A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.
Topic: Strategies for Creating Content Groups
Measuring the success of content marketing programs is too cumbersome and ineffective if you’re trying to track every content asset separately. This week, David Kutcher, Confluent Forms joined us to talk about strategies for creating content groups that result in the data and insights you need to inform your future efforts.
Erin Robbins, President at GinzaMetrics
Karen Scates, Manager Marketing and PR at GinzaMetrics
David Kutcher, Confluent Forms
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Karen: Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of FOUND Friday on Blab. You can also watch this episode on GinzaMetric’s YouTube channel or listen to our podcast on SoundCloud. This week we’re talking about strategies for creating content groups and we’re joined by David Kutcher of Confluent Forms. Welcome, David.
David: [00:21 inaudible].
Karen: David, can you start us off by introducing yourself?
David: Sure. I’m David Kutcher. I’m the co-owner of Confluent Forms. We’re a web design, web development and online digital strategy firm in Western Massachusetts. We’ve been in business since 2002 with 250-300 clients during that time so lots of websites for lots of different businesses.
Karen: Excellent. Erin, as long as we’re doing introductions, why don’t you introduce yourself as well?
Erin: Hey, Erin Robbins. I am the president of GinzaMetrics and we are an SEO and content marketing, analytics and insights platform.
Karen: And I’m Karen Scates and I’m the marketing PR manager at GinzaMetrics. So let’s start the conversation off by talking about the importance of creating content groups in the first place.
Karen: Anyone? Go ahead, David. We got David on this show because we were doing a Blab and David made a comment about content groups and we got all excited because we are always talking about content groups. So I’ll just throw this one at you, David. We keep saying why we think they’re important but why do you think that it’s important?
David: One of the ways that I got involved in creating content groupings was with a client of mine because we’re really working out their buyer personas. In the process of creating their buyer personas and identifying content that they had created over time for these different personas, we started looking at ways that we can identify and pick apart their top performing content based on each one of those personas and be able to say, “How is the content for this persona performing versus these other personas?”
So using content groupings we are able to essentially say, “This company in particular was a pitching coaching [? 2:09] firm, so they help everyone from high school athletes to professional athletes through a baseball faster, harder and not get injured.” But within that, they had all different types of personas such as the high school athlete, the high school athlete’s parents, trainers, coaches, semi-pro, college level, professional level, all these different personas and they are who were writing content for each one of the different ones. But how do we know how well different content for different targets was performing? Content groupings.
So we’ll be able to pull out different blog articles they had written, different resources that they had published, different PDFs that they put up there. Put them into these personas, these groupings and be able to identify them and cross-compare and see how each one is performing, isolated or against each other or maybe say, “We’re not really focusing enough on this type of content and this persona, let’s write some more content for that one. Let’s do some more marketing or this one over here maybe is under performing. We can see how that’s performing across the board.”
That’s where we saw content groupings being really interesting in giving them really good insight about how their marketing was playing out.
Karen: Okay. Erin, did you want to weigh in on that? Erin is somehow frozen. She’s going to have to try to log back in, I think.
David: It’s Blab.
Karen: Yeah. We’re in the beta, right?
David: Actually, we’re perpetually in beta. Yes.
Karen: Hopefully I’ll get a notification here that she’s going to be able to come back in. I did hear rumors – as long as we’re talking about Blab – that Blab might be changing their platform a little bit. Did you hear anything about that?
David: I think they announced a little while ago that they are pivoting to a different one-on-one chat or group chat where they’re not really into these types of – not pre-recorded but recorded sessions of things that we’re doing right now. We are not their target audience.
David: So it’s unfortunate because it’s actually really –
Karen: Let me see if I can get Erin in here. Come on. I’m getting her props but how can’t get her in? Yeah, we’re here. Sorry.
David: Yeah. I think trying to get in is a connection issue.
Karen: Hold on. Sorry, everyone, for the delay. Any idea – I have a little flashing thing for her but –
David: No, it’s neither of us. It’s her connection.
Karen: Alright. So she should be able to.
David: Yup. That’s what happens with Blab.
Erin: I agree with everything that David is talking about in terms of what you’re really looking at is better understanding of what’s going on with your audience. There’s a lot of different ways to address that. The importance of creating groups is around the importance of the flexibility of those groups and what they mean to your marketing and what they mean to your conversions. The idea is if you’re creating content, you’re likely trying to create a conversion – whether that conversion is the actual sale of something directly to a customer, trying to get somebody to sign up for something, trying to get donations for non-profits, whatever it is, it’s conversion.
So if you’re creating content and you don’t know how it contributes to conversions, a lot of times what happens is people don’t know where to start with how to measure all of that stuff especially a lot of it is legacy content. And so they got all of these pages, they’ve got on site, they’ve got off site, now they’ve got advertorials and all kinds of junk that they’ve decided that at some point somebody was like, “We should try that because it’s shiny.” And now you got all these things and it’s like, “How do I deal with it?”
One of the quickest ways to get a handle on the situation is to start grouping things so that you can actually begin the measurement process somewhere and then the idea with creating content groups is you can move things around within those groups to make it matter or mean what you need it to mean. I think one of the things that scares people about groups is they think that once they add some groups that the groups doesn’t look right or doesn’t perform right, they’re going to have to break it all back down and you don’t, really. That whatever system you use to do that should be something flexible.
But I 100% agree with the idea that what you’re able to do is do compare and contrast and you’re able to slice and dice and do all these different things. That’s absolutely the reason to do this.
Karen: How can tracking content by content groups help marketers to understand where audiences are in terms of their purchasing intent?
Erin: Oh man.
Karen: Any thoughts on that?
David: Well, it requires you to actually think about your content as a funnel which most people don’t do, I think. I think most businesses think of their content and their site as a flat thing still with the disjointed belief that their homepage is their primary landing page, that the traffic is coming through the homepage, it’s going down and not understanding how their user funnel actually works.
What I think content groupings, in this case, allow you to do is revise that and turn it up on its head and say, “You know what, content is content. Let’s see where they’re coming in. Let’s see how we can identify them. Let’s see how it performs.” If you’re on e-commerce site, let’s see how necklaces are performing against earrings and how they’re performing. Based on your URL structures, how these type of content is performing against this type of content, and using them as a way of re-thinking that content funnel and sales funnel and understand that perhaps somebody is coming in. Their first look is the blog post. Let’s plot all the blog post as a content. How are they transitioning into a more informative or whitepaper content? How is that funnel working?
What I think is fun is when you can use those content groupings in addition to using segmentation and understand the depth of the insights gained by pulling out just one type of content and see where is this coming from? How is it coming? What are the behaviors that are going in here? What’s the behavior flow and how does that look? Because it’s going to be different and most people don’t understand that it can vary significantly.
Erin: The funnel thing is so fun because I feel like traditional marketing was very funnel focused and then when online content and a lot of things move like mobile and there were just so much more content online, every type of content was online, people were just like, “Oh, screw the funnel. It’s flat.” Because what happened was the funnel was hard and they were like, “Oh, the funnel is hard so we’re just going to say it’s not a funnel,” and that really messed everyone up.
What’s hilarious about what you said that’s so true it just makes me want to cry my eyes out every time is everybody’s assuming that their homepages where people go first like that’s an actual thing. It means that either A) you assume that your homepage is the source of all keywords that are relevant to everything that you do and that all keywords lead there which is mortifying because you must have the world’s longest homepage or that’s optimized [9:54 inaudible] ever seen in my whole life or every advertisement, every social promotion, everything you do you’re driving only to that one URL. As opposed to the most relevant possible piece of content that you have. That’s the most asinine thought ever that everything goes to your homepage first. No.
David: But it’s true. I know we’ve all seen it. Everyone has that belief. And if you go through a web design process, where does everyone spend all their time? They focus and obsess about the littlest thing that are on their homepage. And then they get to the interior page and like, “Ugh, I’m so burned out from doing the homepage. I can’t even focus on the UI or the UX of the interior pages.”
Erin: Or what to actually put there. For me, one of the last things I focus on is the homepage content because the homepage should be a reflection of what it is people will find in the interior pages, right?
David: If you remove them off the homepages quickly as possible.
Erin: Hopefully. Sometimes you don’t even see it. A lot of times people will never even see it. They’ll come in from a social post, they’ll come in from an e-mail, they’ll come in from somewhere else. I mean, God forbid. We do not send out e-mails to people that’s about a really specific topic like, “Hey, we just released Universal Search,” and then we’re like, “By the way, go to the homepage and then good luck finding the landing page on Universal Search somewhere near.”
So you got to create these groups that help people understand. When we’re talking about how to understand where somebody is in this intent thing is, yes, the funnel online is hard, it’s complicated. One of the ways to un-complicate some of that is to understand that the funnel like the groups is a moving thing so somebody may come in and actually look at a whitepaper or a case study really early on and that may make it look like they’re further down in the funnel but you quickly see by the rest of the content they assume where they are in the consideration process.
The idea is that people don’t necessarily just move down the funnel. Sometimes they move around, up and down the funnel all which ways but it helps you understand what they’ve seen and how deep their knowledge is of what they’re looking at with regards to you which is why it’s still important to attempt to create a funnel. Even if you don’t want to call it a funnel, that word has negative connotations to you because you’re like an old school marketer and you funnel like, “I’m so starred from the 90s, I cannot even deal with the funnel.” Think of it more as like knowledge depths than funnel. I won’t even make the funnel movement anymore. It’s like depth of knowledge instead.
David: They don’t even use it as a blog article title anymore. The funnel is dead. I mean it’s been belabored beyond me [? 12:42].
Karen: Yeah. Everything has died and then resurrected at this point.
Erin: SEO guys once a year so I get to see that constantly.
David: SEO is dead, the funnel is dead.
Erin: This is coming to you from beyond the grave.
David: Then people talk about everything you can’t track, you can’t attribute sales. It boils my mind and it’s just because you’re right, it’s harder. It takes a little bit of work to find those answers.
Erin: You can track anything.
Erin: I will tell you, you can track anything. It’s just requires sometimes innovation, a little bit of process, a little bit of re-shifting things around. But if you want to track it, you can track it.
Erin: Telling me you can’t track it means you shouldn’t be doing it. It’s actually my response that I always tell people. I’m like, “Why would you do something you can’t measure? What’s wrong with you? Are you crazy?”
Karen: Let’s talk a little bit about how people can use content groups to help determine the overall effectiveness of campaigns and audience engagement with content?
Erin: Karen is trying to keep us on track.
David: Coming back to my first example of buyer personas. If I’m having this client right content that’s targeting to the high school athlete and we’ve identified the content grouping that’s all their content that’s been written for the high school athlete, we can track the effectiveness of it. We can track how many pages per visit they set, how long the session was. Do we move them to their goal conversion points? Did they come back? How many were repeat users? How did we keep them engaged along the path?
We can track their effectiveness and we can know that this was the origination point, this is the funnel they fell into, this is the content grouping that they fell into, and now we can keep them and say, “Okay, we know who you are. We know what you like. We know which e-mail list to put you on because we saw the content that you came for. We know how to better market to you in the future because we know you’re already into this type of content.” Go ahead.
Erin: I was going to say that’s the whole point: giving people a more relevant experience so that you can convert. This is the part of the thing where I rant about the medium, the method, and the message. One of the types of grouping that I like to do is grouping everything by medium, method, and message because that to me is the end way that I want to slice and dice stuff.
The medium – for those of you who haven’t heard of this before – is the type of content. It’s a video or a blog or an image or a landing page, whatever it is. It’s the type of content itself. Then the method is the channel that we’re talking about that should [15:35 inaudible] on – whether that’s your blog, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, website, advertorial, whatever, the channel. And then the message is the thing that you’re trying to get across. So the message can be a campaign. If a campaign is centered around like a really specific outbound thing or the message can be specific to a feature or a product or whatever it is. And the other layer of this is location so we’ll call it market because it fits with my [16:03 inaudible].
What we’re talking about here is if you measure and send them out – because you can put content in multiple groups, you can have groups for all the mediums, for all the methods and for all the messages and then you can really accurately slice and dice. And then what you can do is if you actually compare your content with your keywords, you can tell and you can start to understand, do audiences in different places or in different age groups or looking at different feature types, look for different words or respond differently to different types of products?
So maybe you’ll find that on the West Coast that people really search and relate to content for a product or a feature around a specific set of keywords and get to a certain set of content versus maybe the southeast. Or maybe what you see is people who really like a specific feature talk about the products natively on social or find content in many different ways. So then what you need to do is when you’re creating content for that specific feature, maybe people really like video content who are looking for that type of thing or maybe a different group really does better with longer form PDFs or printable content. There’s a lot of different people who actually still really like having a printed version of certain things for particular industries and people keep trying to force them to have it online or in video and they don’t like it.
So you also have to take into account: are we sizing it out for medium and method specifically versus mobile, tablet, and PC type of content? Because that also is a really different audience type and we’re going to consume that type of content you’re creating and what they’re searching for when they’re looking for it. If you go back to how they’re finding it initially, if they’re getting to it because they’re on Facebook mobile or searching on mobile, they might get a different type of content experience than if they had been sitting down looking at their laptop. So if I go back to the medium, method and message thing about determining the effectiveness and audience engagement, if you don’t slice and dice it that way you’re not looking at the content effectiveness in a way that’s actually going to help make a better decision later. You’re just looking at traffic.
David: Also, by simply doing it, it actually makes things like your demographics report actually be useful again.
Erin: Like an accurate demographics report, what is that?
David: Yeah, exactly. If I were to take this client as the example, their demographic report would be nonsense. It will be everyone from the ages 15 to 45, if not older which is completely useless data. But if you start breaking down and creating these groupings, creating it just like you were saying, then it actually starts making sense. You’re going to actually look at this content grouping and go, “Oh okay, the average age here is 16 to 22.” It actually makes demographic reports valuable again. It makes marketing to your demographics valuable again because you’re not looking for those hodge podge conglomerate and aggregate numbers of crud. You actually have targeted information again.
Erin: I was sitting down when I was working in agency life back in the day and we had a client come in. We were asking about these questions about demographics and similar to your client situation, it was ages like 15 to 95 or whatever. Then men and women, yeah all that. And then I was like, “So your audience is people? These people, that’s your audience?” It’s like, “Well yes, everyone could buy our product.” And I’m like, “No.”
David: Well, they only have that money. Everyone with money is our target audience.
Erin: If you really want money and then it turned out everyone’s money who went to these particular types of sites and everyone who went to these particular sites who enjoy that specific hobby, it was like yeah. Actually, not just people but it’s funny when you’re like, “Yeah, just people.”
Karen: A lot of times we talk sort of about things that kind of a higher level and people go, “Yeah, yeah that’s cool,” and then they go away and they’re like, “How do I actually do that?” Can we just talk a little bit nuts and bolts? How do you go about the deciding what to include in this specific content group? Can people or can things belong to more than one group and what’s involved in creating effective content groups? Just some tips, I guess, for getting started.
David: From our perspective, of course the lawn mower starts.
Karen: Of course, the gardeners are here.
Erin: Don’t worry, that happens to me at least once a month.
David: Next is can be a dog barking.
Karen: It will be my dog.
David: Within analytics, you’re limited to five groups but within each one of those groups you have an unlimited number of sections that you want. Like you were saying, the medium, the message and –
David: Method. Those could be your three and then you still have two left over. But within each one of them you can break it down in whatever you want.
I tell people just jump in with the first one, just create a group. The hardest part is just getting in there and understanding that I need to do this, so not to over think it, seriously. And that’s my main message to most people analytics is stop being afraid of it. Because if you’re afraid of it, you’re not going to do anything and you won’t get any good intelligence out of it.
I’m big into buyer personas mainly because that’s my business and that’s how we really encourage our clients is to start thinking about buyer personas. So I had them really go through and create a buyer personas and then within one group it’s the buyer persona group and then the sub-groups are each one of different buyer personas.
The second one off of that is a topical one. So I usually have one and the other. Just getting them started as, “Okay, you have buyer personas and you have topics.” That usually gets them pretty far. If they’re not hardcore marketers, I feel like that gets them far enough to be effective in some ways or form.
Erin: Yeah. I totally agree with the idea of you do just have to get started at some point. One of the things that I see people do and I know how hard it is when you work in a bigger organization is that they’ll get everybody involved and be like, “How should we create these groups?” And we’re like, “We should do groups for this, we should do groups for that.”
My whole thing is just make your start everything then. Who cares, right? Because stuff can be part of multiple groups and then we’ll get rid of all the trash that’s not actually a relevant group. But if you’re going to wait for everyone in a big organization to agree on the group types, you’re never going to create any groups and if you have a specifically [22:30 inaudible] marketer running your stuff like they’re going to want to re-evaluate all of it a million times and change their mind 700 times when in actuality you could’ve just created it and then change your mind while it was running.
David: It got backward. It doesn’t backward doing any. It doesn’t backfill. While you’re waiting it and belaboring which group should be what, you’re missing this data that you then have to wait at least two weeks to a month to get anything valuable in there.
Erin: In Ginza we do backfill that stuff, by the way.
David: Oh, analytics doesn’t backfill.
Erin: Yeah. That’s actually one of the things that we did with our platform because we realized people were going through this whole, “I don’t want to do it. I’m afraid. I’m going to mess it up. What if I want to make things into all these groups?” I’m like, “Guess what? You can do all that.”
Put one piece of content into ten different groups – totally cool with me. You can also use the Wizard thing. You want to create groups around the medium, everything that has /blog goes directly into the blog group. Everything that has /video goes directly to the video group. You can do all these things and then you can go back and edit them, change things around, and it will automatically pull in new content as it’s added. But once you’ve created a group, you can delete the group and recreate the group later if you decide you want it back but there’s no messing it up.
You’re not going to ruin anything because here’s the thing. At the end of the day, you still have all the data that’s non-group data regardless. It’s not like if you create the group, you’re slicing that data out of your normal analytics. You can still get to full-site level analytics. You can still get to individual content analytics. You can still get to keyword analytics. You can still get to social and traffic level stuff. It’s all still there. You’re not going to break the analytics. That’s a lot of what I see: “I don’t want to create these groups. What if I screw up and it ruins everything?” There’s literally no way to ruin it other than to not do it.
David: The fear usually gets in the way of most of it. It’s the fear of, “It’s a secure site. If I screw it up, I’m going to mess up all my data and I’m going to be further back than if I just left it alone.”
Erin: The only way I think that you get into trouble potentially doing with groups – and I’ll just be honest on it – is if you create groups in a crappy way – sorry to be so blunt – and you are just being a fucking idiot and create groups in a stupid way, and then you just start reporting on it. Let’s say you call a group like you have 100 pieces of content around the widgets and then you only pull in four pieces of that content into the widget group and then you’re like, “The widget group only got 500 views this month.” “No. You didn’t add in all the content, dude. You’re missing out on a bunch of stuff.”
This is where the gut check comes in. You should know hopefully generally how much traffic something should be getting as a content group. So if you think something should have 10,000 views a month then it looks like for that group you only have 500. Double-check. Don’t just report on it and be like –
Karen: I don’t know what happened.
Erin: Traffic must have really fallen off. Double-check on that stuff. A lot of times, that is what happens and then people are like, “Double-checking. That sounds hard.” Yeah, but your reporting in general is going to be so much better, then your decision-making is going to be so much better, and then your conversion is going to be so much better. Your whole life is going to be easier. It’s just you have to take a little bit of time to set this stuff up. Call David and pay him to set it up.
Karen: There you go. Is there anything marketers shouldn’t overlook when setting up content groups? Is there something people are missing?
Erin: Oh, offsite content maybe. If you have a YouTube channel or something like that, you can add that content into the groups. I know you can do that in Ginza. It depends on what else you’re looking for. If you’re really trying to understand the full spectrum of how a campaign is performing, you need to go in and add in the URLs for your offsite content too and for other platforms and social channels that you may be looking at. YouTube is a pretty easy one to add in or something of that nature, but I think that that’s important especially anything that links directly to your site one to one.
The other thing that I think is important to people don’t sometimes see with content groups, we do it because we’ve been marketing channel performance chart. Harder is stuff like e-mail because e-mail is a driver to content but a lot of times people will embed stuff in the e-mails. You need to take into account how they’re getting to that content when e-mail is a really big part of your marketing ecosystem.
Karen: David, any last thoughts for us on this topic before we sign off? We’re just about out of time.
David: I think it’s just a matter of people doing some forethought and actually strategically thinking about their websites and their content, their content marketing. I think that that’s the part that’s oftentimes lacking in the web and web marketing. You have people who are just – their own content on the wall and haven’t even seen what sticks. They’re just their own content at the wall. But then you also build out of these websites where nobody is actually looking at analytics. Nobody is even trying to figure out what content, what actual intelligence can be gained from any of it. It really does take a bit of forethought. You start asking questions about your analytics and start thinking about, “How do I differentiate what this is? How do I find out how this is being effective? How do I figure out who is coming here and why?”
I think that that’s part of the problem which is a small percentage are doing that kind of strategic thinking. It’s not always the companies we think are doing it. Even those large companies that have large marketing departments, they still are governed by people who are afraid of looking at numbers.
Erin: Yeah. You see that a lot, the afraid of looking at the numbers or that because the marketing environment has changed so much and the types of things that people are doing a change so much that the concept that they don’t know how to measure something effectively or what to do when numbers don’t seem to add up correctly is they don’t want to admit that they don’t know because they’re afraid it’s going to jeopardize their position is that stuff gets stuck under the rug or accurate measurement never does get put into place. That’s always sad to see and we do see that a lot. So try to make analytics less scary to people.
Sometimes I very selfishly think it’s great that people don’t really put a lot of thought into things and are just creating crap content and throwing it up against the wall because that makes everything that we do so much awesome-looking. People that really do try – man, I look great. Thank you.
David: My favorite is when you have a company that has a marketing department, a sales department, and an IT department and none of the three actually talk to people.
Erin: And a customer success and account management department. The people who actually interface with people who should be telling you what people’s response to stuff is, yeah, why do we care what they think? We need to know what your actual customers say.
Karen: They talk to you.
David: There was a client I was talking to yesterday who said, “This is all great and all but this isn’t my department.”
David: A large company – I will not name – and you’d be surprised. How is that – no, we can do this. We can get to the answers. We can help you and then you can pass off this report to your other team and they’ll be like, “Where did you get this stuff from?” It takes a little time, a little bit of collaboration internally and a little bit of strategic thinking.
Erin: One of the reasons a lot of people don’t want to do this that I’ll also say happens a lot at large companies is that a lot of departments are taking credit for things and things are getting assigned to credit to multiple departments. They’ll be like, “This campaign did X” and everybody will be grabbing parts of that success. Then you actually add up all the success parts, there’s more than 100%, which by the way is not a math thing –
Karen: Oh no, and now Erin has [31:33 inaudible] again. Right in the last moment. Well, sorry, Erin. That’s okay. We’re out of time today anyway. We’re going to have to have another conversation. It’s been great having you on, David.
David: Thank you. My pleasure. Thanks for having me.