The costs of content creation are usually allocated to search engine optimization (SEO). After all, now that “content marketing” is officially hot again due to the intersection of social media and SEO, generally the SEO teams and their supervisors and often the VP of marketing (wearing an SEO/social media hat) determine what gets written about and how much content should be written. However, great content doesn’t only empower SEO and social media. When properly managed, great content also empowers your paid search campaign.
This week alone, the topic of the importance of great content and investment in content came up within our clients and in a discussion with a former colleague of mine, Stacey (Roarty) London at TextBroker. Stacey postulated that the vast majority of online marketers were significantly under-investing in content both on the SEO/social and search engine marketing (SEM) sides of their marketing initiatives. The conversation turned to the potential need for a “rule of thumb” for investment levels in content creation. After discussing that concept with her team, Stacey proposed a 50-15 rule. Fifty percent of SEO investment should be in content creation and 15 percent of SEM budget should be allocated to content creation. As you might expect, I greeted the idea of a one-size-fits-all rule of thumb with skepticism, a host of caveats, and conditions. However, because so many marketers and advertisers under-invest in content, I found myself thinking about all the reasons why those under-investing in content should consider ramping up that investment and how a rule-of-thumb might help them.
Below, I’ll cover primarily pay per click (PPC)-specific reasons to invest more in content creation, but as you might imagine, the same content investment can benefit both the paid and organic/social sides of the online marketing initiatives. Here are my five reasons and the rationales behind those reasons:
- Early lifecycle in content investment. If you’ve under-invested in content thus far, you may be far behind where you should be from the perspective of content for SEO and PPC. In the case where you’ve significantly under-invested, it’s easy to see where one could allocate based on a 50-15 rule. Start with content that surrounds your brand and primary product and service offering because that content will serve a dual SEO and PPC role.
- Brand-focused SEO isn’t where it should be. Google and Bing/Yahoo generally give brands a huge advantage in ranking for their own name, but sometimes that isn’t enough when it comes to phrases that include your brand. If you haven’t done the research to understand all the keyword permutations that include your brand (positive and negative included) and crafted a content creation plan around those phrases, you should probably invest more in that area. However, just because your SEO content ranks well for all that great content doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also bid on the brand phrases separately (with different ad copy than your organic listings) and even a different landing page. Repeated testing has shown that for the vast majority of online advertisers, the incrementality (removing click cannibalization) of bidding on brand keywords is still very positive, particularly when ad messages and landing pages are properly tuned and optimized.
- You have a content syndication opportunity. Most people think about content creation purely from the perspective of SEO and visibility on their site. That is often short-sighted, or perhaps short-sited :). If you have an opportunity to create content that will be published on a reputable site with great SEO, take that opportunity. Hey, you’re reading this column now and I’ve invested time and energy to write it.
- Keywords “failing” and competitors are able to bid on keywords you can’t buy because you don’t have the content to support it. Some keywords you want to bid on (or are bidding on now) may fail due to poor landing page match. Quality score may only be part of the reason. Sure, Google and adCenter may penalize your quality score slightly based on landing page relevance not being where it should be, but that penalty pales in comparison to the penalty your prospects and customers impart on you by clicking that back button after you already paid for the click. Revisit your most important and highest opportunity keywords to evaluate if your landing pages are all they can be.
- You have an opportunity to write content that’s exciting and interesting and may have social media pass-along and link bait potential. Many businesses are boring; it’s a fact of business marketing, but you’d be surprised at the content and article ideas a creative team can come up with that might get the attention of the social media ecosystem or blogosphere, resulting in links and both direct traffic and the benefit of those links across your entire domain. These pages typically wouldn’t be used in a PPC campaign due to low conversion rate, but when you’re getting the traffic “free” (after investment in SEO and content) and the validation of that content externally, this can be a powerful strategy.
Each business is different and therefore its online marketing strategy is different as well. So, you’ll have to evaluate the best investment levels for content creation for your specific business and where you are in the content creation lifecycle. Yet, when it comes to getting senior management to approve new budget, sometimes a rule of thumb gets you budget, other times even the most intelligent presentation as to the value of the investment of incremental budget alone might fall on deaf ears. So, feel free to use the 50-15 content investment rule of thumb or create your own.
There is of course a lot of discussion about content and what does and doesn't work online. Is long-form the key? Does short-form content have a role to play? Are there other factors at play?
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