When Content is Not The Answer – An Alternative Strategy
There I said it. Attempting to overthrow the king. Game of Thrones style. Where is my Hound?
Back in the olden days (aka 2005), I first came across a few sites that didn’t perform well with PPC. There just was no way to target the client’s market with PPC ads and the returns were just not there. The fact that PPC would not work for some people became a cornerstone when I talked to potential clients. I wanted them to know that if after a few months there was no return, we would stop PPC. I would never recommend something that wouldn’t work for a client.
For the first time in a while, I came across a few clients that I didn’t end up recommending what we all consider the “same old thing” in today’s content driven world. Specifically, developing content and focusing on search optimization (keyword research) was not the best course of action for them. We recommended actions that would make the site crawlable in the right places and technologically sound, but rather they focus on social and word of mouth.
I am interested to hear other search and general marketers thoughts on the subject, but I am also hoping to give some peace of mind to those that are running into the proverbial brick wall. Below is the case study, without their name. I asked permission, but haven’t heard back yet. I’ll add the name if I get permission.
Focus: Getting STEM disadvantaged youth to research universities
We started this project as an audit followed by a social media, content and outreach strategy. Once we got through the audit, one big part was missing … keyword research. Not missing, we had done it, but we came up empty handed. We researched competitors, their content, and came up with content focused on first in the family to college, STEM programs, and scholarships and grants. These are areas that are not only highly competitive but also have foundations that support the causes very well with content and resources.
Let’s not go there with scholarships and grants. The US government does a good job explaining the grants and there is more scholarship information out there than any one student can weed through. We came up high and dry on content that they could create that would help their mission. Their mission being to help any and all students understand how life is on a research campus. They want the right students to get the help and inspiration they need to choose the right schools.
Issue: Target Market and Search
One major issue: the target market, teenagers, are not searching for that. They might look for scholarships or the schools themselves, but not for inspiration to go to a research school. We get the mission, but the focus just doesn’t jive with teens and searching the web when deciding if and where to go to university.
In addition, the content the site has for the students are from participating universities. It’s not their own content – not duplicated, they repurpose the stories, but it’s not their content and there are stringent resources limitations and rules to this project (aka no writer names, no authorship).
The site itself is a resource, but not one the main target market searches for. We could not recommend any content strategy based on any research we could do online. Rather, because they are a dedicated resource to a small subset of people, we recommended they focus on doing what they do best. Use their contacts and provide the right information. Promotion, social and traditional.
Strategy: Be the Resource
Their domain will grow over time as the educational industry picks up steam online and they spend the time to research and make those connections to the students.
For now, doing some target market topic research with their contacts at schools is the first step. Then developing a marketing around where kids are today, and that’s not Facebook or Twitter. Ever heard of Pheed? You can’t put an article on there and the target market doesn’t share articles much.
It’s going to be about getting to them through the schools, universities and high schools and parents through traditional means so that when the kids have those questions, they have already heard of this resource or it can be given to them.