Yesterday, I presented at SMX Advanced on Conversion Rates and the Laws of Diminishing Astonishment. It was a great panel, and I’m excited to share my deck with my readers. Enjoy!
Yesterday, I presented at SMX Advanced on Conversion Rates and the Laws of Diminishing Astonishment. It was a great panel, and I’m excited to share my deck with my readers. Enjoy!
A couple weeks ago, my friend Kirk Williams wrote a thought-provoking post on the Wordstream blog called Can We Please Kill the Whitepaper in B2B PPC?. When I saw the title, my hackles went up. I started to think: “Kirk, how could you?”, because Kirk is one of my favorite people in PPC.
As I read the post, I found myself agreeing with him. What he’s really saying is we need to kill bad whitepapers in PPC. Bad whitepapers, according to Kirk, are “all too often nothing more than repurposed sales material.”
The whole reason for using B2B whitepapers in PPC is to generate awareness and consideration for your product or service. B2B whitepapers are often used in the early stages of the buying cycle, when users are in research mode. No one wants to be sold to when they’re trying to do research. We all know how annoying it is when we’re trying to browse for a new appliance, car, or other considered purchase and some salesperson pounces on us with a hard sell. We don’t like it. Neither do B2B prospects. Repurposed sales material posing as a whitepaper is not helpful and should definitely die.
But good B2B whitepapers are a great fit for PPC. Our clients have created whitepapers offering opinions on news in their industry, checklists for businesses to consider when making a purchase, overviews of how to use their product, and many other valuable topics. The key is to create whitepapers that answer questions the prospect may have as they’re doing research.
Let’s look at an example. Say you’re doing in-house PPC, and your campaigns have grown to the point that you’re thinking about bid management software. This is not an inexpensive purchase, and there are many technical aspects to consider. You probably have 100 questions about what bid management software does and how it can work for your business.
Do you want to read sales brochures at this point? Of course not. You want to read case studies and information on how bid management software has helped businesses like yours.
That’s where the whitepaper comes in. A good whitepaper on bid management will explain what it is, what it can and cannot do, and how businesses can benefit. It will not be a sales brochure.
In his article, Kirk listed several alternatives to the whitepaper. They’re all great. We’ve found, though, that in situations where the user is early in the research process, free trials and discounts are too far from where the buyer is in his or her journey. Buyers at the early stages need something informative that doesn’t feel like a big commitment. Good whitepapers are just the thing.
Should bad B2B whitepapers die? Absolutely. Should all B2B whitepapers die? Of course not! Whitepapers are useful tools that belong in every B2B marketer’s arsenal. And I think that’s exactly what Kirk was saying in his article.
What do you think? Are whitepapers helpful to you as a B2B marketer or B2B buyer? Or should they be killed off? Share in the comments!
In earlier articles about content marketing, I talked about the content audit, audience research, timing, and the buyer journey. In the final post in this series, we’ll discuss how to match content to channels and measure success.
As a PPC professional, you might be thinking that all content should be used in PPC. After all, if it’s worth creating, it’s worth advertising, right?
To a degree, that’s true. We have so many weapons in our arsenal that we can promote nearly any type of content in PPC. Some assets are going to be home runs, and others will strike out. It’s our job to make good decisions about channel placement, measure results, and optimize accordingly.
The first step is to decide which content should go where. Go back to your buyer journey map. It’ll tell you whether your content falls into the awareness, consideration, or decision phase of the journey. While PPC spans all 3 phases, some types of content work better than others in each stage.
For example, decision content rarely performs well in display or social PPC. That’s not to say you can’t use it there, but it should supplement your awareness content, rather than stand alone. I like to use awareness content in display and social, and decision content in remarketing. That way your users see something different, and it helps pull them into the funnel.
Content format is another consideration. You can’t run a video ad in Google search. You can put the video on your landing page, but you can’t use it in your actual ad. But you can do a YouTube Ads campaign using the video.
Think carefully about where your content is hosted. It’s easy to put presentations on SlideShare, or videos on YouTube – but do you want to drive PPC or media traffic there? Probably not. You’ll need to create landing pages and embed this content on the pages.
Social PPC is a whole different animal. If your goal is engagement or audience building, you probably won’t mind promoting tweets with YouTube videos, SlideShare decks, or even photos and infographics – content you’d never promote in search.
Lay all this out in a channel matrix so you know what’s being promoted where.
Once you have your content mapped to channels, you need to figure out how to track it. It’s ideal to know not only which individual assets perform best, but what types of assets. I mentioned this briefly in the buyer journey discussion, but it’s important to repeat it here.
There are several ways to track content performance. You can create individual landing pages for each asset, and then track performance by page. Or, you can create a content ID system that parses out the asset title, buyer journey stage, and content type – and then roll up that data via your analytics platform.
This is a critical step: you must think about how you’re going to track content performance across channels. While some assets will do well in certain channels and poorly in others, some assets will rise to the top as high-performers across all channels. That’s the content you want to promote heavily – and try to replicate.
For instance, if a particular report or white paper does well across the board, you might want to create an updated version of it, or write a similar report about another product or service you offer.
Look at asset types to see what your audience responds to. Do they prefer videos, or do they like to download white papers to read and share? Thinking about this at the outset will enable you to develop a tracking system that gives you the data you need to make decisions.
Use your tracking data not only to optimize what’s in market, but to guide future content development. Test different assets against each other and gauge results. Socialize your learnings internally (or with your client if you’re an agency).
To the uninitiated, content marketing sounds like an insurmountable task. By following the steps outlined in this series, you can develop a successful content marketing machine and fuel your PPC efforts at the same time.
Previously, I’ve talked about PPC and content marketing as it relates to the content audit, audience research, timing, and buyer journey. Now it’s time to think about integrating your content marketing efforts across channels.
It’s common for advertisers to integrate their search and social PPC channels. PPC can inform SEO and vice versa, and social PPC can inform search as well. Frequently, the same person is managing many or all of these channels, making it even easier to coordinate and integrate learnings.
But what about other kinds of media? Think about ad networks, traditional media, organic social, PR, email…. Are you talking to these folks about your content marketing?
Chances are, the answer is no. And it’s time to start.
Map channels to the buyer journey.
The best way to begin the mapping process is to go back and look at your buyer journey. Map each channel to the phases in the buyer journey that make the most sense. You’ll probably need to break things down even further and map campaigns within the channels to the buyer journey. PPC, for instance, can fit into multiple buyer journey phases, so you’ll need to map campaigns accordingly.
Once you’re done, you’ll have a good roadmap of which channels need to be working closest together.
Track content across channels.
Now it’s time to think about tracking your content across channels. It’s not always easy to do, but if you have a good content management system, usually you can assign a content ID to each asset. Then you’ll include the content ID as a URL parameter in each channel. This enables you to slice and dice the data and see how each content asset performs across channels and as a whole.
This is the secret sauce that will help you take your content marketing to the next level. If you know that a certain asset performs well in every channel you’ve used it, then you’ll want to lead with that asset when you enter a new channel for the first time.
If you don’t have a CMS that can track content performance for you, you could try using the utm_content parameter in Google Analytics for content ID. As long as it’s used the same way across channels, you could get asset performance this way.
Track content types.
It’s also important to learn what types of content perform best. Are white papers your top lead generators, or do videos perform best? Track performance by asset type, either by including it in the content ID parameter, or by tracking it manually. One of our clients tracks link clicks on asset titles in their web analytics, using consistent link naming across all channels. The asset title always includes the asset type, so we can roll up the results fairly easily.
Establish a consistent naming convention.
I can’t stress enough how important the naming convention is to content marketing integration success. A naming convention is like a code or shorthand that maps back to your content. For instance, an Intro to PPC white paper might be coded like this: ppc_int_wp_01. All PPC content would contain “ppc,” all intro content would contain “int,” and all white papers would contain “wp.” “01” is the specific asset number. This convention enables you to track and report on all kinds of asset types.
Establish your naming convention before you begin, and you’ll be able to track content performance across channels.
Don’t forget to ensure that all marketing channels, including organic social, are using the content parameter in their destination URLs. All the naming in the world is no good unless it’s used consistently!
Use the data to learn and improve.
If you find that white papers perform best across all channels, you now know that you need to start writing more white papers. You might find that certain types of content do better in PPC than in other channels, and vice versa.
Be sure to communicate learnings to all involved: your counterparts working in other channels, your client or boss, and so on. Set a monthly or quarterly content performance review meeting to go over your findings. This way you ensure that everyone is informed and can use the information to improve the marketing efforts in their area of expertise.
An integrated content marketing strategy can be highly effective. How have you integrated your PPC content marketing? Share in the comments!
In earlier articles about content marketing, I talked about the content audit, audience research, and timing. In this installment, we’ll cover the buyer journey, and how content works with PPC along the way.
So what is the buyer journey anyway? At gyro, we define the buyer journey as the stages a potential buyer goes through on their way to making a purchase decision. In general, the buyer journey starts with awareness, and moves through consideration, decision, and demand generation.
You’ve probably heard about the buyer journey stages before, and how content fits into them. But how does PPC work with each stage?
Let’s step back for a minute and think about keywords. Keywords also follow the buyer journey. Think about someone who is buying a house, for example. Someone who is at the beginning of the journey may just search for “houses for sale in Chicago,” for example. They may not even include the location in the query and just search for “houses for sale.” As they move through their decision process, searches will get more long-tail: “3 bedroom 2 story in Lincoln Park,” for example.
At a high level, when structuring your PPC campaigns, you’ll need to match the landing page content with the search query. So for the “houses for sale” query, you’ll show them a broad page with general info about houses for sale in Chicago, from which they can narrow their search. Or maybe you’ll serve up a brochure or white paper about buying your first home.
On the more specific queries, you can show them individual houses that match their search queries: a page of 3 bedroom, 2 story homes, or if you don’t have any, the option to sign up for email notifications for when a new listing comes on the market.
The point is to think about matching your content to the buyer journey. Early-stage searchers will want to see content that informs and educates: white papers about your product or service, informational videos, etc. Mid-stage searchers may be interested in buyer’s guides and e-newsletters. And those near a decision will want to see product reviews, demos, and free trials.
Use your content audit to map content to your PPC campaigns, ad groups, and keywords. I like to create a spreadsheet with campaigns, ad groups, and relevant content. The spreadsheet will guide your landing page creation.
To Gate or Not To Gate
Whether or not to gate assets behind a registration wall is usually a lively discussion between clients and PPC & content experts. There are pros and cons to every approach. My general feeling is that if your goal is lead generation, you should gate most, if not all, of your content. Some are in favor of leaving awareness content ungated, and then gating consideration and decision content. I’m ok with that approach if you include remarketing as part of your strategy. If you need to drive leads, and you paid for visitors to come to your page via PPC, it usually doesn’t make sense to let them “get away” without collecting their lead information. Tagging them for remarketing later on is a good way to do this without forcing a form fill on them.
As with all things PPC, test it! Create multiple versions of your landing pages, and test the impact of gating vs. not gating. Make sure to track your visitors all the way through your sales pipeline, not just the initial lead. You might find that your first-time lead conversion rate is lower with gated content, but you get more qualified leads that ultimately filter through the funnel.
Test The Content
It’s also important to test different types of content to see what performs best at each stage. What makes sense for one advertiser may not be effective for another. We’ve found that informational content like white papers work best for awareness, but that’s not true for every advertiser. Test and track each content type very carefully.
And, as I mentioned earlier, try to track your leads all the way through the buying cycle. Use a CRM system to help you close the loop – there are several good ones out there at different price points. Following leads all the way through to close will tell you not only what drove leads, but what drove sales – all the way back to the keyword.
Finally, make sure your keywords, ad copy, and landing pages align, as mentioned earlier. By thinking about your potential customers and how they search throughout the buyer journey, you can create a PPC campaign that ultimately drives a good volume of leads.
In many ways, timing is important for all types of PPC. Maybe you’re running a sale for a limited time, or doing a promotion around a holiday. You might have a marketing calendar that helps you determine when promotions should run.
PPC for content marketing is no different, although it’s critical to pay attention to timing. Ideally, you’ll have an editorial calendar that tells you when new content will be published. The editorial calendar is your roadmap for planning PPC for content marketing.
But what if you don’t have an editorial calendar? You can still be successful – you’ll just have to work a little harder.
The first step in planning when to promote content is to review your content audit and audience research data. Hopefully, you’ve organized the information in your content audit into a matrix by content type. If not, you can do that now. There are several different ways to organize the content to figure out when to promote it. One I like is the Periodic Table of Content Marketing by Econsultancy.
Then, organize the content by audience. Think about the seasonality of your product or service, and that of your audience as well. For instance, if you’re marketing to landscapers, summer is going to be their busiest season. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t market to them in the summer – especially if you have articles or tools that will help them be more efficient during the busy season. But be aware that because they’re busy, they may not use every PPC channel. They might stick to search, to find answers to pressing problems, and save social media for times when they’re not as busy.
If your industry isn’t very seasonal, or if your content is more evergreen, you might want to organize it by type or theme, like the Periodic Table illustrates. Then, set a schedule to push out different kinds of content.
It’s likely you’ll have some content that’s time-sensitive, like a promotion, limited time offer, or holiday-related piece. Make sure to slot that in during the appropriate time.
By now you probably have a good grip on when you’ll launch each piece of content in PPC. There’s one more step in the timing process, and it’s frequently overlooked: when to stop promoting each piece of content! Sometimes it will be obvious; but what about assets that might get outdated over time? If you’re a software provider, for instance, you’ll want to expire any content referring to old releases.
And most content, even evergreen content, gets stale over time. Be sure to track the performance by asset so you can spot any attrition in your content marketing PPC campaigns.
Make sure to do a periodic check to make sure old content isn’t still running. Remember, you’re paying for the engagement, so you don’t want to pay for people to click on old content!
Don’t forget to include testing in your timing plan. While testing is easier in some PPC channels than others, you should always be testing – whether it’s pitting 2 pieces of content against each other, testing audience segments, or even images in Facebook ads. You should also test what type of content performs best: white papers vs. videos, for example. Build all of this into your timing plan.
Finally, lay out all of the timing into your Periodic Table or editorial calendar. Not only will this keep you on track, it’ll help you plan your campaign setup. It might make sense to have campaigns based on promotion dates, especially in search where you don’t have to worry about audiences. Mapping out the timing will help guide your campaign setup process.
The key here is to think everything through ahead of time! So many advertisers just jump in to a Facebook or Twitter Ads campaign without thinking about timing. We’ve all seen the “Save on Mother’s Day Gifts” ads that are still running. With advance planning, the timing of your content marketing PPC will be easy.
Got any tips for timing your content marketing PPC? Share in the comments!
In an earlier post, I talked about the 4-step content audit, which helps marketers identify what content they have. Once you’ve finished your audit, it’s time to do some audience research.
Audience research in content marketing is as important as keyword research in search PPC. Audience segments will form the basis for your content marketing PPC campaigns.
The first step in researching your audience is to talk to your client, or your sales team if you’re in-house. Ask them about their ideal prospect: what job level they hold, what they like to do, what they’re passionate about, what need they are trying to fulfill.
If you want to get really granular, create marketing personas for your audience. It sounds hokey, but naming each segment of your customer base helps visualize your customer’s needs.
Once you have a good idea of who you’ll be marketing to, it’s time to jump into the engines. It’s easiest to do audience research in the social PPC platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Facebook is probably the first engine that comes to mind when thinking about audiences as opposed to keywords. Facebook targeting focuses primarily around interests and interest groups. A typical Facebook audience for a construction company might look like this:
If you’re a B2B advertiser, or are looking to target individuals associated with companies or job types, LinkedIn is ideal:
And with Twitter, you can target individual Twitter handles. It’s a little tougher to find users on Twitter, but if you know the companies or type of individuals you want to target, it’s not too bad.
While you’re doing your content marketing audience research, think outside the box. What do your users like to do? If you’re selling organic food, for instance, you might target those who are interested in environmental issues like recycling and green energy. They might be interested in your competitors – consider creating a segment targeting the competition’s fans! For B2B, targeting fans of industry conferences or trade shows is a good bet. Get creative!
Don’t forget about PPC keywords. Frequently, you’ll want to have a search campaign in addition to social campaigns. Remember, users may see you on a social channel, and then turn to a search engine for more information. Try to use keywords from the content itself, especially if you use product names, buzzwords, or themes in your content. Definitely include branded terms in your research as well. You might even consider keywords like “Company X Facebook” to reach those who saw your ads there.
Once you’ve identified your audience, think about how you want to segment them. This is where your content audit comes into play. Sometimes the segmentation will be obvious: if you have some content for architects and some for builders, separate your audiences that way.
Other times, though, it may not be so simple. In those cases, I often start with a larger audience initially. Then, I watch performance and segment based on that, rather than on audience attributes. Play around with your audience segments and test, test, test!
Audience research can be much more time-consuming than keyword research. But make sure to invest the time. Your content marketing PPC campaigns will be more successful with good audience research.
For some great tips on audience research and getting super-creative, I highly recommend Marty Weintraub’s book, Killer Facebook Ads. It’s a fun read and has some incredible tips on finding prospects with creative audience segments.
Got any killer audience research tips? Share in the comments!
In an earlier post, I talked about content marketing and its rise to popularity. PPC can be a highly effective way to amplify your content marketing efforts. But first, you need to identify what content is available. Here are 4 steps to a successful content audit.
Step 1: Identify your content marketing goals
Long-time readers of this blog know that I always start with goals. If you don’t know what you want to do, how will you go about doing it? And “performing a content audit” isn’t a goal. Neither is “get started with content marketing.” Those are both tactics used to achieve a strategy, not the strategy itself.
The most common goals for content marketing are lead generation and awareness creation. Do you have a new product that needs awareness? Trying to establish thought leadership in your field? Need to drive your lead generation machine? Identifying your primary goal for content marketing drives the entire process, from what content you’ll use to the channels you’ll use to distribute content.
Step 2: Create a list of all available content.
It’s always easier to repurpose existing content than it is to create it from scratch. Create a list of all online assets, including white papers, press releases, online demos, articles on other platforms, and even photos and videos. Every piece of content your organization has created is fair game.
If possible, also look at how the content has performed, and the audience it has reached. This will help you determine what PPC channel to use, and how to craft ad copy and PPC audiences. Also, why not put your best foot forward and launch with the best content?
Step 3: Note whether the content is evergreen or time-sensitive.
Some content, such as overview videos, product brochures, and how-to blog posts never get old. This is content you can promote again and again. Other content is time-sensitive: promotions, licenses, and other factors can affect how long your content can stay in market. Note these limitations in your content list. Nothing is worse than paying to send traffic to your site to read an outdated brochure or view a promotion that’s expired.
Step 4: Include the format in your content list.
Content format is more important than you may think, for a couple of reasons. The first is obvious: it determines where the content can be advertised in PPC. If you want to use Google for keyword search, you won’t be able to use a video as your ad (although of course you can drive traffic from text ads to a landing page that includes your video).
Maybe more importantly, noting the content type will help you learn which types of content perform best on each channel. For instance, you may determine that videos perform best in Facebook promoted posts, but white papers perform best in Google Adwords. Performance by content type is a key measurement for PPC and content marketing.
By following these 4 steps, your content audit is now a marketing tool that use can use to craft your content marketing campaigns.
What about you? What techniques have you used for a content audit? Share in the comments!
Back in December I ran a reader poll to see what my beloved readers want to hear about in 2014. While several topics got a lot of votes, the top vote-getter was PPC and Content Marketing.
Content marketing seems to be the shiny object for 2014. Everyone is trying to figure out how to create content and share it with the world. Content is being shared in a myriad of ways that didn’t exist even a year ago. Witness the rise of visual platforms like Vine, Pinterest, and Snapchat and you’ll see what I mean.
So how does PPC fit into the mix?
It’s not as simple as, say, PPC for ecommerce. In that case, you start bidding on keywords and sending visitors to product pages. Audiences may not even matter, if people are buying.
But PPC for content marketing is less clear-cut.
I’ll explore this in depth in future posts. And I want your opinions too – what have you tried? Here are a few thought starters that I consider.
- Content audit. What content is available?
- Audience research. Like keyword research in search, audience research is crucial.
- Timing. In ecommerce or other traditional PPC, timing may not even matter. People might buy your product year-round. But content burns out fast.
- Channels. Content can be promoted in many places besides Google. Google may not even be the best place for promotion.
- Buyer journey. Is this content best suited to awareness, demand generation, or something else?
- Integration. Who else is promoting this content? PR, media, sales, etc.?
Those are just a few considerations for a successful PPC content marketing campaign. We’ll explore them all in depth.
What do you consider when embarking on a content marketing play? Share in the comments!