Content Marketing: How design fits into your content strategy with Shayne Tilley from 99designs (episode 026)

by April Buencamino-dy

Shayne is Head of Marketing at 99designs. Shayne’s been in marketing for over 15 years, and has the perfect marketing aptitude list – a touch of nerd, a sprinkling of creativity, and a dusting of mathematician! So as well as knowing how the numbers need to stack up – he’s also very well versed in how the right design can totally change the results of a content strategy.

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How Shayne got into Marketing

Shayne has a more traditional marketing background and got his start pre-digital in direct marketing.

By chance he was given an opportunity at a small online only company where he was asked to lead their marketing efforts. His department of me, myself and I was his crash course introduction into digital marketing.

For Shayne, watching the marketing ecosystem evolve and being able to see the impact in real time has made digital marketing an exciting and ever changing career. 

The Impacts of Design

Shayne draws a parallel between good digital content and magazine platforms pre-digital that had well developed aesthetics. He says the same rules apply.

Are you trying to present your content in a way that evokes specific feelings in your audience? Doing this can really amplify how you are connecting with your audience. 

Designed Content for Better Reader Retention

Taking a design thinking approach to building your content can differentiate you from your competitors.

Simply adding in structure, hierarchy and proper spacing is a great way to start bringing more readability to your content. Shayne challenges his team to really edit ruthlessly and rarely exceed more than a few lines at a time.

Google’s intention to switch focus from keywords to user experience shores up this ruthlessly edited approach. 

Auditing Existing Content

One of the first things the team did under Shayne’s leadership was a major content audit.

They looked at all the content produced and decided what they wanted to ditch, what they wanted to rewrite and what they wanted to consolidate and reposition.

The team also rebuilt the entire blog and gave themselves three years to complete that process. They turned 50-60k first time visitors a month to over a million monthly visits during that time.   

Looking hard at what point people were dropping off when reading their blog allowed the team to rethink the way they were building blogs.

They spent some time doing some in depth research and categorizing the types of content people were consuming more and less of. This, in addition to looking at which writers were read most often and thoroughly allowed the team to optimize their reading experience.

When they started doing this, Shayne says they saw an immediate positive response and they’ve grown significantly since doing this exercise. 

Shayne cautions that  if you are going to track bounce rate, understanding what people are doing on the site is important.

Using google events to track movement on the page will allow you to differentiate between readers and people who opened the page and got distracted.

When you can understand that, you’ll be able to develop events at the right moment. 

Start With the Old

The team started redoing the blog by fixing up existing content that was already indexing.

This process really helped the team up level their credibility and made their new content do much better much faster. 

Get the Graphics Right

  • Have a branding or style guide either DIY or with a designer
  • Build out templates to get consistency either DIY or with a designer
  • Use a formatter — a person who lays your content in line with your style guide

Insider Tips

If we’ve inspired someone to take their first step with Content Marketing – what do they need to know to give themselves the best chance of success?

  • Know your audience and know where they are consuming content. Shayne says he spent some time with an equestrian business who wanted to increase their content. The company wanted to put it on Twitter. Shayne says that some research quickly revealed that there wasn’t a big equestrian audience on Twitter and that Facebook would be a much better way to connect. 
  • Be Patient — a well produced piece of content that ranks well will produce returns for years to come.
  • Distribute well. Be ready to share your content in various places.
  • Build repeatable systems. Understand the workflow. How to turn a piece of content into reality.

Once you’ve started of course you’ve got to ‘keep optimising’! So what’s your favourite way to improve content marketing performance?

  • Have the right measures in place for what you want. 
  • Understand what value means for you and work backward from there.

It’s impossible to improve our marketing unless we’re monitoring the performance – but the list of stuff we could monitor can be overwhelming. So what, for you is the number one content marketing KPI?

  • Long term ROI
  • Channel ROI
  • Cost everything, including your own time.

Crystal ball time – what’s coming up in the next 6-12 months that we should be getting ready for in content marketing?

Developing content that can be used in voice response. There are also a lot of new ways to distribute content. Being really good at understanding where long term value comes from. 

Interview Links

Shayne on Social media:

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