in a lot of different industries – I can name a ton – but they’ve been really good at search, organic search in particular. For example, Amazon has a ton of growth directly via organic search. It still continues to dominate in that area.
These are companies they don’t necessarily think of as companies that succeed or live and die on via search, but in many ways they do. It’s a big part of their business model. You can point to those sorts of examples, and pretty much every major industry that’s being disrupted is being disrupted through search in a lot of different ways.
It’s worth for companies who haven’t really made that internal determination of how they want to spend the money and whether or not it’s worth it to spend it on search. Someone needs to go to convincingly make the case that you want to spend that money if you really want to dominate your vertical. Obviously it was easier ten years ago in some spaces than it is now. But there are always new opportunities and there are always new ways of reaching people to get them to work and become vertical.
Erin: I have thoughts on how I would go about it because I’ve worked on the corporate and the agency side. You mentioned the distribution method. They say, “Okay, paid advertising is great because I understand the distribution method for how this is working.” Is it on the tool or the analytics platform or the actual employee themselves to really explain search distribution and how organic things are distributed?
We talk a lot about marketing channels because we just released the Channel Performance Insights chart and that has all of the traffic-driving marketing channels that are contributing to your site. One of the things that we’ve actually been exploring recently is how much of total traffic is coming from different channels.
To me, that’s one way to explain it, which is, “Hey, currently you’re spending X amount on paid search and it’s driving only 20% of your total traffic. And you’re spending X amount on e-mail marketing and it’s driving another 30% of your total traffic. But then there’s all these organic means whether it’s considered actual search and direct like social. Those are actually driving 50% of your total traffic to your site.”
Is that a good starting point for someone, to actually show the breakdown of how people are finding their content and say, “This is worth allocating some resources to”?
Ray: I have two points there. If you’re an executive and you don’t really understand the impact that search can have, it’s your job…
Erin: Should it really be an executive?
Ray: Yeah, exactly. I can’t think of a single good reason why an executive of some company in the 21st century doesn’t understand or appreciate the impact that search can have. If that’s where you are, then I would really suggest looking around at your industry and seeing how things are changing.
You ask where that impetus should come from. Sure, people who are evaluating different technologies and marketing managers, etc. should be aware of it. But they shouldn’t have to push that stone up the hill in order to get the executive team to buy into it. Even if you don’t want to prioritize search, that’s a whole other conversation. If you’re determined that it’s not a priority right now but you get it, then you understand what it could be doing but for a number of different trade-offs, sure.
Erin: But what if somebody doesn’t think it’s important? They’ll do SEO. They tell you that could do it but they don’t want to do it because they think that it’s free.
Ray: Yeah. They’re not going to succeed. It’s unfortunate, but a lot of people have that attitude. I would say that if you feel that way, you probably don’t really understand how it works. It’s one of those things you can say you “get it,” but if you’re not willing to invest in it then you can’t really say you’ve gotten it because in order to really understand you have to spend some time doing it yourself seeing what’s involved, what your likelihood of success is in certain areas and what the challenges are.
Erin: We’re not talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars, really. You can good, good search and SEO strategy with a minimum amount of effort. There are a lot of things that people can do from an actual page structure and findability perspective, but also from just getting some nitty-gritty keyword and a base level of understanding about what’s really driving traffic.
Ray: For sure. The other thing that you brought up that was interesting was the idea of, should people be thinking about a marketing mix? There’s this percentage allocation – it’s almost like portfolio allocation. This is an idea that was really popular in the mid-2000s and a lot of people spent a lot of money on it. A lot of people still think about it because it’s really frankly the way budgets are allocated. They say, “We’re going to spend this much here, this much here.”
I think we talked a few shows ago about what the core drivers of any company really are and you can’t do everything. The problem with a portfolio mindset when you’re looking at marketing is marketing is how you create a conversation with people. It’s how you engage with your audience.
If I was going to say to you, Erin, “Hey, I’m trying to optimize my communications. So I’m going to spend 40% of my time speaking with you on chat, maybe 20% per week via phone, and maybe the remainder of the time we’ll spend via some other mechanisms, in hangouts or whatever.” It’s just really hard to call that an actual conversation.
I would argue that you want to invest in the areas that you’re really good at and get really good at spending on that. If you see the opportunity for other distribution channels to help you doing what you’re doing, then spend the money there. But don’t just treat it as something you could spread out really thin when you cross lots of different channels.
Erin: This is something that we see happen for people a lot. They decide that they’re really good at e-mail marketing and they just go full-blow on e-mail marketing and don’t really do a lot of other things. What happens with that is the marketing organism – the findability organism because I’m including PR and advertising in this segment – it takes a lot of touch points and it’s all part of an ecosystem that requires a lot of facets to actually make it work.
Maybe there’s a really good example and if there is, I want somebody to send it to me – a company that does just one thing and say, “I’m not going to do all the other stuff.” I don’t think people should get spread too thinly because that’s exactly a problem as well. If somebody says, “I want to do all the things.” A new social network pops up and they say, “I want to be there.” A new ad platform pops up and they want to go and do that too. Oh, there’s a new event down the street, “I want to go and sponsor that.” That’s definitely too much.
Let’s talk a little bit about, how do you know what you’re good at? This comes back in the findability because for most marketing things, you have to have content to market. You have to have a product. You have to have a website. Whether you’re B2B and doing white papers and case studies and e-books, or if you’re B2C and you’re doing ads and driving people to landing pages, you do purchases, whatever that is, there’s some sort of content. So how do you decide what you’re good at and how those things interrelate?
Ray: I agree with you on the touch points. It’s less about marketing mix or finding some sort of idyllic number or magic number about the way you should spend money across different channels. It’s more about focus and things that you’re naturally good at.
Some companies are just going to know what they’re good at and what they’re not good at, certain things about the way they create their own product that’s going to among themselves naturally to a certain type of distribution others won’t, so they have to figure that out. It takes some experimentation. And it takes experimentation with money behind it. You can’t just experiment with thin air. In order to really try things, you need to give it a shot for maybe a couple of quarters and see how things go and just go about from there.
Most companies are going to have a pretty good feel for what inherently works for them and what they need to be evaluating on a regular basis. Are they missing out on opportunities they could be taking advantage of? If they are, what can they do to start capturing some of that? If there’s something that has fundamentally changed about their industry, that will let them start taking advantage of a new channel – pay attention to that, as well.
Erin: It’s interesting what you say about a couple of quarters. To a mature company, a few quarters are fine to run a test on. That’s something that they can put into market and say, “We’re going to launch in January and we’re going to do some measurement in March and then again in July. We’ll make those decisions of the six-month work.”
In our space, and I think for agencies as well, there’s this need to test and innovate faster. Somebody says a couple of quarters to us, and for the most part, we say, “That’s forever. That’s an eon from now. You want me to wait half a year, a year.” Things change quickly.
One of things we were talking about last week – this probably has some agency ramifications as well because they’re expected to report back regularly because a company is always getting a bill [22:56 ?] – is how often do you refresh update and change this corset of things that you’re monitoring? The example last week was keywords and how people will just keep adding to this list of keywords that becomes almost this infinite thing that you couldn’t really manage. How often do you refresh that? How often do you take a look at your competitor landscape? Saying all the time every day, if you don’t have a specific team of people whose job is to just do that, that’s a tough timeline every day. What’s a reasonable time to allocate/check that out?
Ray: If you’re serious about pursuing it, you need to be managing things at least on a weekly basis. Otherwise, it’s going to be really hard time setting your rhythm. Monthly is far too irregular. Daily might be a little bit intense for people, especially if they’re just getting started on what they’re doing.
Anything that you’re trying to measure and improve, because you’re not able to measure that at the weekly level, you’re really going to be missing out and you’re probably going to fall off into a lot of bad habits. And that won’t achieve anything.
Erin: I think there’s a really important thing to distinguish which is changing your actual allocations or really reviewing stuff and getting in there and making adjustments weekly doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be tracking things daily. One of the things you and I are big proponents of is that looking at how things actually change on a daily basis is a huge benefit versus only having a week-by-week or a month-by-month rollup of your data. There are times that weekly, monthly, and quarterly rollups are really important, but you want to be able to get to the granular of daily.
Can you say why that’s so important particularly from this search organic findability aspect?
Ray: Yeah. We wrote a book a small e-book about that. Basically, there’s the idea of sampling and how often you’re sampling the data and then there’s how often you’re actually observing and using that data. Those things have frequently been tied together but there’s no real reason tying them together. In fact, they should be made separate even if you actually end up doing them at the same time in practice.
If you are in digital generally in search specifically, if you’re not paying attention, if you’re not sampling that data on a daily basis, you’re going to be missing out on a ton of information. Things just happen too fast. Google is always experimenting with their SERPs, the way their algorithm’s work. Competitors are doing their things all the time. So much can happen in a seven-day period and more importantly, so much can happen over a 30-day period. But if you only have four samples of that activity at a weekly basis over a month’s period, you’re missing out on like 95% of what actually happened during that month.
That’s one of the reasons we push really strongly for collecting that data, those insights on a daily basis. So that when you do go and do whatever it is – your weekly, monthly, quarterly review – you have a full picture and you’re not just looking at something that happened to be almost a random sampling of what may be happening at any given time.
Erin: We’re talking about a lot more data points. Everybody keeps throwing that word “big data” around and analytics and everything. Now that there are so many platforms and everything can be measured, once somebody collects all of this information and has all these insights and points, we talked a little bit about what then. Is it, “I need to make a report and I need to get this to people”? I know that this varies company to company in what your structure is, but for an SEO manager or a marketing manager type of a person whose day-to-day life is to make sure that this moves forward?
One of the things I always look for in every platform is an actionable next step. There are very few reporting platforms or analytics things that I want to use or would pay to use that doesn’t take the information that it’s collecting for me and then give me some idea as to what to do with it next or what a logical optimization or better step would be. Do you think that it would help further the search cause and this content findability cause if people started doing their reporting, if they also gleaned like, “Here’s what I’m going to do next based on this”? I think that that may be missing right now.
Ray: Yeah. That’s one of the key components about pretty much every analytics [27:54 inaudible] is people have all this data and they’re not really sure what they’re supposed to do with it. Product designers in the analytics base have really struggled about this as well. We talked about this in the past, but there’s a real technical challenge in just getting that data there in the first place. Then complaining that it’s irrelevant because it doesn’t tell you what to do if it is like, “Well, you didn’t even have this before, so what are you complaining about?” That’s always come in the conversations I’ve had.
From a business perspective, they’re right. You do need to know what to do with that data and why it’s relevant. To break it down, the search data, the type of insights that you can get, very easily that can lead to very concrete next actions are things like, what content should you be creating? What type of content is your competitors are creating? How are they succeeding? In what ways can you improve on what they’re doing? Where can you fill in the gaps in your own content for your customers? What are they looking for that you haven’t really met their needs for? Those are really easy things that you can do and that’s something you can grow your business on quite significantly just by focusing on.
Erin: What’s also just touched on so that we bring it full circle is this idea of over reporting. Over reporting and diving in constantly and sending updates to people can sometimes be part of sporadic data sets, so weird things can happen. As you mentioned, Google changes algorithms all the time, so you may see a sudden spike or a huge dip. Or a competitor may have a ton of social shares and that may be due to a one-time tweet getting re-tweeted by somebody who’s really famous. Things like this happen.
I think one other reasons that data had a tough time from the marketing world is because marketers are typically very expressive people, they get really excited. We want to have all this stuff going on, and when we have a win we’re so proud of it and we want to share it with everybody. You see this massive spike and the immediate idea is like, “I’m going to send this to everybody in the company. We’re going to have a big party and I’m ordering cupcakes already.” And you have this massive dip and then you say, “Oh my God. Turn it off, turn it off!” It’s crashing. It’s not working. You sound the alarm and you freak everybody out.
There’s also an aspect of reporting that needs to take into account trends, longevity, and how things really performs. So if you are talking about purchasing a resource or hiring a resource – I would say that if you purchase a resource, make sure that this thing can actually show you trends over time and it gives you an overall score over a time period so you don’t freak out.
We use findability score other people have, different scoring mechanisms depending on the tool. And if you hire a resource or you’re working with a resource, make sure that you have that conversation with them as well because that scares everybody and then people don’t want to listen to your data anymore because you’re boy who cried wolf.
Ray: Yeah, for sure. Ensuring that what you’re investing is in is going to have some sort of relevance is the only way to get people to do more of it. Taking the time of those things up front is, honestly, usually important.
Erin: Do you think that people offer you know a long enough trial? What’s the right amount of trial time to test something out to understand how to track trends? I know for a lot of places, some other people in our market that only do weekly tracking, if you have a two-week trial or even a one-month trial – like you said, you’re only getting a couple of samplings during that time and it takes a week a lot of times just to set up and filter, so you’re really not even getting the benefit of that first week. Do you have any thoughts on what’s the right amount of time to test something out to make a good decision?
Ray: It depends a lot in your own business cycle. It has to come at the end of your cycle, as well. If you’re evaluating some sort of a technology to adopt, you’re going to be looking all the different vendors in the space and asking a bunch of questions and everything. I wouldn’t really spend much time actually playing around with things until you’ve gotten to the point of understanding what the vendors can offer.
My argument or my thinking is that a few weeks should be more than enough time if the setup is properly handled to give your team. A lot of times what happens is companies they don’t have necessarily realistic expectations of what it’s going to be like working with that vendor once they start paying the money. Everyone is busy. They’re not going to just do a bunch of stuff for you for free, but they’re going to try to give you as much as possible, a front seat and get a feel for it.
The vendors will frequently tell you that – it’s important for companies to know this – “Once you sign the contract, we’re very interested in making it successful for you. So let us know what you need during that trial process or even during the RFP process.” And “We’ll make sure it happens,” if that’s something that they’re actually capable of delivering. If they’re not, they should be up front about that, as well.
The trial is not necessarily to validate every single piece of functionality because a lot of times, especially for larger organizations, things have to be really configured for that particular company. It’s more to give you a feel for what is it like to spend some time in this environment on a daily basis and working with those tools and make sure nothing is really going to just fall over the minute you turn it on. If you establish that and verify that the vendor has committed to doing all the other things that you need, then that usually is a really good match. A lot of times, trials are not necessarily properly characterized and it ends up being an experience that’s a missed opportunity for both parties.
Erin: That’s a really interesting point. There’s a lot to what you said and I want to continue it next time we talk which will be next week. Laura will be joining next week because you’ll be in Japan. I don’t know why you don’t want to get up at 3:00 in the morning and do this.
The idea of RFPs, vetting out a list of features or a business defining what their real goals are and what features they need – a lot of companies’ RFPs are like the vein of their existence. Everybody has a different format. There’s no standardization. It’s huge. It’s clunky. It takes forever to fill out.
But at the end of the day, if you get a much more qualified conversation and you’re spending the time up front on both parties ends to make sure that it’s the right tool, companies make sure that they pick the right resource and aren’t stuck in the one-year contractor, however long contract, with a tool that they are then trying to shove that square peg into the round hole because they’re stuck in a contract and they didn’t properly check first, which is a huge pain. Because then they’re calling the company all the time saying, “This isn’t working, this isn’t working. Make it better. Fix it.” The organization is making sure that the company has the right fit so that what doesn’t happen is they’re getting people in who were then churning out, trying to get out of contracts and are constantly upset, and aren’t the best customers to champion your brand.
We talk a lot about referral traffic and making sure that people are really happy so that they’ll want to tell other people about you and continue using it. The RFP process actually really does help vet out a lot of that and make that situation better. I like your point about a trial experience being a missed opportunity for both ends that people are probably misusing trials. They think that they’re going to get in there. They think that they’re going to get a fully functional experience for a huge set of features and data tools on a lot of these things. When in actuality, you should probably have done a lot of research. And if you’re doing a trial for 20 different platforms, you’re probably doing too many. Maybe one or two places you do a trial, maybe three max. How are you going to do 20 trials?
Ray: It’s one of the reasons that a lot of companies in our space even don’t do that sort of trial. You may have a sandbox environment setup where you can use it to click around to different things. I think it’s something that’s actually a big problem for people because companies don’t do a bit of explaining what these trials are and companies’ better evaluated technologies don’t really go into a [36:34 inaudible] mindset.
Erin: This is a good place to end it because I feel like this is a really interesting part of the conversation that I’ll probably call you later on about and talk to you. But I want to thank you for taking the time to chat today. As always, [36:53 inaudible] GinzaMetrics blog, or send us your ideas for show topics on Twitter.
Laura will be joining us next week. She is the Director of Marketing here at GinzaMetrics. We’ll probably be talking a little about content from a viral perspective, what that really means for findability. How do you sustain findability when talking about viral content? What it means to like be able to search for that kind of stuff? There are a lot of recommendations engines. I know that YouTube is a really big thing with that inside share and other places for B2B. We’ll be kicking that off. Ray, have fun in Japan. We’ll talk to you next time.
Ray: Alright. Talk to you next time.