A content strategy based on 15000+ articles isn’t right for everyone, but when done right, content at scale can be the cornerstone of a successful growth plan.
But if you’re depending on 15000+ pieces of content, how do you make sure they’re good?
Greg Levow (COO/CTO, Verblio) and Laura Smous (VP, Product Marketing, Verblio) join Jeff Coyle (Co-founder of MarketMuse) in a discussion on how Verblio’s systems and processes combined human-built content and tech-enabled automation to help one client to beat competitors with quality content at scale.
Click to view the entire conversation.
Solving Problems With Lots of Content
Greg explains that there are many reasons that companies come to Verblio for content. But among those doing thousands of pieces of content, they’re “seeing a trend that they are often using that content as a core part of their customer acquisition strategy.” He talks specifically about one client, DoNotPay.com, where they had to produce 17,000 pieces of content.
As Greg is quick to point out, “you can’t give us 17,000 briefs today and expect them all back in a couple weeks.” At that size every situation is unique, so they run a pilot project first in order to figure out how to work efficiently with the customer. As he points out, “at this volume there’s really no room for error.” So the pilot gives them the opportunity to customize their process for the client to ensure they have well planned systems in place for getting the keywords and content briefs, and reconciling production to ensure nothing gets missed.
Lauren explains that what they focus on is repeatable processes or what she calls the “unsexy corners of the workflow”. She believes that “humans grossly overestimate their ability to do things consistently and repeatedly.” While it may not be fun or feel very creative, Lauren feels that “you can’t have scale without having a way to do that repeatedly.”
The Content Refresh
Jeff notes that, when it comes to updating content, in-house teams often crush people that are buying external content. Laura reveals that at Verblio they have to account for the maturity level of content teams regarding their refresh strategy. She notices more and more people are seeing the value in updating content. Verblio’s “next step is really to take what we’re learning from those customers and improve the product experience to support that.” Currently, the process is similar to creating new content, but Laura recognizes there are additional inputs required.
The Mechanics of Internal Linking at Scale
In Greg’s experience with the large scale process, linking thousands of pages where each one has their own requirements, “no human can possibly know that it’s correct.” It’s especially challenging when linking to internal content that doesn’t even yet exist. So they employ technology in their workflows to verify everything is correct. When an error does occur, it’s routed to a human to determine exactly what’s wrong.
Dealing With Natural Language Generation
Greg says they do everything possible to deliver “original content to customers that, as Laura said, that they love and they want to buy.” In their view, “plagiarized or spun content is not going to be part of that.”
While they do use a number of traditional plagiarism tools, Greg revealed that they also rely on AI to identify copying, spun content, and other anomalies. Plus, they’re developing their own technology to identify “things that just don’t seem right based on who that writer is and how they typically write.”
While technology helps them spot potential issues, it’s not the final arbiter of right and wrong. They still employ a human team to review these situations because, as Greg states, “ it’s dangerous to just look at a score that comes back from a tool and say if it’s over 20, you’re fired, otherwise it’s fine.”
Scaling on a Smaller Order
Not everyone has the budget for thousands of pieces of content. So how can you translate large scale content operations to something smaller? The key, as Laura elaborates, is to look at what you can automate and make repeatable, regardless of your size. Use “technology to smartly help the humans be more successful and more effective” says Greg. That’s the direction in which he sees the industry going, as opposed to creating bots that write mediocre content.
Laura Smous, VP, Product Marketing, Verblio
Laura is the Vice President of Product Marketing at Verblio. She blends 22 years of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and agency experience with a love for marketing and passion for data to help companies unlock the power of great content to grow brands. When she’s not in the throes of pricing and packaging or go-to-market strategy, she is probably on a bicycle. Laura maintains a constant ratio of two rescue dogs and two rescue cats at all times. Laura received a BS in Computer Information Systems and International Business from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, as well as a BA in Germanic Studies.
Greg Levow, COO & CTO, Verblio
Greg Levow is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer at Verblio. He has been solving business problems using technology for nearly 20 years, starting in Silicon Valley at LiveOps and other marketplace-focused startups. Greg then went on to win the prestigious Tulane University Nitrogen Reduction management prize for his work co-founding Agronomic Technology Corp and building a SaaS product to transform the way data is used in agriculture. When he’s off the clock, you can find Greg brewing kombucha, volunteering as an EMT, or tinkering with whatever home appliance needs fixing. He earned his BS in Business from Cornell University.
Whether it’s ten pages or ten thousand, automation is the key to scaling your content production to greater heights. But scaling to thousands of pieces of content doesn’t happen overnight, no matter how much resources you have. It’s best to start small with a pilot project so you can work out all the inefficiencies and solve workflow issues on a smaller scale.
Technology is important and AI can help, but probably not the way in which most people envision. There’s no shortage of bots that can create mediocre content, but that’s not what most people want. Technology can help humans create better content faster, or as Verblio’s COO & CTO puts it, “more successful and more effective.”
Jeff Coyle: Hello, and welcome to another MarketMuse content strategy webinar in our content strategy webinar series I’m Jeff Coyle, the co-founder and chief strategy officer for MarketMuse in today’s discussion is going to be with a team of folks who really know how to build content at scale and it’s content at scale isn’t too big to fail and that rhyming title gets into how we can build thousands.
And in this case, the example we’re gonna talk through is building 15,000 pieces of content. With quality, making clients happy, getting it done strategically as well. And we’ve got amazing guests, two guests today that we’re gonna speak with about this effort and about everything, content operations that you can use your advantage.
As you’re building out your teams, as you’re expanding your efficiencies for content creation two housekeeping. I know you’re gonna have tons of questions cause I have tons of questions for them. So ask them in the box. It’s usually on the bottom, right of your on 24 elite studio media player, a little hat tip on 24 there ask them in the box.
We will get to them in line if they’re relevant to our discussion. But if we don’t get to them, we’ll get to them at the end where we’ll leave some time to have that Q and a. Also, you’re gonna get this recording in the next few days, share it, shoot it around. Put it on social media, but while you’re at it, go to MarketMuse dot com and in the top navigation, there’s a link to all of our webinar archives.
There’s hundreds of them in there from amazing people like Andy Cadena, Pam diner on sales enablement, Nick UBank on SEO and content strategy and keyword research. And like I said, almost a hundred of those in that archive. This will be added in the next few days. All. That’s the housekeeping. Now I will introduce our guests and they are both from Verio which is an amazing company.
I’m gonna let them tell you a little bit more about but first I’ll introduce the VP of product marketing Laura mouse. Thanks for joining us. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do at Verio and the mission of the business?
Laura Smous: Sure, absolutely. Verio is what we think is. Scalable content creation platform and marketplace around.
And so we have a marketplace of really happy human writers that power our business, and we use our technology and platform to connect them to thousands of customers that are really interested in growing or accelerating their growth through content marketing. And I joined Verio about a year and a half ago to start our product marketing team and really explore how we can take essentially new content products.
Jeff Coyle: that is awesome. And also joining us is also from Verio he’s the COO and CTO from Verio Greg Lebo. Thank you for joining us. And I think question I would wanna know, just leading off is what does a CTO do at a content creation company, our content marketing company. And then from COO perspective, is it operations internally?
Is it operations for clients? And how does that.
Greg Levow: Awesome. Yeah. Nice to be here. Thanks for the invitation good questions to kick it off. I think when I go past what Laura, just describe, we really bring this content with quality at scale together by a combination of the human element and the technology behind it.
And our marketplace really is tech enabled, which covers everything from how we onboard and manage writers and incentivize them to manage quality for our customers. Often our customers are agencies, so their end clients as well. So to your question on the CTO side, we have a lot of parts of our platform that manage the flow of content requests and creation through the system and checking for various quality elements along the way, and making sure that content gets where it needs to go, which is many different places and many different formats.
And on the operations side I would probably expand that to say it’s really customer and writer operations. It’s the things that help our customers use our platform easily and the things that make our writers successful. And we see that as a, almost a double flywheel when our writers are successful.
So are our customers and vice versa, and we try to help them both grow.
Jeff Coyle: Oh, that’s awesome. Ideas is when the writers are successful, when they feel like they can be successful, when they trust the people, giving them the requests and all of those things have to match up whether you’re doing this in house or with a third party.
And so that’s really awesome that those are things are of focus. A lot of the questions that I get about content marketing teams or content marketing agencies or services relate to scale and size. So one thing I wanted to kick off our discussion with is really where does where, what are the levels that create massive complexities and like how big do projects get for Verio what I found.
There’s teams that they say they can go to scale. But then you get to it. And it’s really only a couple hundred pages with this one team or then it has to become a team of teams dynamic, and then we’re finding many experts and it, and the complexity becomes I almost rather do it yourself as an in-house, but how do, what are those levels of complexity and then how large does this gap and how large you typically, you.
Greg Levow: Sure. I think there’s a wide range of customers that use Verle and it can be the small business. Who’s looking for a couple blog posts a month, and we’ve got a self-service, subscription environment for that all the way up through large enterprises, brands and publishers that are using content to fuel their marketing.
And, in some cases we’re seeing content as the sole customer acquisition channel. That they’re using to bring customers on board to a SA product. And in those cases and you referenced this in your intro, we’re doing work with some customers that are doing, many thousands of pieces in some cases per month across many topics.
So it, it can get fairly large to your comment on the quality breaking at a certain point. That is a challenge. I think this comes back to the way our marketplace is structured and the. Writers, everything they write is on spec. And part of that is helping them understand what their customers ultimately want and motivating them to deliver that.
And then they get paid for it. We have a lot of ways in which we manage that as we grow, but ultimately we found that we can do it really well, but there are a lot of processes behind it. There are a lot of pieces of technology and expectations on both sides on the customer side and hours to make sure.
We’re able to hit that scale successfully on an ongoing
Jeff Coyle: basis.
So you said something that is a trigger for anyone that works at MarketMuse. So it was on spec, right? So is what is on spec and then Laura you’re their product marketing lead at. So do you use the similar specs or do you use those specs and what does that mean to you?
Is it a, formal creative brief process, content, brief process? What are the things. Have really allowed you to scale like this?
Laura Smous: Sure. Yeah, I think the way the way we think about it is that customers only purchase content that they love. So we’re really on the hook to make sure that number one mission from the customer that’s going to make the writer successful that our platform and technology is serving that.
Do our writers in a way that makes sometimes many combinations of creative, brief style guides, other documents, other resources use these links. Don’t use these links. We’re putting that all together in the moment in a way that’s going to allow the writer to get it as great as possible out of the gate.
And then we do allow that back and forth unlimited editing process to take place in our platform too. So we really try and tee it up. So the customer knows that it’s only, Garbage in garbage out. It’s only going to be as good as what we know about what you’re trying to achieve and what the parameters are for that, what success looks like.
And then on the writer’s side, again, we are incentivizing people to go after those things that that they love writing about, and that they’re going to be good at because again, that transaction only happens. If the customer loves the beast and they’re ready to go with it. So I think the technology is really the assist to both sides to getting it right.
Can like I said because of the way the platform works, really find those matches for things that aren’t going to be a good fit.
Jeff Coyle: That’s extremely differentiated by the way. And I love when you say that customers only buy content that they love really actually when I work with publishers, they might have had history of buying in scale and very infrequently do they love the content that was in that bucket or that part of the site, or it was built for not, maybe not the right reasons or anything like that. So the fact that you’re offering that unlimited feedback loop or that feedback loop. I’m sure there’s some constraints of some time and whatever, but you’re giving more feedback than is typical.
And you’re able to you, your desire, you desire them to love it is extremely differentiated.
But speaking to that, when someone, oh gosh, yeah, we bought all this content. It wasn’t, it didn’t really jive with the rest of our team or what we’re doing in. What problems are, is a client. And Greg, I know you were speaking to that specific project, but what problems are they trying to solve with that much content?
Because in my time speaking with editorial teams, a lot of times it’s I can just overflow the system and some of it’s gonna stick, but the really good, the surgical striking teams, everything has got a proper place and a reason. Everything’s got a why. That’s what MarketMuse is built on We provide the why for content teams So what is the why on a team that’s launching a thousand articles a month or a thousand pages a month? I’d love to know, and I’m sure our audience would as well. Cuz I only have, maybe a handful of six or seven clients that are at that scale and they’re all, the beast of content.
Greg Levow: Yeah. There, there’s certainly lots of reasons why customers come to us for content whether it’s to support branding or because they’re, putting out a publication or because they’re looking to rank highly for specific geography and given keyword, but the ones that you know are doing thousands and thousands of pieces of content we are seeing a trend that they are often using that content as a core part of their customer acquisition strategy.
And a particular example that we can talk a bit more about is one of our customers donotpay.com which is they call themselves the first world’s first robot lawyer. So they have a SaaS product that helps consumers sort of combat bureaucracy and, reclaim losses that they might have had from one of many services and, Donotpay employed us to produce about 17,000 pieces of content. They were all, blog-post-style articles on about 150 different products that they have on their site targeting sort of all the nuanced use cases that a consumer or potential consumer might have against those potential brands and drive them to Donotpay And, the. Possibility here is we’re seeing examples of this content ranking higher than those brands themselves in some cases. And I think a lot of that goes back to the strategy that DoNotPay put forth with how they push that content out and how they have their linking strategy and their overall structure.
And that’s a good example of this really high scale in action. Working very success.
Laura Smous: so it’s I would just tack on to, oh, sorry, Jeff. No, I was just going to say, I think our ideal customers, if you look at the tiniest ones to the largest ones like Greg talked about, I think the shared trait is that they really see this as content, as a competitive advantage.
And for someone like a DoNotPay it really is almost the driver of the go-to-market strategy, they have a way to block out the sun for their competition. And especially even, companies that. Receive funding or other things. They can accelerate that Ash, but they can’t accelerate building out those teams, incurring the risk of building out those teams.
So we really provide a way to just jumpstart that and augment those teams in a way you could never do with a normal hiring process.
Jeff Coyle: No, I think it goes into, you just said it, it was like that’s the strategy. They understand that content. They have a culture of content they’re coming in the door recognizing it’s gonna be a competitive advantage.
I always, one, one thing I’ll always point out is a team that gets that large with their production. One, the experience of reading their content, if it’s good is so different than if you read it and it’s bad because you often, when you see a, somebody who is blotting out the sun you go there and you’re like, oh, this is super bad.
But if it’s good, you’re like, whoa, there’s a lot of it. And it’s good.
That’s amazing. Yeah. And that’s, those are the things that are crushing it. And you’ve defined, that this is part of their go to market. Is that competitive advantage. They understand the culture of content. Do you find that works best when they have accomplished something with content first?
And they’re not just relegating the production or creation to a third party because of you. They think it’s maybe just that’s the way you do it. It’s the way you do it, the cheapest, or, almost like a divising of the quality even before they get started. Do you find they, they should have something in place and some experience with it in house to have the best success with you, or is it doesn’t matter?
I, and that’s a leading question, such a leading question, Laura, but no, let me know what you said.
Laura Smous: I think that having a sound content strategy is critical, so they don’t have to have demonstrated success achieving that strategy already, but they have to be really have strong conviction that’s where they want to go and really understand what they’re trying to do.
There are a handful of, we can say performance goals. But we’re not talking about performance of, one, one piece of content, we’re talking about their content library as its asset for accelerator for growth. So I think knowing what you’re trying to do and knowing how you’ll know if you did it is a good marker that will have luck with someone.
And then I think the other piece is just knowing that That we can also provide some content strategy services. So we do have we do have some things like that we can tack on. We have, dedicated account management and other things that help people bolt that strategy to what our platform can do.
So people need some help there. We don’t wanna stumble in not knowing what you’re trying to. Yeah.
Jeff Coyle: And how do you keep that? If, how do you change the narrative? Greg, when you’re going into a client and they think that the content that they’re gonna get from you is gonna be not as good as the stuff they can create internally.
So how do you keep that quality up and how do you sell that? That, no, actually the quality’s gonna be maintained even no matter how big we get. Is that truly, from my standpoint is one of the verbally OS and very few other. Team offerings out there can say that. And that, so how do you keep that to be the narrative?
Cause a lot of times people will say, oh, I’m gonna make, I’m gonna do all the important stuff internally. And I’ll give the content agency the rest and oh, it’s less important, but now you’re you do things very differently.
Greg Levow: Yeah, we do. And I think it goes back to the model and the way in which we interact with writers and writers interact with customers.
And there’s some examples of. I think the most obvious we briefly touched on which is, our writers actually choose customers, not the other way around, which you typically might see in a freelance marketplace. So that goes back to the writing on spec, our writers put their heart into something that they think they can do a good job in and go out and produce for it.
But. you mentioned close loop feedback. We do provide that back. Our customers rank everything. They get, they provide written feedback on it. And we give that not only to the writer who wrote that piece, but every other writer can see that as well. So it’s this self-improving ecosystem, if you will. So the individual writers get and respond to feedback and improve in their next submissions.
And that also allows our customers to curate their. Of favorite writers. The difference between the in-house approach and working with Verio is the scale, right? I, everyone can find a great in-house writer or an individually managed freelance writer or two, but when you try and grow that, substantially, you end up with all sorts of friction and that’s something that we’ve been able to crack and figure out how to avoid.
And, instead of having one or two or three great writers, we might bring one or two or 300 great writers to the table with this system behind it.
Jeff Coyle: You’re, and there’s middle management requirement. If you do it in house too. So you’re corralling, then you’re corralling in, they’re adding and subtracting and there’s, there is a lot to that.
It’s often what I will speak to somebody. You may want that in-house team, but you want to cap it at a certain. Then you have to make the decision. Do you want another middle manager? Before you get larger, cuz one to 50 or one to 20, it can create a huge amount of overhead. You don’t predict when you’re calculating the true cost of content.
The true cost of content it’s like fully loaded. How much is this? you mentioned one thing though Greg, when you were talking about evaluating, you’re evaluating based on, their choosing writers are choosing. But do you provide insights to clients or do you in any way measure internally the quality of each individual writer and is that publicly available information?
So we work with writing organizations who evaluate every page at, for quality using MarketMuse obviously. And and also look at performance to say if. Joey, go tell him to write about dogs. He’s gonna do a great job. And don’t tell him to go write about open source software technologies, cuz he wrote a few pieces, but they really weren’t all that.
Great. Do you get into that level of detail and or is it strictly a specs exist and then the writer applies for them and we’re using their history? What does that process look like and what would someone expect there?
Greg Levow: There are some writing services out there that allow customers to pay for writers of different star levels or something like that.
That’s not what we do. So in that regard, we’re not saying here are good writers, here are bad writers, take your pick. We really try and have only good writers in the system. Now, of course, there’s still a range. There’s some extremely talented writers who are, able to write on any topic and there’s those that are much more sort of specialized.
But yes we do behind the scenes evaluate all content and it’s an area that we’re really actually spending a lot of time thinking about how we do this for the next generation of content, because good content isn’t good enough anymore. Basically, we’re at a point where it’s gotta be fantastic and the difference between good and fantastic, I think is challenging to get to.
Some of the things are table stakes that you can easily look at, spelling and grammar, for example, there’s a lot of tools out there to look for that. And, making sure that customers get something they can work with, but understanding, did the writer produce something that fits in the tone that this customer expect or for the audience that they expect, or, did they follow the spec precisely that the customer, right?
These are, more nuanced elements and something. We’re spending a lot of time thinking about how to do, for us at scale as well, because we can’t read every single piece of this content and have a human set of eyes on it. We do a lot, we read a ton of content of course, there is an element of automation behind that too.
The other thing that I’ll mention is on the expertise side of things, this is something we’ve heard a lot from customers, something that. Them love content is when it’s clear that the writer really is an expert in that topic. And we are, I think, getting better and better at understanding which writers are experts in different topics.
And to some extent, we are starting to make that available to customers. For example, customers can see how much has a given right or written in any of these industries that you’re putting briefs up for. And I think as we evolve, we’ll be able to be more transparent with. . But at the end of the day, I would say many of our writers have administrated really good performance across many topics.
And that’s one benefits this marketplace for them.
Jeff Coyle: No, I love that. That’s something that you’re thinking about. I think it’s, that’s really where some of these smaller content shops have differentiated is where they are able to say this person has this level of expertise. And really, I think it speaks to where.
I was thinking about this specific example with 10,000 plus page 15,000 pages is how do you how does that project go from, like here’s what we want to operations. Like, how do you actually turn the bill into the law of, okay. We are at a point now where 1000 pieces are going to be published or more cause I’ve done that with in-house teams at that level.
And. Dealt with the aftermath of an age of an agency who had produced that much and then had to fix it. But like, how did you get to that and how did be, how did had it as a success? So what, when you got the specs done, you got the content strategy agreed to, okay. Stark, we don’t have people assigned.
We don’t, what do you do from that point towards actually the first thing gets publish.
Greg Levow: Yeah, an important step in our journey with any customer typically involves a pilot or sort of a small phase version of the ultimate project, and sure we’re gonna go do 17,000 pieces of content. You can’t give us 17,000 briefs today and expect them all back, in a couple weeks, there’s a lot, that has to get into place. So that pilot phase for us, and we do this with, many of our larger customers gives us experience in many areas. Certainly on the content side, like what does good look like? But it also lets us figure out how to work with our customer most efficiently.
And with this volume, there’s really no room for error. So it involves a lot of process customization behind the scenes of how are we ingesting the keywords? How are we ingesting the briefs? How are we getting it back to the customer, in whatever format and tracking it and even silly sounding things.
like Reconciling what got missed, Seventeen thousands of pieces of content. You’re gonna miss something somewhere. And do you have a report available that can be quickly figure that out? would say there are tools in our toolbox that we deploy in these cases that are never deployed in the same way.
There’s always an element of customization. And I think really there’s two pieces of the puzzle. There’s the human side of the writers. And then there’s the technology that makes it all. work And, we do wanna do that sort of smaller scale at least test to figure out before we really open to fire
Laura Smous: I think we focus a lot on creating repeatable processes. I think that’s a part of content marketing. A lot everyone has to endure, but most people ignore are these UN, what I call the unsexy corners of the workflow. I I think humans. Grossly overestimate their ability to do things consistently repeatably.
And and to even know how they’re doing them each time. And so I think by really spending a lot of time in some of these parts that aren’t maybe aren’t as much fun or don’t sound as good or as creative, we’re able to create that scaffolding that allows for repeatability. And you can’t have scale without having a way to do that repeatedly and practice.
I think the benefit is we’ve. Had to solve this for so many folks that we bend in a lot of directions and we understand how to deploy those. They mentioned
Jeff Coyle: your pup is bending in lots of directions behind you as well, by way oh, that’s yes. Yeah. That’s GU and so now that’s really cool now I love, and I also like to speak to incentive.
You talked about the editing process. One thing that Greg you mentioned was almost like you guys are thinking about how can you do developmental editing at scale, or how can you do informed editing, not just copy editing and that’s extremely intriguing to me. So what are the things that are go a little bit further than spelling and grammar?
And then also, how do you incent the writers to. Try to put the best foot forward every time.
Greg Levow: Yeah. It’s all a moving target as the bar goes up for sure. I think I would go back to the multi-stage workflow that we put into place where, content in our platform has a life cycle where it goes from being drafted by the writer to often a set of, first edit requests.
There’s some automated checks from things like plagiar. and then it moves on to typically another group of individuals who are gonna be doing that editing and it could be copying, it could be more substantive. And then ultimately it probably goes through a round of QA before it ends up making it back to our customer.
The feedback that we provide at each of those steps is really important to helping the writers understand what good looks like and on the incentive side of things. Beyond the fact that they are getting paid for what’s purchased, we do all sorts of things to build out this community of freelance writers to be more excited and more successful.
So an example that we employed with the do not pay project that I mentioned is essentially a raffle where every time a writer submitted content that met certain criteria that we published. They got entered into a raffle ticket and every month we did a drawing for a Amazon gift. Of S sizeable, value and, it’s one example of many types of things like that, that we do that ultimately have a monetary incentive behind it.
The other piece that is indirectly monetary is writers that are consistently hitting performance targets, which is not just quality, but also things like delivering on time, become eligible for. These types of projects in the future, they become trusted writers in our system and they can build up quite a business as a writer on the platform.
And that of course benefits our customers in the end.
Jeff Coyle: So the the other, the follow up question I had that that’s great. That’s like how I view best practice. Do you have your cultivating your community? You’re also, you’re giving them incentives to provide high quality and to do things that the customers are gonna love, not. across the box, scratch off the boxes when they got it done. So the question I also have is relates to these larger projects that, I always like to say differentiated content teams of 2018 or later are ones that have a strong refresh and enhancement strategy.
So publishing a thousand pieces is it baked into these projects that you’re going back and updating, expanding improving Integrating, how do you deal with those types of things? Because that’s where in-house teams often crush people who are buying. From external is that they’re always thinking about integration.
They’re always going back and they got the refresh, whatever they call it internally, the refresh team, the update team, the optimization team, is that baked into those types of projects? Are you even going there yet? Or is that something that you want to do or, it’s a little bit hard to turn into a great business model for a content agency, but how have you approached that from a standpoint of updates?
Greg Levow: Yeah. Laura, why don’t you take that?
Jeff Coyle: Yeah, absolutely. I’m smiling that I hit on something.
Laura Smous: Oh, it’s just it’s a near and dear to my heart. Like I said, we’re a young product marketing team, but the part of the go-to market process we’re probably most focused on is the upfront strategy part, the opportunity assessment, and we call it like incubating these things so that then we can operationalize them with with marketplace operations, with our normal operations team and really scale it and productize it with product and development.
So content refresh is one. We are really in the throes of we sell it. We are trying types of customers that are at, I’d say different levels of maturity in terms of their refresh strategies. So we’ve got folks who have a very cookie cutter maybe it’s local optimization. We know that by adding these things to these 300 pages that it will be helpful.
And then we’ve got folks that say, no, we do want the writer to have some direction from us, but to have some. Discretion or latitude in spotting content gaps and augmenting the strategy they have. We’ve been trying to work with both parties to say, how much of this do we need in the platform?
What types of refresh projects are good for us? What types of customers, where does the customer’s understanding of refreshes have to be for them to feel to understand why this is important and to incorporate it into their overall content marketing. And we’re doing a ton of those and.
our next Step is really to take what we’re learning from those customers and improve the product experience to support that. Because right now it is not too dissimilar to our new content creation process, and we know that there’s some other inputs that we need, and we know that there’s some outputs that customers will want to see to understand what was refreshed, what was the value of that refresh?
And then also doing a lot to understand how we coach customers to understand When and how to measure, if they’re refreshing the right things, what percentage of their content spend should that be? How do we encourage that without cannibalizing new content creation? We. have an obligation to try and make the best recommendations, but also figure out how to make that work as a business.
I’d say the good news is that people are definitely understanding the value of a refresh and we’re seeing more and more folks either ask about it or already on the agent side already recommending it as a, a percentage of what they offer.
Jeff Coyle: That’s great news. That’s market maturity as it happens.
It gets into kind of internal linking as well. I’d be interested in how an external, a proper external linking and internal linking or other types of integrations I’d be interested in. How do you manage that? And then I’ve got a great question after that from the audience internal linking with what’s that process, and I’ll tell you.
The cliff problem with large scale, is launching 500 pages all at once. They can be linked to each other, and my 501 I’m linking link back. All right. And then I have to go back to the old ones to link forward. And that is so commonly it becomes an information architecture problem.
So how do you do ongoing internal linking recommendations for. Longer term clients. Is it something that you’re just always thinking about with these types of things?
Greg Levow: Yeah. Let me touch on how we manage and QA for internal linking strategy, more writing content and then Laura If you wanna touch on that from a refresh standpoint has evolved. You, Jeff, you brought up an excellent point. It’s you’re linking to content internally that doesn’t exist yet. And you’re writing it all at the same time. So how do you manage that? This does come down to information architecture and making sure that it’s, the strategy’s understood that first of all, that the strategy exists for, is step number one.
And that at this scale, it can be ingested in a way that we can put some automation behind it. And that automation includes making sure it shows up in the briefs for the writer, so they understand, what needs to be in there. And then on the QA and editing side, was it there and was it done?
correctly And is the link structure and cannonical naming all in place so that it’s going to work once it’s published. So when we get to the high scale, processes here where, you know, for the 17,000 pieces of content, they all have different internal linking requirements. No human can possibly know that it’s correct.
We do rely on technology that we deploy, frequently for this type of thing. , we have workflow tools that basically run a check and if it passes great, it goes on in the next step. If not, it goes over here where someone looks at it and figures out what’s wrong. That’s a commitment we make.
We’re going to deliver that correctly when we deliver this content to customers so that they can publish it and the linking will be there. Laura you wanna touch on the refresh side?
Laura Smous: sure, absolutely. I think there’s a couple pieces to it. I think one is just encouraging. As you mentioned, always thinking of refresh as part of the strategy.
And so we’re looking at ways to Yeah. I don’t know if you’d call it content arbitrage, but to allow people to think about purchasing a refresh in advance so that they’re getting some value by doing that early, but also they’re highly incentivized to allow us to go back, do that for them and make sure that we are also looking at their linking strategy on an ongoing basis.
And so that’s one piece of it. I’d say the other piece is that we really spent a lot of time upfront saying we called it the anatomy of a content refresh, but really breaking down. The entire marketing team went through our content library and our own dog food and tried to really understand what should we be paying attention to?
How much of this needs to change for it to be, substantively different in the eyes of. and the algorithms. And then how do we actually make this repeatable and productize it so that it’s not it’s not one off every time that we really have a way to coach writers to go in, look for these things, do these things and understand when it’s done.
So a lot of it, like I said, was just the upfront work to do it ourselves, to really understand what are people going. Need to consider as customers and then what writers need to consider to make this and can actually scale. But yeah, I think just allowing people to build that into their process, also make some stickier in our platform which is something that we want to, continue to add value and just helping them understand how to be applying best practices on an ongoing basis by
user our platform.
Jeff Coyle: No, I think you’ve nailed it. And it, I think, said in a different way I would. Offered to say, when you’re talking about the Ima, why would somebody update? What is a lot of times people think of updating or going back and updating something as a it’s almost like it means you did it wrong when actually content refreshes an optimization often is a luxury item that you get because you did some things.
And then you’ve identified other things that if you do. You’re, one plus one’s equal three and content operates as a mass, all the content you op you write about, microphones all works together. So that the next thing you produce has a potential to be successful. So going back is a re that’s.
Part of that is everything’s operating as a mass of power and getting teams more in that place of understanding there, I think benefits everybody, and I’m sure that you’ve.
Laura Smous: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. We view it earnestly as a protection of your investment. Or like squeezing more mileage out of that initial investment.
And it really does make sense. It feels good, I think, to create new stuff. But I think in reality as our job to make sure we’re good stewards of of budgets and allow people to understand that, Hey, just Sping this up might actually get you as much mileage. So let’s help you do.
Jeff Coyle: neither is a magic trick. That’s the one thing too. I think a lot of folks look at optimization as a magic trick. It’s, you’re actually making the page better and making it answer the questions more succinctly and you learned via content via data to make that decision. I’m gonna get into some other magic trick questions but from the audience thank you.
E David he had a couple questions. One. What if I’m in an environment where speed to publish speed to. Going for Google top stories, news articles are my, is really my top priority. So I’ll add to that. What if I’m in a situation where I’m taking the approach of doing Google, top stories, analysis, or news authority research say maybe using a software product like mark MarketMuse newsroom wink and I need to turn, 20 articles out based on.
Not a lot of planning, is that possible with Verio where I’m setting it up so that I can get, I need these 20 articles about this. Oh, is that possible or is that not really the sweet spot?
Greg Levow: So extremely rapid turnaround, I would say is not our sweet spot. That said, the vast majority of content produced on our platform is actually turned around fairly quickly. We look at this in a bunch of different ways, but something like, 90 plus percent of content is turned around in, 48 hours since it’s been request.
Jeff Coyle: Wow. I didn’t know that. That was amazing that
Greg Levow: yeah, now, but there, there are different nuances to that. And in, there’s different parts of our world where, you know, in our open marketplace, which is very different, for example, from the do not pay case that I described, we have clients putting a request up in the system that often multiple writers are potentially interested in writing about.
So there is an element of competition here and that supports a fast response. Now that first submission may or may not always be the best submission and that’s where you need to balance this. So it really, I think depends on the use case. We do work for some publishers where, current events are important and we do that.
But I will say we, we are working with freelancers, so it’s not like we can if they were employees, for example, we could say from nine to five, you must turn this around in one. That’s not what we do, but we do produce a lot of content quickly. And it’s certainly something we can talk more about on specifics.
Jeff Coyle: Okay. So it would be feasible to have kind of hot beat type setups where it was, I am covering this, I’m thinking of something that’s like happening in the, this volcano that’s erupting this morning. I am, I’ve gotta have. We already are shooting articles out.
Is that feasible? It would just require some sort of unique relationship, right? Yeah. So
Laura Smous: I think, we’ve got some really great examples of that, and that’s a, for example, celebrity gossip space where, these things are timely. They don’t have a very long shelf life. And it doesn’t really benefit our customer if.
If we’re slow on that, or if they need to go through multiple submissions, but that is one of the benefits of being through the long term customers. You can, even though we have this open marketplace, you can prefer writers and build these pools. So you can have this sort of stable of people who you, are going to be able to write to those timely things.
What we don’t have is expert programming teams. If we have a customer that has a really great programming team and they’re ready with those topics or ready, jump on that really unique angle and pass that along to the writer. If they’ve been working with us and like I said, building that pool, we’ve seen a lot of success at scale of people being able to to to get those requests fulfilled really quickly by folks that actually are interested and knowledgeable and know how to turn that around.
So again, more benefit from that longer term relationship, but it definitely can be
Jeff Coyle: done. Awesome. I think people realize that when I Referenced E David’s question that I’m actually gonna answer these questions live. So I just got a pile of them in, so a lot of people are excited about what you’re saying.
Author of the digital pivot Eric Schwartzman has your question for you. For lifestyle content, images are key. He may have been inspired by that. Do you provide image creation or sourcing services? And then follow up was he has a follow up, which I’ll ask after that.
Greg Levow: We do have a number of add-on services available images is one of them.
We also provide videos, for example, we’ll do you know, 30 to 92nd explainer videos. It’s typically stock photography that we do, add in depending on the length of the blog post that’s, several images that do get delivered and, we’ll do our best to file the guidelines, follow the guidelines that the customer has.
In addition to that, we also provide optimization service as an add-on. So in addition to the basic quality search or intent metadata, SEO optimization minded services can go with that
Jeff Coyle: then. Cool. Eric asked a question as a follow up, by the way. I’m sure he appreciates the book plug before yeah.
Is Do you instruct your team members and writers to perform interviews as part of their journalism? I’m gonna, I’m gonna add onto that. An important part of my process and processes of our teams are identifying experts that maybe can’t write or aren’t going to be the writers themselves, but they’re really important to the process.
So a, oftentimes expert acquisition is. A part of a content creation org process. So is that part of working with Verio and then second is actually part of journalism doing an interview. That’s gonna be part of the piece is that, those are the two pieces. So I had a question about that.
Laura Smous: And we generally, yeah, so I think the answer is I think we don’t do a lot of content that requires really like a first person interview where a lot, the contents of the interview would make it into the article itself. However, we do have two other sort of ways to address that.
I think one is we do some what I call like expert or practitioner recruitment. So if we have a really specialized need. We can bring people into our marketplace and even look at compensation and structure differently than we do with other things passing through the marketplace. An example would be a customer that really does e-learning content that’s considered like top 1% of marketing expertise.
That’s, you can’t put that out to anybody, right? So we really. Spent a lot of time curating a pool of those folks that we also know are both experts and and can write and creating structures or ways for them to be compensated or work within our platform that work for that level or of expertise or content.
And then another thing that we we don’t specifically offer, but we’re certainly exploring is how could you think about having. That might be great to interview or provide some outline or expertise, but aren’t necessarily strong writers. How could they play a role in our platform? It, and how could they be tapped and work with writers to get to that level of authority or even, just trust thinking of things like bylines, thinking of things like that, how can we bring some of that expertise in, but give it the Polish that a a professional writer can add to it.
A work in progress, but it’s definitely. That comes up.
Jeff Coyle: That’s really exciting to hear that’s on the theoretical roadmap. I’m seeing some of this. I’m seeing that as being on the bleeding edge right now is having influencers on call experts on call in certain content spaces, Y M Y L your money or your life experts in those fields available who are willing to, Taglines on, it’s becoming a very novel approach and it can cost a lot of money.
So commercial terms can probably be pretty good for both, both you and the writer. So great question. I’m sure that’s where Eric was said. And with that question awesome. Thank you so much.
I’m gonna ask one more then I’ve got a few questions from me. Alex Alexander are the writers who work in specific industry verticals, actually experience in those topics?
How do you check in on that? The example he gives, I work in home maintenance. Are they veterans of the home maintenance industry? How do they search or are these just people doing Google research of other articles and sourcing like a non-specific journalist. Mike, do you do any interviewing?
Perfect check. And that’s a really hard question. I can imagine it’s a little bit of column a little bit of column B is the answer, but I ask everything that gets asked, so Alexander’s got a tough one here, so
Laura Smous: yeah, absolutely. I think. Oh, go ahead, Greg. Sorry for talking to we’ve spent the better part of the last two quarters focused on this quality umbrella, which that’s a piece of it, right?
Is what do we collect and know about our writers? How do we surface that to ourselves? Or our customers. And how do we vet or verify that they are, who they say they are? And actually I think the bigger piece is we probably miss expertise a lot. There are probably things we don’t know because we don’t ask.
But in terms of then there are areas where you very clearly need to have something, if you’re a CPA, if you’re a JD, we have. Pools of writers like that. But then I think in other cases we’ve been doing a lot on both the writer enablement side. So how can we bring them up to a certain level, but also how can we certify SEO would be one example inclusive writing would be another example of a certification we’re developing that we really see it as something that could be expanded to, many areas.
There are probably some where that’s never going to work. If you haven’t built a plane, probably. Want you writing about that, but but certainly we have a ton of I don’t know why aeronautical, engineering’s always the one that stands out. I don’t know that you could research your way into that.
But we do. That’s your linear,
Jeff Coyle: your life right there. That’s your life. Yeah.
Laura Smous: That’s yeah, that’s another thing too about why we, don’t, why we don’t allow you to buy one star products from one star writers. You wouldn’t buy a one star or two star airline safety ticket. Yeah, we definitely think that there are cases where we can get people over the hump and get them to real expertise or proficiency, but there are somewhere that’s probably off, off the table and we need to have a more formal or external way to validate that they, they have that that knowledge.
But yeah, it’s a huge piece of what we’re looking at because we don’t have a choice. We know that this content has to bring unique value. So just regurgitating what’s already out there is not going to be good enough. It’s not good enough. Certainly won’t be good enough months or a
Jeff Coyle: year from yeah, one thing I would, yeah, sorry.
Greg Levow: Sorry. I was just gonna say, given, the size of the marketplace, one of the cool things we can do is actually reach out and survey our writers when there’s a specific project that comes up and like a good example is we might have a, a well known brand come to us and we want writers who are customers of that.
And we often have them. We have lots of them and that’s, a slightly different example than, are they an electrician, but it’s the same process and something that we are almost always pleasantly surprised with how many writers we have that meet a very specific criteria and they may or may not end up being an ideal fit for every piece of content.
But it’s a tool, our disposal that we use in this puzzle as.
Jeff Coyle: I love that. Being able, if you’re in a brand and you can actually get champions of your product to write, it’s always going to be just it bleeds from them, it actually shows the in the content they create. So I, I love that’s a priority and, I think Laura, you said earlier in this discussion that, people only buy the content they love as well.
So if you don’t do that there’s gonna be a problem later. Anyway. So I think. Alexander to your question. If they’re producing stuff that doesn’t pass, the sniff test is probably not gonna work out. And, you can ask someone to research, Bern’s principle, right? You can probably find enough to write an article about that, but you’re not gonna have them, the throttles police system on their, as.
That’s not somebody you want them. Yeah. You don’t want them reading the manual for the first time to give you that information. So that’s, I think there are, there’s a again and the yang. It’s not just all of one topic too. It shows in the articles that are being presented, whether it actually is coming from an expert.
So great questions.
I have a question that ties to, gosh, what I would review as the horror of running. A writing organization would be how are you so many, how are you dealing with, and how are you dealing with natural language generation spinners, those types of things as part of your communities, is it a one strike and you’re out policy for your writers or what type of experience were you managing against?
And I’ll tell you before you answer is I’ve seen it done multiple ways. I’ve seen people who are like zero to. And then I’ve also seen people embracing it and just saying, Hey, just be honest with your process and we’re gonna be okay with it in the end, the client is making those decisions. What’s the verbally O approach you believe we even have to have this conversation right now.
Isn’t that cool. The world is changing. So what do you think about that, Greg? Yeah, that
Greg Levow: it’s a great question. Ultimately the safety and trust in our marketplace and our brand is paramount and that passes through our customers. So at the end of the day, we’re doing everything we can to make sure that we are delivering original content to customers that, as Laura said that they love and they want to buy and, plagiarized or spun content is not going to be part of.
that And there’s, a lot of tactics for figuring out when that’s in play and it wouldn’t go quite so far as to say there’s a one strike policy Because in our experience. These are often not that cut and dry when they come up. Sometimes they are. And in those cases, if it’s egregious, yeah, there’s no tolerance for that.
But, we often end up with projects that, are either citing. Legal statutes or are using, common language that’s already published in the brand and they want that voice coming through. There are it’s dangerous to just look at a score that comes back from a tool and say if it’s over 20, you’re fired, otherwise it’s fine.
We have a team, we call that our marketplace operations team that really is deep in, on this and gets involved and reviews human reviews, these things when they come up they do talk with the writers and we have a number of pieces of technology at play that help us with this. We have traditional plagiarism detection tools.
We’re starting to use some more AI based tools that are even better at identifying, copy, spinning, and anomalies We are also now working with some of our own technology that will help us pick up things that just don’t seem right. Based on who that writer is and how they typically write and will help us get our eyes where they’re needed most so that we can make the best determination for it.
So I guess that’s a long way of saying this is a difficult thing to simply automate your way out. And the tools that are out there are getting more and more advanced. So it’s not a problem that is ever gonna be just gone and behind us.
Jeff Coyle: Yeah, it’s tough. And the JD LR meter just doesn’t look right.
Meter is probably, you know what, you’re gonna start seeing ensemble approaches to detection become public that aren’t just for one language model or one process, there’s gonna be ensemble detection scores. They’re always gonna be like you mentioned approximations and that you then have to make great business decisions based off of, so I love.
Another question came in I am making 10 pages and I wanna make 20 pages of content. What can I take away from you knowing how to do 15,000? I’m adding that part, you doing 15,000 for me. And let’s say I don’t wanna outsource. But then let’s say I do wanna outsource 10 to 20, right?
Because what I’ve found is when you respect and understand the culture of content. Augmenting that additional 10 should be probably going in tandem with optimizing your own strategy. You might then be able to get 20 out for yourself and then 10 more. But what do you do with someone who says I, I launched 10 I’m comfortable with my process.
I wanna get to 20. What can I learn from what you know to actually make that.
Laura Smous: Florida. One, one thing I’d say, and I think Greg and I are probably bent towards automation maybe more than a lot of folks, but I would say it’s never too early to look at what you can automate or make repeatable.
So whether that is because you’re going to scale your in-house team, whether someone gets hit by a bus and you need to bring someone else in, or whether you want to bolt on. An agency or a platform like ours to your to your team, you need to know what those processes are and how to make ’em repeatable.
And also, this sounds silly, but just know what the goal of the content is. I think, so why are you going from 10 to 20? What do you think it will achieve? And then what does that mean for, what you need to build in to make sure that happens?
Greg Levow: And, one thing I would add to that on the topic of automation, which we’ve talked about a lot, automation is very different from AI.
That’s not what we’re talking about here. But what we are talking about is, using technology to smartly, help the humans be more successful and more effective. And I think that’s an area that the industry’s clearly going well. Yes, there are plenty of bots that can write mediocre content out there.
And that’s not what we do. We see a lot of opportunities to even help our customers use this technology to figure out what should those next 10 articles be? about What topics make the most sense based on the traffic you’re getting and your business objectives and how can we help our writers more efficiently get you that content that you love.
And that’s, I think a big area we’ll be focusing on looking forward.
Laura Smous: Yeah. You
Jeff Coyle: say that you say that as we go to the tail end of our discussion and MarketMuse, what are the next 10 articles I should write? If you want to know that, answer to that question. Shoot a note here. Book a demo here. Shoot me a note.
Jeff MarketMuse dot. And I appreciate that. Laura, I will give you last word on the topic. Sorry to jump in. It was just so perfect of a segue.
Laura Smous: Oh, yeah. I think that’s, just probably one of the unique things about us is we really do see for better or for worse humans and technology locked together forever in pursuit of great content.
And so I think, if you’re a small content team, make it easy on yourself. A lot of the discussion with AI has been around just, can it. Humanlike content when that’s overlooking a lot of the areas where it really can free your brain up to write the best content. Like I said, do the unsexy stuff and make sure that you’re doing the same thing every time.
So you can get to scale whether scale is 10 to 20 or 10,000 to thousand.
Jeff Coyle: That’s awesome. Way to end. Yeah, the most unsexy thing in the world is doing a process inventory and seeing where you’re doing manual labor. But you that’s step one, you gotta do it. You gotta do gotta figure out where you’re wasting your time.
You might just be wasting time looking at a screen or doing other jobs too. So re be thinking about that. And I think that was really beautifully said, Laura, Greg, thank you so much for joining us today. How can people get in touch with you? I’ve got some of your social info or get in touch with verbally to walk through their project and see if it’s.
Greg Levow: Yeah, thanks so much, Jeff, for having us bl.com is probably the best place to go. You’ll quickly learn about our brand there and we’re happy to chat with you and you can certainly reach out to either of us. We’re still small enough that it’s our first name at.com. solia.com do com.
Laura Smous: Yeah. Thank you so much.
Jeff Coyle: I appreciate. And what’s the next articles that you’re publishing Laura on the verbally side or that you are focused on the topics that you’re focused on?
Laura Smous: Well, a very much top of mind this weekend next would be the E a T N Y M Y. Again, breaking that down and developing a Verio sort of standard for it.
What we oh, awesome. What we think. It’s the bill? Yeah, that’s a early stage process, but that’ll be going probably to our blog and then probably to our product team. At some point as we help help people navigate this.
Jeff Coyle: Wow. That’s so poor. Perfect. So keep an eye out for that on verio.com and thank you for joining me on my favorite topics.
Expertise, authoritative. Trusts and your money, your life. So go check that out on Verios site and then the coming days and weeks. And thank you again, Lauren. Greg, it’s been a pleasure. Cheers.