Content Marketing Case Study Part 1

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It’s no secret that content is subjective. But if thats the case, how exactly do you plan your content strategy around making something ‘better’?

That question drove Brad to perform this content marketing case study and gain impressive results.

Using specific rewriting and repurposing tactics, Codeless increased average session duration by 281.05% & reduced post promotion CPC by 70%.

In this episode, Brad and Daniel get into the nitty-gritty of content marketing case as they discuss the right way to repurpose content.

You’ll Learn

  • What content is worth repurposing.
  • When to target low volume keywords vs when to target more competitive ones.
  • How to rewrite content from the ground up to increase site traffic.

Resources Mentioned

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Daniel : (00:00)

Okay. Welcome back to Codeless radio. Great to be here. My name is Daniel Midson short and today I am joined by our very favorite content expert, Mr Brad Smith from Codeless. Hello sir.

Brad : (00:13)

Hey Daniel. What’s going on?

Daniel: (00:13)

I’m doing well. How are you?

Brad : (00:17)

I’m good, thank you. You’re trying to get some coffee going so we’ll see. Hopefully my energy picks up by the end of the episode.

Daniel: (00:22)

Yeah, well I actually quit drinking coffee a couple of months ago, but I still have the energy so I don’t know. You should have seen me before.

Brad : (00:28)

How, how long after you quit drinking coffee did you have headaches?

Daniel: (00:32)

Um, Oh, two weeks. I think two to three weeks are returned to normal sanity. And then I did tea first and I just now I just have water. I have a cup of hot water that I drink all day, like some sort of Chinese medicine remedy or something.

Brad: (00:49)

I commend your, uh, your bravery. I don’t think I have it in me. I don’t think I had the strength.

Daniel: (00:56)

Yeah, everyone says that. It works well for me. I don’t know. And I’ve saved a ton of money too by not going out buying Starbucks every day.

Brad: (01:02)

This is a totally, we’re way off topic already. This sounds really bad, but like I have a lot of coffee and then at the end of the day, if I’m still like wired, then you’re like, Oh now I have to like have a drink, like an alcoholic beverage to come down. And then you wake up in the morning and you’re tired and you’re like, I gotta drink more coffee again. And it’s like this awful cycle.

Daniel: (01:21)

I think that’s eventually what killed Elvis. The uppers and downers. I think they were prescription-grade. You’re on the low dose- coffee and alcohol.

Brad: (01:30)

So yeah, my goal is to die on the toilet.

Daniel: (01:36)

There you go. Well, this is a classy start to the podcast. If you’re still listening, we’re going to be talking about about the basically the content marketing case study that you did for Codeless, which I felt was really interesting and wanted to share your insights and what you learned as a result of essentially re-purposing or reworking one content piece that you had in your site. And it’s based on an article that you wrote a while ago, so you can check that out on get codeless.com but the idea being that the content that we write a lot of time, it’s subjective. We don’t know really what the quality is a lot of the time until we start to get those site visits, we start to look at our analytics. Is this article actually getting some traction? Do we need to rework it? And that’s exactly what you did, which was really cool. One thing that I did want to ask you, I remember a while ago reading an article from you about the idea, I think it was on search engine journal. And you said don’t invest in content unless you can be number one. And I don’t know if you remember writing that, the premise of that, if you wouldn’t mind explaining what you meant by that.

Brad: (02:43)

Yeah, for sure. So a really high-level content creation, content marketing today is way different than it was like 20 years ago or 15 years ago. And everyone told you like, Oh, just create content and like your business will grow. And like all that, like every dumb ass social media expert just was like making stuff up, you know? And so that was all well and great except for fast forward to today and like, everyone’s pretty sophisticated now. Like everyone knows they should be creating content in most competitive spaces too. So maybe, maybe you could still get away with publishing like 300-word blog posts and like some for some garden gnomes site or something super niche, you know, but, but for software marketing, any major space that we’re in, any major vertical, you really need to go above and beyond.

Brad: (03:31)

And the problem is that there have been a few studies that back this stuff up, but essentially like most, the vast majority of content doesn’t get clicks, links, shares. And so if you think about it that way, and again, we’ll link to these, uh, one was done by Moz. There’s a couple of others that they partnered with. If you think about it, the only point of creating content in the first place is to get like, red clicked, shared linked. So if you’re creating it and it’s showing up on position, you know, nine, it’s probably not doing its job. And then there are other trends too that are happening, like zero-click SERPs. So essentially Google’s answering questions before people even need to click into your results to find the answer.

Daniel: (04:14)

Uh, featured snippets, right? Same thing.

Brad: (04:19)

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. Instant answers. Kind of like all the different SERP aspects they’re bringing it, they’re even like, just bringing in snippets. They’re literally just copying your content and putting it on their site to answer queries. And yet, you know, they’re, they’re basically like stealing traffic from your own website, uh, which is definitely anti-competitive for sure. And it’s maybe a form of plagiarism but you know, they kind of do what they want until someone does something about it. So anyway, there are all these trends that are making it harder and harder and harder to actually get your content seen and ranked. And when you add that on top of the super difficulty and sophistication of most competitors, the only viable reason to create content anymore is if you can show up in like the top three because the top three is probably going to get 80% of the clicks.

Brad: (05:07)

And so if you’re outside of the top three, then you might as well put that budget into something else. Like just put, just churning out like average stuff that’s not going to show up is basically a waste of time. And so you might as well repurpose it, reuse it, rework it or spin up ads or something else. You should use a different channel.

Daniel: (05:25)

Yeah, makes total sense. And I think it’s a good way to start off. If you think, you know, if I can’t compete in this marketplace and get myself for this keyword or whatever it is to number one, two or three, then it’s not worth me even bothering yet.

Brad: (05:38)

It’s almost like, yeah, for sure. It’s almost like you should invest 300% into it or you should invest like 0% like there’s really no, there’s no point in investing in the middle ground.

Brad: (05:49)

Like if you’re, if you think you can logically over the next year, if you think you can only get it to like position seven then maybe it’s not worth doing. Maybe it’s worth picking a different keyword. Like I said, looking at other alternatives other than just like putting your head in the sand and like trying to do something that doesn’t work anymore.

Daniel: (06:07)

Yeah. Yeah, 100% and I think that’s a nice lead in to what you did with the article in the case study is that it was something that was performing okay, but it wasn’t ranking or I think more specifically in that instance, people were leaving, you weren’t getting the visits, you know, they were exiting the page very quickly. So it was a matter of kind of trying to increase that, getting people to the page, keeping them on the page and then hopefully, you know, having them not exit. That was really the goal with the re-purposing, right?

Brad: (06:30)

Yeah. More or less. There’s a few kind of classic things you can look for. You can look at pieces of content that are ranking like top of page two, bottom of page one. You can compare that with maybe like the referring number of domains of the overall site strength. There’s a few like telltale signs you look for when you’re thinking of like what content is right for repurposing, reworking, whatever.

Brad: (07:26)

So it’s stuff ranking top of page two, bottom of page one, maybe it slipped. So it was ranking, you know, top three, but over the last few years is come down. Other things to look for are engagement metrics. So you just mentioned a couple of them, like exit rate, time on site, bounce rate. I kind of look at those like all together on a page-level basis. I don’t think by themselves any one of those is that amazing? Because a lot of them can be skewed in different ways. Like for a landing page where you want people to hit and convert a high bounce rate, low time on site, that stuff’s not terrible. So there’s some subjectivity. So anyway, when we’re looking at pieces of content though, if I’m ranking okay, but there’s a super high exit rate, then that’s usually a bad sign.

Brad: (08:11)

And it’s telling me that again, if people are coming in on this page and how they’re coming in on this page, I usually it tells me that I’m not matching search intent well. So the content that’s there is not appropriate or it’s not what those people are actually looking for.

Daniel: (08:27)

Yeah, and that’s a huge thing I think I personally had to learn, I think a lot of writers have to learn is that, you know, or if you’re getting someone to write the content for you, probably even worse that you might have a great idea that you want the writer to write about or you might be doing it yourself, but does that actually match the search intent? Does that match what people want to know about, you know, those kind of metrics are going to teach you really quickly whether it’s interesting or it’s not some people hitting your site.

Brad: (08:50)

Yeah, definitely. I saw this firsthand because I would come up with like an idea that I thought was clever and I would try it and it wouldn’t work. But in theory, the idea was clever. It was a decent try. But it wasn’t performing well because I was trying to maybe overthink it and what I should have done is I should’ve done a SERP analysis. I should’ve looked at the content that was ranking. I should have used different tools to help us better understand what people are looking for. And that’s what we, we kind of train and teach our writers with now it’s like you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just here’s how to find the clues that are kind of already there and then here’s how to package it together in a structured outline to make sure you kind of covered all the bases.

Daniel: (09:32)

Yeah. Yes. It’s so true. It’s such a different perspective to come from, but it’s so much more effective as well. You know, it’s, it’s like you’re kinda like having a map knowing where you’re going versus just trying to find your way yourself. Very cool. One thing I love that you said in the early stages of the article about the case study was you said a keyword research is like Monopoly for small sites with low authority. You buy property, you add houses over time and then you trade those houses for hotels and make bank. I thought that was brilliant. Could you explain that a bit more?

Brad: (10:03)

Thank you. Yeah, this is another one of those things that people who’ve only worked on big sites don’t get. They don’t understand cause it’s really easy. I think I’ve repeated this from uh, an episode or two ago. But promotion and marketing for a huge brand is really, really easy cause like everything works. Like literally everything you try ends up working to some degree or another. Doing that for a really small site or a brand new site is difficult to impossible and almost everything fails and it’s really difficult. And so it’s kind of this like stair-step game where in the very early days you don’t have the site authority or the topical authority to really rank for anything, major in your space. So what you have to do is you have to like downgrade your expectations and you have to go after all the easy stuff first.

Brad: (10:46)

Then after, let’s say a year and with some other stuff with some promotion to some distributions and link-building, PR, whatever, you can raise your overall site authority, raise your topical authority on those things that you’ve already been publishing and then you can come back and go after bigger keywords because now your site should be at a point where you can compete for most of them, the big kind of commercial keywords in your space. But again, that might take a couple of years to get there. So you’re not going to not do content for a few years if that’s, if that’s one of your better kind of lead generation mechanisms. You just have to change your approach and then almost work backwards, go after the easy stuff first, low hanging fruit stuff first, then upgrade later when you can, when it’s more realistic.

Daniel: (11:32)

Yeah, I love it. It’s almost like the longer tail keywords are kind of like the little houses in monopoly cause you get onto the hotel, you’ve got keywords like marketing or whatever. Maybe that’s a massive hotel on the ocean front, I don’t know, but you know, whatever.

Brad: (11:47)

Exactly right. Like you have to start somewhere and you have to start like putting your stakes in the ground on certain things and that’s going to be a lot of long-tail stuff. A lot of really low volume stuff. And so you kind of have to like balance quality and quantity in the early days. And so this might sound weird, but in the early days, I almost recommend like you really need to push quantity a lot further than you think you do because you have nothing. You have to like start with something and you do that with a ton of quantity, then you come back and upgrade quality as you go.

Daniel: (12:19)

Yeah. 100% and that’s exactly what in these case study, that’s what’s happening is that the article was there, it was established so it had some real estate let’s say. But it wasn’t actually getting the results you wanted. So, um, one of the things that was interesting, you said you basically do almost like a, like a rewrite from the ground up, but before that you do pre revisions. So you kind of look at, you know, like you were saying all the keywords, you look at all the different analytics and that kind of thing. Are there any particular tools that you’d like for those that you’d like to use to do that? Pre revision?

Brad: (12:50)

Yeah, for sure. There are a few. So obviously just looking at the SERP, the search engine result page for that keyword or query is a good starting point. When you’re on that page, you’ll often see the people also ask questions box. Then at the very bottom, you’ll typically see other related questions and related searches. So that stuff in combination with actually looking at what’s ranking and seeing what they’re writing about and seeing how they’re structured. It’s weird cause to one degree you want to create some differentiation. So if everything on that page is a list post, maybe you want to do like a how-to. You want to try and give a different spin. What you don’t wanna do is try to use like a product page to compete with an informational or educational query where everything’s like a list post or how to post. So you have to understand what you’re looking at and why you’re looking at it. And then from there, we use market muse internally, but we also have clients that use Frase and there’s a bunch of other content optimization tools out there. We’ve also used SEM Rush’s content template content. Is that what it’s called?

Brad: (14:07)

Yeah, there are a few other things too. Even like readability for example. So, Grammarly I think should give you some readability feedback.

Daniel: (14:15)

Yeah, I think even Yoast to an extent, will give you readability scores if you’re using it as a plugin.

Brad: (14:21)

Yeah, exactly. So what you’re, you’re kind of pattern matching to a degree. So you’re looking at the content ranking. I’m making these numbers up, but if that content is like at a sixth grade level, then you don’t want your content to be like at a 12th grade level. You want it to be within a similar range. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same. It doesn’t have to be, you don’t have to copy what’s there. But you need to bring it more in line with what’s actually showing up already. Again, you’re not, we’re not reinventing the wheel here. We’re just like looking at what works and then trying to emulate that and then try to make it better. It’s very simple.

Daniel: (14:54)

Yeah, absolutely. Repairing and improving the houses that you already have. We’ll stick with that Monopoly analogy. That’s like repainting those little houses. There you go. So now we’ve got the, we’ve done the research. We’re clear that this is a decent article. We kind of know that there are other keywords we can put in there. We know the kind of search intent and all that type of thing is. Then we move into the rewriting and we’re going to go into, we’ll do a second session to this just to talk more specifically about making um, you know, republishing and things like that for the content. But for now, let’s talk about rewriting and how you tend to improve articles, you know, that have been prewritten either by someone else or maybe it’s something you wrote, you know, five years ago and now you’ve, you’re rewriting it. Do you have any particular, um, techniques that are top of mind? I have a bunch of you from the article, but things that you look for straight away.

Brad: (15:44)

Yeah, definitely. So the first thing we want to understand again, how far away is the current content from what it should be? How much of it is outdated, how much of it is a complete rewrite or are there just areas we can add on to it? And so very practically what we do is we’ll typically copy the content into a Google doc. And then we’ll also boil it down into almost like a brand new outline, but we’ll try to show with different font colors is this stuff is existing content and we’re just going to update it. This stuff is brand new content that we need to add or these sections are complete rewrites. So it’s almost like you start blocking out what almost like a storyboard in a weird way, what this outline should look like. And then from there, that’s when you can start the actual rewrite process is when, you know, what examples you’re going to use for each section, what stats or figures you’re going to update. What example that was used previously is no longer relevant based on whatever information. Kind of just like start, start to figure out all those little like variables within the actual content.

Daniel: (16:51)

Yeah, 100%. As a question to this, do you feel like the rights and needs the expertise themselves or to write the articles? I mean, can you write it just from research or is it better to have that subject matter expertise?

Brad: (17:05)

Both. I’m still on the fence. We try to look for writers with subject matter expertise in a particular space before we even work on it. One big reason for that is what I talked about the very beginning. Like it’s just getting much harder to rank content successfully. And so the content needs to be really good and if the content needs to be really good, it needs to be informed by some expert somewhere. Research helps. But there’s a lot of spaces too that are maybe technical or in some cases there’s not a lot of existing stuff out there around it. So you can’t just regurgitate existing stuff. Like it’s really easy to do that in the marketing space and that’s why everyone thinks they’re like a good marketing just cause they’re regurgitating other people’s stuff.

Daniel: (17:52)

Yes. Guilty.

Brad: (17:53)

So we also try to purchase, we also try to bridge the gap is the other thing we trying to do is we try to have the writer talk to and work directly with the client and or get the their client’s feedback. Like the experts within the team, their feedback on certain things. Cause what we want to do is say we want to like bring the two worlds together. We want to say here’s what users want to see, here’s what search intent looks like, here’s the topics we should be talking about. And then how can we layer in your unique point of view on these topics, which we don’t know or no writer knows. And that’s what’s always a little tricky at the very beginning is that again, like any writer you hire anywhere, even if they know what they’re talking about on those topics, they don’t know your style.

Brad: (18:39)

They don’t know your point of view. They don’t know your opinions. How do you get that stuff out and onto the page?

Daniel: (18:46)

Yes. Yeah, it makes total sense. Yeah. It’s always a bit of a gray area. I think in terms of, I think he was saying this in the article that you know, you might have the technical knowledge, but that doesn’t mean you can communicate it well as a writer. And so that’s the challenge is you know to have both those things in one person is almost impossible. So you’ve got to kind of find the middle ground and maybe it is, you know, going back and forth or how have you got to do it. But for I guess for rewrites it’s probably a little easier. But if you’re looking at updating content, you want to make sure that you’ve got some sort of subject matter expertise or someone who can make sure that they can correct it if it’s not up to date and not current.

Brad: (19:21)

Yeah, for sure. I mean a lot of times people like more technical, someone is the more booksmart someone is, usually the worse they are communicating ideas. When you’re writing that’s all you’re doing is communicating. And so a lot of times you need to pair someone like that with a writer so that they can understand how to actually frame the piece of content. So it makes sense to the average reader. The issue a lot of smart people have is the curse of knowledge and they think that everybody knows what they do and the vast majority of people don’t. And so there is a little bridge that needs to happen between the technical experts and the communicators to hopefully put what they are both good at together.

Daniel: (20:04)

Yeah, and I mean, and you, that’s something I’ve learned from you. That’s the reason that good, good writing costs so much is because you need to be able to communicate simply.

Brad: (20:13)

That’s the ironic thing about it is you know, the more simple you are, you know, as a writer, the more probably high quality you are as well.

Brad: (20:21)

Yeah, for sure. Especially writing for the web is another aspect of that. Like the more jargon you use, the more technical explanations you use. In a weird way, it almost makes you, to me anyway, it almost makes you sound less educated on the topic. Because you’re just like throwing around buzzwords, you know, it doesn’t really make sense to most people. Like I mentioned, uh, most people online are bouncing around. They’re multitasking, they’re doing like 100 million things. It’s not a, it’s not like a big don’t want to read a book or a novel on this topic. And so yeah, you need to also write for the format and that’s a huge part too.

Daniel: (20:57)

Yeah, 100% well, very cool. Well, I think we might end this episode here because we want to jump more into the details of making content easy to read and also, you know, republishing and distribution in the next section. But thank you. That was some really good insights. I think just in terms of not getting stuck in the quantity versus quality trap, you know, and also the idea of making sure you’re researching, you know, what the intent is before you actually go on publish. And also like what you said, you’re not, if you’re not willing to go 300% on something, then maybe you should go 0%. That was a great insight.

Brad: (21:29)

This podcast always ends so uplifting doesn’t it?

Daniel: (21:34)

That’s my job, you know, just to make it sound like you know you can do it. You can go for the 300%.

Brad: (21:40)

You should just pack it in now and quit. That’s what we’re telling you.

Daniel: (21:42)

Exactly. Don’t even start. No. It is possible, but it takes a lot of effort. Let’s put it that way. We’ll frame it differently. Very cool. Well, thank you, Brad. We will chat again very soon.

Brad: (21:53)

Perfect. Can’t wait.

How to determine what content is worth repurposing. Brad looks for these key elements. 06:47

There’s a few like telltale signs you look for when you’re thinking of like what content is right for repurposing, reworking, whatever.

So it’s stuff ranking top of page two, bottom of page one, maybe it slipped. So it was ranking, you know, top three, but over the last few years is come down. Other things to look for are engagement metrics. So you just mentioned a couple of them, like exit rate, time on site, bounce rate. I kind of look at those like altogether on a page level basis. 

Highlights

Writing content that is not ranking? Brad learned to implement this framework to craft content that people actually want to read. 08:51

I would come up with like an idea that I thought was clever and I would try it and it wouldn’t work. But in theory, the idea was clever. It was a decent try. But it wasn’t performing well because I was trying to maybe overthink it and what I should have done is I should’ve done a SERP analysis.

I should’ve looked at the content that was ranking. I should have used different tools to help us better understand what people are looking for. And that’s what we, we kind of train and teach our writers with now it’s like you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just here’s how to find the clues that are kind of already there and then here’s how to package it together in a structured outline to make sure you cover all the bases.

It might sound counterintuitive, but this is actually a  helpful content strategy for sites with low authority. 10:29

And so it’s kind of this like stair-step game where in the very early days you don’t have the site authority or the topical authority to really rank for anything, major in your space. So what you have to do is you have to like downgrade your expectations and you have to go after all the easy stuff first.

Then after, let’s say a year and with some other stuff with some promotion to some distributions and link-building, PR, whatever, you can raise your overall site authority, raise your topical authority on those things that you’ve already been publishing and then you can come back and go after bigger keywords because now your site should be at a point where you can compete for most of them, the big kind of commercial keywords in your space.