Op-Ed: 5 Content Syndication Mistakes to Avoid

Op-Ed 5 Content Syndication Mistakes to AvoidThe following is a guest contributed post from Scott Parkhouse, a native advertising expert and daily contributor to NativeMobile.

What’s the big deal with content syndication?

For starters, it’s targeted (you can typically filter on basic demographic criteria at little to no cost). Also, it guarantees performance (most publishers will negotiate deals on a cost per lead basis.)

But content syndication is no slam dunk (is anything?). Sure, a marketer can “buy” leads that meet demographic criteria for a fixed price – but the price paid, the quality of those leads, and the pace at which they arrive all vary widely.

Howard J. Sewell has thought about this issue deeply. President of Spear Marketing Group, a full-service B2B demand generation agency, Sewell has worked in high-tech sales and marketing for more than twenty years. He’s a frequent speaker and contributor to marketing publications and online forums on topics that include demand generation, online marketing, social media, and more.

Sewell’s recent post on the B2C (Business to Community) Web site (link below) offers some thoughtful insights into content syndication.

“Though it predates what we think of today as “content marketing,” content syndication is still a cornerstone of many B2B companies’ demand generation strategies,” Sewell says. “Like other inbound marketing programs – search, social media, and the like – content syndication is one more way to increase the chances that a qualified prospect, on any given day and at any given time, finds and engages with your company when he or she is searching for your kind of solution, or even researching a relevant topic.”

But no content marketer worth his salt wants to utter the words so often spoken by besieged politicos: “mistakes were made.”

So Sewell offers information on what he says are the five most common mistakes that cause content syndication programs to underperform.

Laborers in the vineyard of content syndication will want to go read Sewell’s entire post, but here’s a brief recap, in his words:

5 Common Content Syndication Mistakes

1. Excessive Use of Filters

Publishers and ad networks vary to the extent they allow you to filter leads. Most offer filters on geography and company size. Some will allow custom qualifying questions (“What CRM software do you use?”) But every filter you add adds incremental cost to the lead, for the simple reason that the publisher needs to recoup the cost of those prospects who downloaded your content but who don’t meet the required criteria.

So, filters are a balancing act. You want to eliminate bad leads but not to the extent the “good” leads are cost-prohibitive. Most marketers over-filter. Filtering on job title, for example is rarely worth the cost. If you’re placing content with a highly targeted, niche site (one that focuses on a particular vertical or technology, for example) you can get away with fewer filters compared to an ad network with broader reach.

2. Poorly-Written Abstracts

An abstract (the short description that accompanies your content on the site) is, essentially, an ad. If a prospect sees ten white papers on a similar topic, the title of your content and its abstract will be the difference between he or she downloading your content or your competitor’s. Yet most abstracts are written in a dry, almost academic tone, as if they’re describing a paper that’s being presented at a scientific conference.

Good abstracts do two things: 1) they describe the value of the information, and 2) they drive action. Use terms like “learn” and “discover,” be clear and specific about what the reader will take away from the material, and employ language like “Download” to drive action.

3. Over-Reliance on Niche Sites

In the same way that many marketers tend to over-use filters, companies also tend to focus content syndication programs on individual Websites that target their favored demographic or particular technology. If your content is titled appropriately, if your abstract is compelling and written to a specific audience, and if you’re employing the right filters, then ad networks can generate leads of the same or higher quality, at a lower cost, and at a much faster pace compared to individual sites.

4. Too Little Content

The more content you use in content syndication, the higher the lead volume and the faster the pace at which you’ll meet your lead targets. Worst case, some content assets won’t generate many leads, but then they won’t cost you much, either. There’s really no reason to limit yourself to 2-3 content assets per publisher when, in effect, there’s no real incremental cost to doing so, except the time to write additional abstracts. In particular, it’s wise to test different form factors – white papers, ebooks, recorded Webinars, videos, ebooks, infographics – to gauge which types generate the best leads at the fastest pace.

5. Poor Lead Follow-up

As I wrote in this earlier post, one of the key factors that causes content syndication programs to fail is a lack of timely and effective lead follow-up. Because of the way content syndication leads are distributed to the advertiser, often on a weekly frequency, it may be days after the prospect actually downloaded the content before you even hear about it. As a very basic guideline, every content syndication lead should receive immediate, automated e-mail follow-up upon being imported into your marketing or CRM database.