Tradition without technology is a slow road to irrelevance.
This article was distributed in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
For the past nine months, we’ve been experimenting with a group of 40 marketers and entrepreneurs, to discover the best way to help our readers optimize their funnels (feel free to drop in and join us for a LiveClass – ChatGPT, CRO and AI: 40 Days to build a MECLABS SuperFunnel).
And I learned something along the way, specifically when working on the LiveClass title you just read. It’s not just about technology (you hear all the hype about that lately). It’s not just about traditional marketing tactics (which you may lean on if you are spooked about this technology).
The real transformation – and results – happens when you marry the two.
So in today’s article, we’ll do just that, as we bring you three examples to spur your best thinking to improve your brand’s marketing funnel:
Waddle From Xero is a lending business that covers cash flow gaps through a dashboard that plugs into existing accounting packages.
“We were chugging along with general finance blogs, which were outsourced to an agency we found through Upwork. After some changes to the Google algorithm, website traffic for Waddle had stagnated in the first half of 2022,” said Chelsea Larkin, Content Marketing Specialist, Waddle From Xero. The team was getting about 1,600 organic traffic visits per month.
“After reading a great case study on content clusters, we decided to take this route,” she said. “We studied all of our competitors' websites with SEMrush (and just our regular ol’ eyes) to collect huge lists of relevant keywords. We then ranked these keywords in Google Sheets by keyword difficulty (KD), traffic, and cost per click (cost per click was just out of interest though). I used conditional formatting in Google Sheets on the KD column to see how hard a keyword is at a glance.”
The team decided to use keywords that had a KD of under 50 and estimated traffic of 500+, and worked their way down the list. In the end, they picked about 40 short- and long-tail keywords to use in the content cluster, all around the main idea of finance.
Creative Sample #1: Ranked keywords, including traffic, keyword difficulty, and cost-per-click estimates
For creating content clusters at this scale, they thought using artificial intelligence would speed up the process. “We used Copy.ai and ChatGPT to help with idea creation, structure, and flow, although the actual content was written by a human,” Larkin said.
She continued, “I had used Copy.ai in the past for projects and knew it would help generate the words we needed. For the first six months, we mainly used Copy.ai. The content creation process would begin by selecting one of the keywords from our list, and using SEMrush to collect related keywords and questions around the specific one we were trying to rank for. In Google Docs, I would create a document outlining these keywords and questions, along with their respective KDs and traffic.”
She would brainstorm about ten titles for the article. “Then in Copy.ai, I would use their ‘Blog Post Wizard’ feature and paste in these headings and keywords. Copy.ai would generate other headings, which would help inform the article,” Larkin said. Often, she would delete the majority of their titles, but it was still helpful to inform the structure.
Then the team would generate talking points for each title. They would often delete half of the suggested points and add in their own. “Once the outline and talking points per paragraph were finalized in Copy.ai, I would copy and paste these into Grammarly Pro to check spelling, grammar, punctuation, as well as any accidental plagiarism. This is then copied and pasted into the Google Doc,” Larkin said.
“Once this is done, I would go back to Copy.ai to generate the blog post content. However, I find the tone and style was never quite right – and often Copy.ai would include random things, wrong facts, and sentences that were too long,” Larkin said. The actual blog content it generated was used more as a reference. Whenever she got stuck writing out the article, she would copy bits and pieces from the generated sentences.
“The content generated in Copy.ai was akin to having a paint palette, where we took the relevant words and painted our own picture onto the canvas,” she said. Having so many generated words was great in terms of having a very relevant word bank, but it couldn’t really help write the actual article – at least, not with the tone the team wanted.
“Copy.ai also has a great feature where you can paste in what you’ve written, and press spacebar to have AI write what it thinks the next couple of lines would be,” Larkin said. The team would use this to get over writer's block.
“In terms of ChatGPT, I found it much more intuitive as an article writer, but less able to collaborate with me in the same way that Copy.ai can,” Larkin said. The team began using it in January, after the majority of their articles had been written and the content cluster launched. While it wasn’t as good at writing full-length articles, it was extremely helpful as a reviewer and editor. Larkin said, “I’ve started pasting in my article drafts to ChatGPT with variations of the following prompt: ‘You are a cut-throat editor who has a great eye for compelling copy. What feedback would you give on this article?’”
“For some clunky paragraphs, I would also ask ChatGPT to rewrite them for flow and clarity,” she said. This was extremely useful for the team.
“I will also ask ChatGPT lots of questions through the writing process to shorten time spent Googling or thinking,” she said. For example, she was trying to come up with a word that meant “relearn” but in a way that had a sense of refreshing fundamentals. “ChatGPT gave me a list of ten good options, and I eventually chose ‘reset.’ Way faster than Googling synonyms, especially when I already have the vibe of the word in mind,” Larkin said.
While they used AI tools extensively in the content creation process, they would estimate that approximately 70% of the content was written by human writers. The AI tools were mainly used for generating ideas, outlining, and editing. Ultimately, it was the people on the team who crafted the final product and added their own unique perspective and voice.
The team was receptive to AI. They understood that the AI tools were there to help streamline the content creation process and to provide a starting point for each article. They think it was important to strike a balance between using AI tools and maintaining a human touch in each article.
At one point they tried to generate articles purely based on keywords, without any human input. They indexed the articles, but these articles never generated any traffic. “We concluded Google can probably tell that there’s not much value in the purely AI-generated content – which makes sense, since AI is based on amalgamating everything that’s already out there – and Google ranks you higher when you’re adding something useful to the conversation,” Larkin said.
Creative Sample #2: Finance content cluster on invoice financing company’s website
Overall, the quality of their content did improve after implementing AI tools in the content creation process. The AI tools helped them generate more relevant and targeted content, and helped them to identify potential gaps or areas for improvement in each article.
The team sped up the overall process by implementing AI tools, which sped up the process of content creation while allowing the humans more time to refine the content. The team was able to publish 50 pieces of long-form content in six months.
After launching the content cluster, their traffic doubled – from 1,664 in April 2022 to 2,778 in February 2023 and 3,992 in March 2023. This proportionally increased the number of leads that connected with the sales team. However, the quality of the leads has gone down somewhat, which will be the focus of their next content project.
Like most young companies, BestCryptos had a minimal viable product, but no clear way to get traffic to its website.
The team launched its crypto-currency financial rating website during what seemed to be unfavorable timing, the current crypto winter. “As per usual, we followed the unimaginative pay-per-ad playbook and set up a performance marketing campaign on Google and Facebook,” said Felix Engelhardt, CMO, BestCryptos.
Due to the crypto winter, interest in the ads was limited with low impressions being generated by the ads. The team extended its target audience, with the obvious result – many impressions of ‘not really interested’ leads, which drove up website bounce rates and the cost per click (CPC) shot through the roof.
As they paused the ads to re-think their marketing strategy, even the low converting impressions did not come in any longer. With their budget running out and sobering results, they knew they had to pivot their marketing strategy.
“Performance marketing is not the holy grail: it casts a wide net and stops the moment you turn off the money faucet,” said Engelhardt.
The team wanted a marketing campaign that fulfilled two criteria. One, it should be a long-lasting marketing campaign – a campaign that keeps giving and does not stop the flow of leads once the market budget runs out.
Second, they wanted to cater the campaign towards a laser-focused group that had an inherent interest in their products, as opposed to generating mass impressions.
They opted for an SEO-building marketing campaign, through which they reached out to the top 500 cryptocurrencies themselves and told them that BestCryptos had rated them for free on its website. “Who wouldn’t be curious about their rating score?” Engelhardt said. From there the team could explore partnerships and build backlinks that last longer than a performance marketing campaign.
“Have a laser-focused target group that has an interest in what you do, rather than cast a wide and not relevant net,” he advised.
The crypto winter turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the team. There was not a lot of business development activity in the industry and the 500 cryptocurrencies that they reached out to were very responsive and keen to mingle, with about half of them responding to the team’s emails.
“While the responses were mixed, anyone knows that ‘all publicity is good publicity,’” he said.
Cryptocurrencies with a good rating loved to be rated and explore partnerships. Cryptocurrencies with bad ratings would challenge their rating and try to understand the team’s rating methodology, and the team gave them the opportunity to explain themselves in blog posts.
“The best part of this launch campaign: other than time invested, it was completely free,” he said. They have entered into partnerships, generated backlinks, and been offered financial grants. All of this for a marketing budget of next to nothing.
“There is never the best time to launch. Just take the plunge and maybe a seemingly unfavorable timing might turn into a blessing in disguise, such as the crypto winter opened many doors for us,” he advised.
Other than the success of the campaign itself, the team learned some lessons they consider invaluable:
“What is one of the best ways to successfully market a product or service? Via face-to-face interaction,” said Rick Lauber, Author, The Successful Caregiver’s Guide.
Prior to writing his first book, Lauber learned that he would need to fulfill his contractual obligations and provide a completed piece of work. But, in addition, he would be required to help promote the book. There are, of course, many means for authors to market themselves (e.g. media interviews, public readings, collecting reviews, creating a website, etc.)
Initially, he wrote related newspaper, magazine, and blog articles (something he has continued to do over the years), but his publisher recommended he consider bookstore signing events.
Setting up these events proved to be quite easy ... bookstores welcome visiting authors as they help to increase business. Lauber would simply call bookstore managers, introduce himself and his book, and suggest scheduling a signing date.
Bookstores which stocked his book could order extra copies for his use; if not, he could bring in copies to sell on consignment. Bookstores also provided him with a table and chair for his visit. Following numerous signings, Lauber’s own display has increased in size – a tablecloth, bookstands, business cards, copies of related articles he has written, and a stand-up banner (which works well to attract more attention).
From doing numerous signings over the years, he has learned to:
Lauber learned that bookstore signings can be an excellent means of promoting a book. He can personally meet potential customers, share stories, listen, and answer questions to the best of his ability.
Signings have also made Lauber more self-confident and allowed him to meet bookstore staff (who will become more aware of an author's book and sell it).
By personally visiting bookstores, an author can see heightened sales – on his best day, Lauber signed and sold 25 copies of his book in four hours.
“A book author cannot just write a book ... he/she must also become his/her best salesperson,” Lauber advised.
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