Many companies have focused on increasing their inbound traffic for new leads to combat tighter spam regulations and more concentrated email filters.
But increasing web traffic without a thorough conversion strategy is just branding and awareness—that won’t supply enough leads to salespeople to hit your revenue growth targets.
Demand generation requires a complete marketing program that not only attracts prospects to your website, but also converts them into leads, nurtures them over time through their own buying journey, and assists the consultative sales person to close.
We asked Brian Massey of the Conversion Sciences about how companies can find the “hidden money” in their websites through better conversions of the traffic they already have, and tighten their strategy to create more consistent demand.
B2B Content Enterprise: How does Conversion Sciences work with clients to optimize landing pages?
Massey: We primarily optimize sites that are looking to generate revenue or generate valuable leads. From a content marketing standpoint, for our business (Conversion Sciences) we currently rely on little to no outbound marketing to drive demand. We have no sales people (other than myself and my partner) to take calls, qualify and close. All of our leads are either referrals, or generated through our content marketing outreach.
Ideally that’s what we’re all trying to get to. From your viewpoint, where are companies getting stuck with this process?
I think the primary issue is understanding the role of content, but let me back up a bit and talk about what we are trying to accomplish with content outreach.
For us, the direct conversions from emails that we send out, along with content that we share on social media, is minuscule—it’s really small.
We’ve therefore decided to use social media as more of a broadcast medium, and I know many social media experts would take exception with that strategy. They say that communications should be one-to-one. If you can get to that level, great, but given that we’re a small company, we don’t have the resources needed to foster social media as one-to-one communication.
In our strategy, when someone does come through our channels, they are coming back and searching for conversion optimization, website optimization, or AB testing—they’re developing their level of trust with us over time. Ultimately, that’s what accelerates the sale especially for more qualified visitors.
It does represent a little bit of a shift for us in marketing but I also think it’s a shift that every company has to go through.
How do you use a conversion strategy to generate better organic searches for your content?
I think that from the content marketing standpoint what’s not working is to post about whatever interested us at the time, whatever seemed to be topical or whatever guest bloggers were submitting to us. That’s what got published.
Of course, we all do content marketing to get business, but search engine ranking should really be the primary metric and this strategy actually hurt our rankings.
What we all want is more searches. When prospects come looking, we’re the ones they find. That’s the number one goal of any content marketing engine. So it’s important to have an understanding of the issues that people are searching for.
How can you figure that out—especially in industries where there is a lot of competition for content?
The most important strategy of any content marketing program is a really smart search engine optimization process. That’s a combination of what you can find out there that’s being searched on and your own history of what you’ve already written about that resonates.
Most companies have lots of topics that they can write about, but it comes down to prioritization and focus on the topics where we’re able to provide the best answers.
Our data analysis has really helped us understand what our categories should be. When we started this process, we had identified over 100 categories. Currently we’re down to 10. We are now very focused.
Each of those categories has become a content hub and we are constantly refining our message to the search engines about what we talked about and for each of those tags we can have a platform of topics that we want to expand on.
I did a blog post on how we identify what we call them Icebergs, Eagles, Burps and Fizzes based on how the search engines pick them up and run with them.
B2B Content Enterprise: How important are your buyer personas in your content strategy?
Very important. The only difference is that we crafted our personas from the standpoint of the content needs rather than all the issues that we could address from individual personas that would buy from us.
We designed each of those personas so that we’ve covered the space of content needs because that is really what the personas are driving at this point. What are the questions they are asking?
Now that we have changed to an SEO-guided content marketing strategy, we’ve seen a substantial uptick in actual qualified leads.
You talk about a content strategy being like a volcano—could you explain?
At its most basic level, a blog spews content like a volcano spews lava, and the content has emerged from deep inside a magma chamber of content. This content determines the pace at which the mountain grows—so a mountain with a large magma chamber can be expected to erupt more frequently and more violently.
Like a blog, our volcanic mountain becomes more visible as it rises higher and higher into the top levels of the atmosphere. It can become visible very quickly to nearby villages, executive offices in neighboring cities…and to search engines.”
The question is how do we puncture that, and how do we build layer upon layer on top of that so that we end up with a mountain that is belching smoke and fire that can be seen from space and from the air, where the search engines can’t see us. That is leveraging content to get it to the widest audience possible for the branding reasons and increased traffic.
Content itself does generate leads. People do come through our content and fill out a form and get in touch with us. I would say that you should not abandon your email outreach even if you’re finding some diminishing returns on open rates and click-through rates.
Speaking of email, how should it factor into your overall content strategy, especially when open rates and conversions are declining?
I’m still a big believer in email. The right offer at the right time will always work.
I would still tell you to do it for the same reason that you do social. It’s a broadcast medium and especially useful if you are selling to business people. They design their days around their inbox. What are they doing today is, for better or worse, being driven by what’s been sent to them as queries and questions in their inbox, and you’ve got to be there.
They are checking on their phone, they are checking on the weekends and even if you are being affectively filtered as a low priority content you still can create content that keeps them subscribed, even if they’re not responding to a given email.
That being said, emails have to be really relevant, specific and contain the right value proposition.
One thing I will say about emails is that you should only do it as often as your content allows it. You can email every day if you have that much interesting content. Email is exactly what people expect even though 99% of the offers that people see are not of interest to them—but you are going to keep getting in front of them.
What about broadcasting content on social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn?
We’ve had the best conversion results by reposting blog posts into LinkedIn. That market place is probably a much better fit and there is more flexibility there.
Unfortunately, they are cutting off a lot of the APIs that allow the tools to automate that so it’s a little bit more manual but it’s worth the effort.
This is one of the ways that the magma helps format for search engines and hardens essentially on the surface.
I’ve always concentrated on writing about things that interest me and trying to be entertaining, interesting and funny, so for example, every time I give a presentation I make sure it’s posted on Slideshare to get it out there. It performs very well.