A leap of faith and the willingness to fail: Early adoption stories from SAP and Dell

By Lydia Laurenson

Leap of Faith

This post comes from Lydia Laurenson who has been working with us on the forthcoming big brand industry report. 

In the upcoming Brandopolis report about the content strategies at top brands, I have a section on Early Adoption Stories — tales of brands that managed to jump on a given content opportunity early and reap dividends.  SAP is a great example: the business-software brand was first to partner with Forbes through Forbes’ BrandVoice program.

BrandVoice (formerly AdVoice) was created in 2010.  The program enables big brands to essentially buy blogs on the Forbes site, and SAP was the first to sign up.  Michael Brenner, SAP’s VP of Marketing and Content Strategy, is one of many SAP writers to contribute.

BrandVoice and other programs like it have stirred controversy among readers and journalists.  There’s an ongoing debate about the acceptability of selling article slots to marketers.  Yet Brenner pointed out: “We gain access as advertisers, but our content is only getting viewed because it’s got good titles and good depth.  Forbes gives their advertisers’ thought leaders a voice on the platform, but the content stands on its own.  If we want to take advantage of the platform, we have to write content that the Forbes audience is looking for, on topics like the future of business.”

“I’ve fought some of the critics,” he went on, “because they think that BrandVoice and other sponsored content is not clearly identified [i.e., that it’s not marked differently from other Forbes articles].  I disagree.”  On the opposite side, many marketers wish that the content was very obviously aligned with their brands.  Brenner has argued against them, too, while reiterating a crucial fact about content marketing: that it can’t feel too sales-y.

Like many early adopters, Brenner and SAP have had to handle controversy — and risk failure.  I often heard from leaders at early adopter brands that the willingness to take leaps of faith goes along with willingness to fail.  As Brenner admitted, the SAP BrandVoice blog “has had some bombs,” although it’s generally doing very well for SAP: in mid-2012, AdAge reported that 60% of BrandVoice traffic came from SAP’s work alone.  That was an average of 90,000 views per month for SAP content.

“I really see it as an adventurous, somewhat risky, but rewarding experience for us,” Brenner said.  ”80% of our content may not do very well.  Going in, it’s hard to tell — you can’t just create a list of all the great titles and pay someone to go write them.”

General Electric has consistently been at the forefront of new opportunities across many platforms, and GE also allows for failure.  Their Director of Digital Marketing Paul Marcum explained, “For new hires, I don’t have a checklist [of skills].  Part of the question — part of the opportunity — is that I’m looking for someone who is willing to fail, people who are willing to take risks.  Happily, we are given permission to take risks here, and that may be on a platform that doesn’t have the reach of nearly anything else big old GE ‘should’ utilize.”

Risk-taking can be complex at huge corporations, which means that innovative brands often thank top executives for buying in.  ”This is very well coordinated with Jeff himself, our Chairman,” said Marcum.  ”His team of communicators and marketers meet with him once a month to align stories and make sure we’re all in sync.  That provides a tremendous amount of permission to do what we do.”

So with all this controversy and risk, what are the rewards?  One reward is that a brand can benefit within the marketing industry if it has a reputation for content innovation: such a reputation will attract talented staff, new content opportunities, and so on.  The main reward, however, is that brands that stake out a claim in a rapidly expanding space can win a large audience simply by being the only game in town.  As Paul Marcum put it: “It’s helpful to join these things early not just because you connect with people who are innovating, but because you grow much more quickly.”

…read more

Source: Distilled


Time For A Content Audit

By PeterD

“Content is king” is one of those “truthy” things some marketers preach. However, in most businesses the bottom line is king, attention is queen, and content can be used as a means to get both, but it depends.

The problem is that content is easy to produce. Machines can produce content. They can tirelessly churn out screeds of content every second. Even if they didn’t, billions of people on the internet are perfectly capable of adding to the monolithic content pile at similar rates.

Low barriers to content production and distribution mean the internet has turned a lot of content into near worthless commodity. Getting and maintaining attention is the tricky part, and once a business has that, then the benefits can flow through to the bottom line.

Some content is valuable, of course. Producing valuable content can earn attention. The content that gets the most attention is typically something for which an audience has a strong need, yet can’t easily get elsewhere, and is published in a place they’re likely to see. Or someone they know is likely to see. An article on title tags will likely get buried. An article on the secret code to cracking Google’s Hummingbird algorithms will likely crash your server.

Up until the point everyone else has worked out how to crack them, too, of course.

What Content Does The User Want?

Content can become King if the audience bestows favor upon it. Content producers need to figure out what content the audience wants. Perversely, Google have chosen to make this task even more difficult than it was before by withholding keyword data. Between Google’s supposed “privacy” drive, Hummingbird supposedly using semantic analysis, and Penguin/Panda supposedly using engagement metrics, page level and path level optimization are worth focusing upon going forward.

If you haven’t done one for a while, now is probably a good time to take stock and undertake a content audit.

You Have Valuable Historical Information

If you’ve got historical keyword data, archive it now. It will give you an advantage over those who follow you from this point on. Going forward, it will be much more expensive to acquire this data.

Run an audit on your existing content. What content works best? What type of content is it? Video? Text? What’s the content about? What keywords did people use to find it previously? Match content against your historical keyword data.

Here’s a useful list of site and content audit tools and resources.

If keywords can no longer suggest content demand, then how do we know what the visitor wants in terms of content? We must seek to understand the audience at a deeper level. Take a more fuzzy approach.

Watch Activity Signals

Analytics can get pretty addictive and many tools let you watch what visitors do in real time. Monitor engagement levels on your pages. What is a user doing on that page? Are they reading? Contributing? Clicking back and forward looking for something else?

Ensure pages with high engagement are featured prominently in your information architecture. Relegate or fix low-engagement pages. Segment out your content so you know which is the most popular, in terms of landings, and link that information back to ranking reports. This way, you can approximate keywords and stay focused on the content users find most relevant and engaging. Segment out your audience, too. Different visitors respond to different things. Do you know which group favours what? What do older people go for? What do younger people go for? Here are a few ideas on how to segment users.

User behavior is getting increasingly complex. It takes multiple visits to purchase, from multiple channels/influences. Hence the addition of user segmentation allows us to focus on people. (For these exact reasons multi-channel funnels analysis and attribution modeling are so important!)
At the moment in web analytics solutions, people are defined by the first party cookie stored on their browser. Less than ideal, but 100x better then what we had previously. Over-time as we all expand to Universal Analytics perhaps we will have more options to track the same person, after explicitly asking for permission, across browsers, channels and devices

In-Site Search

If Google won’t give you keywords, build your own keyword database. Think about ways you can encourage people to use your in-site search. Watch the content they search for and consume the most. Another way of looking at site search is to provide navigation links that emphasize different keywords terms. For example, you could place these high up on your page, with each offering a different option relating to related keyword terms. Take a note of which keyword terms visitors favour over others.

In the good old days, people dutifully used site navigation at the left, right, or top of a website. But, two websites have fundamentally altered how we navigate the web: Amazon, because the site is so big, sells so many things, and is so complicated that many of us go directly to the site search box on arrival. And Google, which has trained us to show up, type what we want, and hit the search button. Now when people show up at a website, many of them ignore our lovingly crafted navigational elements and jump to the site search box. The increased use of site search as a core navigation method makes it very important to understand the data that site search generates


Where does attention flow from? Social media? A mention is great, but if no attention flows over that link to your content, then it might be a misleading metric. Are people sharing your content? What topics and content gets shared the most?

Again, this comes back to understanding the audience, both what they’re talking about and what actions they take as a result. In “Digital Marketing Analytics: Making Sense Of Consumer Data”the authors recommend creating a “learning agenda”. Rather than just looking for mentions and volume of mentions, focus on specific brand or …read more

Source: SEO Book


Google Keyword (Not Provided)

By Aaron Wall

Just a follow up on the prior (not provided) post, as Google has shot the moon since our last post on this. Here’s a quick YouTube video.

The above video references the following:

Matt Cutts when secured search first rolled out:

Google software engineer Matt Cutts, who’s been involved with the privacy changes, wouldn’t give an exact figure but told me he estimated even at full roll-out, this would still be in the single-digit percentages of all Google searchers on Google.com.

This Week in Google (TWIG) show 211, where Matt mentioned the inspiration for encrypted search:

we actually started doing encrypted.google.com in 2008 and one of the guys who did a lot of heavy lifting on that, his name is Evan, and he actually reports to me. And we started that after I read Little Brother, and we said “we’ve got to encrypt the web.”

The integration of organic search performance data inside AdWords.

The esteemed AdWords advertiser David Whitaker.

When asked about the recent increase in (not provided), a Google representative stated the following:

We want to provide SSL protection to as many users as we can, in as many regions as we can — we added non-signed-in Chrome omnibox searches earlier this year, and more recently other users who aren’t signed in. We’re going to continue expanding our use of SSL in our services because we believe it’s a good thing for users….

The motivation here is not to drive the ads side — it’s for our search users.

What an excellent time for Google to block paid search referrals as well.

If the move is important for user safety then it should apply to the ads as well.


…read more

Source: SEO Book