Content marketing has become much more crucial to any publisher's business. Enthusiast publisher Interweave decided it was worth a big investment to train employees across the company in those skills, including SEO and social media optimization (SMO).
The publisher of arts and crafts magazines hosted a training program for 85 employees ― nearly half of the company's employees ― to become certified in content marketing from Mequoda Group
, which specializes in content-marketing training for special-interest publishers.
Training employees in SEO isn't unusual for media companies, but Interweave went beyond the basic target group of audience development managers and online editors to include company executives, event planners, magazine/book editors, product marketers and even designers.
The goal was to give employees across the company a broader awareness of content marketing; it's part of the company's ongoing transformation from a print-based to online business model, said Bob Kaslik, a senior vice president who's responsible for consumer marketing at Interweave.
Tying search to paying customers
Content marketing has become a bigger focus for Interweave as the publisher looks to acquire a broader audience from search.
Interweave uses the freemium model to turn new users into paying customers, Kaslik said. Free content tied to keywords attracts people searching for the content, then potentially converts them to newsletter subscribers and eventually purchasers of products. For instance, someone looking for sock-knitting patterns could be directed to a free e-book, and then when they get to Interweave's properties, they could register for a newsletter.
Kaslik said newsletter subscribers are highly likely to become product purchasers, which is a big part of Interweave's revenue model. The newsletters take a “marketorial” slant to directly or subtly promote products.
“It’s about attracting people, getting them to opt into our free newsletter, and at that point we earn the privilege to market to them,” he said.
Kaslik said Interweave began its search-driven approach with two communities in November and saw immediate success in generating sales and building the e-mail lists. Since November, revenue has increased from e-mail promotion, though Kaslik declined to offer specifics.
Because it's clear the search tactic is a scalable process that works across each community, the company is expanding the approach across 11 Web communities, tying free content to high-search-volume keyword clusters. Depending on the community, about 30 to 40 percent of Interweave's traffic comes from search (mostly concentrated on organic search).
Some print-based enthusiast publishers have had to step up their search game online, where they compete with Internet-only operations like Demand Media
. Don Nicholas, editor-in-chief and executive director of the Mequoda Group, said enthusiast publishers have the advantage of offering a depth of content, if they can employ good search tactics.
"One of the things you find is that people who are searching for enthusiast topics, things they are passionate about, are much more action-oriented,” he said. “When someone’s searching about knitting or jewelry-making, they’ve got a need and they’re needing to fill it.”
A metrics-driven approach
Mequoda's training for Interweave employees consisted of Webinars, seminars and one-on-one coaching, covering topics such as social media, e-mail marketing, Web analytics, SEO, keyword research, blogging, website design, online advertising and subscription marketing.
Editors and marketers now have a much better appreciation of the other, Kaslik said. Since the training, he said there's been improvement (evidenced in revenue increases) in producing a common language across the organization, tying products into the content.
“The marketers have become more oriented to the content and the content creators have become more attune to the key metrics about response rates and revenue per sale and revenue per subscribers and that sort of thing,” he said.
For instance, editors learned how to research and track keywords
, including determining where keywords rank quarterly. They now track the results of campaigns, including products sold, adjusting the process as needed. “Even the editors that tend not to be metric-based have become very understanding of the metrics,” Kaslik said. Nicholas said writers who are content-marketing certified innately understand that every time they step up and write, there's a set of key words they should be attacking.
But reorienting editors to think about search isn't always easy. Nicholas said there's usually an editor in every seminar that protests "writing copy for Google."
"That would be just like sticking your hand up and saying 'I don’t know why when I write I should have to spell something correctly,'” Nicholas said. Editors who understand content marketing, on the other hand, look at Google visibility and keyword clusters “the same way they would look at a dictionary or thesaurus.”
SEO as career development
Though the SEO training was a critical part of Interweave's business, it also offered a side benefit as an engaging activity for employees. “It was about training, but it was a terrific team-building effort,” Kaslik said.
He pointed out that SEO is a career-enhancing skill for employees. When Interweave first started the program, it was for the marketing group, but then several other staffs became interested.
“People realized it's a crucial skill for the work they do here to advance and for career development,” said Kaslik. “Editors who are only print-based are going to have a challenging future if they don’t develop the SEO and online marketing skills.”
The seminars are not cheap: Mequoda runs summits priced per attendee or offers specialized seminars like Interweave's for $9,200 a program, Nicholas said. Interweave invested tens of thousands of dollars getting employees together, but, Kaslik said, “I have absolutely no concern that it's probably been paid back already.”