In the second part of the case study series, Brad and Daniel discuss how to make content easier to consume.
Brad shares the strategy he used that led to a 23% drop in exit rate and a 281% increase in average session duration.
Learn what sets great content apart from generic content, how to use images to your advantage, and even how to craft multilingual content to increase your reach.
Listen below for content creation insights!
- Methods to make your content easier to consume.
- How investing in content assets can bring down distribution costs.
- How to enter less competitive spaces with your content through multilingual content.
Well. Welcome back to Codeless radio. My name is Daniel and I’m joined once again by Brad Smith from Codeless. Hello, Brad.
Hey Daniel. How’s your day going? Good.
Good. Has the coffee kicked in yet?
It’s getting there. Yeah. Should we pretend like we don’t record these back to back or, or should we just run with it?
Exactly. In this case we had to record them back to back. So Brad was drinking coffee in an earlier episode and now he’s doing it again. So today we’re going to talk about, which is the second section of the content marketing case study, which is basically where you took a piece of content which you had written a couple of years ago and then you repurposed it, rewrote it to be able to get more traction and more visits on the page and then also get more people staying on the page, which I thought was an interesting metric to look at as well. So last time we talked a little bit about the psychology behind why you would rework old content and the idea of putting in a lot more effort on content pieces to raise the quality and also some of the traps that people fall into being too technical but not having the writing expertise versus writers who don’t have the technical knowledge. So it’s a bit of a paradox sometimes. So this time we’re going to talk more about how to actually make the content easier to consume. So you might’ve done the first version of this piece a couple of years ago, like you did and now you might be looking at ways to make it easier to get the audience to read it and to keep them on the page. So you had a couple of points in the article that you wrote that I wanted to go through and get your take on the first one being that very often high-quality writing or well-written pieces will use examples rather than generalities. So would you mind talking about that?
Yes. So one of the biggest things that we train writers on is to show, don’t tell. We don’t want you to tell someone that Facebook ads are important. We want you to actually show them why or how to do it. A perfect example of this is one of my pet peeves is when like first line in an article, a lot of people will do this overly general statement like Facebook ads are really important today and that benefits no one, it doesn’t really say anything. It just like is just BS. And so one of the things we tell people to do instead is to say, you know, X X companies spend $5 million a day on Facebook ads or X 98% of companies in MarTech are using Facebook ads to reach customers and on and on. Use some stat or some figure or some illustrative example like company X, Y, Z struggled to
get new customers and grow until they started using Facebook ads. And then they’ve grown 300% since then. So use some illustrative example or concrete kind of tangible thing to show what you mean, don’t just lecture. And so when you’re rewriting content, that’s one of the big things we look for is like where are sections that could be considered maybe filler to a degree where it’s just kind of like touching the high points on something but not really going deep. And how can we make those more impactful, more active, more actionable by giving concrete examples or ideas.
Yeah, yeah, 100% I’m thinking of Whiteboard Friday with Rand Fishkin if you ever look at those. He’s the master of just, you know, he’ll give you a kind of a concept and he’ll instantly jump into an example. And so it’s never boring and it’s also you go, Oh, now I get it. Because there’s tangible, you know, visual feeling to what he’s talking about rather than it just being this hypothetical, which is great. Yeah, make sure you do that with your content. So a lot of examples. The next thing I think which leads on from that which you’re talking about is custom images versus stock images. So what did you learn about that?
Yeah, definitely. So again, it goes along with this idea of show don’t tell. So by definition, if you’re showing people and demonstrating and illustrating not telling them, you need images to properly show what you mean. And so I, I don’t, we want our writers to use a lot of images, not because we require X images per hundred words or something crazy. The images are, should tell you or inform you of what you’re actually going to be writing about in that section. And so we do a lot of original screenshots for tools, for example, where you’re like actually showing something or if you’re trying to illustrate like an example of different ads showing up on Google ad words for some local pet food company. Like you want to show what these ads look like and what’s good and what’s bad and what’s going to catch someone’s eye.
And what’s not. But then the other thing that we do as well and more of our standard content is custom images for each piece of content we’re working on. And so the point here is that there’s a lot of things, there’s a lot of concepts that are hard to show good visuals for, especially outside of tools. With It’s really easy, but if you’re talking about like a process or if you’re talking about like a diagram or flowchart or whatever, a lot of times the only way to really illustrate something like that and just and to show something almost intangible or tough to understand is with custom illustration where we work with a designer and we essentially have the writer create a little brief that says, help me illustrate this concept here or this section of content, help me kind of like visualize this, whether it’s like a table or graph or whether it’s a process or flow chart, whether it’s just like a funny illustration.
I think I even threw some in just to be like a smart ass. Just like there’s some in this article where one was like this, like random Donald Trump looking dude and another one that’s like a poop emoji on like a treasure box. Just like crazy things. Just to help. Again, all you’re doing with this content is you’re trying to keep people focused on what you’re trying to tell them. That’s pretty much it. So sometimes that’s by entertaining, sometimes that’s by educating.
Yeah, definitely. And I, there’s a great example in that article of the hunter versus the farmer approach, which is a great one. If you have a look at that article, you’ll see it there and it just shows you immediately the concept, but in a visual way that’s kind of just, it’s different to when you read it.
There are other studies out there that already show better kind of content engagement with customers, illustrations that are branded. This stuff too makes it a lot easier to later promote. And so when it comes to promoting either organically like on social or paid stuff, which we’ll come to in a minute. Already creating these content assets makes that like 10 times easier and less expensive. So that’s also like a critical point that I’m sure we’ll touch on here. So.
Yeah, absolutely. Something else you mentioned too was that custom header images or may not be as valuable as actually having the images in the document itself.
Yeah, for me it’s all about how do we make intangible ideas concrete. For me. And so the idea of doing like a header image is just generic.You know, it serves no purpose other than other than to like momentarily break up the text, which is fine. That’s fine, but it’s not going as far as it could, I guess.
Yeah. Yeah, it makes sense cause I think a lot of people get trapped in that too. They spend so much time trying to get the header image right and forget about the quality of the images in the actual text itself.
Definitely. It’s one of those things where it’s like you need something there that works with the rest of the design aesthetically, but you don’t need to obsess over cause it’s kind of superfluous in a way.
Yeah, 100% and that’s what I love about your site. I think if you look at codeless.io, it is fairly simple and the words and the explanations are the featured part, you know, that’s what’s most important. You’re not getting trapped in that kind of, making it too beautiful for the sake of just imagery or things like that.
Thank you. Part of it is, is emphasizing what you’re good at and what your positioning is or USP from a business aspect. And for us that’s words. We’re doing a lot more stuff now with video and audio and other things, but it’s all founded on writing and copywriting in a specific way. And so that’s what we want to amplify. And the more junk you put on the page that distracts from that is not helping. Even if it’s beautifully done, it’s just distracting the reader from the ultimate objective.
Yeah, a hundred percent I couldn’t agree more. That’s my pet peeve of the entire internet. You have to read something and then 50 popups come up and it’s the worst.
It’s funny too, like news agencies are the worst about that. They’re like, Oh, how come we can’t make any money? And it’s like, because you make it a nightmare for people to read your shit. And that’s like your whole business model is people reading your shit and it’s, and the experience is awful. Yeah. That’s why you guys can’t make any money cause you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. Above and beyond that, do you remember like back in the day a parallax that like web design trend? Oh God, I loved that. Like where people would just throw in like random motion and stuff, but it was just distracting. It just distracts the reader from reading, clicking, absorbing, converting. I don’t know how to explain it without saying something really inappropriate, but it’s just a complete waste of time.
What I often say when I, when I speak about marketing to an audience, I say, you know, it’s funny that Wikipedia is usually at the top of every single search result and you know, it’s the ugliest site in the world. It’s just text, but everyone loves it because it tells you what you want to know. So I always go back to if that can rank, you know, that’s saying something.
So yeah, for sure. Uh, I think one of the best books on this topic is Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. but it’s brilliant in terms of like actually understanding how to consume stuff on the internet. And then also conversely how to serve stuff up to help people do that. And again, when we’re formatting content and we’re writing for the web, you use short paragraphs, simple sentences, more images, more line breaks. Like we’re doing all this stuff just to help keep people on the page and to keep people’s attention. That’s all we’re doing.
Yeah. Yeah, 100%. So one thing that’s really interesting to me is the idea of headline variations. So you mentioned one tool in here Thrive’s headline tester. I’ve actually never used it myself, but do you typically test different headlines for whether it’s for a couple of weeks or do you, do you have a process for that?
Yeah, on bigger sites we do. So we try to provide at least three headline variations for all the pieces we do. There’s a number of reasons for that. Number one, I’m not in the business of guessing. If you have a big site and if you’re competing on small margins, then you need to be doing things like testing headline variations that might get you 5% extra clicks, and no one can sit here and say like, oh, I’m an expert on headlines.
This one headline that I came up with and I thought it was awesome, is going to work the best. Like nobody knows. Nobody knows. So just test it then stop, stop overthinking it. Test a few ideas to see which one works best. You can also test headlines with ads. That’s another thing that people don’t do more of but they should is just run the same ad creative but change the headline and then whichever one works, then just go change it on your site. But then there are other, there are other tools like thrive headline optimizer and again there’s a bunch of other ones that helped you automatically swap out different headline variations because when you think about it, the headline is what is getting pulled on a search engine result page on a SERP. If you’re looking at a SERP, often you’re just clicking on like the brand name you recognize.
So if you see something on there and you see, Oh HubSpot, maybe the article is garbage but you know hotspot. So you’re just gonna click on that one because you know it. And then the other thing is an interesting headline or something that just sticks out and you again, you don’t know what’s going to work before you actually try it. So just test it. Yeah.
Test them out and change them if they don’t work.
This is more helpful on a big site especially cause you need a certain amount of traffic to actually see like worthwhile results and all this stuff. But again, it’s just another one of those little simple things where if you’re going to the effort of doing any of this stuff and if you’re going to the effort of like revamping old content that you already paid for once and you’re going to pay for it again cause it’s an asset and you’re trying to improve it, then you might as well try to improve like every little element of it.
Definitely. And this kind of leads from the idea of improving the content is re-purposing. So video or audio like we’re doing here. For instance, you know, this is an audio version of that article, let’s say. Right? Like we’re revisiting it in a different way. How does that play into, you know, these kinds of articles when you’re reworking them? Is that something you do a lot? Video and audio?
Yeah, definitely. So a lot of marketers have a backward understanding of how to scale resources. And what I mean by that is, on the one hand, they’ll say, Oh, this content and XYZ is too expensive. And then, on the other hand, they’ll pay a shit ton of money for advertising. And what they don’t get is like if you just paid 30% more on the content and invested like other assets, for example. So audio or video that you can repurpose. And then again, I keep alluding to it, but as we’ll talk about in a minute, when when you actually run ad campaigns and test these different variables, what you find is that these extra content assets will often bring your distribution costs down. So if these content assets, if you’re testing them on the advertising and distribution you’re doing, a lot of times you’ll see a lot better results over there and it costs you overall. It costs you a lot less. So maybe let’s say you pay like $300 for a video or $500 for a video, but you might save like thousands of dollars on advertising. And so it’s like, it’s a very clear ROI. But a lot of marketers again don’t have that understanding for whatever reason, they don’t look at it like that. So they spend, you know, 20 grand on ads and then like a hundred bucks on content and they can’t figure out why they keep having to spend so much money on ads.
Hmm. 100% because the content is not interesting and it’s like,
Exactly. You’re images suck. If you do have video, it’s like a crappy like B roll and stock image one. So it doesn’t really stick out and like people don’t really like it. It’s one of those examples again where maybe you invested like 100 bucks but it’s not really getting anything. So you either should invest like 500 or nothing on that video. Cause otherwise what’s the point?
Yeah, totally. Makes sense. And I think, again, if I go back to the whiteboard Friday example, I think they’re great, if you want to look at kind of, you know how to repurpose content. You said there’s the video version, there’s the transcript version, then there’s the SoundCloud audio version all on the one page. It’s the same content done three different ways, but you choose your preferred medium.
Even what we’re doing right now, this podcast episode is based on an existing piece of content. And so if I, if we had to record, if we had to come up with a topic and a script and record this podcast episode from scratch, it’d probably take twice as long to produce. But because we’re using existing content as the base and then we’re repurposing it several different ways, the cost to produce this episode is incremental. It’s very small comparatively.
Yeah, 100%. So it’s a, it’s a great concept in terms of repurposing, but then also adding those pieces to the same article. Right? Having them available as a different way to actually consume it.
Yeah. For sure. Cause even though Google ranks 10,000 plus word articles and we do a lot of that stuff and it pays well. Like in the long term, no one really wants that. No one person is going to sit down and read 10,000 words on something. And so you have to think of how do I make this as sticky as possible? And usually, that’s not a super long in-depth text only guide. Usually, that’s video takeaways, a podcast episode. I’m kind of like not that smart so sometimes I have to hear things like five times. And so I don’t know if you do this, but I will buy a Kindle book and I’ll read it and then I’ll buy the audio version and I’ll listen to the audio version while I’m driving or running and then I’ll go back to the Kindle and reread that. So there’s a lot of things that I have to experience multiple ways before it resonates. And we’re doing the same exact stuff here, you know?
100%. That’s, yeah, it’s a really cool concept. And I know, I know I’ve used it for myself with successful results and that’s, it’s great to see you know, in, in what you’re doing as well. So the last point in terms of making the content more easily digestible is multi-lingual content, which is something I’d never thought of honestly, but it was an interesting idea you shared is translating into other languages.
Yeah, for sure. So again, we’re talking about content production here. So it’s like how do you produce the most amount of content, high-quality stuff for the least amount of input, you know what I mean? So it’s a lot easier to take one piece of content and translate it into multiple languages and increase your reach than it is to create more unique assets to begin with. And we’ve worked with a couple of super smart clients that do this at scale. And so we’ll create like the English version for example. And then they have either individuals or teams built out where it’s like a production line where it goes to hit every different major language around the world. So a lot of Latin based ones. And what you also find is that a lot of these other places, their search results aren’t as competitive or difficult as they are in English speaking US, UK, Australia primarily.
And a lot of that has to do with money. So it’s not like, you know, USA is always number one in everything a lot of just has to do with like money and mindshare and whatever. So like again, every big tech company is, or most big tech companies in the world are in the US and so a lot of the money and attention and competitiveness is higher in the US than it’s going to be in Google Spain or Google Thailand. And so you’re repurposing stuff. So to have something translated into five different languages, it might cost you five or 10% more on top of the content you’re already producing. But again, when you think about the ROI of that and the reach of that it’s not even close. Like it’s so cheap in reality to do that than it is to produce a brand new article or um, continue pumping out the same stuff and going into like hyper-competitive spaces.
It’s genius really. And so true. And just thinking globally. Thinking outside of your own little kind of area of expertise. So that’s, yeah,
I mean the big caveat there though I will say is like your product or service has to work well with international audiences. So that’s an obvious caveat. But yeah if you look at content like production, then it’s kind of a no brainer. Absolutely.
I remember I wrote an article a couple of months ago on behalf of someone, and if for some reason it got picked up by the Italian version of Wikipedia as a reference link. And I thought, I don’t know who’s reading this or how, but thank you. It was great. Thanks for the back link. But you know, so it just goes to show, you know what I mean? That content wasn’t available in Italian I guess. So they went to the English version, but it just shows you that there’s a need. If I can repurpose that for them in Italian, maybe it would take off.
And again, the whole point of this, the whole general idea of this was like we took a piece of content. Everyone was leaving. The exit rate was like 90 plus percent or something crazy. What are the 10 variables that could cause someone to leave this article? And then how do I shore up all of those or the major ones. And so that’s all, we’re just kind of ticking boxes here. You don’t have to be some genius to figure this out. You’re just really like, you’re just looking at the potential objections. What is good about this content? What is bad about this content? What are things I’m not thinking about currently? And again, Google analytics will show you this page has an audience consisting of these people in these different geographies. So maybe we should just look at that and pick the top five languages and then get those, like it’s very simple and straightforward. It’s more about just doing it.
Yeah, yeah, 100%. In the first episode of this, we talked about the idea of monopoly and having the houses and you know, buying up the hotels and keywords and things. But if you think of the analogy, it’s kind of like if you’re improving a home, for every dollar that you spend on landscaping, it usually increases the value of the property by $25. And I think things like this are exactly the same. Custom images or testing headlines or whatever it is or repurposing. It’s all going to, if every dollar you spend is probably going to add, you know, $20 or whatever on value, let’s say, or views.
Yeah. The houses, it’s like kitchens, bathrooms, landscaping. Right. Aren’t those like the big ones? And then if it’s like a bedroom, you get to the master bedroom and you’re like, Oh, let’s just put some new paint on it. Like you don’t have to do that much to it. Content the exact same way. It’s like you should pick out a few key areas where we should invest more money and it makes a lot of sense to do so. But then there are other areas where we just need to like clean it up a little bit and get it out there.
Yeah, 100% very cool. Well I know with that particular case study, I’ve just got some of the stats here. You said the session duration increased by 280%. The exit rate dropped by 23%. So it was significant in terms of the value that you saw just with that one piece from republishing after you repurposed and rewritten it.
Yeah, exactly. So that’s not even with really, I think it increased a little bit in terms of rank and or visits.
Yes. I think it bumped up one or two spots. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it went from like two to three in the ranking.
But more than that, the people visiting were actually sticking around and that means it gives us a better chance of actually getting something from them. So without even increasing the position that we’re at or increasing the number of visitors, what we’re doing is we’re stopping all the little holes where people are leaking out of and we’re getting more use out of the people that we do have. And it was simple. It took like maybe a couple of hours. It was very, very, very simple and it accomplished something very significant.
Yeah. It’s a great tactic and one that is so overlooked. Now the other part of this, which is another huge insight, is the idea of distributing it. You know, getting it out there. And one of the things you said is that creation isn’t distribution. Not only is that a nice sentence as a writer, it’s also incredible wisdom. So would you mind explaining that a little bit?
Yes. So this pops up a few different ways. People think that they can publish something and it’ll rank well without doing any work. And unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Like the world’s too competitive, it’s too smart, whatever. People also think that by rewriting something that it should just automatically improve in ranking. And that, unfortunately, doesn’t happen either. We’re a content creation company at its core. So people ask us like, okay, so you do like reporting on traffic metrics and I tell them no. I tell them no because we’re not promoting it for you. So if we’re not promoting it for you, then that’s the ball’s in your court to do. Because when most people think of reporting, they think of like traffic metrics. Traffic metrics are almost a hundred percent based on distribution and promotion. And so you need like a separate game plan for that.
And I think that’s where I tried to make that distinction. And I think even in a future episode that we’re doing where we’re talking about like blog and content KPIs, I try to make the distinction of traffic, all those types of leading indicators are good. If you’re doing the promotion distribution and you’re doing the outreach and you’re running the ads or you’re doing the link building and the PR. If you’re doing all those things, you should definitely associate traffic leads, whatever with content performance. If you’re not, then you shouldn’t.
Yeah. And in the article at the end that you talked about the idea of using and this is more ad content, but it was leading to this piece, you tested it with this repurposed piece of content. You said when you change the audience make up, it got you a lower cost per click. The cost per click went down by about 70% so just testing different audiences with the same exact ads had a big difference.
So yeah, for sure. And you might be getting to this point too. But like number one, when you redo content, when you create custom images, when you create videos off that, again, you’re investing a little bit more money up front on the actual content itself. But what you’re doing is bringing down the distribution costs a lot. So instead of like I’m making this up but instead of like a dollar per click, can you get that to like 50 cents per click or 30 cents per click? I ran a campaign and I’m not an ad expert by any degree, but I ran a campaign and I think we were paying like 5 cents per click on Facebook with real audiences, not like random third world countries or something where they just like click on your ads. And again, it wasn’t because my ads were amazing.
It’s not because I’m a genius at ads. The content was good and we just kept testing, kept testing, kept testing. So we tested creatives. So we had like the typical kind of featured image blog posts that most people use. We did our own custom ones that are branded or specific to some point we did different copy. And we did videos too against all those. So testing the creative aspects is one variable. Creating placements was another. So generally speaking, if we’re looking at like Facebook ads, top of the funnel content should be like mobile-based. Its a lot cheaper usually for placements and then the other one’s audience. And it’s very simple and again, audience, especially for a company like ours because we’re not a product company where we just are trying to sell transactional item that’s like 10 bucks a month. We’re not like Buffer. I don’t mean anything bad about them.
What I mean is almost everyone in all walks of life could use Buffer. It’s a great tool for most people and it’s priced appropriately. And so, therefore, they can just hit almost any audience and see like pretty decent returns. What we do is so specific and it’s probably not right for 95% of the people out there or 95% of the companies out there. And so the audience has a huge impact more so than all that other stuff we just talked about in terms of like what we’re actually paying and the more we’re actually getting out of it.
So know your audience. That goes across many disciplines, but particularly in getting your content out there for sure.
And from a concept perspective too, because again, that’s one of those like generalities that people know they should be doing, but they don’t. And the way I say it, like I say stupid things on here and I say inappropriate things and I do that when I write because I’m trying to reach a very specific type of person who’s okay with that kind of stuff and who’s okay with polarization. Most people are not and we’re not right for 95% of companies like I said. So it goes beyond, like, it goes beyond just picking demographics off of a Facebook ad audience sheet of like, we’re trying to reach people between 15 and 30 in California who make more than this much money. More than all that. It’s like the actual psychographics. Like what is actually going to motivate someone to actually want to work with you or not. And by doing more polarizing things, a lot of times you’ll find better success because you’re gonna hopefully turn away all the people that you know, that doesn’t resonate with, but you’re gonna really attract, the people that you do.
Very cool. Well, yeah, I mean there’s, there’s some great insights in there, both in terms of, you know, how to make your content more digestible, but also the distribution side of it too. Just having an awareness of that, that, you know. This content ain’t gonna promote itself. It’s gonna need some help. So think about how you’re going to do that as well. And a lot of the time it means paying some fees to run ads or whatever.
But piggybacking on that point, the whole like, just publish it and, and they will come. You have to pay for everything today. Like nothing is free. Facebook organic reach isn’t free. Instagram is not free. Pinterest isn’t free. Content isn’t free. Getting your site linked to is not free. Like nothing is free. And when the world is actually competitive, uh, nothing is free. And so it’s just, it’s just a matter of varying degrees. And how do you get the most output for the least input?
Exactly. And if you have something of worth that people want, it’s worth spending the money to get their eyeballs on it. That’s the other thing too. You’ve got to know, you’ve got to trust in yet the quality of what you’re doing once you spend the time to create something of quality which is kind of the whole point of all this. Well, very cool. I love this concept. I know there’s some content on my own site that I can go back and repurpose and rework and advertise and do all those things. Great insights there and I’ll show for those listening. It’s been helpful as well. So thank you again. I’m sure we’ll see you in future episodes very soon. Thanks Brad. And if anyone wants to check you out, check out, codeless.io. That’s where you can find the man and his work. So thanks a lot.
Thank you so much.
To increase the effectiveness of content, Brad suggests watching out for fluff and replacing it with tangible examples. (02:49)
So when we’re rewriting content, that’s one of the big things we look for is like where are sections that could be considered filler to a degree where it’s just kind of like touching the high points on something but not really going deep. And how can we make those more impactful, more active, more actionable by giving concrete examples or ideas.
Marketers often have a backward way of approaching content spend. Here is how to avoid falling into the trap. (13:40)
When you actually run ad campaigns and test these different variables, what you find is that these extra content assets will often bring your distribution costs down. So if , if you’re testing these content assets on the advertising and distribution you’re doing, a lot of times you’ll see a lot better results over there and it costs you a lot less. So let’s say you pay like $300 for a video or $500 for a video, but you might save like thousands of dollars on advertising. And so it’s a very clear ROI. But a lot of marketers again don’t have that understanding for whatever reason.
Translating content into multiple languages can offer a cost-effective alternative to creating new content. (18:30)
And so you’re repurposing stuff. So to have something translated into five different languages, it might cost you five or 10% more on top of the content you’re already producing. But again, when you think about the ROI of that and the reach of that it’s not even close. Like it’s so cheap in reality to do that than it is to produce a brand new article or continue pumping out the same stuff and going into like hyper-competitive spaces.