Business Unusual: Content Creation & SEO

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Content Marketing & SEO

“The marketers who are going to win are building trust and authority with customers and prospects, and the way you do that is through content.” Justin Dunham, Ercule

Interested in hearing more from Justin?

Check out Part One of this interview!

Jill McKenna:
Thanks, everyone, for joining us today. I am Jill McKenna. I’m the campaign marketing manager at Ruby. And I’m delighted to be speaking with Justin Dunham today from Ercule. Justin, thanks for joining me.

Justin Dunham:
Hey, Jill. Yeah, it’s great to talk to you today. I am, as you said, Justin Dunham. I started Ercule a few years ago, and I work with the team. And we are a content performance and SEO agency. So we focus on taking existing content marketing that people are doing and really making it work all the way up and down the content stack and also optimizing the entirety of our clients’ libraries so that they get the most out of that.

Jill McKenna:
Can you speak a little bit to why content strategy is still important or maybe more important than ever, just a really basic guideline?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah, totally. Content strategy is how people are going to distinguish themselves in the new world. A huge percentage of the buyer’s journey, even up until now, I think it’s between 60 and 80%, is offline before your customers talk to you directly, but they’re getting information from the content that you’re putting out there. And that number is only going to increase as more and more of these interactions become partly digital and then completely digital. So an investment in that today is really important.

Justin Dunham:
I’d say another reason for investing in content strategy that’s important is just building trust and authority because all of these new channels are going to get more and more saturated, as they always do. But the marketers who are going to win are building trust and authority with customers and prospects, and the way you do that is through content.

Jill McKenna:
And how have recent events changed long-term planning in this regard, or have they? Do we still want to keep with the same strategies we’ve had before, or is there really new thinking that we want to have in mind for the next two years, three years, four years?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah, well, everybody’s re-planning, of course. And I would say that, again, the major shift that we’ve seen is just on the demand gen side, where are we making our investments? And honestly, a lot of that investment is coming away from live events and more toward digital channels. So the only thing I would say about that right now is the companies who, again, are focused and strategic about how they’re engaging with their customers on digital are the ones who are going to be most successful there.

Jill McKenna:
So you’ve spoken a little bit about events, and I know you guys aren’t obviously an event company, but a lot of your customers do do events. Are there ways that you’re guiding them to think about online events now or reposition themselves to have to pivot over to online events?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah, the main way that we are engaging with our customers around events is one of the things that we do for all of our customers is it’s not just about SEO and content performance and conversion rate optimization, all the things that you need to be successful with content. It’s also about helping our customers build a pipeline in their company so that all of the expertise that everybody on their team has can be easily converted and taken out into this more accessible format, which is on something like a blog or something like that.

Justin Dunham:
And events are a really important source of this information. So if you’re running certainly a webinar, but more so I’m thinking something like an online conference or something like that, it’s a great opportunity to promote those talks in advance by linking to them and talking about them in content that you’re producing. And it’s a great opportunity, once those events happen, to take all of the content that is produced in those events, the talks, the panels, other things like that. And then after the event, turn that into blog posts, articles, updating existing content that now needs new information, all sorts of stuff. So a major overlooked value prop from events and especially online events is the content creation possibilities that come out of that beyond the event. In fact in some ways, I would say that for a lot of companies, that is the major value of running events is the contribution to evergreen content that they can create.

Jill McKenna:
I think a lot of people don’t think about that when they make events, that hub and spoke model of what can come from… Even anything, an e-guide, event, a webinar, it creates a lot of your SEO keyword terms for you. And strategically deploy them, then you’re all the better for it.

Jill McKenna:
You did bring up something, you touched on something I was curious about. How do you think about small businesses in collaboration with other small businesses or partnerships? Are there ways that you want to guide your customers to think about thoughtful collaborations at this time and moving forward as things continue to shift?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah, that’s a really interesting opportunity that’s available for people. So I think there’s a few different things. The obvious answer that most SEOs will give you is you should guest post on your partners sites and stuff like that. And I’m going to say something vaguely heretical, which is that guest posts can sometimes be effective. But a lot of the times that we’ve done just straight up guest posting or been asked to do that, it doesn’t have the effect that we’d like to see it have. And there are ways to do it and make it work.

Justin Dunham:
But I will say that there are lots of other opportunities for partnership, obvious things are both of these companies, if you’re partnering with another company, have built an audience. And presumably, that audiences has a similar set of concerns. And so something we talk to our clients a lot about is borrowing audiences, because just building audience is one of the hardest things that you can do as a marketer. Just getting people following you on social, in your email list, in your Slack community, whatever it is.

Justin Dunham:
So that’s how we suggest to clients that they think about these partnerships, is can you borrow an audience, and that can manifest a lot of ways. Like I said, it can be things like we’re doing a joint webinar. It can be things like we’re producing a piece of content together, rather than I’m producing a piece of content for you. So something like a guide that’s co-branded can be really great. And there’s lots of other opportunities, as well as you move down to customer success, even as you move down the sales funnel, to bring partners in the right way and to work together and team up.

Justin Dunham:
And especially also given that for most small and medium businesses, there are so many pieces of technology and other stuff that are being used to be effective. It gives you just a ton of partnership opportunities to find those audiences, get the word out there, help each other, and so on.

Jill McKenna:
I want to backtrack a little bit just because I know a lot of small businesses who are just starting out or are struggling to keep so many plates spinning in the air. What’s the best guidance you have for them, if they’re just considering SEO and keywords, and they’re like, I have to make a list of 200 keywords. What are some basic guidance that you can give to them?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah, I would say first of all, of course it depends on resources. And what we would much rather see is I can put out one very high quality blog post a month on one topic, and that is a great place to start. And so the other thing that we suggest is, as you think about like, oh, we think we want to get more traffic from organic search, yes. Use the content for that, but also think hard about everything you produce. Where else can I use it? If I produce a white paper or I produce… Let’s say I produce a bunch of blog posts. Can I add those blog posts up in six months into a white paper? Can those blog posts be used for my sales reps to reach out to prospects? Can I produce those blog posts by having somebody who works directly with customers do a recording, and then I edit it later? So efficiency in content creation and focus and really using content creatively are three things I think are super important for getting started with that.

Jill McKenna:
If somebody writes a really thoughtful piece of content intentionally for their blog, what are the worst things that you see happen, once they write that piece and put their little baby out there in the world? What are the mistakes that people often make?

Justin Dunham:
The number one mistake I see people make is just doing it once and then forgetting about it and hoping, hey, I produced one really solid thing, and it was updated three years ago. And the thing is that we think it’s really important to think about your content as a library. And so you always want to keep it updated. You could be a small business, you could have 15 or 20 solid posts that you wrote over the space of two or three years that you used customers to write, or you use sales reps to help write, or you build out of a webinar, do all of that, build 15 to 20 high quality things, put them on your site, but then don’t forget about it. And because you’re already communicating with your customers about how to use the product, what updates there are and all of this, every single CEO or director of marketing we’ve talked to has all of this stuff in their head.

Justin Dunham:
So it’s thinking about the entire library as you produced it, keeping it up to date, not just letting it go away. You don’t have to produce a post every week for three years. You don’t need, if you’re a small business, 200 or 300 blog posts. In fact, I’d rather see, again, 15 to 20 really high quality things that get reused, remixed, promoted really well, and then that’s pretty much it. But it’s very hard.

Justin Dunham:
And oftentimes, things like what should the strategy be? Where should we focus? Where should we make our investments? Folks come to us, even if they haven’t engaged us and say… and we can well, here’s our experience with this or with that, or maybe you want to make this trade off. It’s very difficult. But again, the number one mistake we really see is just doing one or two posts and not being consistent.

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