For SaaS Marketers, It’s Not a Matter of Quality Content vs. Performance, It’s Both.

Post written by Mitch Briggs, SEO Consultant at Demandwell

Mitch is an SEO and digital marketing expert who has worked for startups and fortune 500s to grow their organic search channel.

Outside of that, he enjoys spending time seeking the perfect spot, with a good drink, and great friends.

“Write for people, not robots.” “If we create quality content, the rest will fall into place.” “We want to create a new category with our thought leadership.”

We hear this all the time from SaaS marketers and content managers. But we also hear “I need more consistent inbound leads.” “Why isn’t my content being discovered in search?” “How can I measure the effectiveness of content?” “How do I get more traffic, engagement, and downloads to the resources we spend so much time producing?”

Marketers are often tasked with creating content that (in shorthand) builds brand and drives demand for their companies. The biggest mistake comes when they expect one type of content to accomplish both goals equally well.

What’s actually needed are entirely separate pages that contain “quality” content and “performance” content. “Brand” and “Demand.”

What is “Quality” Content?

It inspires, it educates, it converts, it tells a story, it explains, it simplifies, it’s unique. It’s also a huge challenge to create, and often, subjective as to how well it does any of these things.

Take this post for example. What kind of content are you reading right now? Literally right now! Is this “performance” content or “quality” content?

What I’m attempting to create with this post is (hopefully) “quality” content. I’m hoping you’ll read this post word for word and learn something new. One of our thought leadership goals is to challenge our readers to think differently about marketing. I want you to see things my way. To create this post, I needed to comb through my 15 years of digital marketing experience and put them into words that you (hopefully) find inspiring, educational, and unique…so much so that you’ll want to work with me and demo our software.

Quality Content Requires Quality Promotion

Unfortunately, I needed to “push” this content on you. You likely didn’t seek out information on quality vs performance content. It was somehow put in front of you by some savvy marketers at Demandwell, and something about it caught your eye.

No keywords (literally none) were considered in the making of this post, nor should/could they be. What would someone even type in to find this? We might get lucky and earn some long tail keyword traffic. Or if the word “performance content” takes off after I do my Ted talk – perhaps people will start Googling those types of phrases and maybe find this post. (Though if that ever happens, we’d probably create performance content optimized for that keyphrase also).

So the characteristics of quality content could be summed up as:

  • Unique, expert take on a subject
  • Takes time to think about and produce
  • High impact potential, but hard to repeat
  • Designed to be “pushed” to the market, not to drive inbound traffic
  • Represents a brand’s message and stance

What is “Performance” Content?

There is another side and purpose to creating content that is often less emphasized. It’s what we call, “performance content.” This is content that is written to accomplish the specific goal of attracting people seeking it through search. The only reason you create this content is because you know a prospect is searching for information about the topic or question, and you want to be there when they do. This can range from product category style searches like “LMS software” or “enterprise resource planning tools” to more specific long-tail queries like “how to improve website conversions rates” and “best ways to capture inbound leads.”

Search represents demand for information, so you should provide that information if you feel the people with demand are a good fit for your product or service.

The characteristics of this content can be summed up as:

  • This content aligns with the intent of the searcher and meets that need, i.e. featuring the terms used by the searcher.
  • It meets the requirements of search engine bots in order to provide the necessary information to ensure proper indexation. This does not mean the whole page is “written for a robot,” (see what goes into a Demand Page here) but it does mean you consider the crawlers’ requirements in your copy. (Here’s a piece on SEO Copywriting).
  • Tone of voice and content is more educational, helpful, and neutral. More of a Wikipedia entry vs. thought leadership – so it often requires less internal review and subject matter expert time. You may even mention other brand names and competitors! SHOCKING, I KNOW!
  • Creating this content is repeatable and less time consuming.
    • The target keyword dictates the verbiage and page structure, not your internal messaging, subject matter experts, and/or brand. The importance of this cannot be overstated – it’s a dramatic shift from what many marketers are used to.
  • The impact of this content is measurable and clear.
    • Did the creation of this content lead to visits from organic search from the targeted terms?
    • Did the visitor consume this content and take the action we wanted? (Filled out a form, downloaded an ebook, visited your blog, etc)

You Need Both Types

There is a time and place for both types of content…and we genuinely think that both types are critical for great marketing teams. Just PLEASE don’t go expecting your thought leadership pieces to drive organic traffic, or hoping your performance content will win awards. Many marketers try to make one piece of content accomplish both goals simultaneously, often resulting in a failure to accomplish either goal.

What’s required for building a successful inbound content strategy is the healthy mix of purpose-built creation for both “performance” content and “quality” content. If you only produce performance content, you won’t have enough quality content to successfully convert, and nothing to use for social, paid, or email campaigns to push to prospects. If you only produce quality content, you won’t have the consistent flow of inbound traffic and leads that organic search provides over time. You’ll be forced to rely on paid campaigns and the inherent peaks and valleys of that channel. When you have both, you can start building healthy ecosystems of demand that look something like this:

quality vs performance content

Performance content captures demand, and drives people to your quality content, which drives leads. Quality content populates all of your marketing campaigns, and increases conversion on your performance pages.

Having a balance of quality content and performance content will turn your website into an inbound lead machine. Organic search represents a HUGE and seemingly bottomless well of demand (wait…is that why we’re called Demandwell?!) – but don’t expect this channel to work for you unless you’re willing to work for it.

Learn how Demandwell streamlines performance content creation, request a demo here.