Optimizing Branded Content for Search

Have you ever read a blog post, caught a Twitter update or received an email promoting something that looked interesting but for whatever reason the timing wasn’t right to respond to it?  Perhaps it was a white paper, an eBook, or a webinar and you passed on downloading it because:

  • you knew you didn’t have time to read or view it right then
  • it pertained to a future initiative, but you had to get through the one at hand first, or
  • you were on a mobile device and it wasn’t convenient to download at the time

You aren’t the only one.  Chances are that your prospects have done the same thing with your content.  The opportunity that many marketers miss when they publish great content is to optimize a companion landing page (at minimum) for search.  Since the search engines are typically the first place people go when they’re looking for answers, it makes sense to make your solution easy to find.

Below is an example of one way to approach optimizing branded content for search.  This happens to be how the demand generation agency I’m with approached branded content SEO for their very popular eBook, “The High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook.”

Let’s assume the prospect forgot the company’s name (how dare they?!) but remembered the asset was something like, “high tech marketing handbook.”  Here’s the search result:

search optimized branded content

The first listing links to the eBook landing page (with registration form), the second listing links to an optimized page on Spear’s resource center.

Even with top billing in the organic listings, it’s still not a bad idea to include branded content keywords to your paid search campaign in the mix, particularly if you find competitors competing for related phrases.

The branded content SEO tactic can also work well when combined with display advertising promoting the content.  By using the display ads to create awareness content asset, you can measure lift in organic search and conversions.

Below are some tips for optimizing a branded content landing page for search:

  • Include the unique, branded title of the content in the URL
  • Include the title and your company name in the Page Title
  • Include a call-to-action in the page description, along with a concise description of how a prospect will benefit from the offer
  • Include the title in the page copy with an H1 tag
  • If the content is registration gated, use an image of the offer content (a thumbnail or similar image) to make it more “tangible”
    • Also, don’t include more registration form fields than are absolutely necessary
  • Reinforce the call to action along with a description of the types of problems that your content will solve
    • If possible, break up the keywords from your content title and integrate them separately in the on-page content
  • Build high-quality links to the landing page via authoritative sites (via blogging, social media, etc.)
  • With gated content, improve conversions by limiting extraneous navigation and unrelated calls-to-action
  • If the content is gated, create a “thank you page” for post-registration that includes social media icons (linked to the landing page) to make it easy to share the content socially
  • If the content is un-gated, place a image, sidebar banner or link to relevant “gated content”
  • If the content is gated, consider fulfilling the content via email (particularly if you use a marketing automation solution because you can more easily track opens and clicks)

To Gate or Not to Gate – Content Offer Best Practices for Social Selling

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to experience InsideView’s first user summit, Insider Summit 2012. The panelists in break-out sessions presented great ideas and use cases for success in a variety of social selling areas – I highly recommend attending their next summit.

One session of particular interest to me was, “Social Selling Best Practices With InsideView.” Insideview’s Koka Sexton moderated the panel which included Don Otvos of Yammer and Dave Vacanti of Cornerstone OnDemand.

Both Don and Dave provided great use cases in which social selling (and InsideView) enabled their teams to close larger deals, faster. Post session, I asked both panelists about their experiences using registration gated and non-gated offer content in marketing and sales efforts. Each described very different approaches to their use of content offers.

Yammer is an enterprise social network that provides a private social network for your company. Their approach is to exclusively provide free and un-gated content to create engagement. Since they have a “freemium” model, their sales team looks at demographic data (e.g. company size, usage, etc.) to identify whether a sales opportunity exists.

Cornerstone OnDemand is a talent, learning and performance management software company. Their model is to identify behavioral data (e.g. interest in a specific topic) to uncover whether there’s a sales opportunity or not. According to Dave, their content offers are almost exclusively registration gated.

In the B2B marketing agency space, we’ve experimented with a hybrid approach. On one hand, the audience for media placement and prospects for outbound efforts are identified based on demographics (company type, size, job title, etc.) and we promote gated content offers to them. On the other hand, the majority of inbound traffic comes via the company blog, The Point, which is our prominent “un-gated” content. The blog also serves as content for a big part of our lead nurturing program.

I have experimented with both gated and un-gated offer content in prospecting outreach via email and social media. With the “gated” prospecting strategy, I’m seeing about a 2% prospect to opportunity won ratio. When using un-gated content, my outbound efforts haven’t resulted in as high a success rate, but more prospects have become suspects by engaging in marketing conversions, like subscribing to our blog.

Even though the short-term sales success rate is higher when offering gated content in prospecting efforts, I wonder if the strategy is somewhat short-sighted. You would assume that since the majority of prospects don’t respond to gated content offers (and subsequently don’t become blog subscribers or Twitter followers, etc.), I’m missing out on the opportunity to convert some into suspects that might have a need in the future. Does introducing a gated offer in the first prospecting interaction reduce the likelihood of response for future, non-gated interactions?

In his (excellent) presentation, “From Content to Customer”, Eloqua’s Joe Chernov suggests that in marketing, suspects should be presented with non-gated content (no forms allowed). Should this practice be adopted by sales in prospecting efforts, or should it be saved only for marketing purposes?

Given that sales is interested in identifying near-future needs as much as possible, where does the role of gated content play in sales prospecting? Feel free to share your comments, thoughts and experiences below.

It’s Not You… It’s Your (Lack of) Offer Content

Breaking up is hard to do.  But, having website visitors “break up with you” (i.e. bounce) without knowing “why” is downright painful.  It could be that the problem is with your offer content, or lack thereof.

“Paid search doesn’t work for us.”  I heard it again the other day and it won’t be the last.  This time, it was on a call with a software company that wanted us to help them generate more sales leads.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a blind advocate of sending money to search companies, but like it or not, in most cases paid search is the workhorse for demand generation programs.  So, when I hear that it’s not working, it raises a flag.

Read more of this post

3 Proven Tips to Increase Marketing ROI

You only have a few seconds to capture people’s attention and get them to take action before they move on with their lives.

Whether you’re creating a website, an advertisement, an email or a sales letter, the benefit message is the most important element.

It’s pretty simple:  without a strong benefit message, you’ll be ignored.

Here are 3 simple tips to get more people to respond to your marketing: Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: