What is your content’s job?
I bet if you asked twenty content marketers that question, you’d hear twenty different responses. Your answer depends on your goals and how content supports your business. Maybe your content strategy is all about bringing in new prospects and educating them. Maybe you use content to explore your big, envelope-pushing ideas. Maybe your content is designed to cement interest and loyalty at the end of the buying process.
But beyond supporting your bigger-picture business goals, does your content make money — on its own? What if your content was so good that it turned into its own revenue-driving product? Could content be your secret ticket to early retirement? Should you start browsing real estate on the beach?
OK, maybe not. But monetizing your marketing is still a very real possibility, especially for agencies, says Kathleen Booth, vice president of marketing at the digital marketing agency IMPACT. I called Kathleen to interview her about a completely different topic, but after one visit to IMPACT’s content-driven website, I had to know more. I asked Kathleen about the company’s content strategy, the decision to monetize the agency’s marketing, and how the team at IMPACT uses its own content as a laboratory to incubate their next great idea.
What Happens When You Realize You’re Not Serving Your Audience?
When you visit IMPACT’s site, you notice that it heavily emphasizes original content rather than client work. It’s filled with articles, videos and podcasts breaking down content marketing topics like how site speed affects SEO and what tech companies are doing about screen addiction. It looks more like a news site than an agency sales site, and that’s by design.
But the site wasn’t always this way. The decision to revise the focus had to do with who was visiting. Kathleen says that when she joined IMPACT in 2017, the website was averaging about 300,000 hits a month. “We were historically an agency that published a lot,” she says, but the site wasn’t catering to the people who were actually visiting it. “The vast majority of the people coming there weren't coming because they were looking for a service,” she says. “They were coming to teach themselves — to educate themselves and to solve problems about marketing.”
Powered by this revelation, IMPACT adopted a brand publishing strategy for its website to better serve its audience. “We put the content at the forefront and we really modeled it after publications like Inc. Magazine and Forbes,” Kathleen says.
How Focusing on Audience Leads to New Opportunities
Knowing that it had an eager audience helped IMPACT develop its goal to monetize. “Our goal at the end of the day is to monetize our marketing,” Kathleen says. She says the team was inspired by two books written by Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute: “Content Inc.” and “Killing Marketing.” “He talks about how when you really focus on audience first, it doesn’t matter what you’re selling,” Kathleen says. “You’ll have a built-in customer base for it.”
It’s a principle that has guided the team at IMPACT as they’ve sold sponsorships for podcasts, newsletters and webinars, as well as sponsored content that caters to their audience. “You can turn marketing into a profit center, as opposed to a cost center,” Kathleen says, again echoing another of Pulizzi’s points.
But paid sponsorships aren’t the only opportunities IMPACT gets from its marketing efforts. There also are internal benefits, Kathleen says, and the branded publishing side gives the agency license to experiment. “My team is charged with being the laboratory for the agency,” she says. “It’s our opportunity to trial things and figure out what works, so that we can then disseminate those lessons to our client-facing teams.”
“You can turn marketing into a profit center, as opposed to a cost center.”
How to Keep Your SEO Strategy Up to Date
No matter how insightful IMPACT’s content is — or how large its audience — the company still deals with the same fundamental issue all marketing teams have: How do we get our content in front of the right people? IMPACT has always had a focus on SEO; in fact, an enviable majority of their traffic comes from organic search. However, the company also has embraced a new strategy: targeting Google’s featured snippets.
Kathleen says the importance of featured snippets in SEO strategy will only increase as voice search becomes more prevalent. Right now, voice search only returns one result to users, and it’s a challenge to be that result. “It’s a winner-take-all kind of environment, so the snippet is really important,” she says.
Her advice for getting your piece of content to be that snippet? “Focus on articles where you’re already ranking in the top 10 of Google search results,” Kathleen says. “It’s picking snippet winners from those top results.” And for those articles in the 10-20 range? Go ahead and add a snippet anyway. “I have seen that in almost every case, we jump at least one or two rankings by having a snippet.”
But remember that today’s hot trend could be tomorrow’s old news. “It's a different world than it used to be,” Kathleen says. That means the team at IMPACT, and content teams everywhere, have to always keep one eye on what’s coming next. One good place to stay informed? IMPACT. We’ll be watching, too.
Kathleen Booth will be speaking about featured snippets at MarketingProfs B2B Forum this fall. Mary Ellen Slayter and I will be there too, talking about how content marketers can stop “singing for their supper.” Join us and use code B2BFriend19 for $100 off your ticket.
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