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Oct 13, 2011
Case Study

Content Marketing: How an online retailer created a research report that produced 212% more downloads

SUMMARY: Launching a good content marketing campaign does not have to be a step into the unknown. You might have all the resources you need sitting in your office.

Learn how an online retailer created a free report from a survey of its email audience and had the report downloaded 212% more times than the previous year. See why the report's title is the top-referring keyword to the company's blog.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

CHALLENGE

Last year, luggage retailer Suitcase.com launched a great inbound marketing campaign. The team surveyed its audience, created a premium report, and offered it for free from its website.

Traffic to the company's blog more than quintupled after the report was published. The report's landing page received more inbound traffic than any other page on the site last year, and it had a 16% lower bounce rate than the site's average during its first four months (check the useful links at the bottom of this article to see the case study).

"The results were astonishing, and exceeded our expectations. We wanted to repeat [the report] to continue the momentum from last year," says John Ebb, CEO, Suitcase.com.

The team needed a new campaign to push results even higher. But was that even possible?

CAMPAIGN

Following a similar strategy and making a few tweaks, Suitcase.com surveyed its audience and again created a premium report to drive inbound traffic.

Here are the steps taken:

Step #1. Research potential topics

Since Suitcase.com specializes in luggage, the team wanted the report to follow up on its 2010 Consumer Luggage Report. The report would be a PDF document loaded with stats and analysis.

However, the airline industry had changed. The team had to conduct fresh research to ensure the report aligned with the current needs and interests of its audience.

They researched three key areas:

Search engine keywords

The team began with basic analysis on search engine keywords related to "luggage," "suitcase" and "travel," and noted their volumes. The goal was to identify travelers' pain points and focus on those for the report, rather than focusing on products or companies.

Brick-and-mortar store

Although primarily an online retailer, Suitcase.com has a brick-and-mortar store in Sudbury, MA, which provides face-to-face contact with customers. Employees directly gathered feedback on customers' pain points and used the information to help identify potential topics for the report.

Competitive research

The team searched the websites and media coverage of its competitors for similar reports. However, as was the case in 2010, team members did not find any focusing on luggage data or trends.

If you intend to follow a similar strategy, be sure to check your competitor's content, as you'll want to differentiate your offer.


Step #2. Build the survey

The team now had a good idea what it wanted to cover in the new report:
  • Luggage trends in response to new airport regulations

  • Key influences on luggage purchases

  • Most-desired luggage features

  • And other topics

The new report would be based on survey data from Suitcase.com's email audience. The team used a third-party survey tool to build and host the survey. It consisted of 18 multiple-choice questions and took about five minutes to complete. Questions came in three categories:

  1. Basic questions - email address, sex, and age

  2. Luggage questions, such as:

  3. "Which of the following items is true as a result of the changes in the airline industry, regarding costs, safety and regulations?"
    • I pack lighter and use smaller travel bags

    • I only purchase luggage made with 100% warranted brands

    • Etc …

  4. Travel questions, such as:

  5. "In the past 12 months, what percentage of your airline travel is business related?"
    • 0%

    • 25%

    • Etc …

Email to house list with incentive

The team sent a request to take the survey to its email database in Dec. 2010. This relevant and readily-available audience was the only group asked to take part. The email included an incentive offering participants a chance to win free luggage.


Step #3. Build a PDF report

The team published an 11-page PDF report in April based on the survey results. Here are its key sections:

  1. Title page - prominently features the Suitcase.com logo

  2. Table of contents

  3. Executive summary - a one-page description of the key trends and data points found in the survey

  4. Body - the bulk of the report consists of seven pages of data, charts, analysis and quotes from the CEO

  5. References - information about Suitcase.com and the survey, as well as the company logo

Focus on pain points

The report includes five links to products on Suitcase.com's site that the report references and three links to related research. Despite this disparity, the document's content primarily features data and analysis -- not product information.

This is an important distinction. Interesting and helpful content is more likely to be viewed, shared and treated well by search engines. A PDF report that focuses on products will appear more like a catalog than a helpful resource and will be less likely to generate inbound traffic and press.

Apply keyword research

Since "consumer luggage report" and similar phrases were the site's largest drivers of inbound search traffic last year, Suitcase.com did not want to drastically change this year's title. The team named the report Keep it Light: The 2011 Consumer Luggage Report and used high-volume search phrases throughout the document.


Step #4. Publish and promote the report

The team published the report on Suitcase.com's blog domain, blog.suitcase.com. This ensured inbound links and traffic to the report's landing page would help increase the blog's reputation in search engines.

The landing page that offers the report included:

  • Mostly text with a headline, sub-headline and single product image

  • Description of key findings and stats

  • Button to "download now"

  • 3 links to follow the company's blog, Twitter feed and Facebook profile

Compared to the survey, the team was not nearly as shy about sharing the report. The team published it on a dedicated landing page and further promoted it in the following channels:

Blog posts

The team launched the report with a blog post and continued to reference it in later posts.

Social media

Similar to the blogging strategy, the team announced the initial launch of the report in its Facebook and Twitter feeds, and mentioned it regularly.

Media outlets

The team created and sent a press release through several distribution services. The release highlighted key stats and findings, and provided a link to the report's landing page for downloading. Furthermore, the team pitched travel-related media outlets to feature the report in articles.


Step #5. Modify the content strategy

The research for this year's report and the analysis of last year's results helped the team modify its content strategy.

For example, as the report focused on consumer pain points and challenges, the company's blog now includes more posts with titles such as:
  • TSA Rules: Packing tips for airport security

  • Airport Safety - Tips to avoid luggage theft and pilfering

  • Carry-on Luggage: TSA airline regulations to remember

This approach has two benefits. First, the content provides a helpful resource to the audience, which increases the appeal of the company's brand. Second, since consumers use search engines to help solve their problems, the content is likely to attract inbound search traffic.

This approach was applied to the team's social media efforts as well. Facebook posts this year hit the following topics:
  • Choosing travel insurance

  • Carry on guidelines

  • Avoiding baggage fees



RESULTS

"By updating the report, we had some great, new material that we wanted to share, and the contemporary findings are much more appropriate to today's traveler," Ebb says. "Producing an annual report on a regular basis tends to keep everyone current on trends in the industry."

The team's site traffic quickly spiked after launch. Download stats include:
  • 212% increase in downloads in April 2011 compared to April 2010

  • 59% increase in downloads in April 2011 compared to March 2011

  • 70% increase in downloads from April to Sept. 2011 compared to the same period in 2010

Looking at traffic referrals, we can see the team's media and SEO strategy contributed to the success:
  • Referring sites: 42% of downloads

  • Organic search: 38%

  • Direct traffic: 16%

  • Social media sites: 5%

Furthermore, the bounce rate on the report's landing page was nearly 40% lower than the site's average, and traffic to the page makes up nearly 10% of all blog traffic. "Consumer luggage reports" remains the top-referring keyword phrase to the company's blog.

Useful links related to this article


CREATIVE SAMPLES
1. Survey email
2. Landing page
3. Blog post
4. Report reference
5. Press release
6. Article
7. Report

2010 Case Study - Combining Email, Search, Social and PR for a Content Marketing Campaign: 6 Tactics to Generate Surge in Visitor Traffic

Content Marketing: Four tactics that led to $2.5 million in annual contracts

Inbound Marketing: How to pull in customers without pushing ads

Content Marketing: How shifting the budget led to a 152% boost in landing page traffic

SurveyMonkey - Survey service used

PR 20/20 - Team’s PR agency, which designed the strategy

Suitcase.com

Comments about this Case Study

Oct 17, 2011 - Jen McGahan of www.MyTeamConnects.com says:
Great stuff! I think the survey step is probably one of the most important. The company already knows how to solve the problem for its customers; the big discovery is what is causing the exact pain points and what language to use to discuss that pain. Only feedback will tell you for sure. A really engaged audience on FB might pipe in with some great comments, too. This article was super-helpful. Thanks.



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