August 2, 2016: Earlier this year I presented a case study on how we grew our digital presence by more than 200%, in terms of total site traffic, over a two year timeframe. Organic search specifically grew more than 500% period over period, with +150% growth in leads from this channel.
As I detailed in my most recent column on Search Engine Land, we committed to an aggressive production goal for content marketing: 250 assets per year or approximately one per day.
My SEL column focused on how we organized our efforts to hit this production goal and the steps we took to motivate our team and encourage participation.
In this blog post, I’ll outline how we established our proposed benchmarks and what B2B marketers should evaluate in order to determine applicable benchmarks for their own online marketing programs.
The first step in establishing benchmarks is to review key competitors and their online productivity. Similar to general, SEO competitive analysis, we were looking to determine how active and (visibly) successful competitors are with their content marketing programs.
For each competitor, we recommend evaluating three key elements:
- Content Marketing Production
- Brand Engagement
- Competitor Inbound Link Acquisition
Content Marketing Production
The first step is to understand how active the competition is at content development. There are several characteristics to consider:
- Do they blog and how often are they posting?
- Beyond blogging, what other content marketing assets are they creating and how frequently do they create them?
- How many social media profiles do they manage, how often do they post, and what type of posts do they execute?
- How long have they been executing their program?
Some of the key navigational elements to review in visual inspection include:
- A “Resource Center”
- Downloadable assets like white papers, research reports, etc.
- Initiatives requiring registration such as webinars and email newsletters
- Multimedia assets
- Social media profiles and communities managed
By downloading a report from Screaming Frog, we can further assess a competitors website structure, digging deeper into navigational flow as well as individual content assets (as detailed in the screenshot above).
In the context of this initiative, brand engagement refers to the amount of visible interaction that can be observed from a competitor’s content marketing program.
Examples of visible metrics include:
- Social sharing activity
- Social media network (who they follow, who follows them, etc)
- Social media engagement (mentions, retweets, likes, comments, etc)
Buzzsumo is a preferred resource for understanding how much social media activity a competitor receives. This is for both the levels of social sharing across individual assets as well as the type of assets that perform the best overall.
While you could argue that inbound links are also a sign of brand engagement, we recommend the review of competitive link profiles based on their significance for SEO.
The key is understanding what competitive content acquires links and why it appears this is happening.
Once again, Buzzsumo can be used to assess backlink performance. We recommend reviewing different timeframes (past week, past month, etc) to gauge how active a competitor is recently as well as over longer periods of time.
Moz’s Open Site Explorer also offers a “Just Discovered” component to their backlink research, which also provides insights into recent competitive SEO activity.
Don’t forget brand-specific searches as well. The information uncovered helps to realize broader marketing initiatives and organizational activity which may have an indirect (or direct) impact on link acquisition even though SEO was not a primary focus.
Keyword Research & Analysis
Competitive analysis provides support towards how much content we needed to produce and the type of content that could resonate with target audiences.
Keyword research provides the necessary search volume to estimate growth projections. This can be tackled through both competitive keyword review and the analysis of existing performance and keyword opportunities.
Competitive Keyword Review
With our program, while we already had a core set of keyword priorities, it was also important to cross-reference this list with competitors. We wanted to make sure that we were not missing opportunities as well as validate priorities.
SEMRush is the primary tool we use for this type of review. With SEMRush, B2B marketers can cross-reference multiple competitors as well as compare similarities in overarching keyword strategy.
With a list of keyword opportunities in hand, the next step is plug them into Google’s Keyword Planner to get a sense of approximate search volume.
Once search estimates are compiled, we can cross reference search volume with keyword-specific search position to determine opportunity. We use the premium versions of SEMRush and Moz, which provide position tracking capabilities.
When comparing search estimates with average positions, we can then make conservative estimates for traffic improvements, assuming we can improve our position for targeted keywords.
Google Search Analytics
A more ideal solution for projecting traffic based on search estimates is through Google Search Console’s Search Analytics report.
When comparing organic search impressions in coordination with existing traffic and average position, we’re better able to assess traffic growth expectations.
More importantly, and as I detailed in a second column for Search Engine Land, in-depth analysis of Google Search Console data allows you to prioritize topics based on defined patterns of success or opportunity.
Of course this all assumes web pages are already ranking, even at a relatively insignificant level, in Google search results.
Putting It All Together (TL;DR)
In the end, we uncovered hundreds of potential keyword opportunities that generated tens of thousands of impressions in organic search for our organization.
It made it easy to set aggressive but realistic growth expectations based on tactical commitments and objectives.
Here is a summary of steps taken.
- Review competitors to establish a baseline for tactics and production.
- Assemble a list of keywords, cross-referencing and adjusting based on competitor review.
- Leverage Google Search Console to compare search impressions with clicks to site and average position.
- If Search Console data is not accessible, obtain search estimates via Google Keyword Planner, cross-referencing with organic search positions.
- Put your SEO-centric content marketing plan in action!
Hopefully these ideas provide the necessary foundation for efforts projecting SEO content marketing growth expectations.
While the resources listed above work for KoMarketing, there are certainly alternatives. Are there resources your organization uses that you find valuable that I failed to mention? I would love to read your feedback via comments below.
Interested in learning more about our case study? Check out my SlideShare presentation for details.