Q&A: What’s the Secret Sauce Behind Successful Content Marketing?

Content Marketing

One thing we can all agree on in the contentious world of content marketing: it’s important and it’s incredibly hard to predict.

We spoke with Skip Besthoff, CEO of content analytics software company InboundWriter, to learn more.

He tells us that it’s quite simple, really: as much as we’d like to think it’s all about the quality of the writing, topics and placement can determine whether a given piece will be successful ahead of time with a remarkable degree of accuracy.

Do you define success in content marketing as search engine results?

We do find that search engine rankings directly correlate to total page view generation or reach, and success is reaching your audience. If you want your content to be easily found and consumed, having it surface on search engines is important.

This is especially true for “evergreen” content rather than news-driven, topical materials. Ideally, you want your content to continue showing up in search results so it’s not dependent on news.

And some sites have a built-in advantage on that front?

Yes. The success of any given piece of content is driven primarily by two factors: the topic at hand and the site on which it’s published.

Google has a sense that Adobe is an authority where Inbound is an upstart, so Adobe content will be higher in rankings than your site if both are writing on the same topic (all other factors being equal).

You can’t influence that fact. Here’s what you can influence: writing on a unique topic and finding the proper space to host it. If those factors don’t line up, the piece will not be successful.

Doesn’t this contradict the idea that content must, above all, deliver value?

It does not. There’s an implicit assumption that you’re going to write it well, otherwise you shouldn’t bother writing it in the first place.

But there are still people who write great pieces that fail, either because they can’t find an audience or because they don’t write it in a way that gives it an opportunity to succeed. We say you need some directional guidance before you put the time into creating the content, which is what our new predictive analytics software is all about.

Inbound 2

[Software screenshot]

What are content marketers doing wrong now?

Right now, most are either guessing/going with their gut on what will succeed or doing a keyword-based approach in which they’ll write a piece and then dump SEO keywords into it. That’s wrong for three reasons:

A. That doesn’t improve the reader’s experience

B. It’s frustrating for the writer

C. It doesn’t actually work, because Google has now advanced to the point that it understands that “barbecue” and “BBQ” are the same thing and there are no “magic keywords” that can make a poorly-positioned piece of content perform well. There’s no need to load a piece with keywords, and Matt Cuts of Google very specifically said the algorithm is designed to avoid rewarding marketers who do that.

The example you gave via the new software is that a post on “good convertible cars” would outperform “best convertible cars for Summer.” Why is that?

The issues are: how unique is this take on the topic and how relevant is it? Many factors drive the performance of c0ntent, and in this example there is simply greater demand for content on the former because it’s more in line with the vernacular that people use to explore the topic.

So you ultimately want to improve results of content marketing pieces without interfering in the workflow itself?

Yes. Our research showed us that the performance of a given piece is essentially locked in before the writing/creation process even begins.

Also: once you have a good topic, the approach to SEO does not need to be so rigid and prescriptive. It’s better to simply use common sense to layer suggested terms into a piece rather than going in afterward and just repeating them.

Writers like it because they’re not big on SEO, but they don’t want to spend hours on a piece that won’t ultimately work.

Do we agree with Besthoff? Are topic choices and placement ultimately more influential than the quality of the work itself?