December 06, 2023

Digital Content Transformation: Examples (with results) of interactive documents, data-rich articles, and detailed reviews


Gather round, and I’ll tell you a time when content marketing wasn’t so immensely overcrowded. Most marketers were sending messages outbound, and the land of PDF downloads and blog posts was more sparsely populated.

Of course, it was never quite that easy. But my gosh how content marketing has exploded in every industry and keeps growing exponentially (partly thanks to AI)…making it even harder for your content to penetrate the noise.

To give you ideas for breaking through the clutter, in this article we bring you examples of interactive document engagement from a market research firm, data-driven content strategy from a reviews website, and high-quality online reviews from an affiliate site.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

This article was distributed through the MarketingSherpa email newsletter. Sign up now to receive real-life examples of marketing success sent straight to your inbox to spark your next great idea.

In the AI Guild, Flint McGlaughlin teaches to uncouple the value from the mechanism (Flint is CEO of MarketingSherpa). Separate the value that a product or piece of lead gen content provides from how it is delivered. By focusing on the value that the content provides to the customer – and not on how it is delivered – we may discover new ways to deliver value to our ideal customer.

This article includes some examples of that – transforming content formats, subjects, and templates.

Quick Case Study #1: Market research firm switches from PDF report to interactive document, grows readership from 2,000 to 35,000

Sometimes there’s a little kismet in our reporting. In a recent episode of How I Made It In Marketing (Outside-In Messaging: Nothing counts more than the language of the customer), Ralf Paschen, Chief Marketing Officer, xtype, told me:

“What I care about is – how engaged are they? And that comes with a score…How much are they reading my eBook? And I'm not using PDFs. Maybe I'm unusual, not normal for that. But I do not have any PDFs in the company. Not one. Because forcing downloads doesn't mean the PDF is valuable.

But I use content management tools so I know exactly – when I create that eBook, I can watch people get to the last page.

And 100 people started in there in the beginning and 80 people are left in the end, it’s a very successful one. So I know exactly what they read, how long, how many minutes, everything. I know exactly what they did. So I'm very data-driven of – is this eBook relevant? Are we updating this eBook? Are we using this still? Are we using this more? Are we doing campaigns around this eBook. Are we adding more pieces to it?”

Paschen piqued my interest. I was vaguely but not specifically aware of such content management tools. And then the Marketing Fates blew a case study pitch across my desk that contained just such a story.

BEFORE – PDF format

Up until 2019, Kantar was spending a lot of time and money putting together its annual PDF ‘Brand Footprint’ report, primarily because ‘it was the way we had always done it.’

“Our flagship report, Brand Footprint, is a global ranking of the most chosen FMCG brands. Historically, we published the report as a one-off PDF, but readership wasn’t growing and we weren’t able to track where it ended up,” said Patricia Serrano Marín, Content Marketing & Creative Manager, Worldpanel Division, Kantar.

The market research firm was also professionally printing approximately 1,500 copies of the report in a magazine format and sending it out to some of their VIP contacts.

Creative Sample #1: PDF report

Creative Sample #1: PDF report

AFTER – Interactive document

For the 2020 edition of Kantar’s Brand Footprint annual report, the team used a digital reading experience doc format.

Creative Sample #2: Digital reading experience doc format

Creative Sample #2: Digital reading experience doc format

The report was issued in May, but the team kept driving further attention to the report by adding new chapters – with new emails and LinkedIn promotions for each.

The team created an email drip campaign to their database for each report with emails focused on different chapters and topics every two to four weeks or so. The reports are included in the company's fortnightly (every two weeks) newsletter. They also distribute internally and the client service teams share the report one-to-one with their clients.

And they promote on social media as well. "[We share the report] on social media, especially by posting on LinkedIn – organic, very occasionally paid posts. Every report comes with a set of social media posts – with images, charts, sliders, short videos – with insights from the report and links to it," Serrano said.

The interactive document provides the team visibility on readership data, along with wholly new insights:

  • the most-read chapters
  • how much time people spend reading the publication
  • which links, videos, and calls to action people click
  • if they access via laptop or smartphone
  • which country they are in when they access it.

There’s also a feature that shows answers to polls and surveys that Kantar sends out.

Creative Sample #3: 11th edition of report in digial reading experience, with poll

Creative Sample #3: 11th edition of report in digial reading experience, with poll

“Accessing the right data is really challenging with some forms of online documentation. With the right information, you can paint a much more detailed picture of how people interact with your content and use this to continuously upgrade your perspective on how to grab people’s attention,” said Nick Mason, CEO, Turtl (Kantar’s digital documents vendor).

With this new report format, the team is now able to differentiate between clients and prospects. The team now knows that around 50% of the report’s readership are clients who have received it via their inboxes, and 50% are prospects or social media readers who accessed a gated version of the report. As a result, they decided it was worth it to keep doing social media promotion. They also found out that half of that audience is in Asia, so they are producing more local pieces for that region.

"Another insight that changed the way we produce content with Turtl is that there’s no point in producing a very long piece if people are only spending an average of 5 minutes reading. Five is a high readership average time but for us it’s proven more effective to catch the readers’ attention by issuing smaller, digestible pieces in a staggered launch," Serrano said. “This year we’ve planned a staggered launch of our 11th edition and we’ll be adding fresh content on a continuous basis. [The interactive document] has definitely changed the way we produce, promote and make the most out of our content."

At the very beginning people were asking for the PDF of the report. "That’s an option that is available on Turtl and we saw people downloading the report when we first transitioned. Once they got familiar with Turtl’s interactivity we saw downloads descend (hence why in 2023, only 6% of our readers downloaded the PDF version of our reports)," she explained.

RESULTS – From 2,000 to 35,000 readers

In 2019, Kantar’s PDF report had around 2,000 readers, but this figure was unreliable as they couldn’t be sure how many people shared the report with their colleagues via email or physical copy. For the next year’s edition, the report attracted 28,000 readers. Now for the 2023 edition, Kantar can see that 35,000 people have engaged with the new report in just six months and have also accessed previous publications.

Quick Case Study #2: Review site adds data articles, generates backlinks from 637 new pages

In the previous case study, we explored changing the paper your content is printed on, so to speak.

What about a more radical change? When you have to transform the type of content you produce?

Tooltester is a digital software review site. However, it decided to move past its bread-and-butter content and produce other types of content as well to improve SEO for the site.

BEFORE – Primarily review-based content

The team was primarily producing commercial content on website builders and hosting services – in-depth reviews and software comparisons to help users decide on the best software for their business.

These types of articles aren’t typically great backlink magnets, so the team needed to come up with a strategy in order to build backlinks organically to increase their domain rating and rankings. The team found that securing backlinks for the commercial content required a significant amount of manual outreach, which was time-consuming. They needed to produce the type of content journalists and blog writers were actively looking for to use as a source for their informational pieces.

Creative Sample #4: Review article

Creative Sample #3: Review article


AFTER – Including data articles as well

They started producing ‘market share” articles, which quickly went to the number one spot, and saw pretty good results. “For example, an article on Shopify’s market share has generated backlinks from 183 pages on 116 domains,” said Robert Brandl, Founder, Tooltester. “However, it wasn’t until we produced an article on ChatGPT statistics that we really saw the backlinks start rolling in!”

Creative Sample #5: ChatGPT statistics article

Creative Sample #4: ChatGPT statistics article

The article, which was published in February 2023, comprises key statistics, such as revenue, web traffic and users, making it a useful resource for journalists and bloggers writing on the topic of AI.

“What’s more, AI is a ‘hot’ topic, and the keyword had significant search queries on Google, meaning the article got significantly more traffic than the Shopify piece,” Brandl said.

RESULTS – More backlinks

To date, the article has generated backlinks from 637 pages on 426 domains.

What’s more, the quality of backlinks is excellent, with many high-authority sites (DR90+) linking to the resource.

"If we compare the two topics: 'Shopify market share' and 'ChatGPT statistics,' the key to the latter’s success is that the product is undoubtedly the start of the AI revolution, which is already affecting businesses and individuals in a huge way," said Roberta Phillips, Marketing Manager, Tooltester. Everyone from tech writers to business writers to politicians are writing about it, so they are looking for reliable statistics to link to when they build a problem or prove a point in an article or blog post.

"Though the release of Shopify was a big deal in the mid-2000s as part of the emergence of no-code website builders, in 2023, fewer journalists are writing on the topic, so it didn’t really get the kind of traction they were hoping for," Phillips said.

Quick Case Study #3: Affiliate site adds more detail to reviews, increases traffic by 4,000 visitors

While Tooltester found success by finding a different type of content to produce, sometimes you can transform your content by doubling-down on what you’re already doing and making it better.

So let’s take a look at another case study that focuses on reviews, but this time the team stuck with the same type of content and optimized it to improve organic traffic.

Bogdancazino is an online casino comparison site for gambling enthusiasts in Romania.

BEFORE – Not enough details

Visitors were searching for specific reviews and wanted to find details about a casino before deciding on trying it out.

But the website didn’t have much details or substantial customer testimonials and had a lack of credible, high-quality reviews.

“This deficiency was affecting our rankings in Google, especially after the review update in April 2023. So we had to change strategy and make sure to provide reviews according to Google’s quality guidelines,” said Kasandra Grant, Head of SEO, Traffic Lab (the Bogdancazino site is part of the Traffic Lab group).

AFTER – Rich detail

So, the team decided to revamp their approach to focus on more detailed user experiences, expert reviews, and add more visuals and quantitative measurements in reviews.

“Implementing Google's high-quality review guidelines included motivating users to share detailed experiences, collaborate with industry experts for professional reviews, and emphasize the evolution and improvement of services in the casinos. The goal by doing this was to match our users search intent better and thereby improve our rankings by aligning with Google's guidelines on quality content,” Grant said.

The strategic shift led to a significant increase in the quality and quantity of reviews. They had an experienced author try out each casino first-hand, and then rewrite the reviews and make them more thorough, detailed, and comparative.

Creative Sample #6: Review by author experienced with online casinos

Creative Sample #5: Review by author experienced with online casinos

They added:

  • Specifics about the games, the user interface, and customer service
  • Pros and cons

Creative Sample #7: Pros and cons to consider before playing

Creative Sample #6: Pros and cons to consider before playing
  • Competitor comparisons, highlighting unique features or superior aspects of their service
  • Quantitative data, like loading times, number of games offered, number of demos, etc.
  • ‘Walk-through’ on sign-up processes

Creative Sample #8: Step-by-step signup process

Creative Sample #7: Step-by-step signup process
  • How-to’s on the deposit and withdrawal process
  • A lot of visual images, like screenshots and gameplay videos

Creative Sample #9: First-hand gameplay experience video

Creative Sample #8: First-hand gameplay experience video
  • Direct contact information if support is needed
  • Information on responsible gaming and players’ safety
  • Other user reviews to give more opinions about the casino

Creative Sample #10: Real user review

Creative Sample #9: Real user review
  • Link to articles on ‘how we rate casinos’ for transparency
  • How the casino has evolved over time, addressing any user feedback and improving the gaming experience
  • Answers to frequently asked questions

Creative Sample #11: FAQ

Creative Sample #10: FAQ

The team incorporated affiliate links responsibly. “We implemented Google's guidelines on affiliate links, ensuring transparency and trustworthiness in reviews,” Grant said.

RESULTS – More visitors

Traffic increased by 1,000 visitors from improving reviews alone in their best month, with a total increase of 4,000 visitors from 291,000 impressions. By focusing on content improvement across the site, they increased traffic by 7,000 visitors – a 50% increase.

“The detailed and authentic reviews aligned with Google's emphasis on quality content, leading to improved search rankings.  Aligning with Google's guidelines not only improves the online presence on Google but also establishes a reputation as a credible and user-friendly platform that people will refer to and return to,” Grant said.

Related resources

Digital Transformation: First team first, it’s hard to be simple, get out of your comfort zone (podcast episode #29)

Digital Transformation: An executive look at the challenges and opportunities for the newspaper industry

Anatomy of a Business Transformation: A practitioner’s perspective about how The Boston Globe’s culture of testing spread to the newsroom for 100% lifts in clickthrough

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