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Dec 13, 2012
Case Study

Content Marketing: 172% ROI for online retailer’s high-powered blog

SUMMARY: Blogging is one of the most popular tactics in content marketing and SEO. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most difficult. Many companies struggle to earn a clear ROI, so blogs tend to receive the short end of the budget.

ZAGG, an online retailer, knows its blog results in sales, as it earns 172% ROI and 10% of the company's site traffic. In this article, you'll see what it takes to earn great results with a blog, how this company drives ROI, and why it writes posts for its audience, not for search engines.
by Adam Sutton, Senior Reporter

Many online retailers have a blog, but few take theirs as seriously as ZAGG. The mobile device accessory provider publishes 25 to 35 posts each week, Monday through Friday.

"Unless you are willing to go into it full speed ahead, it’s going to be hard to make a blog worth your time," says Drew Conrad, Internet Marketing Specialist, ZAGG.

ZAGGblog helps the company reach its tech-savvy audience, but more importantly, it earns revenue. After less than two years of existence, it earns 172% ROI from direct sales. It attracts more than 10% of ZAGG’s site traffic, about 60% of which comes from new visitors.

This is the result of a full-throttle strategy that focused on creating content the audience loved and not being afraid to promote products. Below, we outline the key tactics behind ZAGGblog’s success.

Tactic #1. Focus on sales

Many companies start a blog to build awareness or search traffic. ZAGG pursues these goals, but the primary focus of its blog is to generate revenue.

The team is not too shy to post about its products or marketing. One caveat is there has to be something interesting or new to say.

"We write about our products as much as we can," Conrad says. "We don’t want to overwhelm people. … We write about things as they naturally come up, whether it’s a new product, promotion or a giveaway."

Follow the money

ZAGG started the blog in Jan. 2011 with a three-month pilot. Seeing good results, it extended the test another three months, and then another.

During this time, ZAGG noticed an interesting correlation between content and revenue. First, when it published more content, the site earned more traffic. When it earned more traffic, it earned more sales.

"Now we budget for a year because we know that we are making money," Conrad says.

Don’t forget ROI

Content can be expensive. ZAGG pays three offsite writers to create posts. The team also spends time managing and editing the blog. The only way to stay efficient is to avoid perfection.

"We obviously have a brand to protect, so we do read through [posts], and make edits and adjustments as needed," says Conrad. "At the same time, we are doing this to get a return on investment. Sometimes that means grammar errors slip in. As long as we are getting that ROI, we’re fine."

Tactic #2. Drive social sharing

ZAGGblog’s strategy is to create content the audience loves to share. This attracts good sales prospects who can read more posts and browse products.

Creating viral content is easier said than done, however. It requires a deep understanding of the audience and its preferences. ZAGG sells mobile accessories, so it often publishes posts about mobile technology and devices.

Over time, the team began to understand the audience’s preferences, and worked them into its content.

Here are four types of posts ZAGG publishes:
  • News – Many posts feature the latest information on products from Google, Apple and other tech giants. To spur sharing, Conrad keeps a constant eye on tech-news sites to catch big stories. Covering these topics early in the news cycle has earned ZAGG links from sites as prominent as NBC.com.

  • How To – Some posts have helpful information on how to accomplish a tech-related task, such as how to sign a document on a tablet PC.

  • Entertaining – ZAGG’s tech-savvy audience often shows a preference for funny or bizarre posts. Some are only loosely related to technology. One example lists "10 hilarious tweets about the demise of Twinkies." Another describes a firefighting robot that can dowse flames with 600 gallons of water per minute from a quarter-mile away.

  • Promotional – The team also writes about its products and marketing. This can include posts about a new screen protector, or even the top ten tweets about what customers are saying about ZAGG’s earbud headphones.

"It’s a good way to share testimonials in a unique way," Conrad says.

Work in progress

Selecting great topics for a blog is an art, not a science. The team constantly refines its approach and monitors results to uncover the topics that generated the most engagement and sharing.


Tactic #3. Encourage shopping

ZAGG’s content strategy attracts a relevant audience, but the team needs to convince visitors to do more than read and share posts.

Here are three ways ZAGG gets visitors to shop:
  • Display ads –Every post includes an ad for a related product. For example, a post about Apple’s latest operating system might include an ad for ZAGG’s iPhone screen protector. An ad that promotes free shipping is also included on every post and the blog’s homepage.

  • Primary navigation – Buttons such as "products," "deals," and "shop by device" are at the top of every post.

  • Header graphic –The blog homepage and every post contain a large image that tells visitors they are on the official ZAGG blog, and that ZAGG stands for Zealots About Great Gadgets.

Tactic #4. Selectively promote posts

Another goal of the ZAGG blog is to generate content for the team’s large audiences in email, Facebook and Twitter. (ZAGG has more than 200,000 likes on Facebook and more than 30,000 followers on Twitter.)

This creates a mutually beneficial relationship between the blog and these channels. The blog provides content, and the channels provide traffic. However, not every post qualifies to be sent to ZAGG’s other audiences.

"Email is one of our biggest channels to the website, so we want to give them the best content for the opportunity to get a click," says Conrad.

Here’s how the marketing team vets content before delivering it outside the blog:
  • Once published, a link to each post is sent onto Twitter.

  • Posts that earn a high number of retweets and replies qualify to be featured once or twice on ZAGG’s Facebook page.

  • Posts that earn a high number of likes, shares and comments on Facebook qualify for the team’s email program.

The team sends about four promotional emails and two content-based emails each month. Content emails include a short summary, headline and link to the best posts recently added to the blog. They have an 82% higher click-to-open rate than promotional emails.

"They don’t necessarily get the highest conversion rate," says Conrad, "but they are opened and read more than other [emails], and they are another way for us to engage."

Tactic #5. Don’t overemphasize SEO

ZAGG writes posts for its audience, not for search engines. Posts are edited to have a strong headline and leading paragraph, but SEO is not a primary concern, says Conrad.

However, the team does not entirely disregard natural search. Occasional posts offer a resource the team knows the audience will search for in the near future.

Here’s an example:

"When the iPhone 4S came out, we looked at that product and thought, ‘What are people going to be asking about?’ So we focused a blog post on the phrase, "What does the ‘S’ in iPhone 4S stand for?’ … That post has actually brought in a lot of traffic."

Creative Samples

  1. ZAGGblog product post

  2. ZAGGblog display ad

  3. ZAGG primary navigation

  4. ZAGGblog header graphic

  5. ZAGG content-based email

Sources

ZAGG

ZAGGblog

Related Resources

Blog Awards: The 13 best marketing industry blogs (according to you)

Content Marketing: Interactive infographic blog post generates 3.9 million views for small insurance company

Content Marketing: Misstakes arr Bad

What is the Easiest Tactic to Improve SEO?


Comments about this Case Study

Dec 13, 2012 - Michael Jones of CompuPay says:
Wow, this is awesome info on strategy and ROI in the blogging/social space. I love the part about vetting email content through social likes and shares. We've seen great traffic to the blog, but are still figuring out the line of product promotion vs. objective info. Thanks for posting and thanks to Drew for sharing. Super helpful.



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