Owned Content: Lead Generation vs. Organic Visibility

If there is one thing I can most often guarantee, it’s that when I surf the search sphere for daily news I find articles about developing great content, how to be successful at promoting content, etc. It seems that many are hard-pressed to find that what angles and tactics will help them create that amazing, resourceful piece. However, with this topic heating up over the past few years, there is one thing forward-thinking Web teams are forgetting. What should we be doing to optimize our current content on our site that we own? The main issue I find is that sites have a wealth of content on their site but are too stingy with lead generation in mind to give way to search engine optimization benefit.

What Do You Mean “Owned”?

If we could bucket online marketing collateral into three groups, we would look at the three topics of Owned, Earned, and Paid. While Paid is of course the exposure we have to shell out dollars to receive, Earned media is what our brand, more specifically Owned and Paid, have built for us via user-generated content, social engagement, etc. I feel that Owned has taken a back seat to Earned as many yearn for social buzz bliss these days. Stepping back to look at all three media sections and how they may work together more efficiently, Owned is the foundation of all three and can be the catalyst for more Earned media as well as fodder for your Paid media effort. So, yes, “Owned” is a pillar we must not ignore and a great reason to rethink what we are doing with content that we own.

Lead Generation vs. Organic Visibility

As a visibility obsessed SEO by trade, when first engaging an organic campaign, I find all content owned by an organization that is not visible to search engines and then ask why? The common response for gated content is, “But, we want to use our content to generate leads.” Generating leads may be the main objective for a site, but we want to give search engines a little more to chew on so they can be vehicle to drive more of these “leads.”

Situation 1:

You have lead-gen content (whitepaper, webinar, etc.) linked from a page on your site. Once they click, the user is taken to a subdomain where there is a form for them to complete to receive the content. Many times I see that these form pages are on a subdomain because there is use of a marketing automation solution to house the content and for the collection of lead form data.

Solution:

A given piece of content in this predicament lives on a subdomain, which does not add weight to the parent domain or take advantage the authority of the parent domain, thus leading to less of a likelihood of ranking. Every lead-generation piece should have its own page on the parent domain with a keyword-rich summary of the piece alongside a framed form submission from the third-party automation solution.

Solution:

The content is gated to hold people away from the view of the content until you possess their lead data. Google will never be a lead for you, so why are you holding the content from them? With this in mind, place this content on the parent domain and allow the crawling of an entire content type. Yes, people will find the content in SERPs and get a free piece of lead-gen content. Guess what? You have them on the site now and if they liked what they got for free they will submit their information for more and may even peruse other content on your site.

Situation 2:

You have a gated community for your customers who use your products and you have provided a forum for their discussions.

Solution:

That is great that you have built a community to help customers and foster exclusivity. There is one user type you forgot to invite, though – search engines. Opening the forum to search engines and user-generated participation means that you have potentially released hundreds if not thousands of pages to search engines all containing topics that people are searching the Web for anyway.

Situation 3:

You provide a lot of content to site users through form submission and then upon submission provide the content in a PDF download.

Solution:

These PDFs are held in the arms of lead-gen greediness and in many cases the PDF folder is also provided for search crawler exclusion in the robots.txt file. Remove this exclusion and let the content be found by search engines. Yes, again, people will get free information, but provide a “like what you see” link on the PDF so that users can traverse back to the content type category page on the site so they can find other related content…and fill out a lead form.

Meeting in the Middle

What you can see with the aforementioned situations and solutions above is that both the sales team and the online marketing team can live in harmony. While you will lose some initial lead opportunities, you are opening the gates of search visibility to generate much more exposure and in-roads for many more users to find your content. Over time, you will find that your lead-gen sections of your site will see an increase in indexed content and a nice increase in organic referrals.

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