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On Optimizing Content Before It Goes Live

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Here’s a not-so-super secret we bloggers share: no matter what Neetzan Zimmerman says, it’s often quite difficult to determine how individual posts will perform.

It’s one thing to track a piece of content after you press “publish”—and of course we’ve all taken Intro to SEO. But how can one most effectively predict the performance of content in order to, you know, optimize it?

We’ve reported on InboundWriter‘s products in the past, and we recently had a chance to speak with one of their clients to learn more about how her agency has been able to create more effective and engaging content by analyzing it before it goes live.

Erika Taylor Montgomery runs California’s Three Girls Media agency, which creates blogs, white papers and other sorts of content for clients “in a wide range of categories”. After using the product for a year, she volunteered for a case study comparing her agency’s 2012 and 2013 numbers. The data told the story:

  • Overall blog page views up 43%
  • Unique page views up 43%
  • Average time on page up 24.69%
  • Bounce rate down 8.58%

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We asked Taylor Montgomery about the role optimization software plays in shaping her agency’s content planning strategies.

“The seed [for content] may start with a publicist having a general topic in mind; InboundWriter will let us know which key words/phrases score highest and which people are currently using them so we have an idea what’s trending. Based on that research, we can narrow our focus in terms of topics—and these are the ideas we submit to the client.”

In the past, Three Girls used a more traditional approach.

“We had a list of criteria we would use: 1-2 keywords used 3-5 times in each article, 1-2 hyperlinks, images with captions, etc. But there was really no way for us to measure whether those guidelines were working for us or our clients.”

Now, however, Taylor Montgomery tells us that:

“We know specifically that the keywords we choose are ranked highly and we have a score for each complete piece of content. It’s a new type of criteria that we weren’t able to see previously.”

The software bases this data on the particular website where the content will live so it can be better tailored to a given audience. Taylor Montgomery tells us that working with such software hasn’t just changed her approach to creating content; it’s also made her a more careful reader.

“I look at everything from headlines to strength of the topic and how that topic is addressed. Are they using specific keywords throughout the article? What is the length and how will that read if it’s an online-only piece?”

It’s also changed the way the agency approaches accounts.

“It’s given us the ability, during the sales process, to say to a [prospective] client: we have a way to gauge content and know whether or not we feel it will be successful.”

This case study only concerns results achieved with a single product, and InboundWriter isn’t for everyone: a representative tells us that its tools are most applicable to “feature” or “evergreen” pieces that will remain relevant to target audiences long after publication as opposed to time-sensitive op-eds or breaking news stories.

The study, however, does raise a larger question: in a business increasingly focused on content creation, how can an agency best predict the performance of a yet-to-be-released piece beyond using every not-so-secret SEO “secret” in the book?

What techniques and/or products does your content team use?

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