Heather Lloyd-Martin, president of SuccessWorks, led a webinar recently on content marketing strategies called “Building a Content Roadmap: How to Write 10X Better Content and Still Stay Sane.”
The event was hosted by the content performance platform rellify and its General Manager of the Americas, Dan Boberg. This transcript was edited from the original video.
Dan Boberg: Welcome, everyone. Welcome to our webinar.
Here’s a brief introduction to rellify.
rellify is the content performance company. We leverage AI to develop better content written by real people, informed by machine learning that naturally ranks well in search engines. Our platform enables teams to develop content with maximum web relevance. We’re a full-service technology and services company providing content, strategy, content briefs, writing, and content creation across every business category, as well as content optimization and content conversion services driving ROI across the full lifecycle of content marketing.
At rellify, we believe that great content marketing is more important than ever. With so many competing channels for awareness and visibility, content is the ultimate opportunity to connectC, inform and educate while establishing your expertise and authority with your best target customers. But it’s not easy to execute content marketing strategies at scale, which is why we’re hosting today’s webinar.
A pioneer in content marketing strategy
And now I’d like to introduce today’s speaker. Forbes magazine called Heather Lloyd-Martin the pioneer of SEO copywriting over 20 years ago, which is about when I first met Heather at a search marketing conference. Heather was the first person to discuss SEO writing best practices — long before Google was everyone’s favorite search engine.
Today, she continues to stay on the leading edge, helping marketers understand Google’s latest updates and create standout content. Heather has consulted with and trained leading brands across various industries, including publishing, travel, SaaS, search engines and education. Her specialty is breaking complex information into bite-sized chunks, helping marketing teams learn to love and master SEO content, writing and strategy. Heather lives outside Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two cranky cats. She loves working out, hopping on planes, rafting the Colorado River and Starbucks almond milk lattes. Please join me in welcoming Heather.
Heather Lloyd-Martin: Hello, everyone, and thank you so much for hanging out with us today. When I first started talking about content years ago, we knew it was a big deal. We knew it was something, but it didn’t have the emphasis and the importance that it does today. And that’s why I’m always so excited to talk about this.
Basically, this is what I do in my work life — teaching companies how to harness SEO content best practices techniques and develop sustainable content marketing strategies where they aren’t going insane.
They can create the content they want to create and get those positions and get those leads, and everything else that they want to do. Untangling the content chaos and boosting quality is a topic near and dear to my heart.
How to create sustainable marketing strategies
So often, when companies start off with a new content strategy campaign, they expect everything to be smooth, and they figure it’s going to be easy. There aren’t going to be any glitches along the way. And so they just go for it. And these are companies that understand the value of standout content.
This slide from Search Engine Land is a nice resource to have internally, to show people how Google is looking at content and how Google is looking at a site. It will show that the content element — the quality of the content, the key phrases, how often you’re updating it — that is what’s most important to Google.
You know that is important to Google and you want to keep that momentum going. But then something happens.
That progress will slow. Google positions might have started off doing really well, but then maybe leveled off, or you’re not seeing positions for some of the key phrases that are important to you. And that smooth content creation road, where you figure that you have taken care of everything that you could to be able to get that content where you want to go, now feels like it’s falling apart and it’s this big pile of rubble.
The time crunch
And I’ve heard so many reasons. A big one is time. You have a company where your writers are doing double duty. They might be doing some client-facing stuff as well as creating content, especially if they are subject matter experts. Then you sign a new book of business and those folks are suddenly more time strapped. So, where before they might have had time to create the content that you needed them to create, now they’re working on what you need them to do for the clients that have come in the door because of that content.
Myths and misconceptions
Education is also a really big issue with companies. One of the challenges of SEO writing is that although there are best practices, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there about ways to do it right.
And those myths and misconceptions can end up costing companies time and money, because they’re trying to squish what they’re doing into something that doesn’t work.
So often the issue is simple as: They have money, they have budget, they have writers. They just don’t have a clue of what to write.
Two stumbling blocks to 10x content
I summarize these two issues with most companies that are feeling that content crunch and feeling like it’s preventing them from creating that standout 10x content. It boils down to no time, no clue.
They are time strapped and they really want to do more, but they can’t and they don’t have the internal knowledge to be able to do it efficiently. Instead of reaping those content rewards, the team is stuck on a content creation hamster wheel.
It feels like they’re creating content all the time. They don’t know what’s going on with that content. They might measure it, somewhat, but then they aren’t sure what the measurements mean, other than they’ve made money from a piece of content. And they get frustrated, and so the quality starts going down.
Content marketing strategies and the pandemic
Last year was a whole different bag of worms for the content creation industry, because so many companies got hit so hard by the pandemic.
And even in the companies that might not have been directly affected, there was still that general uncertainty of “What’s going on now?”
So here’s a slide from the Content Marketing Institute. It shows that the B2B marketers who reported the low level of content marketing success said it was mostly due to content creation challenges. And that totally makes sense: content creation challenges and strategy issues.
And that may feel familiar, especially if you’re in a case of: “Well, we’re in a pandemic. What can we intelligently write that reaches the needs of our target audience right now and what they need to know?”
At the same time, those companies who doubled down last year and decided to put resources into content, development and strategy, they found that it made them successful. And I can personally attest to a number of companies that decided that last year was like their rebuilding year. They almost used it as a springboard to figure: “We haven’t looked at our content strategy in a while. What can we do now to make it better?”
So what we’re going to be talking about is how you can build that sustainable content framework. So even though things might get busy — your main subject matter expert is working with a client and not as accessible as she may have been before — how you can build this out to where you can continue creating that 10x content easily?
The first step toward success
And sometimes that means doing things a little bit differently. Often what I suggest when I’m working with clients is going to be different than what they see their competitors do. And I do that for a reason. We’ll be talking about that in a little bit. But the first tip that I would suggest is to put success in your way.
Some of you may be familiar with Chris Brogan. He is a brilliant online marketer. And he talks about “If you want to be successful in ‘X,’ make sure that you have all of those elements set up prior to implementing what you want to implement.”
This is where a lot of companies need to start.
Where I see good companies go bad is that they have really great ideas. They have really great writers. They might have the bandwidth to create the content that they want to create, but they’re not sure what they’re doing, especially if you’re dealing with a larger company where everyone is very siloed and they aren’t sharing that information with each other … creating their own content and not looking at their content as part of the overarching content marketing strategy for the company.
Back to basics
You want to cover the basics — things like customer persona documents and company benefit statements. I bring up company and product or service-level benefit statements as something to have front and center for all writers or all people that are touching the writing, because these things will change over time.
The benefit statement that you have now in 2021 may be different than what you said two years ago or even last year. And considering where we are in the world right now, this might be an opportunity for you to look at your customers and ask a question: Are the benefits that we are sharing on the website and sharing in our other collateral materials still correct for our customers? And, in terms of customer persona, is that still dialed in?
New customers and new opportunities
I’m seeing companies bringing on new types of customers. They realize they have other customer personas out there that they may not have tapped into or leveraged. And that is a cool opportunity to talk to another group of people who want what you offer and can turn into evangelists for your brand.
You’re adding micro moments — why people would be wanting your product or your service, what kinds of things go into what’s happening in their world to cause that.
For example, if you are selling, say, industrial freezers.
This is an actual client. And a lot of times businesses didn’t want to buy something like that until the current freezer was starting to break down or fail. And they knew that once it failed, then it was going to cost tens of thousands every single week of lost time. So they would be looking for something to replace it before that happened.
So knowing that kind of micro-moment as a company can help you build out that informational content that can reach those folks when they’re trying to decide: Do I want to make that investment now or do I want to hold off?
Amplify your content
We talk about influencer lists for content amplification. This is where a lot of B2B companies will go wrong because they will think: “Why should I partner with other companies to amplify my content?” Or: “Shouldn’t Google just find me on their own for writing good content?” And granted, Google will.
But the more you can get out there and partner with other people — like what we’re doing today on this webinar — that can help get that content into the hands or the eyeballs of more people that are within your target audience and who can remember you when they are ready to buy.
Get everyone on the same page
And then, of course, you need the SEO writing training and a style guide, something that brings all the people that are touching the content or have something to do with the content into the same real room or virtual room. So everyone is on the same page knowing what’s going on, knowing why best practices are what they are and can talk about them in relation to their company.
And I even suggest bringing IT into that discussion because they are the ones implementing those changes on the back end. And so the more they know about what we do as content creators, the more they can do what they do well for us.
So having all of those elements helps prevent us from getting stuck writing or creating content based on stuff that’s just not true. Often I will work with companies that will have these content myths in their head of “every post needs to be at least fifteen hundred words, and if we can’t write that much it is not even worth writing.” Or “we need to shove the key phrase in 15 times in order for Google to get it.” Or “we need to to publish all the time for Google to realize that we are a real website.”
And a lot of these myths just aren’t true.
Getting everyone on the same page can keep you from working against yourself and help you leverage opportunities.
So we have here like 63 percent of B2C marketers surveyed changed their marketing and targeting strategy in response to the pandemic. And in many cases, that would have been a very appropriate and smart response.
Dialing in those basics, as basic as they are, can transform your results.
There’s no point in waiting
If you’ve been holding off on this — because this has been a fear for a lot of companies: “I don’t want to start making major changes to our content plan and getting people trained and setting up style guides and revisiting customer personas because so much changed last year. What’s going to change in 2021, 2022?”
Robert Rose from the Content Marketing Institute said something that I love: “Stop waiting for the new normal — we’re already in it.”
We don’t know and can’t predict the content future, but we’re in a place now that we can no longer wait to figure out “What now?” We are in that phase right now, today. And so by getting all of your ducks in a row — now — you’ll be able to see that success in the future.
And often that means leveraging content tools that make it easier to get those foundational ducks in a row. We have things like CoSchedule that can help with social scheduling; Semrush, or your key-phrase research tool of choice. And of course, the folks here at rellify, who can take some of that content burden off of you, automate some of those tasks and make it easier for your team.
And that is how you can start putting success in your way.
Realize that Google decides search intent
So the second tip that is crucially important for companies, especially with B2B though you also see this with B2C, is to know that Google is the decider when it comes to search intent. And I have this as a big one because it is real.
I have worked with companies that have tried to beat their head against a virtual Google wall because, for example, they want a services page to say they were offering cloud computing services to position for what Google sees as an informational query.
Dual purpose postings
So here’s an example of that happening front and center. If you type in “cloud computing,” what you see on the search results are not services pages for cloud computing companies.
You might see ads for that, but you don’t see organic results for that. What you do see are “What is cloud computing?” and “what” types of informational results.
And the first one is Microsoft. This is really interesting, because if you were working at Microsoft and somebody pitched this, your first thought is: “Our clients understand what cloud computing is. We don’t have to come up with a ‘what-is’ guide to help them along with that.”
But Microsoft does this, most likely, because they want to be seen on the search results page for that informational term and on their landing page. On this page, they have a place where you can access all of their services. They have documents that you can download. So it’s an informational page that kind of does double duty as a soft-sell services page that leads into other resources.
But if they were to try to come up with a services page that would position for cloud computing, they probably would not see it.
How to dig into the stats
So it’s important to review the characteristics of those top performing pages before you start writing. Part of what you want to look at is: Is this something that realistically your company is going to see a result for, based on what you see in the Google results?
And then you want to dig into what you see positioning on the Google results, not just look at “Oh, IBM is there, Microsoft is there!” and not just glancing at the results and figuring that that’s all the information you need.
You want to actually dig in and see what those pages look like. I do look at content links just to get an idea of what’s out there. Are they longer pages, shorter pages? What is answering the query?
Improve on, rather than copy, content
But I also look at things like how the content was structured. Is it more of a listicle? How did that particular company answer the question? Do they have videos? Do they link into other articles within their site that provide more in-depth information about the topic? Do they highlight their subject matter experts, and how do they do that?
On a video, to take one example, they might have a little bit of a write up, but then here is Jane talking about what cloud computing is. And that’s how they were able to soft-promote their experts as well as providing an informative experience for their readers. So you want to really dig in there.
You don’t want to copy that. And that is where a lot of companies will get confused. Thinking, “Well, if the top ranking piece of content has X, Y and Z, we need to replicate that on our site.”
But what we’d be looking at is: How can you make it better? How can you answer things differently than your competitors?
And that is when you’re going to see more of an uplift in your content. It provides more of an opportunity for your company to showcase how you are different. The person coming in that is looking for a vendor or looking for information — wherever they are in the buy cycle — they don’t want to read the same me-too content that they see the other companies do.
If you provide a different angle or a different way of talking about something, that will make you stand out in their minds. And so they will be interested to learn more about that.
What’s the one best thing to focus on?
Now, the third tip is to find that one thing that works for content creation.
I’m going to spend a lot of time on this tip because this is where the rubber can truly meet the road. There’s a quote that I love from Gary Keller from Keller Williams Realty: “What’s the ONE thing I could do, such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”
So I look at this in terms of content development and content marketing strategies. Every company has one thing that they do really well. So let’s talk about what that can mean.
Blogging with the anti-blogger
Once upon a time, I worked with a B2B company that was very well known within a national as well as a worldwide space.
But their website was not good. This person actually had a podcast that was well loved and people would listen to it. And he got great guests to come in and share their expertise. But when it came to something like blogging, he wasn’t going to blog.
We went back and forth and up and down to try to see if he could create something, and it just never happened because that wasn’t his one thing.
So we started to get creative in figuring out how to accomplish the goal of giving the site more content that his readers would want to know more about, as well as making it easy.
We decided that every time that he created a podcast, we would take a transcript from that podcast. We cleaned it up … removed the ums and the weird things that people will always say.
We would add some headlines whenever possible. Often the key phrases were naturally included in that transcript.
We put the transcript on the website as a blog post, and it would link to the podcast for the folks that wanted to listen to that.
Before we started, they were ranking for key phrases that were not at all relevant to their site. And their rankings went from nothing to getting No. 1 and No. 2, and elsewhere in the top 10, for a variety of their main key phrases that they wanted to get.
And it was all because of using a transcript from a podcast.
Moz does this well, or used to with their whiteboard Fridays, where it would have somebody that would be talking in front of a whiteboard and sketching things out.
They would have a video on top of the page. They would set up the transcript to where it was cleaned up. It had screenshots from the video, so it looked like its own standalone article. It was really strong and it was a great way to do it.
So this is an example of an easy way that you can take content that is simple for you to produce, and make it good for your readers as well.
And the cool thing about doing it like this is that since it was in a blog, it was really easy to go back to the influencers that he interviewed and say: “Hey, we just uploaded the transcript with you, subject matter expert, and we’re tagging you on Twitter or tagging you on LinkedIn. Can you share this with your network?”
So they were able to set up the influencer list based on the interview and to get more love coming into the website just off of that one thing.
From Starbucks napkin to blog post
Here’s another example of a “one thing.” I worked with a very highly geeky company that is near Portland. Their subject matter experts were having a hard time blogging. It wasn’t their thing.
So they encouraged their subject matter expert, asking: “Any time that you want to talk about something or blog about something, just sketch out a general note somewhere and we’ll work something around it.” So one of the engineers was at a Starbucks and he grabbed a napkin, and he started sketching out some sort of geeky computational thing about how something worked. And that napkin became the basis of a blog post. So they took a picture of that napkin.
They did a brief interview with the subject matter expert. They put that on as a blog post and it turned out to be their top traffic blog post.
And it was just allowing the subject matter experts to kind of do what they want, work how they could work and figure out how to do the content.
And the result was great for the subject matter expert, because in his world, he didn’t have to put in that much time. It was also great for the company because they saw those incoming leads.
So consider if something like that could work for your company.
Key phrase interview questions
There are also cases where if you are going to be doing your one thing for content, you can do the key phrase research prior to the interview.
Look at all the questions that people are asking about a particular topic. And then when you are doing that interview, you are seeding the interview with those search key-phrase questions that you know that people are asking.
You get a really nice double-duty interview — a quality interview with a subject matter expert that answers questions in a way that your audience is typing them into Google. Your subject matter expert is answering the questions that you find in the key phrase research tools.
Those out-of-the-box ideas can make companies feel a little bit funky because they might look at their competitors and say, well, our biggest competitor doesn’t have a podcast like that, or our biggest competitor is just blogging. They don’t do anything else.
And it’s OK, even if your competitor is getting great rankings.
It’s OK to do your own thing because often doing your own thing is the one thing that will get people to your site and get the results that you want.
Make it easy on yourself
We’re talking today about opportunities to make your content creation process easier, focusing in on what’s possible, on what that one thing is and on distilling it down. Well, that’s a lot easier than what a lot of companies will go through when they try doing just blogging.
When you have that figured out — that one thing — everything else becomes easy and then you can gradually start adding other things as they make sense, other tactics that can help amplify your content even more, make your content easier to build, make everything you do faster.
We talked a little bit about questions, and for tip number four I want to emphasize how questions can be content marketing gold.
The value of good questions
For those of you who are a little bit more experienced when it comes to content marketing strategies, this will not seem like such a huge a-ha! moment.
But even companies that do know that questions are important sometimes ignore the questions because they think they know what their audience is really interested in and searching for.
So, picking on the B2B technology world, we have here that the top listing is a question-oriented thing. And this is a very detailed, long-tailed kind of question where we’re looking at comparing three different things and then “what’s the difference” and “how to.”
And actually, if you just look at the structure of this title and all the key phrases involved and the “difference between” and the “how to” — this is a brilliantly created title.
As we talked about with the Microsoft cloud computing example, this is an opportunity for you to reach your readers and your buyers at all phases of that buy cycle by digging into those buyer’s journey micro-moments, figuring out what kinds of questions they have throughout those micro-moments, and building out the content that matches those questions.
Where a lot of companies will go wrong today is they will focus their efforts on those end-of-funnel type content where they figure that the people coming into their site are just ready to buy.
They miss all these other opportunities where people might be comparing one product against another or might be gathering information about what works for them.
Within the key phrase research world, this can get kind of tricky, especially with B2B.
As this slide shows, the Semrush key phrase research tool showed that there was no data for that same key phrase.
Some companies will think they shouldn’t have content about it if nobody is searching for it, according to a third party tool. And the key is to look at what Google is showing you. We often ignore the third party tools because Google is giving us different information.
And according to Google, people are searching on these types of key phrases. So having them represented in your content and on your site is a smart thing, especially knowing about how people are searching.
The buyer’s journey
According to Gartner Research, search happens at least three times on the buyer’s journey, and they’re bouncing back and forth between, say, searching a supplier website and then maybe an industry website.
If you think about all the times that people might be searching for what you offer and all the questions that people may be having, those are great ideas to put into content on your site.
If you’re not sure, your salespeople or the folks that are dealing front-line with your clients or your customers are the best people to ask about this.
You can always cross-reference those questions and key phrase research and in Google, because if those folks are answering the same questions over and over again, it makes sense to have the answer on the website because people are type of media.
And if nothing else, it makes it easy for your sales team to then say: “You know, we’ve actually answered that before in this resource. Let me point you to this.”
It provides another way for them to sell your services more completely. So don’t be afraid of answering questions. Even if you don’t see the key phrase data being represented there, because we know that we’re typing stuff into Google.
What we’re typically typing in is some sort of question, and we’re looking for that answer even on B2B.
Content marketing strategies for efficiency
So the final thing I want to talk about today is how to get your content noticed everywhere. And this is one of the biggest takeaways from this webinar.
Sometimes people will create what I call the one-and-done piece of content.
They’ll write a really good content piece. They’ll put it up on the website, and that is all that ever happens with it.
I especially see this with larger companies that are more siloed, where multiple people are cranking out content and they don’t always talk.
They might put it out on an influencer list and say: “Hey, look at it.”
They might promote it a little bit with social posts, but they don’t do much more with it. And that is a grueling, hard way to create content, no matter what size your team.
Because you start to feel like you’re writing the same content all the time and you don’t get much of a break from it. And even though that may not be what’s truly going on, what is true is that the content that you’re writing, if it’s one and done, is not making you the money that you’d like to make.
It’s not giving you great ROI because there’s so much more you can do with it. And here are several things you can do with it.
For example, rellify could take this webinar content, what we’re doing today, and this could be a blog post where it is highlighting the five tips that I talked about. That’s pretty cool.
That could also turn into, say, an email series.
You can have people sign up and they would get an autoresponder with a tip a day that could be built on things like old blog posts.
Old podcasts can be used to create a guide. And old blog posts can be used to create new YouTube videos, especially if you are writing a lot about a particular topic.
For example, one of my clients is a big expert in group dynamics, and so we’re taking all of his group dynamic content and looking at how to repurpose it into a guide that integrates some of the videos that have been done about that topic, as well as some of the written materials.
It can be used as an incentive for signing up for a newsletter, so it can be a lead gen.
It can also be something that can be a leave-behind for the client.
You might think that people have already read this before if they keep up with your content, but that’s not always the case. Different audiences gravitate to different platforms. I am very much a blog person, so when I consume content, I typically go to the company website and I want to see written content.
My husband is very different. He is a big YouTube guy, so he might go to written content later but what he’s looking for is what’s on YouTube.
Page 2 content
Another thing you can do is take a look at page two content — things that are maybe in position 10 to 20.
A good, solid blog post could be re-optimized to bring that to the top of the search results.
Sometimes that means changing a title. It might be looking at the key phrase focus or adding some sub headlines.
There are always things that you can do to optimize older blog posts for more power. And Google is totally OK with you re-optimizing blog posts — looking at ways to, say, take a blog post and turn it into a YouTube video that then turns into a best-of series.
And I know that that can be very confusing for folks. It’s like: “Isn’t this duplicate content if this is appearing on different platforms?” And actually Google came out this year and said that that is not considered something that is duplicate.
So you are free to do that however you want to.
Look at your editorial calendar on a monthly and quarterly basis and look at how you can repurpose. That helps your content work harder. It also makes it easy to fill the editorial calendar.
Now you’re not worrying about how to write new content five days a week. You’re looking at how to make existing content better and disseminate content to different platforms and measuring those results. That helps your team escape from the content creation hamster wheel.
You want your team to be free to write that outstanding 10x content, and not feeling like that poor guy on the hamster wheel creating content day in and day out without knowing why.
So, thank you. This concludes my chat for today.
For a transcript of the Q&A session with Heather Lloyd-Martin, visit rellify.com.
A free content analysis
Chris Henrotin, rellify’s vice president of sales for the Americas: Awesome. Well, thank you again, Heather. That was amazing.
Thank you, everybody, for attending today’s webinar.
We are going to be giving a complimentary content analysis for those who want to get more insight into the competitive landscape for a given topic. We also take a look at what the search opportunity is for a given topic and the subtopics and questions related to a given topic to establish topic authority, which Google rewards immensely. So we’d love to have people fill out that form. You also can email me directly.
Thank you again, Heather. You absolutely rocked it. And thank you, everybody for attending.
Heather Lloyd-Martin: All right, thank you very much, everybody, for hanging out with us today. I appreciate your time.
Dan Boberg: Thanks, everyone.
If you want to get further insights on outsourcing content writing, visit our Q&A article with Heather Lloyd-Martin.