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Understanding the Content Marketing Pyramid
The Content Pyramid Part 1: Timely Content
Below, I am going to lay out my approach to content.
The CopyPress Content Pyramid is a macro-level production model for content. Every company will need to approach their individual content based on their buyer demographics. However, the Content Pyramid does provide the scaffolding for a smart approach to creating content that leads possible customers deeper into the buying cycle.
The pyramid breaks down into four levels:
We are going to start at the bottom: Timely Content.
I am not a huge fan of “blogs.” Most of the distaste for blogs comes from my belief that most companies use a “blog” as their primary content marketing channel. Despite my feelings on the utility of a blog as a catch-all content marketing strategy, it does have value when layered with other content marketing efforts.
Its main value is in publishing timely content. This can be content based on time-sensitive topics such as studies, surveys, and industry news. Blog content can also be highly branded content such as insight into how your company works as well as specific corporate views on industry topics/trends.
Essentially, timely content is all of your content that does not fit the purely informational/educational need of the resource center. Timely content helps inform your consumer on time-sensitive topics they are searching for and also helps them understand your company more.
On Blog Posts
The single highest traffic driver on the CopyPress.com website is our blog. Regardless of how much we invest in differentiated content types, blogs simply outperform in overall traffic.
Overall traffic isn’t the same as qualified traffic, though, and this is one of the realities that has to be addressed when planning out blog content. You must define the purpose of your blog content. Direct conversion from blog posts can happen, but the conversion rate simply will not be high.
Think about blog posts, along with all other timely content types, as a huge net. This part of the process is all about grabbing a maximum amount of traffic and pushing the value of this traffic onto other content types higher in the pyramid.
Before we dive too deeply into the creation of value from blog posts, let’s discuss the types of content that fit well into a blog:
On Value from the Blog
If our blog is just a huge net we are casting, what are we trying to catch?
We aren’t going to add direct sales to our list. If direct sales happen, it is gravy. The real KPIs need to be built around how the lowest portion of the pyramid can feed the rest of the content on the site and the overall marketing effort. This doesn’t mean you should take direct conversion points off of your blog; it does mean that when you are creating the KPIs for your blog, you should focus more on the items above than direct sales.
On Interlinking and Information Architecture
When you are writing timely content to gain more links, you are not focused on just linking to that specific post. Your blog posts have a shelf life due to their timeliness. What you want to do is use your timely content to attract natural links, and then use internal linking and informational architecture to drive the link value farther up the pyramid. When we get to sales pages in this series, we will discuss the overall difficulty of building links to pages with commercial intent. A great way to bypass this issue is to link from your link-friendly content lower in the pyramid to drive link value to your sales pages.
I like to follow the scaffolding of the Content Pyramid when creating an internal linking structure :
Remember that links have value for the end user as well. Moving timely blog readers into deeper informational content before delivering them to sales pages will yield better results from a conversion perspective.
Some other tips for the architecture on a blog:
Conclusion and Part 2
Timely content is a huge net you can use to pull as many buyers as possible into your purchase funnel. Moving these buyers further down the funnel will be the focus of future parts of the Content Pyramid, but looking at your blog in these terms will help you define a better strategy for your timely content. Blogs and news content should focus on timely topics and branding, with a focus on getting in front of as many buyers as possible and attracting links you can use to push the rest of your content types further up the search results.
It’s probably worth your company having a blog, but a blog should not be the only type of content you publish. Blogs are a great way to provide timely and timed content but there are probably better ways to provide useful, resource content for your customers and prospects. If you need help navigating how blogs fit within your overall content strategy, please reach out and we’ll help you to develop an effective content strategy that works for your business.
In Part 2 of this series, we will discuss resource content. This is the single biggest business driver that a content strategy can include. Resource content gives marketers a way to leverage Google’s reliance on informational content to drive potential customers to their more commercial sales pages.
Content Pyramid Part 2: Resource Content
In part two, we continue our four-part series on the CopyPress Content Pyramid. In the first part, we discussed timely content, the types of content that fall into this level of the pyramid, and the types of KPIs and values you should expect.
Remember, timely content is basically a huge net, and what you pull up from the oceans of traffic needs to be filtered into future marketing touches.
Now we are going to look at the real meat and potatoes of a successful content marketing strategy: resource content.
What Is Resource Content?
Resource content is generally evergreen content with a focus on informing the reader. Resource content differentiates itself from timely content in a few ways:
Really great resource content is focused on being THE source on the internet about the topic it is being written about. It looks to fully explain not only the topic but also any related topics and to link to articles in the resource center that may relate to the topic. Due to this, some of the content may be long. Formatting and page design must keep this in mind. Make the content extremely scannable, look to help your reader find the information they need quickly, and then lead them to more related information.
Planning Resource Content
Planning resource content is the key to success. CopyPress has built a tool called Thematical that we utilize to find valuable content topics, estimate their value, and measure that value after publication. However, there are a ton of great tools on the market that can help you get a plan going.
Here is what we need to look for:
As an example of ways to approach planning resource content, we will look at SEMRush. There are a ton of great tools on the market, but since SEMRush seems to have the best keyword data currently, I have found myself using it more.
Find the Full Universe
Our first step is to find the full keyword universe for our niche. This initial labor will yield better long-term results. You can prioritize the most valuable topics first to begin building equity while planning lower-value supportive pages later.
In their Content Marketing Dashboard, SEMRush has some good basic tools to get you started with your research.
The Topic Research module will help you identify the major topical clusters that you should use to begin expanding your keyword universe. They display both headlines that are ranking as well as questions that users search with to give you a good understanding of how to format and optimize your content. In the image above I have entered the term “content marketing,” which would be the starting point for the CopyPress keyword universe.
Even on this extremely macro view, we see the value of creating topics.
Traditionally, marketers would create a 10x piece of content and have an expectation for ranking for the above-highlighted terms. It may happen, but SEMRush is telling us that these topics deserve their own content.
The “Explorer” view on this tool allows you to save ideas to your Favorites so you don’t have to mess around with Excel sheets. The nature of the Explorer view also gives us insights into the content topics that should have resource-style content written for it.
The Content Idea column shows us the “winning URL” for each cluster. If the winning URL is an article, it may be a good fit for our resource center. However, if the winning URL is commercial in nature, the informational intent of our resource content may work against us. You probably want to carve with a scalpel and not a machete here, but generally speaking, I like to focus resource content on SERPs with at least three to five articles in the top 10. This will generally produce the best fruit.
Now things get a little more manual. While each of the spokes on the mind map we originally created for “content marketing” has value as a top-level piece of content, we need to fill out the content planning with supportive articles. To do this I entered “high-quality video” into the Topic Research tool and pulled out that term’s mind map. This gives us a two-tier view of topics we need to create to fully discuss the macro topics of content marketing.
The SEMRush keyword gap tool gives you the ability to find topics that your competitors are already using to win.
The real value in this tool is the “Untapped” filter, which will allow you to see content you do not rank for that your competitors do.
Generally speaking, high-value content is going to rank for multiple competitors. Using this general concept, you will keep keywords out of your research that may be randomly ranking.
Again, you should not build your strategy using keywords. You will need to use Excel to massage your data. Knowing whether your competitors have a research center for their content and the structure of those URLs can help you immensely.
You can then download an Excel version of this data and go to work.
In the above image I created a map of CopyPress.com’s gap in topics. Here are the steps I followed:
For example, this set of articles on phrases and cliches is a better fit for the CopyPress blog than the resource center, since we want to keep our knowledge base focused on topics a customer in our buying cycle may be looking for:
Once you know the topics that you want to focus on, you need to figure out the value they represent. If you have existing analytics data that you can use as a baseline for conversion rates, that’s great. In that case, you can:
If you don’t have analytics, I find it valuable to use CPC big estimates to figure out overall value. I know that this isn’t an exact science, but if you are able to isolate that a SERP yields a high number of articles AND has high dollar active bidding on it, this tends to be a sweet spot for marketing. Paid media teams are telling you these topics are rich in value, while Google is telling you the searchers are interested in learning. These are the exact type of users we want to feed-on information in our sales pages or push them into our Grind Content.
Formatting the Article
The first step here is to understand the types of articles Google is favoring for a topic. If Google is favoring list-style articles, it would make no sense to create a 10x definitive type of content for a topic. Google wants a list, give them a list.
When creating your style guide for resource creation, you should put together templates for the most common content types you see throughout your vertical. This will help writers quickly approach each topic and know exactly the content type they need to write to drive traffic.
Beyond the planning structure of the content, you also want to think about the following optimization:
Conclusion and Part 3
Resource content is something I could personally write a very long, very boring book about. This is a crash course into how resource content can be approached, but this is one place you do not want to speed through the planning of your content.
Resource content is the glue that holds the Content Pyramid together. It helps you turn your big traffic grab with timely content into visitors actively searching for your product or offer. Resource content should also influence your grind content and can help you find better-messaging fits for your sales pages.
People love quality resource content, but creating it takes time. Providing something substantive for people to refer to as a source of knowledge and expertise on a topic helps to establish you as an expert in that topic. Done well, resource content has an immensely long tail and can bring people to your business for a long time as they see your expertise in your specific field or topic. We can help you put together quality resource content, no matter the topic, and know how to structure and present resource content for maximum impact. Get in touch to see how your business could be using resource content as part of your content marketing strategy.
In part three, we will be looking at sales pages. These are my least favorite to create because it is an insanely difficult task. Great sales pages balance great sales copy and conversion optimization with great SEO. A daunting, but not impossible task.
Content Pyramid Part 3: Sales Pages
Now, we continue our four-part series on the CopyPress Content Pyramid. Previously, we discussed resource content, or evergreen content that allows your prospective buyer to find you in the research phase of their buying cycle.
Timely content, discussed in part one, is the net to find as many potential buyers as possible. Resource content is the meat and potatoes that starts bringing your prospective buyers deeper into your conversion funnel.
In part three, we’re looking at potentially the most important content on your site: sales pages.
What Are Sales Pages?
Sales pages are pages that only exist to initiate a conversion. Conversions DO NOT need to be direct sales alone, and they rarely are. Here is a list of content types I consider sales pages:
Sales pages are the deepest part of your buying funnel that live on your website. While prospective clients may convert directly from timely or resource content, those pages, unlike sales pages, are not created specifically for conversion.
The only job of a sales page is conversion.
The Nuance of the Sales Page
Since the sole purpose of a sales page is to convert a potential customer, we must balance several things properly to create an effective sales page:
Live or Die by the Headline
The most important part of your sales page is the headline. It immediately connects with your reader, qualifies their investment in reading the rest of your copy, and sets the stage for the eventual conversion. Headlines on their own are not meant to convert; headlines are meant to drive the reader deeper into your copy. Without that first step, your sales page is doomed.
Most sales pages I see completely miss the mark in terms of headlines.
Let’s look at the main sales pages (the homepages) for three SEO tools:
Further, they tie this headline together with body copy on the page:
This content also helps keep the headline from creating too much of a niche focus on the potential user, i.e. a focus on only non-pro SEOs. I still think Ahrefs can go further unifying the messaging on their homepage.
Internal sales pages often get even less love. Check out CopyPress’s terrible current content writing services page:
Just a keyword for a headline.
This is probably the most important page on our website currently, outside of the homepage, and there is nothing drawing a prospective customer to read more.
But we are sadly not alone here:
All of these pages have been written with an expectation that a consumer is going to:
This isn’t how traffic generation works. Our biggest net, timely content, will be pushing potential customers to our internal sales pages, and none of the above examples have headlines that interact with the desires of their customers. Further, even if a customer does come to the sales page from the homepage, we should be looking to build on the desires we already tapped on the homepage, not abandoning our sales approach for baseline information.
One thing you can do to improve the performance of your sales pages today is begin reworking your headlines.
But what about SEO?!
Most of the above examples, including CopyPress, use their headlines as their H1s and also have them as their title tags. A general guide to fulfilling the task of a great headline while keeping SEO top of mind is:
Body Copy: Supporting Your Headline
Your body copy needs to support your headline and create imagery in the customers’ minds.
The three SEO tools we looked at did not do anything wrong by discussing the features and utility of their products on the homepage. Where they went wrong was not discussing those features and utility in the context of the headline and desires triggered there.
A subheading change of “Whether You’re an SEO Newbie or Pro, You Will Love Our All-in-One SEO Toolset” would unify the feature exploration to the headline that currently exists.
Further, you could update the content in the feature list to be:
We are still laying out the functionality of the product in the above copy, but we are also crystalizing the desires of the buyer. They want to be smarter, they want their tools to make things easier, and they want to (above all else) get results. Key terminology changes like “rankings” to “results” can have a huge impact.
The opportunities to optimize this section of the Moz homepage are pretty obvious. They abandoned the very strong premise that Moz can make your “SEO smarter.”
Some subheadings that would work here:
Additionally, the copy describing each feature can do more to draw in the reader. The site audits feature copy could be improved with something like:
“Smarter Site Audits
All of these changes I spent less than five minutes on, and they aren’t great. However, I do think they show what is lacking in the body copy of the pages as they exist. The current messaging is disconnected between the initial headline and the body copy. Beyond that, the copy itself becomes super focused on features with no focus on why the customer may be looking for those features.
As you read through the body copy for these tools, you are left wondering: “Okay, but why do I choose you?” Each of these tools has very similar features, and each of them lays the tools out in the same way. In a crowded market, basic tweaks to messaging can have a measurable impact.
Copy First Design
We really focused on the homepage and support pages in this part. The methodology for any landing page focused on conversion can be the same:
The mistake CopyPress has made with its homepage and support pages is focusing on design first. We focused on just building the pages and optimizing them for search. I think this is likely how many companies approach sales pages. The way to get yourself out of this mindset is to start your page design and development with copy first. Create not just any copy, but high quality sales copy with the above focus.
A better example of a quality page is our newsletter sign-up page:
This page was designed around the copy. It has a solid headline with a focus on customer desire. We support that in the initial copy, and we have a clear testimonial to back up what we are claiming.
The subheading and reasons given for the conversion match the customer desire focused on in the headline. It ties the feature of the newsletter to the desire.
Conclusion and Part 4
Sales pages are the most important and most difficult copy you will write for your website. The copy will live on a fixed amount of pages that are your customers’ entrance into your buying cycle. You cannot spend enough time writing and iterating your sales copy. It should be an ongoing process of testing, updating, and researching. You need to set conversion rate goals, have effective measurement of those goals, and use data to make solid decisions.
Always use data to drive your decisions about what sells. Running split tests will help you establish a baseline for what customers respond to and allow you to build a “control” to test any new sales pages or copy against. You are aiming for incremental improvement but always set against what your established control produces. You should know that your sales copy beat your control, as an established and objective measure that you already know. We know of at least one piece of sales copy for a newsletter subscription service that remains unbeaten… since 1978!
Why not reach out to see how your business can use sales pages and improve your testing and data as part of an overall content marketing strategy?
In the last part of the content pyramid, we will take a look at what I call grind content. This is the content your prospective customers will interact with once they are in your pipeline. Grind content consists of:
This may be the most overlooked portion of your company’s current content marketing setup, and it is also the key to turning prospects into sales.
Content Pyramid Part 4: Grind Content
In part four, we continue our series on the CopyPress Content Pyramid. In part three, we discussed sales pages, which are probably the most important part of the pyramid in terms of building your sales funnel.
A quick summary of our four-phase journey so far:
In part 4, we’re looking at grind content, where prospects turn into dollars.
Grind content is the content you use to grind your prospects into fully realized sales. It is the connective tissue between your interactions with potential customers on your website and a signed deal. You are slowly grinding your brand message into the mind of your prospect. You are slowly grinding away at the possible objections that they still have about your product.
This is a tough topic to dive into in a single part of a report because I could realistically write a full business book on the topic. There are almost unlimited forms of content that fit into this group, and you should approach each content type uniquely. Further, the emails that get grind content in front of your prospects are themselves part of the grind.
Grind content includes but is not limited to: email drips, newsletters, locked content (i.e. ebook, research papers, conference slides), and case studies. Locked video, interactive media, custom tools, and webinars all can fit in this group as well. We are going to focus on only a few content types, and we can only deliver a macro-level view of each within the limits of this report. That is why I plan for our next multi-part series to be focused on grind content specifically.
While I think sales pages are the most difficult content to complete correctly, I think grind content is probably the most problematic within the Content Pyramid for companies to create.
The difficulty with creating grind content boils down to one or more of the following issues:
The other major issue to at least address is technology. Grind content can be utilized as lead magnets on your website, but their real power is going to be increasing the touches you have with your prospects. This means top notch email deliverability and the ability to customize drip sequencing is extremely important.
CopyPress just undertook the painful process of moving our CRM and email drip systems due to deliverability issues we found within our old system. As an example, our newsletter was getting a 2% open rate before we moved, and now we are averaging north of 35%. That is a huge loss in potential touches from underperforming technology. Make sure you assess the viability of your email system as a beginning step of your grind content process.
We are starting at your prospects’ entry point for your grind content: the email drips.
We recently went through a full reworking of our emails at CopyPress as part of our change in CRM and email drip systems. When we began working through the system, I noted that we were generally sending prospects one or two emails. The issue here is that leads need multiple touch points. How many? You will need to analyze your data to get a precise number, but research and experts put the number at anywhere from seven to 14.
Where I probably differ from most sales-minded folks is in what I consider a “touch point.” For me, a single email from a drip is not a touch point; an email drip sequence is. My logic behind counting an entire drip as one touch point is that an email drip should have a cohesive theme, messaging, and conversion point. This means each email builds on the last, essentially turning a full email drip sequence into a single piece of content, or touch point.
The reason many sales professionals would disagree with me on this is that it means rather than sending between seven to 14 emails, I am going to be sending potentially 35 to 70 emails across seven to 14 email drips.
My logic in the massive volume of emails needs to have some clarity applied:
We all get weekly deals and offers in our inbox from companies. There is an abundance of noise from companies looking to push customers into the sales cycle. You can differentiate your approach by taking a more grind-content-focused approach. By offering unique content, you are giving value to the customer with every email.
Personally, I like to approach individual email creation within each drip sequence using the tactics we discussed in the sales pages newsletter portion:
Key takeaways to try immediately:
Since you are going to need to test emails regularly, you will need to generate a large number of emails on a continual basis across your drips. This goes back to our conversation about the talent and value of a great sales copywriter in part three. If you can find a great sales copywriter for your sales pages, see if you can get them to write your emails as well. Volume may be an issue here, but that sales copywriter can at least get your started with planning and optimization.
I have enjoyed the launch of the CopyPress newsletter. When I say “launch” I really mean my taking on the newsletter with fresh weekly content. CopyPress has had a newsletter for years, but we just kind of fit content in randomly.
I decided that I wanted to begin writing again, but writing to an audience that may not exist on our blog was not appealing. So I decided to begin writing long form content for our newsletter.
Our only KPI so far is our open rate, which is upwards of 35% after 10 newsletters. Our unsubscribe rate is below .1%, and our current subscription rate gives us a net positive on audience creation.
The newsletter for me is a way to show potential customers our expertise in the content space and give them a taste for our overall methodology with regards to content. It gives me a multi-touch sequence where I am able to show potential customers what I know. In exchange, I am offering unique content and perspective.
I think this is likely where a lot of companies fall short, as we did. A newsletter with little value for the prospect will simply end up in the junk bin. A newsletter with little value for the prospect isn’t helping build the brand in the prospect’s eyes.
Another great example of an email, that I rely on heavily when creating our newsletter, is Lisa Barone’s Into & Overit. I love getting it in my inbox, and that is what I wanted to create for CopyPress with our newsletter. The strategy of building content that your prospects actually look forward to increases the likelihood that they will interact with the rest of your content and CTAs in a positive way.
Locked content is anything where your customer has an extra interaction point to access the content. This content can actually serve as the reason your customers come into your pipeline, via on-site lead magnets. Downloadables, content kept behind a wall, and content not available on the website but shared through email only are all examples of locked content.
I think the major mistakes most companies make with regards to locked content are:
Great case studies are a core component of your overall sales activity. They also need to be a component of your grind content mix. Specifically, customers who have interacted with your lead forms and have previously interacted with other content are set up to receive case studies and find them valuable. A case study based drip sequence allows you to slowly build credibility through documented effectiveness. Case studies help tie all of the claims you make about your product into observable KPIs.
I am personally having CopyPress move to an HTML-based case study system. This will allow us to more easily track interaction with this content. This doesn’t mean we will have them live on the website. Our plan is to still lock this section of the website, utilize it as a lead magnet, and further utilize it in our drip sequence.
We have now investigated the entire CopyPress Content Pyramid. In case we weren’t able to dive into the topics in great enough detail, I thought I would put together a list of recommended reading on the topic.