Content marketing is all the rage these days – but what exactly is it and how can it be scaled to be profitable? We had the opportunity to interview Noelle Schuck, the Editor-in-Chief at iAcquire, a NYC and Phoenix-based digital and content marketing agency. As the Editor-in-Chief, she manages content journalists, SEO strategists, and editors who create custom content on behalf of clients, publishers, and their audiences.
What’s it like leading a team? How do you manage your time, and stay on track? Any particular tools you recommend?
I manage 21 people on iAcquire’s Editorial team: four content strategists, three assignment editors, seven writers, six editors and one infographics specialist. We also use a network of freelance writers. Our editorial team is one branch of our agency’s holistic digital marketing offerings. Our role is to create relevant, informative, and timely content to clients across multiple industries.
We are a high-volume business, so every one of us has to be an expert at time management. For years, I was a big Dayrunner devotee and never left home without my big, bulky planner. Now I’m in heaven with the project management, time management, and task-oriented apps that fit on my iPhone and iPad. As an organization we have all migrated to Google apps (Gmail/Google calendar) and Trello.
I’ve also used the time tracker HarvestApp, which is an incredibly powerful tool for time management. Use it for a week, and see how much time you spend answering emails, doing “misc tasks” and attending meetings. It’s quite an eye-opener. I’m a big believer in time trackers.
We’ve just started using Google Docs, which I love because multiple people can be in a document at the same time, and there is no need to email attachments back and forth and worry about which version is the most updated. Our content management system provides metrics that allow me to analyze my team’s productivity and quality. I’ve got a background in finance, so I’m a big spreadsheet nut. If I could live in Excel, I would.
“Content marketing” is a term that’s been picking up steam the last several years. What exactly is content marketing, and why should businesses become more educated about it?
I come from a print background and worked in newspapers for 10 years, including custom publishing. Our goal then is the same as it is today: We connect businesses with the audiences they want to reach. I am excited to be part of something that is in its infancy. Digital content marketing is just getting started. It is constantly changing, but a successful content campaign is simple. Create good content. The journalist in me loves that.
If a business wants to grow, it cannot ignore content marketing. We’ve known for decades that word-of-mouth advertising is has the biggest ROI because it costs next to nothing (compared to paid forms of advertising) and it carries the most clout. Every business should be on the big three (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) and have a website, and consumer services and goods providers should be on Yelp and Pinterest. The blend of high organic search results (through quality content marketing) and a strong social presence is the perfect recipe for audience saturation.
How does one go about creating consistent, high-quality content? Also, what are some good tips for optimizing your content without going overboard?
The key to optimizing content without going overboard is to create authentic content and seamlessly integrate the keywords. I liken it to laying floor tile in a house. If you start from the outside and work inward, you end up with this awkward group of tiles in the middle of the room that stick out, and everyone notices. Always start from the middle and work toward the walls. Same thing with optimized content. Start with the keyword phrase in mind, and build your content out, toward your conclusion. Write your lead paragraph last.
I hold coaching sessions with my teams using examples from their content. We cover things like ‘writing killer leads,’ avoiding empty advice, recognizing wordiness (my personal pet peeve) and writing clickable and searchable headlines. We do this every week. We have a reference guide where all of these lessons are stored, and when we hire new writers and editors, we train them with those tools.
In your opinion, what makes a great website? How can people ensure they effectively guide their audience?
We recently relaunched our agency’s website, so I leaned on our resident Creative Director Robb Door for his insight. With our website relaunch we considered the following points and we feel that these points can be applicable to all websites:
- Design – Creating a cohesive brand through iconography, typography, coloring schemes
- Audience segmentation – Tailoring content (both words and images) towards specific personas
- Content – Creating content that speaks to your defined audience; serving as a knowledge hub through both top-of-the-funnel content and brand-specific content; continually creating content that makes users want to come back and see what’s fresh
- Usability – Making navigation easy through your site
With the explosion of social media, is SEO still as important today? How has it evolved?
SEO and social have to go together. Search engines are the first places we go when we want to buy something, when we want to learn about something, when we want user reviews and when we want to be entertained. With Google searching Facebook’s hashtags, the two become more and more intertwined.
SEO alone is esoteric. Content marketers can spend a lot of time guessing what the latest search algorithm will do, and then create technology to manipulate the search bots. In its worst forms, our industry saw keyword stuffing and spun content. I was dismayed when I saw articles being written by non-English speaking writers who churned out content whose sole purpose was to boost rankings. I’d ask myself: “What was happening to my profession?” Since then, we’ve learned that well-written, relevant content always wins.
In continuing that topic, since the introduction of Google+, Google has put more of an emphasis on social. For businesses or bloggers that aren’t using Google+, will this impact their rankings as time goes on?
We encourage our team to build Google+ profiles, build their author rankings and create strong followings because we recognize that Google is pushing for authentic content created by real authors, and we love that. Relevance, relevance, relevance is key.
In addition, iAcquire is in the process of building a journalist network called Clearvoice that connects journalists with publishers — at scale. Our technology team built the system to feed journalists’ profiles through Google+ and authorship data. Google’s search algorithm is leaning heavier and heavier on authorship data, so we found it important to have this data be the backbone of the new system.