In my last Copyblogger article, I talked about how to build an agile content marketing team. This time around, I’m going to focus on how to determine the potential size and reach of your content marketing opportunity.
One way to accomplish this is to see if readers are already displaying a passion for your space. Are they looking for the type of content you’re producing, or want to produce? Are they sharing it? If you create the right content, is there evidence that they would be willing to do so?
Don’t leap to early conclusions just because you think your space is not sexy.
Consider Seventh Generation’s Facebook page. They make household cleaners, laundry detergent, baby care, and personal care products. Yet their Facebook page has more than 1 million likes and almost 60,000 people talking about it. Those are serious numbers.
So, let’s dig in and do the research. How can you determine the reach of your content marketing opportunity?
I’ve listed eight specific steps below to help you do just that …
1. Use a keyword tool to get search volume info
Start doing searches on keywords and phrases that are relevant to your business goals.
The idea at this stage is to simply to get some idea of how many people are searching for your type of stuff. You’ll want to try different types and combinations of phrases. There are many great tools for this kind of work. One that I often use is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool:
With results from the keyword volume data, you now have an estimate of just how often people are actually searching for topics related to yours.
Filter this information with your own knowledge of how likely these types of searches will move towards your conversion goals, or begin an ongoing audience relationship with someone that may become a customer at a later date.
2. Brainstorm targets in a conference room
In my eyes, this is one of the most overlooked steps in digital marketing today — simply putting your people in a conference room and brainstorming.
We all want to rush to our favorite search engine and/or social networking site and ask them to give us answers.
Don’t do that first.
The reason I insist on this is that effective critical thinking is what differentiates success and failure in this world. You want to exercise that brain of yours (and that of your team) every chance you can get.
If you are an expert in your niche, brainstorming with real people first is — in my opinion — absolutely the right way to go.
3. Develop a list of other sites publishing related content
Once you have an idea of the keywords for your space, go expand your search on some of them.
Make sure you place those key phrases in double quotes “” so you’ll get a refined list of sites publishing related content. Here is a sample search for “adult diapers” in Google Blog Search:
Fascinating, wouldn’t you say? You never know what you will learn when working on any given article … but, I digress.
Note that for many types of searches, the results may be highly commercial. For this exercise, we want to find the people publishing related content, so you may need to append some modifiers to see what you want.
For example, if you are in the machine tools space, you might want to search on machine tools blog (without the quotes):
Make a list of the sites you see as your content competitors in your niche. These are blogs or content-centric areas of web sites that are publishing related content.
4. Go to the other search engine
Now, head over to Bing and repeat the same searches (same goes for you Bing devotees, repeat your searches in Google).
This step is invaluable, simply because diferent search engines return different results. Doubling up can help add some bulk to your list:
In the example search I show here, only the first result is the same. This diversity continues as you comb further through the search results.
Use the other search engines (whichever it is for you) to increase the size and depth of your list.
5. Go get readership numbers
For those sites with RSS feeds, you can get an estimate of their subscriber base. The easiest way to do this is with Google Reader.
First, use Google Reader to subscribe to the blog, and then select that feed. Then, select “View details and statistics” as shown here:
Once you make that selection, you’ll get a report that looks like this one.
Of course, people use many different tools to read RSS feeds, and Google Reader is just one of them. However, one decent sized blog put Google Reader’s share of their subscribers at 59% back in 2009. That is probably a tad high, but even so, we can stipulate that the share of market for Google Reader is still very significant.
Use this data judiciously, and know that there are many other readers, but it will give you some feeling for readership.
Numbers from these tools are crude at best, as they are based on a small sample size of total web traffic, but they still should give you a general sense of the traffic to the site.
6. Find the large audiences on Facebook
Start doing some queries using Facebook Search to find the more active sources of the type of content you’re producing:
You should click through and visit the individual pages so you can collect data on how many people are “talking about this” to get (what I consider) the most interesting numbers. This will enable you to get a sense for your ability to reach an audience beyond your direct fans.
Then take the search a bit further and try other variants such as “mechanical engineering,” if that makes sense for your business.
You can also try searching Facebook groups:
Last, but not least, see if a search with your favorite search engine turns up different results:
As Bing has a direct data feed from Facebook, they may be the best source of data for this type of information. In addition to the differentiated data, you can also see which of your friends know something about the topic on their social sidebar.
7. Find the large audiences on Twitter
Now it’s time to repeat the same exercise using Twitter Search.
Here’s a search on the hashtag: #furniture:
You can try this as a non-hashtag search as well, or play with Twitter’s Advanced Search to see if you can get better results.
8. Sum up the social media analysis
Another way to get at this data, for both Facebook and Twitter, is to go back to all the sites you brainstormed and found in your earlier research, and see what their feeds look like.
After all, if they’re big on publishing content to their site or blog, chances are many of them also do some serious social networking too.
Of course, there are other significant social media sites, but the point of this analysis is to get a rough sizing of the opportunity, so you can decide how to invest in the strategies your content marketing team is working on.
Don’t ignore the other social sites entirely, just spot check them to see if they are active in your space.
Later, when you actually launch your content marketing effort, other sites may become large players in it, but seeing what’s happening on Facebook and Twitter should get you the info you need to begin.
The key thing to focus on is not the number of Followers or Fans, but instead on the interactivity. That’s the true multiple here.
People who initially become your Followers or Fans are probably not the ones you’re trying to reach. They already know about you! The payoff is when they tweet/retweet/share your stuff, because they’ll be exposing you to their audiences. That’s where things start getting interesting in social.
Cool, but what now?
After all this analysis, you now should have a good idea of what your competitors are doing in the space, how they are investing, and what your options are.
Here are four thoughts on how to process all the data you’ve collected:
1. Assess the Unique Advantages You Have
What platforms would they best work on? How does that match up with the audience you are trying to reach? Is competition already there? How will you differentiate? What level of effort will it take to succeed? These questions are a part of understanding what advantages you may have in approaching your content marketing strategy.
2. Consider the Potential Payoff
Are you looking to drive direct conversions? Build your brand by creating high levels of viaibility and showing your expertise? This is a key step in sizing the investment you want to make. Also, seeing how your competition is doing helps you decide how large a benefit you can get.
3. Decide on an Investment Focus
Now that you’ve scoped out — in detail — what others are doing, start thinking about the best way for you to engage in your social media strategy. Here are some questions to ask along those lines:
- Will you have a blog on your own site?
- How much high end guest posting will you be doing? Note that I consider it a given that you will do this at some level.
- Do you want to allow guest writing on your blog?
- What social networking sites will you be active in?
- How much effort will you put into social networking vs. writing?
- What role will giving interviews play in your strategy?
- How many conferences / speaking engagements will you (your company) be involved in?
You should put a lot of weight on what your content marketing team can actually pull off. Your subject matter expert (SME) may have some strong preferences, and that is a key part of the puzzle.
4. Decide on an Investment Level
This is where you have to do some math that is specific to your business.
Your research will have shown you what the competition is doing. You know what your budget restrictions are (or should be able to find that out). Now you need to make a call, but with the information you’ve gathered, you should be able to make a decision on how aggressive you want to be.
About the Author: Eric Enge is President of Stone Temple Consulting, a digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) firm. He is also a speaker at industry conferences about SEO and Social Media. Get more from Eric on his blog, Twitter, or Google+.