Content Syndication: A case for why it works.
Because I can only produce a handful of finished furniture projects a year, I’m limited in what I can actually showcase as new posts for my site. So instead, I rely on the content associated with a broader range of my woodworking experiences. With a bit of planning, this content becomes the blueprint for defining who I am online. The content I create and publish is a direct reflection of my own personal brand, Brownell Furniture, and in-turn, drives how people come across my site through a wide range of search terms. This is what I refer to as the principle of “getting found“.
The same principle of “getting found” applies as much to the biggest consumer brands as it does to my puny little woodworking blog out of Cincinnati.
Content: The Magic Elixir
Google loves original, relevant content – or at least their search algorithm does. In fact, their search algorithms place a higher value on content and social distribution than traditional SEO (keywords). However, the universe of people actively searching for content within the universe of woodworking, let alone the topics I write about is fairly limited when compared to popular terms like “bacon”, “Ron Swanson” or unfortunately “Kim Kardashian”.
An otherwise limited universe of search demand can be enhanced through a marketing strategy known as Content Syndication. Simply put, content syndication is the process distributing your own content on other sites where people are looking for something new or is relevant to the editorial content they are already reading. Content syndication opens up a much broader universe of potentially interested consumers to discover who you are, far beyond the natural site traffic or organic search results a site can produce on it’s own. Advertiser’s editorial excerpts and links are placed at the bottom of an article that links from the native site (content syndication partners), to an external site (brands who pay for those placements). This form of media most closely resembles a pay-per-click search model on steroids.
My Content Syndication Experiment
One company leading the way in the world of content syndication is Outbrain. After a recent presentation at my office by their team, I was given the opportunity to have some of my recent blog posts syndicated across their network of sites to demonstrate how this process actually works. Their network covers the gambit of editorial, from RedEyeChicago to CNN.com.
For a period of 6 days between 12/17 – 12/22, Outbrain syndicated my 10 most recent blog posts (listed below) across a range of their network partners. During that time, my blog post’s excerpts and links appeared just under 400,000 times. These placements (impressions) provided ~140 inbound clicks to my site, or a click-through-rate of 0.04%. Nothing spectacular at face value, but I’ve seen display banner ads do much worse. If this was a real paid marketing investment, I would have spent around $40, or just under $0.30 per-click. In the world of PPC advertising, that’s pretty decent. Below is a chart outlining those results.
But publisher-provided results are only half the story, the true value of those clicks comes when you look at what they do after the click. I’ve seen plenty of brands spend well into the 6 figures for display advertising (banner) campaigns, that deliver a gazillion inbound clicks, only to have those visitors bail-out even before the advertiser’s page has completely loaded. I call this the “sad-trombone” of banner advertising. This is why site analytics are so important to fully evaluate any online marketing investment.
The best way to evaluate the quality of those inbound visitors is to look at the top performing post from this initiative: Midwest Woodworking: A Photographic Tour. This post received over 70% of the total campaign clicks, and thanks to Outbrain’s super-smart, real-time performance algorithm, this post was automatically optimized during the campaign to receive the lion’s share of impressions. This blog post was originally published across my social networks on 11/23, and received roughly 150 views over a three day period. After that, it’s performance trickled-off to just a handful of daily views. This is fairly representative of just about any content created on the web when it doesn’t get promoted.
When the content syndication campaign kicked-in 26 days later, page views to this post spiked. The really interesting aspect of this post was that it actually linked out to a Pinterest board where the photo gallery content resided. Despite the fact that the top performing post actually linked out from my own site to my Pinterest board, people still remained engaged on my site.
Outbrain delivered nearly 25% of my total referral traffic over a one month period, all from a 6 day campaign. That’s more than Google search, top woodworking sites and my own social distribution channels. 92% of this traffic was new to my site, and people viewed on average 3.2 pages per visit (just below my 4.4 page/visit site average). I also received a 150% increase in new followers on Pinterest. The real kicker, I know for a fact that MidWest Woodworking, the focus of the top performing piece of content, has received a number of business inquiries as well. Not bad.
The Big Opportunity for Brands
Today, a brand’s presence online is directly correlated to it’s content, regardless of who creates it or where it’s coming from. Up until recently, a brand’s ability to drive inbound traffic to a website was driven more by traditional digital tactics (PPC, SEO, display, etc.). Content syndication now adds a new dimension of topical relevancy that brands can now take advantage of because your message (content) is placed in the context of what consumers are already actively reading. Rather than hitting them over the head with a flashing sign screaming “BUY NOW”, brands can connect with something people are interested in learning about. In return, this can build awareness, consideration, and over time, tangible business results.
Even at a small scale, its easy to see how this dimension of context can deliver new, highly engaged visitors to a brand’s web site. These visitors found me through content syndication and had never heard of my brand, nor did they actively search for what I had to offer. They found me because I met them on their terms and offered them something they were interested in. Marketers should do the same. Just imagine what’s possible for brands willing to invest more than $40?
This blog post and it’s complimentary “paid” media exposure was conducted as an in-kind service (non-financial compensation) between my site (BrownellFurniture.com) and Outbrain Inc. My intent was to illustrate on a small-scale, the efficacy and impact of paid content syndication as a viable digital marketing strategy for brands and the clients I serve at Curiosity Advertising.