Josepf Haslam, Senior Director of #SocialSEO, SEO & Social Media at EducationDynamics, is an expert at turning raw data into B2C and B2B content marketing ROI. In our interview, we cover the benefits of content marketing, and how smart workflows are critical for proving content’s value and impacting your bottom line.
Tell us about EducationDynamics and your digital marketing focus there.
EducationDynamics does lead aggregation for universities. In other words, it’s our business to help universities find interested, qualified students, and help those students find programs that best fit what they’re looking for.
We have a number of different specialty sites. I primarily work on Gradschools.com — which, for its vertical, has the domain authority equivalent of what ESPN has for sports. Google treats Gradschools.com as the authority for anything related to graduate programs online.
A big focus for us is content marketing ROI and social media efforts… after all, 99.7% of its traffic is organic.
Can you tell us about the technology your team uses to maximize your content marketing ROI?
Seems like you can’t go anywhere without hearing: “What’s my real content marketing ROI? What’s my ROI on social?” At EducationDynamics, we use workflows to take our content creation efforts and drive it right through into growth in our visibility, traffic, and sales.
Conductor Searchlight is a very important middle piece to everything I do. I use the Keyword Pipeline tool to track my content and social visibility, and then Page Insights to monitor performance. I tie it all the way through to our financials.
We’re having fantastic results with this content workflow. I have the Visibility Performance open in front of me right now, and I’m seeing that our visibility progress in two weeks we’ve had 241 keywords move to the first page of search, 283 move into the top 3, and 166 move into position 1.
Our traffic has rocketed too. August was our biggest month in recorded history, and September is going to be 60% higher than August.
We’re able to correlate all of this directly to our activity in Searchlight and maximize our social and content marketing ROI.
<<Editor’s note: Josepf’s C3 presentation on content workflow gets even more granular. Check out the slides.>>
What happens if a marketer is getting brand to their early-stage educational content, but that traffic isn’t converting. What would you tell them to change?
It really depends upon what you believe the role of that content is. If the role of that content is for conversions and you’re not seeing that you’re getting any from it, then you have to fundamentally rethink your strategy.
That said, a lot of content will pay off indirectly — you’ll strengthen your authority for relevant topics, and then your relevant listings and product pages will be more visible for qualified buyers who search for that topic.
It’s well worth doing, and because I have the ability to track it over time, I’m not as frustrated as people who are just hoping that certain content pieces will magically turn into conversions somehow. I have a longer-term view of it and again, using Conductor as my anchor point, I can prove content’s impact on my revenue. If I wasn’t able to prove it over time, I think I would also be very frustrated.
What makes content high quality in your eyes?
I tell my content creation team is they have only one KPI. Was their content shared or not? Is it shareworthy?
If they think they wrote a fantastic piece and technically it looks good — it’s got the right metadata, great keyword structure, and so on — but nobody shares it, it isn’t good in my eyes.
We need to build social shares and communities with our content; they are a vital part of driving content marketing ROI.
So, community-building contributes to your bottom line?
Building a community absolutely does contribute to your bottom line.
For example, we have military scholarships that we’re running off the website, and we made friends with a number of different influencers out there. We connected with them on different networks and reinforced their mission and helped promote them. When it came time to share our content, they were very receptive to sharing out what it was we had to say.
Social is about reciprocity. Even as a brand, you need to be liking, favoriting, retweeting and conversing with them to build a relationship. Once you do have something to share, they’ll take the initiative to share it because they feel like they owe you something.. There’s nothing manipulative about that, it’s just basic human nature.
If you don’t take the time to build a relationship, they’ll see your content and think, “Who’s this person?” If you want to get serious about social, you have to get serious about building and maintaining communities. You can’t just fire it up a couple weeks in advance of a new content piece you have. That’s an investment, and a lot of people don’t get that they need to make that investment yet.
A great side-benefit of community-building, by the way, is listening. If you’re active in those communities, you get to pick up on what’s important to them, and get great content ideas. It really helps spur your ideation process.
What channels and tactics are the best way to get content found these days?
The trick in digital media is that you have to constantly be out there looking and willing to try and experiment with things. You can’t say, “Oh, okay, we’ve got it. It’s infographics and Pinterest.” Because something else is going to come along six months from now.
And so that may be a little frustrating, but that’s where technology comes in. Conductor’s TrueRank, for example, helps you capture universal results like images, answer boxes, video snippets, and so on.
For example, one of my focal points right now is image search. Grad schools really had no real images on it. It had less than one-tenth of 1% of its traffic was coming from images, and that’s already shifted dramatically over the past three months as I’ve begun to create images and put them across the site. Google actually was putting them in image search results fewer than 24 hours after I published it on the website.
And so keeping a little bit, experimenting a little bit, maybe keeping the rule of well, 5% of what we do is gonna be some type of different media or some type of different experiment or we’ll try that Instagram thing we heard about or we’ll try audio or try video.
I think that you need to have programs like that and more importantly, you need to be able to measure it end to end. And that’s certainty…Conductor can be invaluable in helping you measure the long-term impact of what you’re getting from your experiments.