It's time for session 23 of the Content Champion podcast, and this time round I'm speaking with Stan Smith of Pushing Social.
Stan is a renowned business growth strategist, social media expert and content marketing coach, and uses his experience to help a host of high profile clients grow their online brands.
Listen To Stan's Show
Pushing Social was named as a Top 10 social media blog in both 2012 and 2013 – and it's easy to see why. Stan's lucid writing style and structured, positive approach to content marketing are just some of the reasons I'm a regular visitor to his blog, while his excellent podcast is required listening.
Stan was very generous with his time for our chat, and in the 40 minutes of our conversation he shared a number of content marketing gems you won't want to miss. His multi-platform strategy for promoting your blog posts is quite simply a fantastic approach to gaining more readers.
Here's what we covered:
- Stan's backstory and how he got started online
- The history of his great site Pushing Social
- Setting out a coherent content marketing strategy
- How to pick your key metrics and goals for content marketing
- How to research your audience and target market
- Planning content that will create the engagement you need
- What types of content to produce to gain the most interest
- How to consistently create high volumes of high quality content
- How long to blog for before you reach critical mass
- Stan's multi-platform strategy to promote your blog posts (great stuff!)
- How to turn readers into consumers of your products and services
- The best ways to measure the success of your blogging
- What content marketing trends Stan sees developing over the next 12 months
Plus! The PS Question! Stan shares a great advanced content marketing strategy that every business should be using!
Items mentioned in this edition
- Pushing Social
- 10K Pushing Social
- Facebook Groups
- LinkedIn Groups
- Seth Godin
- All Top
- Guy Kawasaki
- Google Analytics
Where to get The Content Champion Podcast
You can listen to the latest edition of the podcast below, or join my feed directly here: http://www.contentchampion.com/feed/podcast/
Alternatively, you'll find the podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud.
Thanks for listening, we really appreciate it. Please leave a review on iTunes if you like Stan's episode 🙂
Read The Transcript
Announcer: Welcome to the official podcast at ContentChampion.com. Join our heroic quest to discover truly epic content marketing. Introducing your host, the content champion himself, Loz James!
Loz James: Hello again. Welcome to episode 23 of the ContentChampion podcast. Thanks for listening. This time around, I'm delighted to be speaking with business growth strategist and social media expert, Stan Smith, of PushingSocial, named the top social media blog for 2012 and '13. Stan's insightful writing style means PushingSocial has fast become one of my favorite destinations online. With such expertise to draw upon, I wanted to ask Stan how small businesses can use blogging and social media to generate more leads, and the conversation that followed was fascinating. Let's dive in.
Thanks very much for coming on today, Stan.
Stan Smith: I'm happy to be here. I'm excited to talk with your listeners.
Loz James: Now, you're a business growth, content marketing and social media marketing expert. So I want to gain the benefit of your experience on how small business owners in particular can use blogging to get more leads. Before we delve into that, though, could you please tell me a bit about your history, and how you got started online?
Stan Smith: Sure. Sure. You know, I'm an Ohio boy, so I'm an Ohio boy living in Michigan. So, if anybody is familiar with the rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan, I'm in the middle of it right now. Like I say, I'm an Ohio boy, and I love computers. And really, that love-affair with computers and technology really started back in, I guess, the early '80s now, when my parents bought me a TI-99 for a computer. They called it the Bill Cosby computer, because he was the spokesperson for Texas Instruments back then. Then really, when I learned how to get that computer to do what I wanted it to do, I was hooked by technology ever since.
And then, I think in the last, in the later part of the '80s, I saw a movie called Wall Street. I'm sure all of your listeners are familiar with that movie by Oliver Stone. I just really got hooked by business. I'm not advocating that you follow the business tactics of Gordon Gekko, but I really saw a side of business, or I saw business in a way that really fascinated me. And really, ever since, I've been marrying that love of technology and business together.
Out of college, I started a web design company, and then at some point, I decided that if I really wanted to understand how to do marketing in a way that made sense, I was going to have to work with bigger clients, just not auto dealers and florists. I needed to work with bigger clients. So I shut down my web design business and joined one of those big advertising agencies, and that's where I've spent the majority of my career. So that's a little bit about me.
Loz James: Okay. So, this brings us on to PushingSocial.com. You're the founder and MD. What's the back story of this business?
Stan Smith: So, like I said, I've been helping businesses really get noticed and make money online for 18 years, that's all I've been doing. But about five years ago, I began dabbling in social media. And when I say I dabbled, what I usually do is, I just jump in and start something, just to get my hands dirty. So, I started two blogs that failed, utterly. I don't even think I got my mom and my sister to go onto this blog, you know? So, they just didn't do well. And I realized from those failures that I really was receiving some bad advice and information.
And I was really following a lot of the information given by the experts at the time, and it really wasn't translating into success for my blog. So, I decided to really start a counter-intuitive blog that marketed itself by really flaunting the rules. And PushingSocial was born, from really me trying to scratch my own itch. So, I really say that PushingSocial is successful today because I routinely challenge the popular wisdom or the etiquette and the best practices, and that's really translated into success.
Loz James: Okay. Let's dig down into the detail of today's podcast, which is Blogging for Leads. Where does this all start, Stan? I know a lot of businesses that have come to me that have tried blogging, but it just doesn't seem to connect with their readers, it doesn't work for them. What strategy should we be using? And should we pick our key metrics first, before we start to sort of measure anything?
Stan Smith: The reasons why businesses, in my opinion, don't connect is because they try to be something they are not when they go online, or when they start a blog. They try to translate their corporate speak into something that really isn't authentic. So I usually say that businesses connect when they offer simple answers to aggravating questions, okay? Go out there, find the questions that are driving your readers, or driving your potential customers mad. And then go about the business of answering those questions for them, in the form of content. You know, in this case, blog post.
You asked about metrics, and I really focus on a couple of different metrics. And I think we can get into that in a little bit, but one thought that I had is that, if you really want to bottle up, how do you connect? I think it really comes down to maybe three things: One is relevancy, so right stuff that your audience loves and can use. Frequency, you need to stay in front of your reader. I think a lot of business blogs don't do that. They write a couple of posts, they don't get the feedback they want and then they abandon it, and they say blogging doesn't work. But it's really a frequency game, and it's always been a frequency game when it comes to marketing.
And then, flexibility. Are you nimble enough in your strategy to do whatever it takes to get attention? To get people to come to your blog and to consume your content. So, relevancy, frequency and, I guess, flexibility, are really the keys to connection.
Loz James: Before we start all this, within our strategy, our planning, for how we're going to begin blogging, we need to find something coherent to measure, don't we, so that we can see whether it's successful, or not.
Stan Smith: You absolutely do. When it comes down to the metrics that you want to really focus in on, I just ask myself simple questions, and I find the metrics that reveal that performance to me. So, number one, are you getting readers? All right? That's the obvious first piece. And you can see if you're getting new readers if you use Google Analytics. You don't need a fancy package, Google Analytics is more than adequate to deal with many of the situations your business blog will be in. So, are you getting new readers? Where are you getting those new readers from?
Within Google Analytics, you're able to burrow down, look at how many readers you got, what percentage of them are new readers, and then you're able to dig down further and see where they came from. A lot of my clients are surprised by who is sending them visitors. You know, I had one client that swore off Facebook, but when we looked at their metrics, a lot of their blog readers were coming from Facebook. So that's number one. Are they spending time with your content? They say that the average college-educated person can read 450 words per minute, okay
So, if you were writing, let's say, 800-word, or 900-word posts, and people were only spending 30-45 seconds on your posts, then you have a red flag that maybe your content is not resonating with that reader. So, I would look at how much time are they spending with your content? Next, are they taking action? Look at your convergence. I'm still surprised by how many bloggers don't have goals set up within their Google Analytics set-up, okay, so they're not tracking how many people have signed up for blog updates. How many have downloaded a free report. But you need that information to determine is your blog doing what it's intended to do? Where should you go to actually start fixing some of the problems that you're seeing?
Another key metric is, are they coming back? Are you building your blog from scratch every single day? And if you're in that situation, then you're going to quickly burn out. So, you need to understand who is coming back to your blog, and where are they coming from? Where did you get that person from the beginning? So for me, I get a fair amount of visitors from Facebook, I get a fair amount of visitors from LinkedIn. But my repeat visitors come from Twitter. You know, and I spend a lot of time there just to make sure that I have a good base of traffic that I can work from. So, those are the metrics, those are the areas that I take a look at.
Loz James: We've touched on this as well as part of the content marketing strategy, where we're looking at what to measure. That ties into knowing who, exactly, we're writing for, and sort of where they're hanging out online, where they're coming from. What's the best way to go about this audience and market research?
Stan Smith: I think I'm talking to a lot of small business bloggers out there, but this really holds for any business. But you need to understand, first of all, what questions are being asked. Then you need to kind of go out and do some archeology out there. Some anthropological work. First thing is that I love Kora. Kora used to be predominantly tech, and it is still kind of tech-heavy, but Kora is a questions and answers site. They do a very good job at this. You can go into Kora and type in your subject, and you will get a list of people who are asking questions about that subject. Find who is answering those questions, and follow the breadcrumbs back to their blog. You may find a lot of your readers sitting on those blogs. That's number one.
Facebook Groups is another way of doing that investigative work. I love Google Search, and a lot of people overlook this because it's so common, but when you start typing in a search term within Google, Google starts suggesting terms. There's a lot of information in the terms that they suggest. A lot of times, those terms they suggest are questions. Go ahead and click on that question and see what results come up. The top results, Google has already done the hard work for you. The top results are the people who are most relevant to your audience. Go to those blogs. Go to the comments section. See who ... See the questions that are being asked there, that can give you some content ideas. See who shows up in comments frequently to answer questions. That's another person who's doing a great job. Follow them back to their blog. That's where your audience is probably hanging out at.
LinkedIn Groups, you can use them the same way as you would use Facebook or Kora, and just simply, at the end of the day, just ask your customers. You know? Where did you hear about me? Where do you like to spend time? Where do you get the best information about this subject? Listen to them, and set up a strategy to get into those areas.
Loz James: In terms of, we're looking at the planning for the blog content, you touched one there, as well. Perhaps when we find those blogs, we look at what are the most popular articles on those sites? What's got the most social shares, and perhaps come up with some alternative titles to some of the most popular content ideas on those blogs.
Stan Smith: Right. I think that when I'm going about looking for blog content, or really planning blog content, I do look for questions, answer those questions. Controversy. Businesses usually shy away from controversy. I'm not saying be controversial for the sake of being controversial, but understand what are the topics that really, people choose sides on. Your future audience is going to want to know where you stand. And providing a really reason point of view on something that is particularly controversial or provocative in your niche could be a great way of attracting more traffic. How-to.
You know, people love how-to, explanations, outlines, processes, steps, checklists. That's great content. And one thing I think people don't really ... At people in the social media niche doesn't really talk about is success stories. Find somebody that is using your product and has used your service, and they love you. And write their story. Talk about them. Talk about how your employees are delivering great service. Those are other ways of getting great content.
Loz James: And there's the adage, isn't there, that if you don't physically write it down, you don't make it real. So are we talking about using editorial calendars here? Is that something you propose?
Stan Smith: Well, here's the thing. I don't think there's anything magical about editorial calendars. I talk a lot about editorial calendars on PushingSocial, but I'm reminded as something that Dwight D. Eisenhower said. He said, "I've always found plans to be useless, but planning to be indispensable." For me, planning out your content strategy is the key. If one of the results in that process is an editorial calendar, so be it. But I really think you need to sit down and plan through how you're going to create and distribute your content.
Loz James: Okay. So, even if it's an Excel document, you've got your list of ideas, the types of content you want to produce.
Stan Smith: Right.
Loz James: You might say, okay, I'm going to do two posts a week.
Stan Smith: Right.
Loz James: And literally write it down, and say a few places where you're going to share those to promote it.
Stan Smith: That's exactly it. With my clients and students, I call them "content plans" versus "editorial calendars." A content plan for PushingSocial would be a podcast on Monday, four blog posts for the rest of the week, you know? And then we start to fill in the blanks. I maintain that entire process in Trello, which is just, really, an organizer application. I write down all my post ideas in there. I line them up with dates in there, and then I go. Other people use Microsoft Excel for that. That's cool, too. Whatever works for you.
Loz James: We're kind of reaching that question, which is the elephant in the room with all this, which I get from a lot of clients as well. And it's really at the heart of the issue for small businesses. If we've got all our ducks in a row with regards strategy, our audience research, our content planning, what's the best way to produce high-quality content in high enough volumes to get the traction you need?
Stan Smith: I think my answer is going to be, I hope that it's something your listeners haven't heard before, which is this: Is that take 10% of your revenue, and devote it to content creation. That means if you're making just $1000 a month, take $100 a month and devote that to content creation. Or, probably a better long-term strategy is to build a blog strategy that contributes cash to your bottom line. So, really pull your blog into your profit stream, and really hold it accountable for creating money. It could be a variety of ways. It could be advertising, it could be selling your own product, it could be selling someone else's product.
But you want to generate revenue. If you don't generate revenue from your blog, then take the 10% from what else you're doing. And then, invest that cash into hiring writers. Okay? If you have $100 a month, you can get four to five blog posts from solid writers. Okay? That gets you on the playing field, all right? And you can sustain that because you've made an investment by taking it out of your revenue. And then you just need to build a process for content ideation, so it's cheaper to hire a writer, if you give them what to write, okay?
So, if you have an idea, give them your editorial calendar. Say, I want to talk about this, I want to talk about this. And I'm going to guarantee you eight posts, if you can write these. And get a process, or run your article assignment, editing and publishing. But for a business, this might be the most realistic way, practical way of going about getting that high-quality content and the volume that's going to make a difference. Make sense?
Loz James: Hmm. And there's a fascinating article on PushingSocial on which you talk about the different types of frequencies and length of content, and things like this. And you come to the conclusion that at least two times a week is a good frequency, which you talked about in the beginning of the call.
Stan Smith: Right.
Loz James: Also, we're looking at, this does cause confusion for bloggers as well, and small businesses, is the length of content. You mentioned Glen Allsopp at ViperChill, who I follow as well. He writes his amazing 4000-word blog posts, and he does one a month. And yet he gets I don't know many tens of thousands of visitors to those.
Stan Smith: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Loz James: But realistically, people running a small business blog, you know, they might be able to write, what, 400, 500 words answering one of these questions that you talk about, and do that a couple of times a week? That's a good strategy?
Stan Smith: I think so. I like to base my strategies on the goals or the outcomes you want. So, if you want low ... And I say, and this may sound a little bit blunt, but I say if you want low success, then that's basically ... You get okay traffic, and you could check the box off of your social media checklist, then you can go out and blog once or twice a month. You can be successful blogging once or twice a month, if you're able to do what Glen does over at ViperChill, which is write incredibly comprehensive and relevant posts at the length that they really become references.
Loz James: Yeah.
Stan Smith: You know? That's on piece. I like to say if you're going to be moderately successful at what you do, so I mean, if you're getting enough traffic to really start to get some repeat visitors, get some subscribers, maybe sell a little bit of product, you can do that weekly. If you want to be very successful, then you're going to be at the daily range, or that two to three blog posts a week range. So you've got to pick your goal. One thing that I caution people against is trying to find that magic scenario where they only have to blog once or twice a month, and still get a ton of traffic. Unfortunately, content marketing is not set up for that type of scenario. You're going to have to build the tactics around the strategy you want.
Loz James: And obviously, for engagement purposes, we want to get in maybe some multimedia videos, and nice images as well, in our content. But in terms of content length, I understand after all the Google changes, the whole domain and the authority of the content, all of its pages are now a factor in how well the site is ranking, and the authority of the site. So, does it matter if the answer to one of these questions is 300 words? Another answer is 700 words, and then occasionally there's one that goes up to 1200, 1500 words? There's no finite content length is there, necessarily?
Stan Smith: Yeah, you know, what, I think that I would caution against the low end of that range. The people who can pull off writing 150 words are people who already have built their brand, and built their stage, really, somewhere else. So, a lot of people point to, maybe a Seth Godin. You know, Seth Godin only writes 150 words a day. And I'm, like, you're not Seth Godin. You know? He's built his audience in many different ways. And he's done it by publishing books, which are 35,000 words. You know what I'm saying? That's how he goes about it.
I would say that, really build a strategy, prioritize your time in a way that you can at least write anything north of 500 words. That is going to give, first of all, for your readers, it's going to give them enough information to be able to evaluate your expertise, so that you can really start to see some feedback, see some return from what you're doing. And then, on up. There's a very popular New York Times study that came out, and it's been circulating around the social media circles, which says that the longer content, longer your pieces, the more that it gets shared. You really want to start to look at, how can you put longer articles as part of your editorial strategy? It doesn't have to be every blog, but it should probably be one out of the monthly blog posts that you do.
Announcer: You're listening to the Content Champion broadcast, showing the best content marketing strategies across the web.
Loz James: We're back with Stan Smith. We've looked at frequency and length of content. How about amount of content? Obviously, this is a massive commitment, a long-term commitment for any small business to make. How many blog posts do you need on a blog before it really starts to gain traction from not only the search engines, but reaches a sort of a critical mass in the viewer's eyes?
Stan Smith: I could talk from my experience and some of my clients' experience. It seems to be there's no magic number, but it does seem that when a blog has at least 100 to 200 blog posts, I like to say 150 just to kind of average the difference there, that's when, first of all, you have enough pages, or enough of your blog posts, indexed in the search engines that people start to find their way to you by just doing searches on their own.
Loz James: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Stan Smith: And really, I think that’s the key thing here, is that for most bloggers, if you were to look at their analytics, you're going to see that the number one contributor of traffic is Google, okay? And if you understand that, then you have to realize that Google can only send you traffic if it has results to show, you know?
Loz James: Yeah.
Stan Smith: So, I'm going to beat a fellow blogger whose blog is in my niche. If he blogs once a month, I'm going to beat him, because I have 20 times the amount of posts in the same amount of period that Google can index. That's how it works.
Loz James: So, on that basis, if we're looking at a small business listening to this, starting a blog from scratch, right off, and it's cool, if they do two posts a week, it's going to take them roughly a year and a half to reach that stage, isn't it?
Stan Smith: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. I think that goes back to one of the most important mental shifts I made when I started PushingSocial. I said to myself and I said to my wife, because this was something that I wanted to turn into a business, I said that I'm going to give myself five years to be successful, you know? And that long-term view really allowed me to ... It allowed me to have the mindset that it became about grinding out that content, that great content. Finding ways of getting new content, and getting it out there. And I was able to see success in a year and a half, but I really think that if I needed to see the success in three months, I would have been disappointed and fell out. I think that's important.
Loz James: You said it yourself, there. Getting the content out there, that dovetails neatly into my next question, which is about promoting the content. And this is massive, really, because the old adage again of if you write it, they will come, doesn't necessarily apply to this, especially with the changes to Google, and everything else. So, what do your key content promotion strategies stand?
Stan Smith: I use a multi-platform strategy. One thing that bloggers have to realize is that if you are a writer, you are creating content that people really don't want to read, meaning that the majority of people don't want to read it, because the majority of people don't like reading.
Loz James: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Stan Smith: You know? You're going to have to find ways of taking that same blog post and translating it, or repurposing it to different mediums. I always tell my clients and students that, listen, once you get done with your blog posts, I would like you to pull up a recorder, get yourself a decent mike and record yourself narrating that blog post, and maybe throw in some color commentary in there. Basically, turn your post into a podcast, number one. Put it up on iTunes and let Apple work hard on getting you visitors. Second thing you can do is, take your key points and your blog points, put them onto PowerPoint slides and record yourself with a screen share application, like ScreenFlow or Camtasia, and create a screen-cast of it. Put that up on YouTube. Let Google bring you some visitors. Last, you can take out the audio and just put it up on SlideShare.
Loz James: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Stan Smith: So, I think you need to be a multi-platform blogger in today's environment. And then your social networks, I think people should be doubling down on their social networks. And the key with social networks is simply this: You need to be publishing great resource links on a constant basis. You're not going to see a lot of performance out of a social network like Twitter if you're only posting or tweeting twice a day, all right? Look at your activity stream. I'm sure you see hundreds of posts go by.
Loz James: Mm-hmm (affirmative)!
Stan Smith: You know? If you're going to make a difference, you need to set up a process that you're able to schedule 10, 15, maybe even 20 tweets a day so you can start attract that traffic to your blog.
Loz James: Oh, really? That many? So you've really got to get on it.
Stan Smith: Sure! One thing that people overlooked, about two or three years ago, Guy Kawasaki ... Guy Kawasaki runs Alltop. He's famous for being an evangelist at Apple in its early days. And if you sign up for Alltop, or you sign up for Guy Kawasaki's, or you follow him on Twitter, you're going to get at least ten tweets an hour, right?
Loz James: Oh!
Stan Smith: And that's just incredible. I don't see how anybody can keep that up. I don't know if that's a great strategy at that volume, but what I took away from that was, if you want to get Twitter traffic, you have to increase the chances that your tweet shows up in front of your audience.
Loz James: Mmm!
Stan Smith: So the best way to do that is actually to tweet really good information at a higher frequency, just to be able to get in front of your reader.
Loz James: And often, because you're doing this stuff yourself, you're producing the tweets, the Google Plus posts, whatever.
Stan Smith: Right.
Loz James: If you do too many, or you think you're doing too many, you're thinking, because you're in it from your side, you're thinking, oh no, I'm going to be bombarding everyone. But of course, you might put out 100 posts a week, share 100 links a week, and the target audience you're after, they only see a very few of those, a handful of those.
Stan Smith: That's exactly it. That's exactly. And Facebook itself, Facebook has a similar situation, right? Now, the big problem, or the big concern with Facebook is that it's been revealed that our people who follow us are only seeing maybe six percent of the content we put out there.
Loz James: Yeah.
Stan Smith: You know? And that’s just really got people out of sorts. And really, the only way to combat that is, one, increase the engagement that you have with the content that you currently have on Facebook. And another thing is, you're probably going to have to put more Facebook content out there. That's just how the social networks are created, and they are ... They have a strategy of getting more content from you. So, if you're going to play that game, you have to increase your content frequency.
Loz James: Are you doing any link building? Any sort of traditional inverted commas SEO anymore?
Stan Smith: You know what? Link building for me, I think it's part of my ... I get links naturally by writing helpful posts, right?
Loz James: Mmm.
Stan Smith: And people link to those posts. And those are high-quality links that Google actually factors in. I do a fair amount of guest blogging. Now, I can guest blog fairly easily, because I'm kind of a known quantity around the blogs that I work with, right? So I've built a relationship that I can get a post on Copyblogger or ProBlogger, where my audience is. For some niches, guest blogging may not be the best thing to do, because it may be hard, first of all, to get on a blog, and second of all, you may not get the traffic that you may have gotten in the past. So, really, for link building for me, I just write good content. Good to great content. And I also, I'm very big into podcasting and interviewing great people on my podcasts, which those people always put a link back to the podcast on my site, which is a great link as well.
Loz James: For sure, okay. Okay, so we've got all these people to our sites from the different promotional methods you've described. The content's great, they're thinking, okay, like I did when I came to your site, I want to get in touch with this guy. How do you convert those tire kickers into people that are going to consume our products and services?
Stan Smith: Right. Right. You know, and I wrote a blog post about this, a little bit, in terms of writing what I call "pre-sell posts." So, pre-sell posts are, you put yourself in the mindset of a person who's getting ready to make a decision to buy your service, and ask yourself, what do they need to know to understand my service? What do they need to believe to understand that I'm trustworthy and reliable and credible? What do they need to see? What objections do they have? What questions are they asking? Turn your responses, your answers, to those five key areas in two blog posts. When a person reads those blog posts, those posts are going to generate the man, because you are answering the key areas, or addressing the key areas they need to have to make a purchasing decision, okay? I think that's important.
A lot of times I see a blog start off, and they go, they start off their blog, and a year into their blog and adventure, they throw up an email opt, and that's kind of backwards. You should start collecting emails by giving away a very good comprehensive offer right from the very beginning. So you can start getting people on your list, and really, what that's all about is just getting permission to talk to them via email, or live, for that matter. You need that permission. And then, I like to deliver great content via email, and then once in a while make an offer. Now, I think that's a good way, if you're focused on your blog, that's a good way of kind of converting those readers into customers.
Loz James: Now, I've been on your list for some time. You share that high quality information that you're talking about, and it's tailored to that email list. Do you recommend at any point using blog broadcasts? I know Neil Patel does that. I do it myself, as well.
Stan Smith: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Loz James: Is that another good strategy?
Stan Smith: That's a great strategy. And I did blog broadcast, up to about two months ago. But what I was seeing is that my open rates were declining, okay, and I also was seeing that my click-through rates were declining, all right? So, what that told me is that people were anticipating that this is just a blog post update, I'll get to it when I can, right? Because they think they know what's in the email. What I decided to test was, I'm going to go out there and I'm going to write something personal, every time I have a new blog post, just to kind of touch base with people, let them know there's actually a beating heart on the end of this thing.
And, I tell them little things about, hey, I'm training for a 5K, I just came back from my run, and I thought I should kick out this post for you. People will tune back in to see what I have to say, because it's different. So, my open rates have gone up, and my click-throughs have gone up. That's just what I'm testing right now. You may do a blend of both, or you can just go ahead and send it out manually. Whatever you have the time for.
Loz James: So, email marketing at the heart of converting readers into consumers, but also what you're hinting at there as well is a personality behind the blog. Even if you are a small business selling training shoes, whatever, training equipment, you need someone to front that blog and be the personality of the brand, perhaps.
Stan Smith: Sure. I mean, I think personality is a competitive advantage, especially in a content economy. Really, I guess that's the new branding, you know? Having a personality. That's why I think small businesses, boutiques, they have an incredible advantage, because they have a lot of personality. And if they can communicate that, I think that works.
Loz James: Hmm. Okay. We touched on this at the beginning of the call as well, about the using Google Analytics and various metrics that we can look at to measure our success. What do you use in terms of conversion tracking packages? Is that something we can do within goals within Analytics to see that success?
Stan Smith: Sure. Yeah, Google Analytics does have the ability for you to set up goals, and you're able to track back your conversions to the content that generated that conversion, and that you're able to track that reader back to their source, or where they came from. You can do that within Google Analytics. If you're running a eCommerce store, where you have a more of a traditional eCommerce funnel, you can use a tool called Mixpanel. It's a paid tool, but they do a very good job of helping you visualize how people are moving from each portion of your blog, so you'll be able to see what is the conversion from?
Your home page of your blog to individual posts, and from individual posts, perhaps, to a landing page. And from a landing page into a shopping cart, for example. When you see that funnel, then you can get some very good information that can lead to some great insights. So, I use Mixpanel myself. Really, Google Analytics, I think, is the core, and when you really get comfortable with Google Analytics, it will handle 99% of what you need it to do. If you have a very specialized kind of a retail situation, I think Mixpanel is a great tool as well.
Loz James: If you're sending an eBook or something like that, and it's high-volume sales, is Mixpanel a good option for that as well, to see, to refine your funnel?
Stan Smith: Yes, I think it is, because really, what you're talking about is conversion. And one-page conversions don't really happen all that often these days. Really, a person is going to get to your landing page by coming from somewhere else. And really, the name of the game is if you have a really good converting landing page, for example, for your eBook. You want to make sure that not only is that landing page converting well, but you're getting as many of your blog readers to that landing page as possible.
Mixpanel, I think, is a great way of at least seeing a snapshot of what's working and what's not, so you can go in there and start doing some experiments around how to increase your conversion. And with that being said, if you use a service such as Optimizely ... I think it's Optimizely.com, actually ... They make it very easy, especially with WordPress blogs for you to swap out in real time headlines, bullet points, even price points.
Loz James: And you just used a term that I found particularly interesting, the content economy. If we broaden things out a bit and look at that content economy and content marketing in general, what sort of trends do you see developing over the course of the next sort of year in this space?
Stan Smith: I kind of have a jump on this question, because I asked this exact question, I guess in a little bit different form, to my guests on the PushingSocial podcast. And you know what? What I think is going to happen is that, first of all, I think Google will become the world's fastest and probably the most accurate talent scout, okay? So, you've got to think about that. Billions of people use Google. Google has an amazing amount of information on it. Not only who you are, but what you produce, and how people respond to it. So Google is going to get into the talent scout game. They're going to find your next door neighbor, say you're incredibly popular with this particular topic, let us give you a home page. Let us give you a YouTube account. Let us run your analytics. We will run your ads, okay?
Loz James: Oh!
Stan Smith: So, that's going to be, I think, something that's going to happen. So, they're going to use their platform to make ordinary people famous, in my point of view. Because, really, when you think about it, six billion people, there's probably a lot of people out there who are undiscovered, that Google probably already knows about them. I think that's one thing. I think social networks will become incredibly sophisticated reality networks. You've seen this a little bit with Facebook and their Paper app. And with Paper, what they're doing is taking your news feed and what you produce and putting it into a beautiful, succinct and linear form for people to consume. I think more people are going to do that.
And if you want me to go really out there, I think that the next rounds of mergers and acquisitions that's going to happen will be cable companies, like Comcast, and really Netflix, buying social networks. Buying apps. Because they're getting to the point where, and they just need to get their product into the life of their potential viewers, and the best way to do that is social networks and apps. So, I think you're going to see somebody like Comcast start to make a play to buy apps in the future.
Loz James: They're fascinating predictions, but is there room for the small business within this future? Is it just ... Are we witnessing a corporatization of the Internet? Or, is there room for the little guy, if you like? It's not a patronizing term, but the small business out there, is there still room for them on line?
Stan Smith: Absolutely! Absolutely. You know, I think ... And those predictions, if you just kind of take away all the fancy language, it really comes down to this. These companies, these large companies with huge platforms, they need content. Plain and simple, okay? They are the dial tone, they create all the technical whiz-bang machinery that makes all this go, but they need people who are passionate about what they do to create content.
So, if you're a small business, and you're focusing on getting content that your readers find incredibly useful, then these companies are going to find you. They're going to want to help you get your content out there. I really think that we're going to find that a lot of small business people who put their head down right now, they're going to get a call from Google. They're going to get a call from Netflix in the future. Because really, they're the next resource.
Loz James: So you can't have one without the other, they're inter-dependent.
Stan Smith: Yeah, you can't ... One thing that Google does not know how to do is create content.
Loz James: Yeah, they're very good at leveraging it, aren't they? But not at ...
Stan Smith: They're very good a leveraging, but they can't create content to save their lives! Really, Facebook can't, either.
Loz James: Yeah.
Stan Smith: You know? Twitter can't either. They can't create content, they rely on you.
Loz James: Well, that's heartening news, then. Everyone listening to this, there is a future in all this, and expect a call from Larry Page.
Stan Smith: Exactly, exactly!
Loz James: Well, that's fascinating. As I say, I love what you're doing at PushingSocial. I'm on your list. For those people who haven't been to your site, can you remind us where we can find you online, please? And remind us what sort of services you can offer.
Stan Smith: Sure. Sure, so I like to say that if you want to know what to do when it comes to content marketing and blogging, go to PushingSocial.com. If you want to learn how to do it, then you can go to a site, part of PushingSocial, which is called 10K, that's the number 10K.PushingSocial.com.
Announcer: Wait for it, listeners! Here comes the PS Question!
Loz James: This is what I call the PS question. Could you please share one advanced content marketing strategy with my listeners that they can take away and use right after this call?
Stan Smith: You know what? I think I stole my own thunder earlier in the call, but I say that invest 10% of your revenue in content creation. Give yourself the resources to be able to create high-quality content at a high value.
Loz James: Fantastic! It was a great tip. And a fascinating conversation. Thank you very much for your time, Stan, I really appreciate it!
Stan Smith: Thank you! I had fun.
Loz James: So there we have it, guys, that was episode 23 of the ContentChampion podcast. Thanks again to Stan Smith of PushingSocial for a great interview! As always, you can find this podcast on the ContentChampion blog, Stitcher, Zune, the Blackberry Network, and iTunes. Keep those reviews coming if you like the show. But, until next time ...
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