Interview #19 Transcript – October 4, 2013
Participants: Nicole Munoz and Martin van der Roest

Martin van der Roest: Hi, I’m Martin van der Roest, publisher of the Content Marketing Examiner where we continue to pursue definition and clarity for best practices for content marketing. Joining me today is Nicole Munoz, CEO of Start Ranking Now, an SEO and marketing company. Nicole joined us previously on an earlier interview so, Nicole, welcome and thank you for joining us again.

Nicole Munoz: Thanks for having me, Martin. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Martin van der Roest: Give us an update since our last conversation with you several months ago; what’s going on for you and your business?

Nicole Munoz: A lot has changed over the last few months and we just had that recent update. You know Google just made public about their Hummingbird update that went into effect a month ago but they didn’t tell anybody. But that’s actually a good change. We didn’t see any of our clients’ rankings drop so that’s always good news. That’s one of the important things on the horizon recently, because now Google is taking into consideration a lot more of what we call “conversational search” which is going to be even more important that business owners are paying more attention to content marketing.

Martin van der Roest: That’s a great cue up for the conversation we want to have today. Thanks for sharing that. The topic is the lifecycle step that we call Production, step four in the seven-step lifecycle we characterize for content marketing. It’s preceded by the editorial calendar or planning activity and it’s followed up by the publishing activity. Production is the segment of taking the planning, creating the content and that, of course, is followed by publishing. So assuming that the editorial calendar is in place, what processes do you use to develop and produce content?

Nicole Munoz: First we are assuming that the editorial calendar is in place, so if that’s in place and it has all of the information that we would need to produce content, for example, monthly topics based upon interest, mapping out all the different live events over the next 12 months, or the trade shows that the business owner is going to be attending, and taking into consideration the holidays. If we have all of that in our editorial calendar, the very next step is we take a 30-60 minute meeting between the project manager and the client to map out not just topic ideas, but trying to learn more about the client’s target market and to figure out exactly who they are targeting.

We have a different approach for the very next step after that. A lot of agencies may have staff writers that they might be using to ghostwrite content on behalf of the clients, but we don’t actually do that anymore because of all of the changes with Google’s algorithm for ranking sites with the search engine. Google today is all about transparency so what we like to do is go out and find an industry expert, somebody that already has a blog, somebody that is already involved in the space and has an online presence, a social media presence; they have Facebook fans, they have Twitter followers and they might even have an email list. We approach them and ask them if they would be willing to become our staff blogger for that specific client and write two to four different blog posts per month on behalf of our client and then also promote them to their own social media presence.

Martin van der Roest: Wow.

Nicole Munoz: That’s just a little different approach that we’re taking today, because one of the metrics that helps your site to rank higher in the search engines is whether or not you have a Google+ profile associated with your content and with your website. A lot of people already know that you can actually connect a Google+ page to your website so you can basically verify your website. What a lot of people don’t realize is that you can also attach individual Google+ profiles to anybody and verify that author to the actual content at an individual blog post level. What that does is allow us to verify our content with Google so Google can say, “Okay, here’s this writer, they have an established presence on Google+, they have people in their circles, they have this other blog that they’re verified and now they are publishing content on this other website and we’re verifying it, we’re connecting it,” and so that helps with the overall search and ranking.

By going by this approach, not only are we making sure that we are providing higher quality content for our clients, but we’re also taking into consideration all of the different metrics that we need to consider to get our clients ranked high in the search engines. That’s our second step, to find the industry expert that will be the out-sourced staff blogger for our client.

After that we have what we call a “kick-off meeting” between the project manager, the writer and the client. This meeting will be 60-90 minutes and this is where we’re actually coming up with the different topic ideas and we might plan ahead for a month or a quarter, definitely not the whole year because things change so much. This might be a time where we would create a list of epic cues and, like I was saying earlier, the Hummingbird update was really focused on conversational search so what that means is that when we create content based around how people are searching in Google to solve problems. That’s going to be better because before Google might show results based upon just key words but now it’s based upon the whole context of that search. So if we can create a lot of content based upon exactly the problems they are looking to solve, then that content is going to show up higher in the search engines. And then finally, the project manager would of course work with the writer to map out the publication dates for the content, we’ll have our editorial process and then once we get approval, the content goes live.

Martin van der Roest: This is great and I think that what you’re suggesting here is that there’s just no replacement for good content, and now with some of the recent updates in the search engines, as you point out, creating content that creates conversation. Let’s back up to, I believe step two, where you were commenting about your getting together with the project manager, the blogger and the customer. Do you have a technique for creating a sort of “message framework” to ensure message consistency? Do you do anything along that line?

Nicole Munoz: For us it’s been different for every single client. We work with a lot of small to medium size business owners who aren’t necessarily even clear on what their message is. So a lot of times we’re helping them to formulate even who their target market is. When we work with a lot of new business owners that haven’t really worked a lot in marketing, we go and look at their websites and what we usually see is that they have a list of all their qualifications and all of the services that they offer. But they don’t talk about why a customer should choose them; they haven’t even identified who their target markets are. When we work with a brand new client in the initial consultation, I will actually do that initial consultation and I will ask them to narrow this down to three different target markets. Who are your three biggest revenue streams? Who are the three biggest types of businesses or customers or clients that you get revenue from? And they might think that they sell to everybody but we always try to narrow it down to just three. We might have to redo their initial website because we like to build it so that when a visitor comes to that website they can self-select what target market they are in and then we’ll guide them, such as “I’m a corporate…” We work a lot with wedding vendors. Wedding vendors might work with someone that is going to plan the wedding, maybe I’m going to do corporate events, or maybe I’m going to do just birthday parties. Those might be three different types of target markets. So if a bride comes to your website, she’ll obviously want to go to the specific landing page about brides. So we’ll have them create a landing page all about why they’re the best company to choose for that specific target market to make it very individualized. And we do the same thing when we’re mapping out the content. We’ll identify who are our specific target markets. Let’s say you’re targeting teenagers, maybe you’re targeting this market segment and we’ll create content that is specifically targeted to that group. I don’t know if that answers your question, but that’s how we do things.

Martin van der Roest: That’s good. Let’s expand that a little further. We’re talking about blogging and writing; are there other media types that you offer your customers? For example, curation continues to be a topic we hear about where organizations are curating relevant content that applies to what they’re messaging and they comment on that and include that as part of their content marketing initiative. We’re also seeing more rich media such as PowerPoints, or just plain audio all the way out to video. Any feedback on production processes that might be related to media outside of text blogs?

Nicole Munoz: Yes, we do, do content curation, that usually falls into what we call our social media module or what we do involved in the social media presence. We’ll set up all our different filters and RSS feeds and subscribe to all of the relevant industry blogs as well as industry experts and create those funnels and drive it all into our tools that we use to go out and promote other people’s content. And that’s very important and very useful because what that does is our clients can get credibility by association. They get authority status by association because they’re out there promoting all this other really high quality content, becoming associated with that high quality content. Absolutely that is part of what we do with our social media strategy, it’s probably about 80% of what we do with our social media. We do the 80/20 rule where 80% of the time we’re promoting other people’s content and 20% of the time we’re creating our own content.

Martin van der Roest: Interesting. How about the other media types, the slides or audio or video?

Nicole Munoz: I do this personally all the time in my business for creating different content out there and we also do this for our clients when appropriate. The way I find works best for me personally, and this could be changed for other people, some people may find it easier to start with an audio, or some people might find it easier to start with writing an article, I think it really comes down to how that individual person prefers to create their content. What I like to do is to create a PowerPoint and then from that PowerPoint, create a webinar which then becomes a video. We transcribe that and pull out the audio so the audio becomes a podcast. The transcription can be made into blog posts, different social media updates and also an ebook which usually then creates some type of an opt-in to get the recording of the video and a transcript in the ebook format. If you go to any of my websites, my business website is startrankingnow.com, you can see that exact process of how we went from a PowerPoint all the way to the video and the ebook. We call it the “Small Business Success Kit.”

So we do the same thing for clients. Part of our service is we monitor the publicity opportunities. Whenever we can arrange a publicity opportunity, for example as a guest speaker on a real radio show, then of course we’re going to take that and transcribe it and create an ebook.

Martin van der Roest: Great idea there. Good strategy and a nice way to incorporate the different media types. Let’s jump to your implementation activities. What are some of the speed bumps that you have encountered with your customers/clients and what have you done to overcome those?

Nicole Munoz: The biggest speed bump is always lack of communication. We have to have a very good communication between our team and the client’s. On our part we always try to schedule two meetings a month of 30 minutes each, with the business manager or director of marketing to talk about what we’ve done. We try to schedule weekly updates to tell them this is what we’re doing; this is what we’ve accomplished this week. Where we have the breakdown of communication is when the client may be going to a trade show and didn’t tell us or they have an opportunity for a radio show or they got invited to go do something and they don’t communicate that to us because we’re just like their SEO team or we’re their content creation team. They don’t understand that we’re actually their marketing partner to help them to improve their presence online and just because something may or may not fit exactly with what we’ve mapped out, if we have an opportunity we need to be flexible and change that to help them and be their true partner to help them promote that new event that just happened. We’ve had that before where lack of communication where they didn’t tell us what was going on in the business.

One of the other speed bumps we have is the “business owner bottleneck.” This is when we have business owners that, for some reason, what to do it themselves. They want to create the content or maybe they just want to manage the approval process and the editorial process, and that can become a big bottleneck. Maybe they don’t have the time to actually approve the content and our staff is waiting for that approval or in some cases they are just very particular about how things are worded and they want to micro-manage the wording of everything. That slows down our production process, almost to a complete halt.

Another speed bump from several years ago is we had “ego issues” with a client that had a copywriter on staff. I don’t know what the problem was, but I personally think that he didn’t like that his boss hired us to do the writing. Everything that we sent him he knit-picked it to pieces and threw it back and said it wasn’t going to work. We finally had to say, “Sorry, we don’t think we’re the right people for you.” This particular writer (of ours) was writing for eight other clients and had raving reviews; she had testimonials from all the other clients, but this one person that was a copywriter did not like anything. I think that’s an ego issue. Those are the three biggest speed bumps that we’ve had in our business, but other than that I think that following the process makes things pretty straight forward.

Martin van der Roest: touching on the personality side do you find with larger organizations that content marketing still seems to be relatively new? It’s the new SEO, so to speak, so do you find that at a C-level there’s still not clarity about what this means and what it represents to the organization in terms of the resources, etc. So have you, to aid the process, needed to brief C-level folks about what this all represents, and has that helped in smoothing out some of the speed bumps?

Nicole Munoz: That is definitely a big concern. When you’re dealing with the C-suite, when you’re dealing with executives at that level it sometimes becomes more of a challenge to work with companies like that. Not because it can’t be done and not because on our part it’s difficult to create the content, but they’re dealing with so many types of layers of approval process and you have to get the buy-in from so many different departments, and so many different departments have to learn to work together and not be isolated. They might have their marketing department that needs to work with their technology department to actually get content published. In a lot of cases they may not even have a blog. They may have a database-driven website that no one is allowed to touch but the IT department. That presents a lot of different challenges, especially if you’re trying to create time-sensitive campaigns. People in the C-suite might assume that they know what they’re doing and they have everything together and they plan things out six to nine months ahead of time; I find that not to be the case. I find that usually when we’re working with C-suite everything is urgent and it’s next week. That presents to us more challenges, we have to work with the C-suite to let them know that we have to get everything done yesterday because they just told us that they’re doing this and it’s in five days. We have to get up and get going on that, but even when we do all of our part there might be roadblocks, like they don’t have the ftp login or that the IT guy is gone or they’re just not there. In those cases what we do is we insist upon two to four hours of a meeting where everybody is in the room. We have all of the key players—technology person, the people that need to do the approvals—and we actually try to work on the project together as much as possible and go through all the different steps and all the different prior events, and everyone leaves with all the specific tasks and follow-ups that need to be done by each of the individual players so everyone has an accountability together. Because if we’re only working with one person, I don’t think it has ever worked out.

Martin van der Roest: That’s great. I think the latter part of getting everybody on the same page is so critical and I think that’s something we continue to hear time and again. Nicole, if I knew nothing about what a company was doing internally, knew nothing about the processes you’ve outlined, the cultural considerations, etc., what would you identify are key performance indicators that reflect what’s going on as it relates to the production of content? So not necessarily the peripheral things, the illuminators like pay-per-click or banner ads that highlight the content, but rather for the content itself, what do you see are KPIs that a company would want to pay attention to related to production of content?

Nicole Munoz: KPIs related to the production of content, I ‘m not sure. The KPIs that we usually look at are after the content has been published. Those would be the success metrics such as how many likes, how many shares, how many comments did the content generate when we’re talking about a blog. Whenever we start a content marketing project, before we even get started on it, we want to ask ourselves, “What is the next step that I want my reader to take?” We should never just publish content, any type of content, just for the sake of publishing content. Every piece of content should have a goal. We should say, “After somebody comes to my blog, after they listen to this interview, after they read this paper, what is the next step that I want them to take?” Then we need to figure out how we can make that happen and then how we can measure it so we can improve the next time. Sometimes those next steps are simply a comment, or maybe a lot of times what we’re trying to do is to get people to opt in to our list, to our email marketing. So how many leads are generated from a specific campaign? Those are some of the high level things to look at.

Other considerations for the more technical people are to look at your analytics for the individual bounce rates of your pages. If you have too high a bounce rate on your pages we’ll know, number one, that that’s hurting you in the search engines because Google does look at your bounce rate to determine if your page is relevant to the people that found your website from Google. So if you have too high of a bounce rate, what you really need to do is edit that content to add more information, make it more interactive, just make it more high quality. Add some testimonials, link it to other areas of your website, do something to decrease that bounce rate to make it more relevant to what the people are searching on and how they’re finding that page. That’s another metric to be considering, if you can actually decrease your bounce rate, because bounce rate means that if somebody goes to Google and they type in a search query and they come to your page/your website and they click through and they immediately leave your website and go back to Google because they didn’t find what they were looking for, it wasn’t relevant to what they searched, then that means that they bounced off of your website. So Google looks at that and says, “Every time we send you people from our search engine for this search term, they leave. Therefore, your site is not relevant to this search query.” So if we look at the search query and what our content has, what page people are leaving on, we need to make that better to decrease that bounce rate.

Martin van der Roest: Let me go back to the so-called KPIs. The point is well taken–yes, the content is published. Is there additional, for example, a frequency of posts, the number of different authors, the variation in media type—do those play into any KPIs that you or you’ve seen any of your customers track?

Nicole Munoz: That’s a great question. That’s a very common question, “How often should I be publishing new content?” There’s a constraint with how often clients can publish new content based upon budget, but I think that’s the wrong way to look at things. Whenever we’re publishing content anywhere, whether on our blog or a guest blog post on another website, we spend 20% of the time considering everything I just talked about. It may seem huge to say that’s just 20%; what comes after that is 80% of actually promoting that content. That’s where you’re going to get more value from that content is by how much it’s promoted. There’s lots of different ways to promote your content online. Because if you create the best content in the world, you could create content 20 times a month but if that content is not getting promoted, if all you do is send a few links to it from your Facebook, from your Twitter, that’s not enough. You have to absolutely be out there promoting it. As far as frequency, we try to encourage a minimum of once a week to publish new content on your blog and your website, but that content should absolutely be promoted. If you can create more high quality content on a more regular basis, if you can increase the number of different authors, that’s going to definitely help also. If you’re using the strategy we were talking about earlier, where you’re recruiting industry experts to write on your blog as in-house staff bloggers, that’s going to help because they’re going to be able to promote that content all over their social media. So if you do that not once, but you have three or four industry experts providing high quality content on your blog, that’s going to be very helpful.

Of course variation of media types: for different customers, different target markets like different media. If you’re working with teenagers, I don’t know how many teenagers read blog posts. They want that interactive digital, they want the videos they want that audio, so that’s a factor also.

Martin van der Roest: You said something earlier that I’m sure will peak people’s interest, the whole idea of how you promote your content and we will leave that to another session. We’re going to wind it down here, but any other thoughts or comments that you want to get across in this topic of content production before we conclude our interview?

Nicole Munoz: The biggest thing I see in working with business owners, small, medium or C-suite is you just need to take action. Go out there and create something. Get started and you are going to learn as you go, but if you spend the next six months just thinking and researching and planning, that’s six months that you just lost. My biggest advice is just get started, just do something, just take action and it’s going to work out.

Martin van der Roest: Good advice: Just do it! Nicole, thank you. I appreciate your time and your insight and I’m sure this is going to be of interest and value to our listeners and readers, so thank you for sharing with us.

Nicole Munoz: Absolutely, thanks for having me.

Martin van der Roest: That concludes this interview. I’m Martin van der Roest with the Content Marketing Examiner where we’re looking at ideas for improving the content marketing processes and lifecycle.

END OF INTERVIEW