Custom Content: Your Organization’s Multi-Tool For Growth

By David Martin, Heed Public Relations

Without a doubt, one of the best creators of custom content that I know in the Chattanooga area is Kenneth Burke, Marketing Director at Text Request, a leader in the business texting industry.

Text Request is a Gig City startup success, and one of the keys to their growth is Burke’s commitment to, and mastery of, generating valuable content. Not only do they help generate high-quality business leads, but the articles he publishes also position the company as an authority and valuable resource among competitive peers.

Since it has helped shape Text Request’s favorable public image, I wanted to learn more about Burke’s take on content — so I fired some questions his way. And man, did he drop some knowledge on me.

Instead of trying to turn his responses into an article (and risk mucking anything up), I’ve merely edited for word count.  

Why did you (and Text Request) decide to invest so much in generating custom content?

We started for a few reasons.

·         Lots of people use Google for different things. We wanted to show up where the people already were. That’s also what the experts were recommending at the time (so we read).

·         We were a new company with only a few customers. Some call it bootstrapping, but we just asked 'What can we do for free?' (Cold calls and content were about it.)

·         I wanted to write things, so I started learning how to write business content that people value.

I wrote articles for a while, and nobody read them, which we expected. Then one day we emailed a post to a prospect, and they went on to purchase our service. Later someone saw an article of ours on Facebook, which led to a media placement that earned us a couple of customers.

Then I wrote 10 Reasons Millennials Aren’t Answering Your Phone Calls, and we got tons of traffic (relative to what we were getting). Some readers thought it was stupid, some thought it was great, but it brought viewers, and some of those viewers were our business targets.

So I kept going.

Then we started seeing referral traffic from other blogs. People were saying, 'according to Text Request…' more and more, and linking back to our content. It took time, but we were able to get guest posts on sites like Tech.co, Business.com, HubSpot, Constant Contact, SCORE, StartupNation and others. And we got mentioned, quoted or linked to by Forbes, Neil Patel, Entrepreneur, Salesforce, Slate and lots of other big names.

How do you choose your topics, and what is your publishing cadence?

We work with a lot of people, so we ask, 'What questions are they asking? What problems are they trying to solve?' Then we create content to answer those questions and solve those problems.

I’ll use keyword research to figure out the best title phrasing or keyword variation once we've chosen a topic, but that’s about it. In my experience, keyword density and competition have little to do with what content you should write (or can rank for).

The amount we publish, or frequency, has changed a bunch over the years. At one point we were publishing multiple posts per week. Then we got into a rhythm of one every other week, and that did well — I think because of how much effort (value) was going into each post.

After you’ve published a piece, what's your distribution method?

We do a few things. If anyone contributed a quote or information, we share the post with them and ask them to share it with their audiences through social media and newsletters. They always do.

Then we share the post through our own social media channels and newsletter. Depending on the piece, I’ll add it to a content aggregator or forum. Then we schedule the post to be shared on social media later.

Other than that, traffic is either organic, referral or comes from someone on our team directly sending a post to a prospect or customer.

What have you learned are the most successful types of content (what performs the best)?

Well, it depends on what you’re measuring.

Quick-step guides like How to Add Text Messaging to Your Google My Business Listing or 4 Ways Staffing Agencies Excel with Text Messaging bring us the most sales. People looking for those answers are much further along in the sales funnel.

Research-heavy articles like How Many Texts Do People Send Every Day? or How Much Time Do People Spend on Mobile Phones in 2018? bring us the most traffic and backlinks.

Vertical-specific guides like 18 Digital Marketing Tips Most People Don’t Know About earn the most shares and longest time on page.

But — to steal from SEO guru Rand Fishkin — your content has to be 10 times better than whatever else is out there on that particular topic. Otherwise, there’s no reason for Google to rank your post higher than others, and there’s no reason for viewers to stick around.

What lessons have you learned as you’ve implemented this content program that have led to alterations?

People care about answering their questions and solving their problems. When you do that in an unexpectedly helpful way, everyone wins. Before learning that, we created lots of posts that were just spins on our sales pitch. They didn’t answer questions or solve problems — and they certainly weren’t 10 times better than everything else on the topic — so no one read them.

A difficult question that we grappled with was 'How long should our content be?'

Eventually, we figured out a five-step formula for making blog posts thorough enough to cover the topic as an expert, and not a word more.

The Quality vs. Quantity debate was another big one for us. The experts said to focus on quality, but they also had thousands of pages already. We had a few dozen, and desperately needed more, so we struggled with this for awhile.

But we learned the answer is always: Quality. It doesn’t matter how many pages you do or don’t have yet.

Can you share any success metrics? If so, what are the most compelling ones?

Yeah, we’ve got a HubSpot article on how we grew our organic traffic 120 percent in 5 months. We’ve boomed about another 50 percent since then, but with keywords that are more valuable to us.

Our blog posts’ average time on page is about four minutes, which is 8-16 times better than the average blog’s time on page (which is about 15-30 seconds). Our top 10 percent articles get about six-and-a-half minutes.

We’ve also gone from a few hundred subscribers to over 7,000 in less than a year. People seem to like what we’ve created.


David Martin is the founder of Heed Public Relations