CSC Live 2022 Ask Us Anything
We put together a playlist of the CSC Live 2022 morning sessions, which is now available on YouTube. But there’s one session you won’t see – Monday’s Ask Us Anything session with Jeff Coyle and William Hardy.
Due to technical issues, the sound from that recording was unusable. However, the transcription is available below, with some slight editing for clarity.
Getting Started With MarketMuse
Jeff: Jenny says, “my company is new to MarketMuse. Do you have any beginner’s advice?” Wow! You’ve got the two right people to talk to.
We’re a content strategy, content intelligence platform that focuses on content, quality and comprehensiveness. So you can start at the page level and work your way up to site level strategy, or, if you don’t have content operations in place, if you don’t have any sort of documented strategy or understanding of how to prioritize, you can start there.
And so where I like to look at is to say, how do you decide what you’re writing right now? How do you decide what you create or what you update and are you predicting how much content or on what topics you’re focused, using data? So how do you decide how much content you’re budgeting for? How likely is it that the content that you’re publishing is successful?
So do you understand your content efficiency or effectiveness rates? So how much content have you published and updated in January through June 1st? How frequently are those content items successful? And does success mean the same thing for every content type? Are you documenting what it would mean for that content to be successful?
So all those things go into how to get started with MarketMuse. There’s certainly workflows that are much more simplified throughout. But what should I write? What should I update? I wanna do that predictably. Then you get in operations, right? So do we have content briefs? If not, let’s get content briefs, right?
Because content briefs act as that source of truth, that gets your editors and your executive leadership aligned with your writers. So when you say, “Hey, go write that article about lemon, lime seltzer,” and they’re like, “What? That’s not enough information.” What do they have to do?
They either have to get more information from you, from a developmental editor or they have to go do research themselves. If they go do the research themselves, there’s a high likelihood that there’s going to be misalignment created with the requester’s desires. They’re not gonna know tone and voice desire.
They’re not gonna know what the target audience is. They’re certainly not gonna know what topics to include, what questions to answer and what the expectation of the editor or the CMO is of the structure of the page. So building a content brief strategy, not only does it get you into a better place from a search engine optimization performance perspective, but it gets you aligned.
And alignment means people stay happy, too. What makes people not happy, harsh developmental edits. And if you’re not familiar with what a developmental edit is, basically you get a draft and you make it better from the lens of subjective or business tone and voice. You’re improving it from a lens of, I wanna make this a better page, not just copy editing. But if that seems harsh or it’s out of a place of misalignment, that can be a dark thing for a writer. “I spent all this time. You never really gave me the exact specifics.” But now you’re being a little bit harsh with that critique. So it turns from a developmental edit almost into a critique. A brief solves that. A great brief gets you to alignment as well as predictive performance.
Because if I know you’re gonna answer these five questions in this article that will likely make it valuable. Which will likely give us our best chance to rank in organic search. Right? Now I do it, that’s my needs minimum. Now to the development editor it looks like they did it. They did what it was supposed to have.
Yeah, it is highly unlikely (you’ll require a development edit). You’re probably gonna get some copy edits, et cetera, but I’m including the topics, I’m answering the questions. I’m focusing on the appropriate tense. The likelihood of that being a negative experience goes down. Now you get into the workflows, right? The specific workflows that are solutioned with MarketMuse applications that are Research, Compete.
Those are more for the workflows of a search engine optimization professional, or a writer or an editor/copy editor. So those would be things where I’m going to touch a page, right?
MarketMuse inventory? That tells you why you should touch the page. The brief? How you should touch the page. Now I’m actually touching it, right? I’m gonna be using Compete. I’m gonna be using Research. I’m gonna be using Optimize. I’m gonna get information about how to make this page better from a lens of quality and comprehensiveness.
And that’s what Optimize and Compete provide. So what we do is we go out into the world. We look at tens of thousands of pages. We analyze a concept and we tell the story about what it means to be an expert on that topic. And we sort that by our measure of relevance and expertise. So basically what it’s saying is, “if you were an expert and you were covering this topic, comprehensively, here are things that you would naturally include.”
Now, the cool thing, we then overlay that against the top 20 competitors. So we’re not copying them. We’re actually showing you a high quality topic model overlaid against your competitors. What that tells you is not only how to be like them and what the table stakes concepts are, but also how to differentiate your page.
So when you see that nobody’s covering something and MarketMuse says that the topic is relevant. That’s magic. That’s how you differentiate. That’s how you keep your writers happy. Because what a writer doesn’t wanna hear is go copy everyone. They’re gonna go, “Oh great.” But now it’s “Do something that certainly you need to cover, but also here’s ways that you can differentiate.”
So when you pair that Compete workflow with that optimization workflow, maybe you’re looking at an existing page and it says you missed a bunch of spots. You had a bunch of blind spots in your editorial narrative. You also didn’t differentiate. What MarketMuse provides is a situation where you can ensure that all of the content that you publish or update is equal to, or better than all of your competitors, every time from a lens of quality, comprehensiveness and differentiation.
So the best practice is getting started, look at some pages that are like right on the edge of being great, right on the edge of performing, or you spent a lot of money on them, go check them out and compete and optimize. Because you might be able to see some areas where your writer missed a section.
You go update that, add a few sections to it. Make sure you’re not just peppering in words for the sake of doing it. Make the page better. Make the page better than all of the competitors. That puts your best foot forward today. You might not be able to perform and get a bunch of traffic with that page yet, but it puts your best foot forward every time you hit publish or every time you update. Now get into MarketMuse inventory and get to the point where you’re saying, “I know that I need to write 10 articles on this topic and related ones to have a cluster that will allow me to rank.” It’ll allow that page that is awesome to own this topic. So that becomes the why for content.
The brief is the how. And then the hustler, the person that gets it done, that’s what that’s when they’re using those applications. We also have applications that interlink pages. Internal and external links as well as questions to answer for intent for answering particular intents.
So that gets to the bottom of kind of the beginner’s phase, which is to say, “What should I do and why.” Maybe that’ll get me more budget. How should I do it? Get my team aligned and then actually get it done. And that’s really the story of how we solve that problem, Jenny, I hope you get hope.
That’s a good intro. So now the litmus test is why do you write content in the first place? What’s the quickest win for your business? Do you have any competitive threats, et cetera,
So internal and external linking the two pieces there. Really one can come out of an inventory where you have the list of pages and topics. But you could also be looking at your site and you wanna know what are all the pages I have that are related to a topic?
That’s where our connect tool works, where I can see what the cluster looks like. By the way, that’s the same topic model you get in Compete and Optimize or Research. But then under each node of that tree, per se, you get to see your most relevant pages for each one.
So it naturally produces the cluster. Tells you where to interlink, right? It also gives you tips on concepts to consider for interlinking. So that could be potential anchor text to weave into the natural narrative of the article. So then what we also have is external links. External links are tricky.
Some people are like, “no external links!” External links are really important, but external links shouldn’t be competitive. What does that mean? In the first line of your article on what is lemon lime seltzer, you should not link to, “Hey everybody, here’s the definition for lemon lime seltzer” and then link to the Wikipedia article for lemon lime seltzer.
That’s a super bad signal, cause it makes no sense. What you’re actually saying is “I’m not the best definition for lemon lime seltzer, this page is.” So it’s on the nose for semantic relatedness to what I’m focused on. So I should not be linking prominently to something on the nose for intent that has the same intent as me.
So external links should be focusing on tangential or adjacent concepts and intents that I don’t target. Internal links, semantically related. You’re building a tree, you’re building a web inside your content that tells the story that you’ve got it all. You’ve got the whole buyer journey. You’ve got all the topics. External, that’s your adjacencies. External linking helps you. This is the controversial part of our section. If I don’t link externally, it’s a super negative, weird signal.
If I’m a walled garden, they call it. And so there’s actually names for that dead end – dangling modes or dead ends or zero linkers or double zeros.
All different platforms have different names for that. Okay. Your external linking of those adjacent appropriate resources and references actually can be a great signal that you get it. So when you are linking adjacently, it can have a huge benefit to the overall perception of your site and how much of a great resource you are.
You don’t wanna link onto the nose of intent though. And that’s where link developers get it wrong. They get it wrong so much. So they’re linking to things that are right on the nose or they get links that are right on the nose which is a more advanced kind of 3 0 1 link building gotcha or myth. But that’s something to check out.
The Future of SEO – SERP Features and Search Volume.
Jeff: What is the future of SEO? I could go for six hours on this one, but yeah, that’s a big question, right? I’ll ask you one question.
I think this fits here, right? So featured snippets are taking over in a lot of cases. So the number of available 10 blue links is actually typically three to five blue links and click through rates are all over the place. A lot of people are misdiagnosing traffic drops with intent changes. And so a big piece of the future of SEO is people gotta get smart on the fact that it’s not 10 blue links.
And you could actually go up and down in ranking and increase position or decrease position. So how do you think that changes SEO? Like my position went from three to two, but I dropped in traffic. Like I just think it creates such a level of anxiety and the desire for more data. What, how would you be in that situation?
So I’ll give you an example. The feature snippet or a PAA or people also ask block is now between result two and three. And that impact then knocked my click through rate down 10%. So how do you react to that? If you’re a content team or an SEO team? That’s really a big piece of this, I think.
What I’m also gonna say is you’ve gotta be thinking more than just position. The future of SEO is more than just position. It’s not a standard clickthrough rate curve because SERP structures and visuals, and the layout of SERP features has changed.
So number three does not equal 8% or 7%, right? You gotta get out of that mindset. A lot of teams are relying on third party tools that use a standard click through rate curve. Doesn’t work. It creates so much error. You gotta get away from search volume as a predictor of a potential volume, a potential traffic.
Again. Huge mistakes. So those two things have to be in your search engine optimization team understanding. So understanding why SERP features influence click through rate curves and understand that volume is not necessarily a predictor. For so many reasons. If you want to go check out an article called Keyword Research and the Search Volume Illusion.
It really gets into why that can’t be the thing you rely on as a business. It can’t be your north star.
The Future of SEO – Consolidation
Jeff: And the other piece is consolidation. So that’s where I think the future of SEO is going to be. Certainly entries into the market by some other search engine offerings, it’s gonna be decreases in traditional ad clicks. You’ve got the Apples of the world. How will that influence the market? How will decreases in ad clicks influence the market? Mobile in more verticals and more levels as the generational progression of people in ages 15 to 30, continue to age. The flux changes of user patterns. And so those three things get into it, but the most important one, I think, is consolidation. So right now, very powerful businesses are buying websites instead of trying to buy ads. And they’re trying to own concepts.
You could stop with SEO and you will miss that boat. Because stopping with SEO is just not understanding what SEO is. What I was mentioning with the consolidation is if you can buy a site to own a collection of the market, you’re seeing it all over the world right now.
So the search engines are going to have to figure out how they want to deal with a conglomerate that owns an entire market. They actually own all the publications. I don’t know what they’re going to do. It’s a tremendous business challenge that they’re gonna have to tackle in the next 18 to 24 months.
So that’s where the future of SEOs is going. There’s gonna be new players. Ahrefs for example is disrupting the market slightly. You’ve got privacy based search engines disrupting the market. You’ve got Apple who will disrupt the market. You’ve got SERP features and search volume being considered for by teams. They’re understanding really how to do content. And then you’ve got consolidation where, you know, if you are powerful right now, you can actually buy an entire list of organic results. If you’re good enough and you have enough cash. And that has to be addressed somehow. I don’t know how but for now it’s great if you can do it.
Technical search engine optimization, putting yourself in a position where you can perform, get you the invite to the party. Following through with content and interlinking and then conducting effective digital PR and outreach.
An Example Website – Potomac Beads
Jeff: Now Jenny threw a site out there, Potomac beads, one that I know really well. So one of the key aspects of the site is your prolific content creation of video and your amazing community. They have a great Facebook community, tens of thousands. 60 plus age group where people are buying kits of piecemeal beads to build a project. And so the founder is like a video production expert. Like you watch her hands doing this work. Some of these are multiple groups and so what getting the value that’s provided by that video into your content and weaving that together, huge opportunity.
Making sure that the things like annotated and improved and produced transcripts. Thinking about your video as having potentially multiple entry points. So you might be looking at it from the stance of a technique. So you have such an opportunity there and then you get into kind of techniques when you to repurpose way more than you do. Yeah it’s definitely. Because you do a four hour video that gets you from beginning to end building this project, who does it speak to?
You’re talking about various products that are involved. Various beads. It is like the awesome, like blue bead green bead, 61 41 orange bead, 62 42. And then it’s the techniques used. I have no idea what these are. At one point, I knew a list of these techniques, Because I’ve spoken with those folks.
The criss cross method and the underlying bridge, I’m just making these up. But these would be like techniques that you also can feature. So you have this natural thing. It’s like everything, someone who cares about this cares about they would, you can package that and use all of this payload that you have many times. And the cool thing about it is it’s not like you’re doing it as a trick.
It’s actually valuable. So if you wanna see all the instances of the criss cross 42 method, right? That’s a great page for someone who’s researching that. And so then the last piece is competitive differentiation. For you, you’re in a spot where there’s low quality content competitors. You also have people who are doing tricky stuff.
You have the ability to put high quality content in its place. And those are big pieces. So creating new content would also be valuable to plug the gap. But competitive cohort analysis and repurposing are big pieces here. And then making sure, like we have a category page, which you do, where you have a kit page or a project page, make sure it tells the story of expertise and doesn’t only rely on the video.
I think that historically on the site, there is heavy reliance on the video, because the videos are so good. And that’s what you wanna see. You wanna see somebody actually doing it. You don’t wanna read an article about somebody talking through it. But does it provide those steps so that somebody can effectively knock that out?
Also the thing that you wanna do with any site that, where you have a lot of maybe gaps in process or operations, is you wanna look early on in the process for quick wins. So you wanna look at stuff maybe where you’re ranking on page two, but you have historical wins or semantically related win.
Quick Wins With MarketMuse
Jeff: So when using MarketMuse inventory, you can actually create saved views. What would be an example of the first time you look at a site Billy, a Saved View that finds some quick wins?
William: So I call it striking distance. Usually it’s one that I set up for every onboarding in the first session. And I’ll have the filters on. So it’s displaying pages that are in positions 11 to 20. So Google has already taken a liking to those pages, but it just needs a little bit more love to get it onto that page one.
And that could be a matter of optimizing the existing content, adding some more content or simply there’s a mismatching intent. So for me, that view is the best one for trying to identify some quick wins, because it gives you a whole list of what’s already there. You’ve got a good page. But they just need that little bit more of love, and it gives you a clear understanding as well.
And obviously you can then take it straight from using the inventory. You can right click and you can take that page straight into the optimized tool. If it gives you the metrics of the content score, word count and things like that. And it makes it really easy identifying those pages for quick wins.
So I think in terms of getting a quick ROI from our platform using it. I think that is the best way in terms of content, for sure.
William: How long should it take to create a piece of content? I guess that’s a variable question really. You should be deciding how often you want your content. You set out your schedule of how often you’d like content to be coming through to you.
And like you touched on before with sort of complications that you can run into with writers. I think using the brief side of things with MarketMuse. Allows for you to really simplify that process and make it easier. Because I know from working with writers before, a lot of complications come back when you’ve given them just a little bit of information, but there’s still room for confusion still. It’s like you are having that discussion of “we wanted this”, but they’re like “I thought it was this”. I think using the briefs allows you to give more concise information to the writer. It gives them everything that they need.
And you are confident enough that you are gonna be getting the content back that you want. In terms of how long should a piece of content take to create? It depends on the word count. I think it depends on the technicality of the actual piece as well. So I think there’s loads of variables there, but I think the most important thing is having a schedule for your content and having it solidified when you should be having that content back. When I was working in the content agency, I would want my content back on specific days. So I’d have it all blocked out. So I know when I’m expecting that piece back, I know then when it’s gonna be uploaded on my site.
I think a lot of it is on your side, in that sense of having it organized like that, you should be setting it up yourself really. You can get an idea from the writer, how long a piece of con is going to take, obviously. But I think in terms of knowing when you’re gonna get the content back from the writer, when you can expect to have it on the site, those are things that you can definitely come up with on the spot, really.
Jeff: When you were with a writing agency, was it a length risk recommendation, or were you able to give insights and feedback after you’ve started writing? I think that a lot of people encounter this. It’s like every writing agency. Has different processes.
And how do you kinda, how do you unify that ops situation?
William: The way that we had it set up was obviously different with the content agency, but we had it so that when people were buying the content, it was set out as packages. So like how many words the content was. So if they ordered a thousand words, 5,000 words or 10,000 words, They would know from ordering how long they could expect until they receive that content back.
Because we’ve been working with the writers for a while, so we knew how long it would take them to write particular pieces. Obviously it varies depending on what the writer is talking about, but we would have a general idea of how long every piece of content would take for each of our writers.
So it allowed us to give definitive deadlines back to our clients. And we’d obviously always put a buffer on there. There was never any sort of confusion of when we expected things back in times like that.
I guess it’s one of those things that you just learn whilst you’re doing. I was quite new to it at the time when I started well, I wasn’t a complete expert. I’m only 23, so I can’t claim I’m an expert in anything. But just doing it over and over again, all of these processes, you learn things and you get a solid idea of how long things can take and you can improve the processes to make them quicker and stuff like.
So it took like a year or so to get it really solidified, but I think it’s one of those that you gotta try it and see how you get on. You can set expectations, if you don’t meet those expectations, then you can rearrange them. There’s no sort of definitive answer for it really in that sense.
Jeff: Yeah. It’s like how long is a string? Set expectations. Set the bar and then knock it down.
William: Returning back to the question about the future of SEO. I think for me, what I was going to come out with was the importance of building a brand really.
It’s usually all of the experts that are getting that sort of space now. So thinking about the future of SEO, I think is really important, building a brand for yourself, really solidifying yourself that way. Other people want to collaborate with you when you are building a strong brand.
How Long Should it Take to Create Content?
William: I think just because there’s so many variables, I just don’t think there is like a definitive answer for it, and I think it’s all then judged upon the quality that you’re getting back. If someone’s asking for some content from you and you’re saying, oh, it’s gonna be a month.
And then you say, oh, actually it might be longer. Or if that extra amount of time that it is taking you to produce that content is substantially worth it. Then I don’t think anyone can question that. I found that the annoyances came with me when people are saying that it’s gonna take X amount of time to do a piece of content and they don’t do it and it’s a week late.
And the content’s really crappy. You don’t appreciate that it’s taken later and the content still isn’t great. So what have you spent that extra time doing? If it didn’t take you this long and you spent the extra time, but it’s still not great, then what have you done? You’re obviously gonna be dissatisfied with that really. But in terms of whether it takes you a month or six months, I think that’s the discussion between you and who you’re producing the content for. I really wouldn’t have a definitive answer for that type of thing. I think it’s just, if someone’s happy to wait the amount of time that you list for that content, because they know it’s gonna be good, then you’ve got no issues there.
But I think it’s all dependent on the different people that you work with. Everybody has their own sort of opinions around that matter. It’s, like I said, about the expectations, you can get a good idea of how long a piece is gonna take. But it’s never solid because things can change. I think the management of writers was like, the biggest thing for me that I struggled with is just making sure that everyone is getting things in on time.
And that’s why we added things like buffers, because sometimes things do happen or you might have your favorite writer for a specific topic. He might not be able to do this for whatever reason this week, so you’ve gotta find someone else. And you have to understand the other writer may not be as strong on this topic.
So you have to have that leeway. They might take another extra day or two because of the research. So it’s those types of things that you have to take into account. There’s so many variables that you just have to set yourself up for success by setting those sorts of boundaries and expectations . So it was just done through trial and error for me until we got to the point where it was a really solidified process. Where it was as simple as people ordering, content was coming through, we had our editors and proof was going over it and we could deliver it back to the client once there was a quality check done for it.
For it to get to that stage where it was just what felt like a simple ordering system. It took like a year of getting the right process, just so we weren’t messing things up.
Jeff: Great outline there. The question I have, one of the answers, and as you walked in is it’s really a lot about how do I predict. What the outcomes are gonna be how much investment I need to make. And am I competent in what I publish that it achieves the goals of the user. And that’s, I think you nailed that.
That’s really what you learn in time. Also why these content operations forms are so valuable. Because if you can speed that up and make that less of a pain for your business it’s really awesome.
Changing Intent, ROSS, and Flashing.
Jeff: Yeah, it also depends on intent. Has the intent for this topic changed? Will it change? But also how does the market change? So if people are adding value to their site and then they’re becoming more authoritative and they’re moving and then you’re standing still, it’s called in this context, strategy space called risk of standing still, or the ROSS.
You gotta know you’re ROSS for each topic.
The intent change is key. But then also you have the situation where you may want an archive and a live (article).
And that’s called flashing. It is a technique for content. An example of that would be if you monitor the price of gold. You want today’s price of gold, but you also want your take on that at historical times. So you should plan for that. You should plan for having a live gold tracker and the content quality there.
And then you go back in time and have each year or each quarter and your editorial then, and that all creates a pool. That pool of pages represents that you’re the authority on both gold prices past, present, and future. Now you start building pages that represent the future, and then you flash them.
Flash means replace content on one page with other content at some given trigger. So you clip that page. Now, your cluster keeps building as opposed to only having one page. Does that one page exhibit expertise? No. If you really knew everything about gold, you would have all that historical artifact and it does have value because that all operates as a mass.
Plus it also exhibits that you’ve been there, done that. You don’t just have that one mortgages of the day. So if you can find situations where you should be flashing that is a really important technique to have both. So then maybe the price of silver, for example, was highly fluctuating because of supply chain issues in 2020. You might link to a collection of supply chain issues. And that all connects to that.
So same with Clubhouse. Clubhouse is weird. Because Clubhouse was just like kids in a tree and things you make. Then it was this thing. It was super weird. And then now you got five competitors, offshoots of social networks.
So I would use my clubhouse authority to offshoot to other media type authority, Twitter spaces, et cetera. And then I would try to weave that into social media prowess of various types. So features that social media products have released over the years that have been sunset. Ones that have been impactful.
How’s Twitter blue doing? So I would try to weave myself into being a social media expert out of the power that I built off of Clubhouse at the right time, in the right place. I’m probably not gonna get much out my Clubhouse work. But be thinking, how do I squeeze the goo out of the power that I created with that historical page? Maybe it isn’t as relevant today.
So repurposing doesn’t just mean, I’ll give you a great example of this. I used to run a website that was about windows 2000. Everybody was like, all those articles are terrible because they’re out of date. We went through every single one, squeezed a lot of value out of it to make it be able to be bucketed inside windows and windows for particular businesses.
So there’s always a way to take something that’s old and make it tremendously valuable. And then also reference the artifact that exists, which is the historical record which you need to not kill. People that delete pages because they’re outta date and don’t redirect them properly do major damage to the power of their sites.
When You Get a Link From Tim Berners-Lee, the Inventor of the Internet
Jeff: I once had a page that was linked to from Tim Berners-Lee, basically the creator of the HTTP protocol. The real inventor of the internet linked to my definition for RSA and it had been deleted 4 0 4 for quite a long time. I found the link, fixed it when to pulled the traffic to that section of the site for one link.
So decisions like that can really negatively impact. So you gotta really be thinking about it. Better a link that got redirected to a homepage or a catch all as they call it. Can actually have less impact than if they were actually pointing to a topically relevant collection or section.
So when you’ve done catchall during a migration, you can go back and fix that stuff. So be thinking about that too.