In this episode, Jeff Coyle, the Chief Strategy Officer of MarketMuse an AI content planning and optimization tool, shares how to create amazing content quality to drive long-term growth.
Some topics we discussed include:
- The problem that MarketMuse is trying to help solve
- How Jeff views the relationship between content and sales
- How Jeff defines content quality, natural language process (NLP), and natural language generation (NLG)
- How to create amazing content
- What does content quality look like and what does it mean for the future of companies investing in content
- What MarketMuse is capable of from a content point of view and how it helps with your content strategy
- How to create amazing content by focusing on 10 essential ingredients
- How to ensure your old content doesn’t decline in quality
- How to create amazing content around boring topics
- Have we arrived at the point where marketers need to seriously be looking at using natural language generation to generate content?
- How to address content efficiency effectively
- How to improve the empathy your content evokes in your desired audience
- Is AI at a stage where it can distinguish between fake news and real news
- and much more …
Vinay Koshy 0:00
Jeff, from our last conversation, I was left with an image in my head of Heston Blumenthal and his team preparing for one of his culinary delights. For those who may not be aware of Heston Blumenthal. He's an extraordinary chef based out of the UK, who delights his customers through experiences that don't just delight the taste buds, but pretty much all your other senses as well. And for my conversation, my takeaway was that it's not unlike Heston and his team investing in premium quality ingredients for the meal, but also, carefully crafting an experience that would transport his customers to a particular time or a memory that they really enjoyed. And by virtue of that experience, create another new experience, which would pretty much be permanently fixed in their brains or birth into their brains. And as I was thinking about that, and thinking about the developments we've seen over the last couple of years, at the very least in both in terms of content and technology, I couldn't help but wonder if the distinguishing factor between brands, especially in competitive spaces, would actually be content experiences. Hi, and welcome to the predictable b2b success podcast. I'm Vinay Koshy. On this podcast, we interview people behind b2b brands who aren't necessarily famous, but do work in the trenches and share their strategies and secrets as they progress along the journey of expanding their influence, and making their businesses grow predictably. Now, let's dive into the podcast.
Jeff Coyle 2:02
Yeah, I think they absolutely absolutely is. I mean, one thing that I like to talk about is the, you know, what really differentiates a brand's content is that they're illustrating their expertise, they're illustrating that they have empathy for their customers, whether they're like, I mean, you were talking about that great experience of a culinary experience. But, you know, maybe these this is their first time ever at a, you know, a Michelin restaurant, Michelin star restaurant, or maybe it's their, you know, 100th time, are you still providing an experience that's relatable. And that's how, you know, a chef will say, hey, I'd like to understand my audience. They're not saying, you know, I only want somebody of this type of this shape of this experience. And, and I think that that's where content strategists are, you know, when they're thinking about the entire journey, and their entire potential, you know, the buyer personas or their reader personas and, and how much information they have in their providing experiences that meet them on their terms, wherever they are, it could be early stage, and I'm talking about b2b could be early stage awareness, or I don't even know that I have a need. I'm in the early stage of everything, and all the way down to I already know what I want, making a final decision. And then there's the Forgotten zone of content, which is kind of post purchase, troubleshooting, advocacy, you know, what do you do at that end of that meal at the end of the desert, that makes the person definitely coming back? Right? What are those things? that excitement, that maybe it's not going to be exactly the same, it's going to be special next time, or it will incite excite them to invite their friends to come with them next time. Right. And that is directly a great metaphor for this. And the other piece is, you know, you said unique experiences. But one thing I want to talk about is, you know, creating content that only you can create. So only you personally because of your expertise, only your business because of some data that you have, or some intellectual property and bringing that into the narrative. So that establishes you as the expert that establishes you as the only person in the world that could have ever built this. And when you have the foundation of more basic content or an experience that catches a lot of people in the funnel, and you're accentuating now with special content that has no ability to be competitive, because there's no competition because it can only come from you. It's your special experience. I think that that's a deadly combination, because you've got the, you know, you've got the things that are table stakes, that tell the story that you know, the meets minimum, right, and on top of that, you've got these great, you know, blue ocean non competitive, you know, differentiated content that makes people remember you, if you went to that, you know that that culinary experience, and they put in front of, you know, food that were an ironic thing on ironically look like something you'd get at a fast food restaurant. You would, you would not remember that for the right reason. But I think that that's where a lot of businesses are going wrong, right? They're trying to do exactly what everybody else is doing, because they think they just need to check boxes, they I do content, I do SEO. And they're not actually creating unique experiences that illustrate that they are actually experts in these areas. And that's, it comes from, you know, misinformation, and it comes from outsourcing, and not having expertise in house. It comes from misguided, you know, agencies of record and everything under the sun, about how hard it is and the true value of their expertise, I don't think he will really value how much energy and positive possibilities are actually inside their organization. And you know, that's where the inspiration should really be coming from. So ...
Vinay Koshy 6:06
Certainly, and Jeff, I'd love to unpack some, some more of this. But Jeff, just so that listeners understand you, and perhaps a bit more of your background. If I remember and understand this correctly, you've had quite a tech background, studying with a computer science degree at college or university, as we would call here in Australia, and then have worked your way through agencies like Target before you started your own agency. And finally started mock news would that be a corrective, brief synopsis of your background,
Jeff Coyle 6:40
I'd say the one minute version is I went to Georgia Tech, which is a computer science, they're one of the top five computer science schools in the United States, focused on usability and search engine design. Like before, web search engines were really extremely prominent with a lot of internet text search and that type of thing. And usability, so user interfaces, and I got my first job at a company called knowledge storm. And we were a startup that was trying to convince people to buy leads for software by syndicating content and building content. Before ROI company before these companies even had content on their site, we were acquired in 2007 by tech target, who is a publisher, and I was in charge of the in house, all the traffic search, engagement ad, multivariate testing paid, you name it, if it involves traffic going through one of the 300 websites, you know, it probably touched something that we had to work on. And what the important part of that is that during that time, I got the experience of every kind of marketing of content. But then when we were acquired by tech target, I started that was the first time I had, you know, editorial team, and writers in mass, you know, amazing, award winning editorial team. And we're, you know, I was, I was thinking about numbers and, you know, conversions to lead, and traffic and search and topic, the keywords and, and I really thought to myself, wow, there's a big piece missing, I'm really focused on editorial excellence, and quality from a data perspective. And that was really inspirational. And the other thing is editorial and content is painfully manual. And it certainly was back then all these processes were either brainstorming, they had no data, it was just a hunch, or they were just because this person has been writing about this for 20 years, or it was just grossly manual. I mean, one of my topic research processes were 30 hours to do. And, you know, the the punch line there is I met an AI expert, my co founder. And, you know, he'd been working with research scientists for number almost over a year. And their initial offering that they built, took that 30 hours down to five minutes. And so when I left that target, you know, my co founder, Rocky reached out to me and said, Hey, you really understand these workflows, you understand search engine optimization better than anybody, you understand the workflows for making it about expertise and editorial? How can we, you know, you know, do this, would you be willing to be a late co founder? And I said, Absolutely. And that's where we've built everything we've built in all of our natural language processing. And I know that we're gonna talk about some of that shortly.
Vinay Koshy 9:30
So you're now co founder of MarketMuse, and I think you're title is officially Chief Strategy Officer, right? Yeah. But I'm curious. Was there a specific problem per se that MarketMuse was created to solve initially?
Jeff Coyle 9:48
Yeah, it was definitely too. You know, our mission is to improve the quality of content on the web. I like to sometimes depending on how glasses have fallen That day, I like to say we like wanted to rid the world of bats. So depending on which state I'm in, but you know that even more so today, but it's the way that we had initially vision envision that is giving people the ability to use data to improve the quality of content, and which is traditionally been seen as a subjective measure. And then we took that from the page level, to the site level. So we can actually tell you how well you cover a topic. From the standpoint of your entire collection of content where a network tell you where your gaps are your strengths and weaknesses, with all the goal of I want everyone who I want everyone to be able to improve the quality of content with market news. But I also want everyone who uses it uses our solution to not build any bad at work, because that because it's a self fulfilling prophecy, that means that, that they're going to be successful. And that's not we have been able to be so successful with our offerings. So
Vinay Koshy 11:03
Excellent. And, Jeff, what would you say? Give me your journey to date? Is your personal area of strength.
Jeff Coyle 11:10
My personal area of strength? Yep. Gosh, I'd say most of it comes from I mean, more, I'd say two things. One is I actually care about the outcomes. Okay. Like I care about the outcomes of anyone who I just, it's almost like I love putting together a puzzle of sorts. You know, I haven't been doing this for 21 years, I've seen every kind of content website, technical SEO, reg, you know, news, optimization, local, everything under the sun, every one presents a unique puzzle, right. But I think what makes marketmuse work generally is like, we actually care, we want people to have a successful experience, whether it's with 100%, of what we do, or only a portion. And I think that that's really what I call the strength. I mean, the the more self centered response to that is I've, I've, unfortunately been doing this for 21 years. So I can't really tell you Tell you what, what you should be focused on or where you have a gap. It's certainly something that, you know, people who do this well, and don't try to cut corners they really care can do. And my dream is certainly to bring that to the software experience, I want you to be on marketing news and be inspired to, oh, wow, this is an easy win for me, all I've got to do is knock out one page on, you know, this topic, and it's gonna do well, okay. Like, and then you do it, and then it does well, and you're like, wow, it's not, it's not rocket science anymore. You know, I don't have to waste my time doing keyword research. It's really about me, focusing on production quality and content, content strategy. And if I can do that, then, you know, I'm using my skills.
Vinay Koshy 13:05
So. And in that area of strength, what would you say is something that businesses don't know, but should?
Jeff Coyle 13:14
The biggest thing I think businesses don't know, is two big things. One is your editorial teams, your content marketing team, your lead gen team and your search engine optimization teams are probably not working together. They are not, because they don't have the dream that I have. My dream is I want them all to work together. Sure. And I want them had to have unified KPIs. And I want them to realize that if one of them is successful, the other one will have an easier, better time being successful and all boats will rise. The challenge we see most frequently is those four teams aren't aligned. They all have different, they have different KPIs. And the you know, that is the thing. And a lot of times it's because they think the other's expertise is either a black box or subjective. And I always like to tell people is that you know, SEO is not a black box. It's hard. It's not easy, but it certainly isn't a black box. But anyone that tells you that it's not hard, or that it isn't, box is probably trying to sell you something.
Vinay Koshy 14:22
Certainly. From a business point of view, I understand that you're trying to unify all these metrics from a search engine and content quality perspective. From a business perspective, though, and this is just my experience with speaking to business owners. They really don't care too much about the the metrics of SEO and content and things as long as the cash registers running, and there's money coming in and leads are coming in sales coming in. So is that pretty much left to businesses to relate to or is there more of a direct correlation that I'm missing out on
Jeff Coyle 14:59
I think that your entire online marketing effort is, it's somewhat of a portfolio, you have to understand all the channels that in that experience every time somebody online can interact with you or your brand, and you have to have that understanding of all the components of the portfolio, because you may be very well known brands, you get a lot of brand traffic, right, like people that actually literally do type ins of your brand, or variants of your brand. But then again, are you truly controlling that brand search experience? Probably not. If you don't care about search, and you're just out and about people just typing my name, you're probably not controlling the brand search experience very well. And you're certainly not focusing on the content that would support and elevate your brand experience, too. So the thing we find is that people are the, you know, executives, are they know, they need content. They know they need these things, but they're still in their brains are one order, or two orders of, of relationships away from direct influence of revenue. So like you mentioned that, that the attribution isn't crystal clear. The certainly in content, if I'm going to write content about something that doesn't have direct conversion to dollars, that justification, which by the way, it's very easy to state left justification. But that justification is extremely hard to get across in mid market to enterprise they don't really get, it's just kind of like, I'm going along with the understand that I have to do this. It's not dry, it's not connecting to the fact that you've got to be there when somebody who may be in your buyer journey is entering that journey, or in the middle of the journey, or you're one of n publishers whose content they've consumed. And you need to be differentiated. The, you know, it's the same argument that people have made for years about lead qualification and disqualification and nurturing the value of nurturing, you know, your content is like this ever present, nurturing vehicle. And until the respect for that, and its relationship to values is more clear, it's going to be tough. And that's why we've brought return on investment into our platform. Because we want people to be able to associate ROI with pages, and we want them to be associated with sections of sites. And with topics. If I own this topic, it could yield this much revenue. That's really important. For someone who's like, I don't know, it doesn't seem relate, you know, which is a lot. Still a lot of still a lot of the world right now, unfortunately. Okay.
Vinay Koshy 17:53
And that's some incredible insight, which we don't usually find anywhere else. So I look forward to unpacking that. But for listeners, as we dive deeper into this conversation, it might help if we could define a few terms, perhaps starting with content quality.
Jeff Coyle 18:09
Sure, so content quality is there's a lot of different types of definitions for that. But the way that I use it is focused on how much that content exhibits expertise. So if I were an expert on a topic, and I were covering that topic, comprehensively, if I were answering all of the intense that people who are looking for this particular type of content, desire, so the questions they're looking to answer, and I'm doing that in a obviously it's it meets a minimum is things like grammar and spelling and, you know, appropriate ness, and such. But the second layer there on quality is really about comprehensiveness. And are you exhibiting the signals that an authority or a subject matter expert would exhibit with your content? And when you have those things in play, that's the true metric of quality?
Vinay Koshy 19:05
Okay. Excellent. And natural language processing or what is commonly referred to as NLP for short.
Jeff Coyle 19:12
Vinay Koshy 19:13
the most basic definition of NLP or natural language processing would be programming computers to recognize and understand large amounts of natural language data, which in a nutshell becomes basically like text, right. So if you can program a computer to recognize and understand that text, it unlocks piles of applications, but a lot of people unfortunately, they equate NLP or natural language processing to one application they know but the the nature of the science is just making a computer recognize your language and a lot of right so
And NLG or natural language generation?
Jeff Coyle 19:55
So the easiest definition of it is transforming structured data into English, or a language, right? So the the goal of, you know, with the goal of providing some structure and behavior to building a language model, which is, you know, giving us a way to, you know, predict or assign probabilities to sequences of words, and saying, like, these are the highest likelihood of the next word or the next collection of words and, and just starting to build natural language out of structured data.
Vinay Koshy 20:39
So, if I understand this correctly, a tool like MarketMuse, and this is probably a very crude description, essentially looks at a particular topic that you might be wanting to address looks at, what what quality looks like from from a market perspective, and then is able to go through pick out related content, and then give you kind of a rough format for what your potential topic should look like. Would that be somewhat accurate?
Jeff Coyle 21:13
Yeah, yes, that's absolutely, it's a great shot at it. Frankly, it is right on, we're able to basically, if you think about what a what a writer does, right, they research, they prioritize, they build out a brief, they build out outlines for their content, they start to inside that outline, what questions should I answer? What links should I? What topics Should I include? That would show that I'm an expert, make sure you cover this? Make sure you answer this question. I'll make sure you link to this, right. And all of that. As far as a functional perspective, we have technology that automates. And then at the for the more use cases, we're able to look at an entire site and say where you have great content already, where you have blind spots, where you have competitive threats, where you have easy wins, you know. And so if you take that and say, Okay, I'm looking at my site, I've got an easy way. And if I cover this topic, build me an outline, go, outline gets built, I validate that, I might add something to it, I might tweak it, right. And then the next phase of market music capabilities are, you can submit that outline into our general natural language generation platform. And it will build some candidates draft level content that can be even more inspirational for the writer. So our dream is that we're going to allow them to, you know, do all of these things they're used to doing in a manual way. Yeah. But get them to the amazing high quality content quicker.
Vinay Koshy 22:52
Right, for companies that are looking to invest in in quality content, that certainly speaks their market and shows their particular expertise. What would be the kind of elements if if they were looking at quality, in particular, if we were to break it down into like, common factors that that need to exist in content we touched upon a little bit earlier, but there's one way we could do a deeper dive.
Jeff Coyle 23:22
Yeah, sure. Sure. So you know, the meets minimum, certainly things like grammar and spelling, right? Is it grammatically appropriate? Sure. But, and then I'm going to say, I'll stay at like the technical side, because there's a lot of things that are technical, you know, prowess if you're writing content that is of, you know, focused on things that are deemed to have structural data requirements. If you're doing reviews, if you're doing recipes, or things like that each each content type may or may not have behind the scenes structure, which is commonly referred to as schema, which I recommend everybody check they did sometimes can be some easy wins. So we don't really play in those fields. There's other things that look for those, right? Well, we're focused on is effectively the quantification of what I spoke about before. If I were a covering this topic comprehensively, what are the things that I would have naturally included? And what are the questions I would have naturally answered? So to quantify that is, you know, as simple as this, if I'm going to cover content marketing strategy, let's say I'm going to write an article about what is the best content marketing strategy. If I don't talk about target audience, and I don't talk about buyer personas. And I don't talk about content strategists. Right, the people involved. I'm not showing that I actually know what I'm talking about. If I do cover those things, it shows that I know what I'm talking about. So the other interesting example I love the culinary example, because there's nothing easier to get for a topic. model, topic modeling is the easiest metaphor is a recipe. All right? So if I'm making, if I'm making a recipe for beer, right, and I do not include water in that recipe, it's not gonna be good. Right? I don't have any hops in there is probably not going to be reason do good. So you have a what Mark? What topic modeling and quality is the existence of signals like that, that tell the story, that it's highly likely that it's going to be a good rest.
Vinay Koshy 25:36
Yeah. I'm curious, though, what about the ability to evoke emotions is is? Are we able to not discover a hunch? But is there enough data to suggest the kinds of emotion that potential headline or sentence could evoke?
Jeff Coyle 25:57
Yes, and that's a branch of artificial intelligence that we are not 100% focused on right now? Okay. But it is in our roadmap to begin looking at that. So you can train language models, to almost shift styles, from persuasive to informative to, you know, different levels. And so there is there are there are some solutions that are, I feel are in a very great place. Right now, they're starting to get more refined, that are focused on persuasion. An example of how some of those work is they'll take massive quantities of website analytics data, even just yours, let's say, and they will look at the messages that yield conversions. And they will try to learn from those messages, and then give recommendations that mimic or model against those winning messages versus the losing messages. And so there's, there's there's solutions like that. And then there's solutions that are style shifting. There's one example called atomic reach a Canadian company who is doing some persuasive, land conversion focused text shifting. But that isn't what we're focusing,
Vinay Koshy 27:19
Again, going into the whole experience side of things. We've probably all heard about the use of images and videos in our content as ways of leading to higher engagement, certainly creating good headlines, would you save that keeping it keeping your content fresh, and revisiting it from time to time, and providing updates or tweaks as well as checking to see that it's current by providing answers to questions that may be coming up over time is a good way to ensure that your overall content quality is maintained or improved? apps?
Jeff Coyle 27:58
I mean, that is one of the cornerstones of what we do as well, it's, I mean, just look at the concept of natural language generation as a, as an example, the field has changed in the past three years, it's changed every four to six months out as well, speed is basically doubled. Every in it's it's exponential. I mean, it's absolutely exponential. How the growth in this field. Let's say I wrote that my guide to nlg. Last year, it's out of date. I mean, that is completely out of date. But not only that is as markets mature, more information about buyer journeys, about questions that people have get out in the world. And so you know, you have the requirement, when you write a content item, it's a must have, you have to have a update cadence. How frequently Are you going to revisit this for accuracy? And for no timeliness, but also to do it? additional intent? analysis, right? Has this intent changed? Words change, meanings change? You know, if you were to analyze text on, you know, pandemics last year, imagine how much content has been built in a year about that, right? It is just just you would blow your mind. Um, so you have to keep up to date, not just things that are temporal that you would have guessed, require it. Like if you're doing you know, the best headphones for podcasting. You know, you got to update that one. Quite often, by the way, is podcasting, pretty hot, but you really have to take into account that almost everything will need to be evaluated for comprehensiveness, and I'll put a asterisks on. It's also the best way to stay ahead of competition. It's the easiest win, the easiest when you're going to have as a site owner Or a business owner is updating an existing content item and making it better. Right? Almost 100% of the time, that's a truth. So this is a practice, you have to have an in house. And it's so hard to convince people on this, if they're just their editorial, they live in a world where maybe they came in publishing, right? You don't go back and update stuff, you publish it, it was printed, they read the newspaper they walked on, right? That's not the situation, almost all of your content should be touched, at least yearly, most of the time, quarterly, if it has any value to your infrastructure and to the foundation of all of your authority. And that's really hard for people to swallow.
Vinay Koshy 30:50
Yeah, excellent. I'm curious, just staying with the whole culinary theme. I was thinking of, say, a page on spaghetti bolognese. There's 1000s, if not millions of them out there. So really, the distinguishing factor would be a person talking about their experiences of creating a spaghetti bolognese, and also trying to determine whether the intent of people searching for this particular recipe has changed in terms of are they you know, beginner cooks? Or are they trying to find that specific, perfect recipe of spaghetti bolognese that kicks it out of the ballpark? kind of thing? Would that be correct?
Jeff Coyle 31:35
There's three or four things on I love the examples of boring recipes that everyone knows they are that is like the ultimate. It's like, why is one better than Kobe? So you have technical stuff, right? Like I mentioned, things like schema and how fast your website is? And is it compliant for mobile? Is it a great mobile experience? You know, all that are is the imagery, wonderful. But you also have the concept of authoritativeness. And so authoritativeness is not to get into exactly how Google works, because I don't want pitchforks coming out. But I think, yeah, the the easiest way to understand authoritativeness is to state How likely is it that I as an entity, on the web, my website, website section, or even the section of my site, knows stuff about this topic, because based on all other signals, so if a if someone who's written piles of recipes and thoughtful content on Italian meals, right, and they're from, you know, they're from Italy, and they have the and they are vouched for, as you know, that the their three Michelin starred chef, and they've got piles of content, and they've got everything carved up, that person providing content, their recipe has an authoritative disadvantage, if they write a long form comprehensive recipe that really dives in, that is just that general authority. The other aspect is niche authority. If I wrote if I have 1000 articles that are vegan recipes, right, and my spaghetti bolognese recipe is for vegans, I may have authority on vegan recipes, regardless of the nature of the recipe based on the matrix of authority that I have. So there's value and understanding what you're good at. there's value in understanding your existing authority. and the value is how, how much work do I need to do to climb the mountain? Right? If you go right and hire an iPhone 13 review, I don't care if it's 10,000 words, and you put it on your blog. First time you've ever published on me, good luck. It's hard. But if I'm CNET, and I publish the exact same piece, greater chance to win. So the easiest way to look at it authoritativeness is critical in to be able to plan investment in content. And that's the key, so excellent.
Vinay Koshy 34:27
In terms of where we are today. Marketers should really be looking at things like NLP and nlg and kind of quality as we've spoken about. Is there something that they're not aware of or don't know, but should be factoring into their overall development processes for the future?
Jeff Coyle 34:52
Yeah, gosh, something there's so much that they don't know. But one thing I say that they don't know because Have, I'd say just trope out in the world is content efficiency is a key data point they need to know. And content efficiency is, how many content motions do I take? And how often do they meet my business goals. So that can mean create motion, I'm creating and publishing. And then I'm updating or optimizing. Every time I do that, how often do those things achieve their goals? Right? So that's, that's one, that number does not have to be five to 10%. The industry standard, and people is roughly 10. That means I publish 10 articles to get one that works, right. And so if you publish 100 in a year, you've got 10 pages that achieve their goals, or you're updating content, and only one in 10. Improves, it doesn't have to be that way. Right. But that is what it's so ingrained in their brains that content is a crapshoot, that it's random what works and what doesn't we just get lucky sometimes. Right? It's, there's nothing we can control. So that's, that's really one piece that I feel is needs to be known. The other one else I'll mention in this context is the cost of content. The cost of content is the most misunderstood fact, of content marketing, content cost is not equal to the amount that the outsourcer will charge per word. And is the most bananas calculation in the whole wide world for cost. Okay, there's so much cost lost there. There's people who had to edit it, there's people that had to publish it, there's people that had to update it, and maintain it. There's sunk cost in that page not performing. If you buy that content for 100 bucks. And then for six months, you actually underperform against this topic. Had you written a great piece, though, the opportunity cost loss and the sunk loss of buying that cheap content is in described probably different. And the problem in the market is people go, oh, content costs 10 cents a word. Okay, it's the most misguided thing in marketing today is not getting that if you actually invest in great content, the yield on its all boats rise to every page you have about that topic will also rise. Okay, so even the stuff you've already invested in, if you go out and build, the whole thing, elevates, and when the whole thing elevates, more ideas get created naturally, just because of the way language works. And then your next article does better, your next article goes better, it snowballs. And, man, the thing that makes me lose sleep at night is when someone tells me that content costs 100 to $200 a page, I'm like, you don't know the difference between cost and value? Then I just stopped myself from breaking my pen.
I'm a little passionate about this.
Vinay Koshy 38:17
And I'm glad you brought it up. Because it's something I've encountered time and time again. hearing what you're saying, I can't help but think that businesses don't invest enough in thinking through their strategy. And therein lies a lot of problems. Will that be a fair takeaway?
Jeff Coyle 38:42
Oh, absolutely. And the one that do, or a dream to work with. Because if you have a designated content strategist on your team, it's like, I'm so happy about I know that you need market. It's, it's like, I know that you will understand the value if you don't, and you've got like, a an associate marketer. And then like, oh, lead gen kind of sometimes does content, and you're just not, you're not investing in the the value of strategy. and the value that creates across the business for sure. I mean, that's it. That's a it's a, it's a big tip off for us for maturity, for sure.
Vinay Koshy 39:23
Okay, excellent. I'm also curious, you talked about MarketMuse and how it would certainly help with content creation and touched upon the strategy aspects of it in terms of building out closely related clusters. Is there anything else we should keep in mind in terms of not just improving our strategy, but also the, the level of empathy it kind of generates with desired audiences?
Jeff Coyle 39:52
Yeah, two things I mentioned would be one is the it is, it has never been However, it's been a popular belief that the world, you should on your website have one page for every word that you're targeting. And that if you write more than one article or content item about the same topic, you're doing something wrong, couldn't be further from the truth, nor has it ever been. But you know, it. That's it. And so basically what I like to think about is on a topic, I need content across the buy cycle. And I need content across the knowledge cycle. But I also may need specialized content on that topic for particular audiences, too. So the the topic clustering is where I'm, I write, I'm writing articles that act as illustrations of my my, the breadth and robustness of my expertise. And then I am confirming that knowledge with support content. So I know everything about content strategy, listen to me, I have a section of my site about buyer journeys, a section of my site about buyer personas about target audience development, about the different roles on a content strategy team, and I'm walking through the other related concepts that I would naturally cover. The other angle on that is I have a content strategy experience for early stage awareness. I have plenty of strategy experience for intermediate or professionals already in the space, I have the same for advanced folks, I have the same or, you know, people having problems with a particular use case in the field, make, you know, so I'm Kyle, I'm illustrating that I've got the journey, the knowledge journey, but maybe I also have it for target markets. Maybe I have content strategy content that specifically for local lawyers, maybe that's my target audience, right? Or one of my target audiences, that is different than content strategy, content. That's generalized. All right. And so people confuse topics and keywords all the time, right? Are they confused entities and topics? Not all? topics are entities. But that's another story. But the the, you've got to know who you are firing for. Right? And unfortunately, the market often will instruct businesses to write to the generic, nonspecific and it's flawed information. It's completely bad advice by people who are getting paid typically to do training courses to tell you to do that, when the reality is you got no shot to perform for the generalist, because you're not a generalist, most likely, and unless you invest a dramatic amount, and you know, that's the way it is your your definition, on you know, what is coffee isn't going to perform well, unless you build a monolithic structure of content that tells the story that you are the expert. And so if you look at a search results page for what is coffee, and you see 10 definitions. And if you're trained, or someone tells you, that means you need to go write it a definition and that's it. You are wrong. But the market tells content marketers and people just starting out that they need to look at their competition and do exactly what they're doing. It, it doesn't work. But it doesn't work. Not just because it's derivative. It doesn't work. Because it's fundamentally flawed logic, correlation logic, and it has absolutely no reality. The flaw is that most people when they're looking at that some of them have existing authority. And then they do it and some of them win. But those sort of things are not caused. They're not causal, it is not the way you do this job. And that's really the the biggest challenge. Okay,
Vinay Koshy 44:31
I would think that trying to map content to specific stages in their in a buyers journey can be quite complex, especially as the the amount of content you produce continues to grow is there and the buts on the one side, and the other is that I think the notion of a sales funnel or a buyers journey that's fairly prescriptive and linear fashion no longer holds true in that people just bouncing around all over the place trying to fill in information or gaps in their heads. So is there a better way to develop that side of the strategy?
Unknown Speaker 45:16
That's an awesome question. I think a couple things that I'll say is, if you don't believe what that what you said is true, ask you're in a, in a box, ask your marketing team to draw the funnel and the stages, and then ask your sales team to write out their stages, right. And when those two things aren't the same, you know that what you just said is true, right. And that's the reality, right? And that's why sales enablement is so hard. And that's, you know, sales enablement is one of the most immature areas of most businesses, which is wild. But it's because of those, those two things aren't mapped. And because the funnel is, is a, it's just a way that humans have created to structure something that's very difficult structure. And content is, really, you can do it in two ways, right, you can do it, already having the inspiration for the piece that you know, serves a particular set of goals. And then you map it to one or many places in that cycle in those cycles. But content can be mapped to multiple places in a journey, it can be mapped to multiple journeys, multiple personas, or one. But I always like to think of who it's for, where they are in their evolution, and then where they are, generally in their stage of purchasing. And if, and then if I have that, at least, I can do a overlay, and understand where I have weakness. And when I have a lot of obvious weakness, it's places that I didn't want to touch on it. But I'll, I'll put a little asterisk on that is, there's a thing called intent fracture. And I'm gonna, I'm trying to make this esoteric right. But if I'm searching for a concept, or I've built content on a concept that is a little bit more general, it's not just because it's general, it's because I could be looking for that. And be in many different states, I could be in, let's just use awareness, consideration, purchase, post purchase, if I'm looking for a concept like CRM, I may be early stage awareness, I may be in the middle, I may be late, I may be looking for something new. And when I do content mapping, fracture is very important. Because I may say to myself, I map this to the very high level concept, but I also map it to these other areas of less practice. And that's more explicit intent. So explicit intent is, you know, what are the best hubcaps for my 69 Ford Pinto hatchback, right? There's no ambiguity, right? But if I wrote, you know, Ford Motor Vehicles, who knows what I'm actually looking for, there's a lot of fracture, even though that is a entity or topic. It's not general, it's a thin, it's clear, it's just unclear why I'm looking for it with only that much amount of specificity. So when you're doing content mapping, don't be afraid to try to build out your, the explicit intents and try to roll them up to the subtopics and roll them up to the high level topics. They can all still be true. I think for a long time. A lot of people have mistook fractured intent with something that has multiple meanings, when those are two different things. Like if you if an acronym an acronym might have two meanings, that's totally different. You know, the word bat, it can mean a cricket bat, a baseball bat, a vampire bat. Yeah, those are different meanings. Those aren't different intents. Yeah, the search engines have to solve both problems, which is hard, but you as a business owner should be focused on impact when you're mapping.
Vinay Koshy 49:32
Okay, so my takeaway from that would be a good place to start would be with content that you really know the intent behind, which would probably be to use terms that maybe others will understand focused around longtail keywords, which which have an explicit intent, and then you roll those up into, I think a term that's commonly used is like Have a topic cluster? Yeah, with a pillar page, which links out to all your other sub topics?
Jeff Coyle 50:09
Exactly, yeah, okay, yeah. And then here are some situations, you're going to need multiple pillars. Sometimes your support pages will turn into pillars, you'll want to more or expand them via you, you want to be and you, your site will typically exist as a collection of those intertwined clusters. And you know, that that's a great way to information architects, really, you may want to add in some industry specific things or some persona specific into those clusters to just illustrate your expertise. So that you're not just writing generalist content. And that's, that's the way that you can get really into the, into the weeds with your support content, as well as like thinking like, solve the problem only you could solve.
Vinay Koshy 50:56
Right. Okay. The other question, I guess, especially with the rise of things like fake news, and a lot of misinformation bit, research data and things of that nature, is AI smart enough to distinguish between, you know, what is considered kosher, as opposed to not?
Jeff Coyle 51:20
AI is getting Smarter Every Day. But what else? What do you know, and it will, and it will always and will be at a level that is ridiculous. I mean, I think there's there is absolutely there is the there are ways to identify whether content is real or fake, there are and these models will get bigger and badder and better over time, there is certainly going to be models that are looking for generative content. And there are already ones out there. Hugging face is an example. There's new fake news generators, as well as detectors, like a Grover is one of the more famous ones, and is a little older, it's used based on the same architecture as GPT. Two, which is now you know, has been but designed to detect targeted propaganda, basically. And that's going to be a branch of this science forever. Because wherever there's good, there's evil, right? And, and so it absolutely can find signals, that something isn't real. But I think the most important aspect of it is, it can be these types of models can be adapted to discriminate, or to identify something that could be a problem, and why it's a problem. And the so wherever you have something that can create, you have something that can detect just by its nature.
Vinay Koshy 53:01
Okay. And I guess where I was going with this, or were thinking about this is, how much of that do we need to factor into our content creation process? Because if we do want to make our content relevant, then certainly in certain instances, it's not unusual to use a bit of data or seek out reliable sources. And that's where being able to distinguish between what's true or not true plays plays a major role.
Jeff Coyle 53:32
And it's such a hard question. There's so many dimensions to that question again. Yeah. How free you have to you have to be self aware, your neighbor has to be clear, how frequently Are you cited? Are you considered an authority? Are you are you seeking to be more of an authority? That's one element of this? The other is competitive cohort or authority cohort analysis, right? So I'm actually looking to, I need this, I need the data of how much content my competitors are creating, and how much content is being created on this topic, overall, to be able to make decisions. So if I am going to publish one article on this topic, and I'm going to spend, and $1,000 on it, and I do that in a bubble, while large, corporate entity x buys five websites on the same topic and publishes 1000 articles, right? Yeah, I need to build that cost benefit analysis. If I so that's one element, I need that. Okay. The other aspect is, is what I'm providing more reliable than all of that combined. If I'm taking a source if I'm using a source, at for reference, is that source, authoritative and repeatable that has a reputation if you source data from a low trust source and put that in your content, you are running very fast off a bridge. And at one point, that bridge will not be there and you will fall and crash and burn. I mean, you have to account for it all. I mean, it. We did tests on early on, if we use terrible content only to build models, right? How bad are the models, and they're terrible. I mean, we have to be able to know what the difference between good and bad content is to do this work. And so that, by its nature means that if if everyone in the world is creating false content that had false data in it, it's going to be really, really hard to differentiate without these types of technologies. So if you're writing and you're stealing content from others, or you're taking inspiration from them, or you're taking data, and they're it's not legit, your shelf life is very low. You need to know how to do that. You need to know how to differentiate between good and bad. Right? Yeah.
Vinay Koshy 56:15
But it's it's from what I gather, you're saying it's not exactly a straightforward process? It's there's a lot of factors that take into account, okay.
Jeff Coyle 56:23
It's not a straightforward process, the people who the good good news is the people who are best at it in the Hawaiian world. There's good news, bad news. The people that are best at this in the whole world are the search engines. The second best are large, very well funded entities for publishing. Yeah. So one of them's good news. The second one, really bad news, especially if they publish against your target market.
Vinay Koshy 56:54
Jeff, I think we could, or I could explore this for an entire day, but I'm conscious of time, Jeff, is there an aspect of creating amazing content or content quality that we haven't quite touched upon, but should
Jeff Coyle 57:09
you know, anything, it's that it's about the people, it's about production value. I mean, the you know, you can use computer vision, to create an image that's like, relevant, but the subject matter experts, the editorial leaders, the narrative, the storytellers are gonna win in the end, right? I mean, they have when they're armed with the data they need. And so I that's why I just think this motion in the market, and market maturity is going to land with those people, the gold metal they're wearing is just going to be shining here. It's just the path to adoption. And it's the acceptance, that the pain, the pain that they've experienced for years, doesn't have to be painful anymore. And that's really the aspect I want that person focused on production value. Not on worrying about whether they should put a keyword in. Because that's what we're, that's what we're pushing our amazing writers. Yeah, down to. I mean, when we do this, we're asking them to, you know, to, you know, almost lower their, we're making them do things that are below their, what they should, and below their station in life as experts. And once once that stops, we're gonna get more creative, more exciting content is going to be the norm. And that's the word I'm looking forward to. So
Vinay Koshy 58:48
Excellent. Jeff, if you were listening to this episode, what would be your top takeaway?
Jeff Coyle 58:55
If I was a, I need to know what my content efficiency is, I need to know how much content I'm creating, and updating and how much of it is meeting my business's expectations for quality and for success? If I don't know that number, as a percentage, immediately, I need to do nothing. But in the month of February, make it a goal that on February 28, or 29th, I don't know if it's leap year. I know what that percentage is. If I don't know what that percentage is, I cannot run my business.
Vinay Koshy 59:30
Right. Excellent takeaway there. Jeff, I believe you are currently offering MarketMuse on Appsumo.
Jeff Coyle 59:38
Vinay Koshy 59:39
I'm curious why have a launch there?
Jeff Coyle 59:45
It's gonna be it's not gonna be there very long. But so probably I don't know when this exactly launches. But we are. We've historically focused on mid market enterprise. So huge publishers, big brands and in the winter of 2019, we launched our first self service product lead offering. So we walk in why you never have to talk anybody, and you get it going. And then in as a response to our community and to the COVID pandemic, we opened up a three month free option for anyone who wanted to try out that self serve offering, which was awesome. More than 10,000 people became customers of that offering. And then in that moment, when we did that, and it was so exciting and successful, we were like, okay, we need to work on this product, we had to make it better. It wasn't perfect. It has a lot of it had a lot of warts at the time. And we also started to think, how do we get this offering or flavors of this offering in front of more people. And one of those options was the Appsumo. community. And we were going to do it on Cyber Monday, originally, and then for a number of reasons, delayed it to January. And this is basically our self serve offering, it's our product led growth, it's forcing one person solopreneurs very small businesses is basically where this offering maxes out. And it's been so valuable in getting feedback, improving the product, and that goes all the way up to our largest customer payments, you know, half a million dollars a year, right? It's the the value of that feedback is dramatic. And what we've seen already is that, you know, the juice bar worth the squeeze, I mean, with with with a promotion like that, and it's going to just allow us to improve that self service offering to be as good as we want it to be. And, you know, we, we certainly made a few mistakes in that offering. But the five mistakes that we've made are like we gave, we put too much in it, we should have made it simpler. And like, we just wanted to show them everything, right, that audience and we probably should have made it simpler, but you know, at the end of the day, they're getting more value. And but then the cool thing is we have a number of package changes coming with this new release. And it is everything's working out as kind of intended with that with that promotion. And, you know, the feedback is just invaluable. I mean, it's just a very, very exciting audience, who are, you know, passionate about being a solopreneur, or entrepreneur, and, you know, the creativity, and the case studies. I mean, I'm sad to say case studies. Were already you know, I get I get pinged on every social media network, hope, this is so much better than anything I've ever seen, I can't believe that you made this available, the best thing in the world that and I'm basically saying like, and there's so much more that we do that, maybe when you go to, you know, maybe you pivot, or maybe you become a huge portfolio, or a large publisher, something like that, and you want to look at some of the other things we do great, but if not, I'm just happy. I mean, all I want is for your site to do better. I mean, it sounds so trite, but ask anymore. That's it, you know, I get people to, you know, shoot my family, they'll ask, Hey, can you look at my website, I'll actually do an audit for them. Like, can you like, what do I do about this? You know, it's like a one page site looks like it was made on geo cities, you know, 15 years ago, you know, I'll tell them what I think, you know, it's just something that I've always loved about the search community, you know, going all the way back to, you know, the first web master world pubcon. And, you know, sitting around a table, it you know, talking about, you know, fixing websites and making them make sense, and not that it really plays out now, the true the core of the community, you know, I like to think have the same mindset is what I do, so,
Vinay Koshy 1:04:27
Excellent. Just this has been terrific. And I believe there are a few updates coming through that you'd like to share with our audience and
Jeff Coyle 1:04:37
Vinay Koshy 1:04:38
in the same vein, if people wanted to connect with you get it or ask any questions what would be the best way to do that they wish they had to
Jeff Coyle 1:04:46
Twitter Jeffrey underscore Coyle, Jeff at marketmuse.com but we have a Slack community called the content strategy collective. You could probably find it if you search around, but if you just want to invite shoot me a note Jeff at marketmuse.com. 1300 of the world's best seo and content strategists are in that community talking about cool stuff all the time, our release in mid to mid late, too late, depending on how things go, that we all have a release, which is the first ever production release of a natural language generation self service platform for marketers. So basically, you can go into MarketMuse, and account and order a content brief, build it, validate the brief, and then order yourself a generated draft, that draft will appear in the software so that you can look at it. You can tune it, edit it, clean it up, expand it, see the outcome, edited outcome and test it against the model to see if it complies with your brief, see if it is high quality, all that's coming out. In 10 to 14 days, we've been delivering those first drafts, we call them marketmuse. first draft is the product. We've been delivering those first drafts manually for months during tests during testing and beta. Wow. And so we're very excited. We've delivered 1000s of them during the alpha and beta. They've got they get better and better every day. That's just what machine learning is all about. But the they are finally in platform. And it's super fun. Because it takes somebody away from judgment to possibilities. When somebody sees something that's generated. They their their human brain is trained to judge it. They either say looks good, or kind of weird. I know you do it, too. I do it. Everyone does it like this isn't good enough. This isn't as good as a human. Right. Yeah, that's not the point. That's not the point. The point is being able to go from idea to content quicker.
Vinay Koshy 1:07:09
Jeff Coyle 1:07:10
And that's what we're doing.
Vinay Koshy 1:07:12
Excellent. Jeff, thanks so much for this.
Jeff Coyle 1:07:15
Thank you for having me. This is a great, great discussion. I look forward to getting all the feedback. Cheers.
Vinay Koshy 1:07:22
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Links and resources mentioned
- Check out MarketMuse
- Join the Content Strategy Collective (a Slack community) by asking Jeff for an invite.
- Check out my interview with Michael Brenner – The Importance of Building Customer Relationships: 11 Ways to Build Them
- Listen to my interview with Emilia Chagas – How to Drive Growth With a Content Marketing Strategy
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