Content Syndication: Is it Worth the Investment?
Many times when digital marketers talk about content syndication, they’re referring to an SEO tactic that’s intended to drive traffic to a site or expose a brand. The process involves the distribution of a blog, site, or content into third-party sites. Players in this space include Outbrain, Taboola and Reddit and the end goal is to either generate traffic or leads.
In this post, I will to talk about a slightly different type of content syndication. Specifically, I’ll be discussing cost per lead (CPL) programs from vendors such as QuinStreet, eMedia and TrueInfluence, to name a few. While Outbrain, Taboola and Reddit leads convert on your site, CPL leads usually convert on a third-party site. And instead of paying per click or impressions, you pay per lead generated.
On the surface, CPL programs sound very tempting and simple. You pay per lead generated and therefore remove most risk. The more you spend, the more leads you generate. After having spent thousands of dollars on CPL -- in multiple companies -- I can assure you it’s not that simple. Here are some tips and tricks I've learned along the way that will help you achieve success with content syndication.
Work with the niche vendors I found the most success with content syndication when I worked with vendors that specialized in my area. For example, sell to developers? Consider DZone. Work with Qualiaty Assurance Professionals? Consider Techwell. And so on. I have rarely found success with general publications such as e-emedia and QuinStreet. Ultimately, you want to work with vendors that specialize in your audience.
Work with a vendor that can integrate with your marketing automation
Work with a vendor that integrates with your marketing automation tool and can pass the leads over in real time. If you have this process in place, you can set up real time confirmation emails that introduces your company and offers some other related content to download. Only distribute content syndication leads to sales once they’ve opened, clicked or downloaded the additional content you sent them.
Beware of what “real time” really means though. Some vendors will pass the leads over through a form posting URL but that doesn’t mean you’re receiving a lead in real time. I’ve worked with vendors who pass the lead right away (i.e. as soon as the lead downloads the content) as well as vendors who wait 24 hours so they can “clean” or “scrub” a lead. 24 hours is simply too long and by then you've lost your window of opportunity for either a phone call or confirmation email.
"Quarantine" your content syndication leads
Separate content syndication leads from the rest of your database by putting them in a different program or cadence. Most CPL programs start at around $35/lead. That’s really pricey considering the fact that they’re essentially cold leads. Separating syndicated leads allows you to track their re-engagement as well as to easily see if they’re progressing through the funnel.
Build a long-term relationship with your vendor
The relationship you build with your content syndication vendor is crucial. Contrary to popular belief, CPL programs also need fine tuning along the way. There’s continued opportunity to tweak the filters so you’re receiving more targeted leads from your vendor. It’s also extremely important that they understand your company and your target so they can better work with you and your needs.
Having a good relationship also goes a long way when it comes to negotiating the CPL. My motto here is to get it as low as possible. If you agree that content syndication leads are border line cold leads, what’s the motivation behind going with a CPL vendor versus just buying a cold list from a reputable list provider that offers a much lower cost? There really isn’t. This is why it’s in your best interest to get a low CPL while maintaining the minimum required filters.
In my opinion, the jury is still out on the effectiveness and ROI of CPL programs. Essentially, you’re paying for a cold lead that has expressed interest in a particular topic. The actual quality of the leads also leaves a lot to be desired -- instead of decision makers, what you get is usually staff or mid-level managers.
On the flip side, CPL leads are actually very engaged. Analysis I’ve run shows they re-engage with our content at a higher rate than leads from a list purchase or even PPC leads. However, as demand gen marketers, we’re ultimately on the hook for ROI and contributing to the pipeline. Because of that, it's simply too difficult to justify CPL program premiums.