Editor's Note: This article by Ronn Levine appeared in the SIPAalert daily and on SIIA's Digital Discourse blog. Special thanks to Jen Kern and Dexter Steis for taking the time to share their best practices.
Listening to Jennifer Kern, Gale Media’s director of digital strategy and marketing analytics, speak in an SIIA webinar this week, made me think of a Halloween book by Jerry Seinfeld that I read to kids a couple days earlier. Throughout the book, Seinfeld reflects on the one thought that pervaded his little self’s day: “Get candy.”
Similarly, Kern (pictured here) said that one thought stands behind everything Gale Media does: Get conversions. Fortunately, in these days of content marketing being as commonplace as Madison Bumgarner shutout innings, this leads to strong content across both their free pages and Modern Distribution Management (MDM) premium sites.
Kern’s presentation was one of three excellent and actionable ones under the tagline, How to Turn Your Website Into a Direct Content Sales Channel/e-Marketplace. Andy Kowl, senior VP, publishing strategy for ePublishing, and Dexter Steis, executive publisher for Natural Gas Intelligence, presented the other two. The webinar can be accessed by members as an on-demand video at this link. (login required)
Kern’s key takeaway in converting visitors is simply, “ask in multiple places,” and they are quite successful. To build their list, they use:
- a “popover/lightbox” on almost all pages to new visitors. Interestingly, they tested an old-fashioned looking popover they were using—an envelope was the only graphic—vs. a more updated one that showed off their many newsletters. Old-fashioned won by 25%. (Test!)
- callouts at the bottom of free blog posts and articles—their #1 conversion point—and other popular places on the website. They vary the looks.
- links to free newsletter in nav bars.
- an “interrupter” that peeks out from the lower right corner of blogs and free articles.
- an offer on LinkedIn (they got 125 new emails from offering a special report there).
To convert visitors to the paying MDM premium, they do:
- email campaigns offering 10% discounts.
- callouts in the free newsletter and on the homepage.
- testimonial ads.
- links in the blogs. The editors are all big on linking to premium content in their articles.
- an MDM Preview page where a couple paragraphs of a story are shown. A video callout of president Tom Gale on the right sidebar does very well there.
- a separate Premium landing page. Once visitors get there, they are followed by an MDM Premium ad as they travel the web.
Steis has worked at NGI for 18 years; they have 7 B2B newsletters—3 of which are dailies—and 16 full-time people, 2/3 of whom drive content. Their revenue is up 14% YTD—65% of the dollars coming from natural gas data.
Their old website had no focus; it simply showed a lot of small headlines. The new one integrates charts and graphs—and gas price data—in addition to giving visitors free tastes and much clearer links to the subscription products. “We put in the metered paywall October 2013,” Steis said. “At first, people got five free drinks—we wanted to err on the side of being more generous. But we have since peeled that back to 2 free drinks, and on your second click you’re prompted to get a free trial.”
His 5 takeaways:
1. leveraging Content to build traffic is easier than you think.
2. ancillary products (sales) and data sales are natural outcomes of more content and traffic.
3. better website with stickier content has increased renewals. (80% thus far in 2014 versus 65% in 2013)
4. Google News has helped drive traffic both directly and indirectly (from Google Search).
5. More traffic + metered paywall = fewer trials and modesty higher newsletter sales, but ancillary and data driving sales up 14% YTD.
Kowl opened the webinar with a good sampling of pages from members ePublishing works with. He made the argument for free content—without it visitors won’t return and search engines will bring in fewer prospects. “Don’t fear free,” he said mantra-like. He encouraged:
- providing a seamless buying experience.
- building a powerful audience database.
- focus on your responsive site design.
In the always-valuable Q&A, Kern suggested using Google Consumer Surveys to put a survey on your site. “We use just 3 questions. ‘What was your purpose for coming here? Were you able to accomplish what you wanted? If not, why not? If not why?’ It’s important to try to get qualitative feedback. Why did they bounce?”