Content Marketing Means Marketing Your Content

Publish and pray, fingers crossed

You’ve heard the saying "publish and pray"? Basically, it’s an admonishment to brands who produce content, publish it on their website, and then sit back and hope for results.

Unfortunately, "build it and they will come" only works for Apple or Nike. Content marketing for the rest of us requires additional effort.

Lately, I’ve been on a roll writing marketing case studies, and this post will be no exception. In this article I present a content marketing strategy that achieved results only because the content itself was actively marketed. This marketing strategy was executed for a career center that served job seekers in a particular Illinois county. And the content in question were jobs that were posted on the organization’s home-grown jobs board.

There was no budget for marketing, so all marketing undertaken had to be completely free of charge.

The Backstory

The career center offered a no-cost, no-frills job posting service to local employers. It was offered as a genuine service to local businesses, but served also was a way to attract job seekers, i.e. prospective "customers", to the organization’s website.

In a nutshell, jobs that were received from companies were listed on a main webpage. Each job in the list linked through to a web page with a full description for that job. That main page will be referred to as the Jobs Listing, and the individual job descriptions will be referred to as Job Leads.

Access to the jobs listing was limited to a single link in the main menu.

Finally, the person who performed the job posting possessed limited computer skills, and was producing these web pages in MS Word, saving them as .mht files.

The Content Marketing Strategy

A New Foundation: Improving User Experience

Before marketing the content, the content needed to be made more marketable. It was necessary to address user experience problems with the various pages:

  1. The job posting person was weaned off of using MS Word, and onto using Front Page, so that the pages could be saved in html. This eliminated the file-bloat and compatibility problems associated with .mht files.
  2. A new CSS stylesheet was created to improve the cosmetic appearance of both the Jobs Listing and the Job Leads. Once the appearance was being controlled by CSS, that laid a foundation for making the pages mobile friendly in the future.

Job Leads tended to be posted for 30 days at a time, and this resulted in pages being posted and then deleted from the web server at great frequency. Therefore, the Job Leads were posted into a subdirectory that was disallowed by the robots.txt file. There were two main reasons for doing this:

  1. Because so many different kinds of jobs were posted, containing such varied terminology, I predicted that the website’s keyword profile would become "polluted" and that the search engines might even see it as spammy.
  2. I didn’t want the Job Leads to get indexed, and continue to appear in search results after they had been removed.

Following from that last point, I also predicted that it would be possible for a link to a Job Lead to continue to "live" and get clicked, so the website’s custom 404 error page was modified to include not only prominent link back to the home page, but also a prominent link to the Jobs Listing, in case the user was looking for a job.

Now the content marketing could begin.

Creating a Home Field Advantage

On the career center’s website, points of entry to the Jobs Listing were created or modified. This included:

  1. The menu text, which linked to the Jobs Listing, was changed to "Find Local Jobs".
  2. A standing Call to Action was created on home page, callin gout the jobs page and displaying the titles of two recently posted jobs. This was updated daily, and linked through to the Jobs Listing.
  3. The Jobs Listing was occasionally included in the news rotator on the home page, for additional exposure.

Jobs also became a featured "module" on the center’s online Job Search Dashboard, updated daily to show the most recently posted jobs. The Dashboard itself is a piece of content that is actively promoted weekly, which thereby also promotes the jobs. (Learn more about the broader content strategy implemented for this career center in the article Content Marketing Strategy for a Non-Profit.)

Spreading the Word via Social Media

The career center’s growing social media presence was used to help promote the jobs content to job seekers.

Twitter – A separate Twitter feed was establish just for promoting the jobs. The URL for each new Job Lead was shortened using a URL shortener, and that link was tweeted with a short summary of the job title, company name, and location of the job. Each such post was tweeted three times within a week: once in the morning, once in early afternoon two days later, and again in the evening another two days later. Using a URL shortener also allowed for tracking how many times each URL got clicked.

Additionally, every week a link to the Jobs Listing was published on the center’s existing Twitter feed for job seekers, calling out the number or types of jobs that had been recently posted.

LinkedIn – Similar to the Twitter jobs feed, each Job Lead was "advertised" with a post giving a quick job summary along with the shortened URL These were posted to the LinkedIn feed, the morning after the jobs had been added to the Jobs Listing on the website.

Facebook – Since Facebook tends to be more social, less professional, I did not want the Facebook page to become a jobs feed. Content for the Facebook page needed to remain more general, more PR-ish, more about giving advice. Therefore, the jobs content was "advertised" once weekly, giving a broad overview of the kinds of jobs that had been recently posted, with a link to the Job Listing.

Additional Marketing

A business card-sized marketing piece was created whose sole purpose was to promote the jobs page. It featured the word “JOBS” in a large bold typeface, and prominently displayed the URL of the website and Jobs Listing. These were constantly given out at job fairs and other events.

Results

There are two aspects of this ongoing marketing campaign that could be directly measured:

  1. Visits to the Jobs Listing web page, indicating the effectiveness of the inbound marketing tactics, and
  2. Clicks on the shortened URLs, indicating user engagement with the social media posts.

Traffic to individual job leads was not tracked, since there were so many different html files, sometimes posted for only a week or two. So, visits to the Jobs Listing was the sole traffic metric used, and this was considered sufficient since it is the gateway to all posted Job Leads.

Inbound Traffic to the Job Listing Page

Since the launch of the new job posting pages in mid-2010, there were year-over-year gains in traffic:

graph: visits to Jobs Listing

The overall gains must be interpreted against the local unemployment rate which, during the period of 2010 to 2013, fell from 9.5% to just over 8%.

2014 showed a decline in visits to the page but, again, this must be interpreted against local unemployment. Throughout 2014 the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3% to 4.9%, representing a 40% drop in the number of people actively seeking jobs. Compared to this 40% drop, visits to the Jobs Listing fell only 7.7%.

The social media marketing component contributed year-over-year gains in traffic to the Jobs Listing. This graph represents social media referrals to the Jobs Listing, as a percentage of total page visits:

graph: social referrals to Jobs Listing

Of particular note here is the fact that social referrals to the Jobs Listing continued to rise in 2014, even as the number of active job seekers was drastically falling.

User Engagement on Social Media

As noted previously, for posting on Twitter and LinkedIn, the URL for each Job Lead was shortened, and clicks on all shortened URLs were tracked. Initially, the total number of clicks was used to determine user engagement. Then, in 2013, I decided that a calculation of Average Clicks per Job would be a better indicator for engagement.

This graph shows the increase in the total number of clicks per month, from 2011 through 2014:

graph: total monthly clicks

This graph shows the increase in the Average Clicks per Job for 2013 and 2014:

graph: avg. clicks per jobs

Then, aggregating the data to show year-over-year increases, this graph shows yearly total clicks for 2011 through 2014:

graph: total yearly clicks

Similarly aggregated, this graph shows the increase in Average Clicks per Job for 2014 over 2013:

graph: avg. clicks per job