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26 Jun 2012

Part I Compelling Content: Will You Survive the New Google Era?

Part 1 Compelling Content Wil You Survive the New Google Era Recovered

Do you publish content, maintain a blog or update your website regularly with new content? If you do, then congratulations…based on today’s online standards, you’re a publisher. As a content publisher you may have started to feel the effects of what weak content can do based on the recent Penguin Google algorithm updates. Today, “okay” content won’t cut it plain and simple.

Publishing: It Means War

I look at Panda as Spam War I and Penguin as Spam War II. Like a battle, there are casualties of war in this case spammy websites. To prepare for battle website owners must have a defensive plan, but in the end sometimes you still get hurt. Those that are injured, or sites that are experiencing decreased rankings, must be tended to. The uninjured and the mended must prepare an offensive plan if they want to win the war, right? Content can be part of your offensive plan.

Slowly the war can be won with the right plan and content can become your sites bandages. A thick bandage, or a thick piece of content, will hold up to help your site heal. This type of outstanding content is what rises above the rest regardless of what industry you might be in.

Do you know what outstanding content looks like? Content can range from web copy on a landing page, a creative video, an image developed specifically for Pinterest or a free guide behind an opt-in form. Great content comes in many forms and can obviously have varying degrees of success, depending on your industry and audience.

Before you charge ahead and publish content, it’s important to understand how to prepare and measure your content. The first step is understanding what outstanding content exists today and how it relates to your business needs.  How else will you know when your own content is successful? Let’s examine the footprints of outstanding content and how it can impact your “offensive” marketing strategy.

Footprints of Outstanding Content

Success with content marketing is a sit and wait game. For those who aren’t very patient time can be an evil foe. Users need to find your content, share it, or even use it to convert into a sale. These are actions that don’t necessarily happen overnight, so each of the pieces should be examined after a bit of time has passed to measure success. When trying to find examples of outstanding content, time and many other components define the success, which can make the exercise a laborious one.

So what should you look for? Jay Baer suggests there are four metrics every content marketer needs to measure:

  • Consumption
  • Sharing
  • Leads
  • Sales

Each have differing value as it relates to your true business objectives and goals. Baer explains that many try to overvalue the first two: Consumption & Sharing. “Consumption”  as measured by page views and “Sharing” as measured by “Like”s, for example, might be overvalued as they don’t directly correlate to your true business goals of making money or selling products. Find the goals and metrics that relate more closely to your business needs.

By examining his “Leads” metric as measured by email subscribers who first read your blog for example or “Sales” as measured by the sales that occurred by users in that group, you’re able to measure accurate information about how content measures up with your end goals. He suggests focusing your metrics on behavior, rather than data aggregation, to gather the right metrics to properly evaluate the business value of content.

Unfortunately, without access to website analytics or insider information you’ll have to do a bit of creative thinking to gather information as it relates to consumption, sharing, leads and sales. These items are extremely important to figuring out the true footprints of outstanding content post-Penguin. But remember to ask yourself how it really correlates to your end business goals as you conduct your research.

Consumption: Traffic

Tools are available to help you find some data, but they can be unreliable and should be taken for what they are – third party tools. Sites like Alexa, Quantcast and StatBrain can estimate traffic figures to a site but I’m not aware of any that exist which will estimate traffic to a specific page on a site. In the past I’ve been able to gather traffic figures if a website uses a pageview counter on the page but those are few and far between.

If you’re an avid user of advanced search commands like I am, then you can find the pages where pageview figures are cached and indexed. In an industry with a lot of content, you might find a few examples. Or check out Forbes.com, some content shows pageviews – for your data consuming pleasure. The site publishes content in many niches so you might find a couple examples for your needs.

Sharing: Social

Third party tools like Open Site Explorer will share with users shares on Facebook, tweets, Google +1s, and likes on Facebook. Exercises in social listening will help you to see successful content that is actively being shared right now. Additionally, data is available on a content piece itself. Retweets illustrated on a button, +1s designated on the button itself, or on Pin It buttons are all areas available to gather data.

Consider examining Facebook, Twitter and other social channels to see if social media managers have shared specific pieces of content with their audience. You can see the conversation with that individual, unless it’s a DM or private message of course. Are social media managers using content to help influence a sale? During your research you can find instances of this if you simply look at @ replies and outbound messages on successful bloggers or competitors websites.

Sharing: Links & Rankings

Link building post-Panda was hard enough, but post-Penguin it’s almost impossible…without outstanding content that is. Using your onsite content to attract links is something we write about often on our blog. When done well a content piece can generate thousands of links and maintain great rankings as well. Evergreen content that drives thousands of visitors year over year can often perform better than a content piece that is shorter lived but with quicker pickup – tortoise or the hare right?

Finding link footprints can be easy for us – we’ve got a lot of experience with link building. Using tools like Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO you’re able to isolate the backlinks to any given piece of content. Understanding their value, now that’s another story… With OSE you’re able to examine Domain Authority and Page Authority as well as Mozrank. With ranking tools you can start monitoring the rankings of successful content, or use tools like SEMRush.com to determine the keywords to a site – some might indicate content that draws in alot of searches. These may be metrics you can utilize to determine value, but remember – how closely does it fit in with your business needs?

The placement of a content piece on another website, for example one of your Infographics is picked up and embedded on a few authoritative sites, can serve a large value for your business. In this instance, however, it can be hard to measure that type of link and content placement. In your research, don’t forget to examine the value of earned media as it relates to your business needs.

Subscribers & Sales

The true bread and butter of your efforts can be seen in things like subscribers or sales. If you’ve built a successful blog and have maintained a large number of subscribers, then you have an audience and that audience can be powerful. The value for your business can sometimes not be measured monetarily, but easily monitored as a metric – for your own sites that is. For third party sites, it can be impossible to figure out exactly how large a subscriber base is and how that audience size has affected that site’s content success.

This is still, however, an important metric to examine for successful publishers in your industry. One way to find out how many subscribers a blog may have is to look at their media or advertising kits. Many bloggers who are looking to monetize their site will list the number of subscribers for their site. Some even celebrate when they reach certain milestones of their blog subscribers. Look for these examples and find their outstanding content that has attributed to their massive success.

Sales are of course the ultimate goal of any business, but how can you find examples of outstanding content that help sales? This certainly is where things get tricky. You can search for examples of businesses whose content marketing agencies have written about their successes, or maybe they’ve touted their own success for a specific content piece. Look at SlideShare for presentations, you might find a few footprints.

These are just a few of the footprints of outstanding content, but don’t rule out other metrics that you may find more easily online that relate closely to your business goals. In the end, understanding what successful content looks like for you and how it correlates to your business needs involves a bit of research (as you can see above) – but is a worthwhile endeavor. It’s your war plan in the new Google era.

In Part II of my post, I’ll discuss how to execute post-Penguin compelling content and provide you with an easy to remember checklist to get you ready for battle. In the meantime, tell us about some outstanding content you’ve developed or seen and the metrics that prove it’s an outstanding piece of content. Extra points for creativity!