Ever wonder how content marketing could change the game for your business? The Dead Pixels Society is fortunate to chat with Rai Hyde Cornell, the CEO and senior copywriter for Cornell Content Marketing. Cornell shares her journey into content marketing and the difference it holds against traditional advertising. She shares that content marketing isn’t just about pushing a product or service; it's about supplying your audience with crucial information to aid them in making the best decisions, creating a bond of trust, and fostering a long-lasting relationship.
This episode is a treasure trove of actionable insights. Cornell unravels the secret to building a productive content marketing strategy, underlining the necessity of understanding the audience, the business, and the unique connection between them. We also explore the power of SEO and keywords in boosting your content's visibility.
Cornell connects the dots between content marketing and email marketing, illustrating the significance of taking a “snapshot” of website traffic and lead numbers to drive return on investment. We explore the magic of content upgrades and lead magnets and how email marketing can be used to send updates and offers to your target audience.
Sign up for the Dead Pixels Society newsletter at http://bit.ly/DeadPixelsSignUp.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shout out to podcast supporter Keith Osborn of Memory Fortress for becoming a paid subscriber.
Visit our LinkedIn group, Photo/Digital Imaging Network, and our Facebook group, The Dead Pixels Society.
Leave a review on Apple and on Podchaser.
Interested in being a guest? Click here for details.
Hosted and produced by Gary Pageau
Edited by Olivia Pageau
Announcer: Erin Manning
Welcome to the Dead Pixel Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Her'es your host, host Gary Pageau. host , Pagea Pixel Society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclip, advertek Advertek Printing Printing, and IP Labs.Gary Pageau:
Hello and again, and welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Pageau, and today we're joined by Rai Hyde Cornell, who is the CEO and senior copywriter for Cornell Content Marketing in Lubbock, Texas. Hi Rai, how are you today?Rai Cornell:
Hey Gary, thanks so much for having me.Gary Pageau:
That was a mouthful. So how did you get started in the business of content marketing? And first tell us what content marketing is, if you will?Rai Cornell:
Sure. So content marketing is using content or information, entertainment to build a connection with a particular audience. Lego famously did this very early and think like when I say early, I mean like 80s and 90s, by sending magazines to families' households and having kids flip through a magazine and go oh hey, mom, I want this, I want that. That's content marketing. You're sending content to build that bridge. So to answer your earlier question, how did I get started? Well, kind of by accident. I've always been a writer by nature. It's just been. You know, everybody has a thing. Some people are painters, some people are sketch artists, some people are photographers. I've just always been a writer and when I was in college or when I went off to college when I was 17, I needed a way to pay my way and so I started doing little writing gigs on the side. I didn't exactly start out legit. I started out writing people's high school and college papers and eventually it's content.Gary Pageau:
It's content.Rai Cornell:
It's still content right, and eventually I transitioned into writing content for a number of different departments on my campus. At one point I had nine jobs on campus in total. I just absolutely loved it. That's where I found my thing with ease. You know, I didn't have to try so hard at that aspect of my life. The whole time I was earning my bachelor's in psychology, my master's in professional clinical counseling and my master's in criminology, I was planning on being a counselor in the prison system. I worked at drug rehab centers, community counseling facilities, a mental hospital and I completely burned out on the mental health world, and so I threw myself full time into the thing that hit in my side hustle all along. And then now, 16 years later, cornell Content Marketing is an agency with a team of about 19 creatives and we work with B2B and B2C businesses.Gary Pageau:
Well, with that education you kind of sound like you were laying the groundwork to be a TV detective actually, Pretty much, yeah.Rai Cornell:
That was my inspiration. I always loved the crime shows and both of my parents were cops, so I was really into psychology.Gary Pageau:
But I kind of wanted to marry the law enforcement world that I was super comfortable in so let's talk a little bit about content marketing as it relates to you know a business, because a lot of people kind of know they have to do it, but they don't know what they're doing or don't know the objective. What is the difference? When you say, for example, the Lego magazine, most people would think in the business world, oh, I'm sending a catalog, I want to get orders, but that's not what they were doing. Once you do it, you know content marketing and like per se advertising or catalogs or something like that.Rai Cornell:
Yeah, that's a great question. So I like to put content marketing up against advertising. So I don't do any advertising within my agency, I don't do any paid media, I don't do any media buying. All we do is organic content marketing. And so if you look at these two things side by side, you can see advertising is when you are kind of like bonking people over the head, saying, hey, pay attention to me, buy whatever I'm offering, right? Content marketing is when you are meeting people, where they're already curious and hungry for information, and you're educating them in order to help them make the best decision for themselves. So a famous example of this is Marcus Sheridan, who wrote a book called "hey Ask, you Answer, and he started by working in the pool industry and his pool company was failing and he goes I just didn't know what to do. I had to try something. And so he looked at his competition and he realized nobody was answering the questions that people really had about buying a pool, like how much does it cost? Should I really do a fiberglass pool or should I do a concrete pool? What are the pros and cons of this, and that A lot of people were afraid to answer these questions because they thought, oh, I'm going to scare people away with the price or I'm going to drive people to my competition. But what he did was he was like you know what? I don't have anything to lose, so I'm going to answer these questions for people. And his business blew up in the best possible way. He started building trust with people. People understood hey, this guy is telling me right off the bat, before we even have a meeting or he comes to my house, that a pool is going to cost me $50,000. That instantly built trust with his target buyer. That's what content marketing is. It's filling the gaps of knowledge for people. So you are building trust on a subliminal and implicit level, rather than begging people for your trust or begging people for your business by saying 50% off or look at this promo offer.Gary Pageau:
So, really, what you're talking about is the difference between a transaction and a relationship, which I think is where the marketing is going.Rai Cornell:
Yes, and that's a beautiful way to put it yes. So marketing is all about long-term relationships, and I've worked with a lot of subscription businesses because they know that in the subscription industry you have to retain a customer for a significant period of time in order for that customer acquisition cost to be worthwhile. And how do you do that? It's all about retention, which retention is just a business alternative word for a relationship, a long-term relationship. Everybody likes to feel like you just want their money, and this is all very transactional. People like to feel understood, appreciated and supported. That's exactly what content marketing does.Gary Pageau:
I think one of the key things that your business approach requires, though, is a deep understanding of your own business and your own customers. Can you talk about. For example, in our industry, the photo industry, there's a lot of long-term business. These are businesses that have been around for 30, 40 years and they've kind of done the same thing, reached the same audience. What are some of the ideas you might have for a long-term business that may not have been doing some of this stuff? To kind of build that, because it is a building process. It's not. I'm gonna drop a blog post and my world is great.Rai Cornell:
Exactly. This is very much a long game. That's really important for people to understand. Now I do work with some small businesses that they only put out one blog post per month, but also when you're a smaller business, you don't need to make 2,000 sales per month. You need two or three great clients per month, and so this can still work on a small scale, but you have to know that this is a long game. So, in order to build this bridge and I like to think of it as a bridge, because with a bridge, you have a point A, you have a point B and you have something connecting them in between and so in order to do content marketing well, you have to understand those three components, and a lot of people think they understand their audience, but then when they go and they also think that they understand themselves, but really they don't you have to look at yourself and go why am I different? And if you think, oh, I'm just another photographer, I'm just another video producer, that's not the case. There's something that you're doing different, especially as a creative. Usually it's your personality or your perspective. And my thing that I was a little bitter about the three degrees that I earned when I don't do anything with them nowadays. Well, you're using your psychology now obviously, but it took my clients to show me that it was when I started talking about my background. Someone would ask me so do you have a degree in marketing? And I would go, no, actually my degrees are in psychology and I felt bad about saying that. I thought that was gonna hurt me. But then someone goes really, tell me more about that. And my clients ears perked up and that's when I started to understand the value that I really brought to the table. You have to do the same thing in your business to figure out what that point A is. You have to figure out is it your personality? Is it your with a way that you commit yourself to your clients? Is it your workflows, the streamlined process? Is it your perspective? Is it your editing process? Whatever the case may be, figure out what makes you different. Then figure out who's looking for that and what are they really struggling with. So, using myself as an example again, I realized that there were a lot of companies out there who didn't want to do advertising. They hated the idea of pouring thousands of dollars a month into Google and Facebook and they didn't feel like they really understood the mechanism. It's constantly changing and the second they turned that flow of money off, all of the success stops. Whereas with content marketing I have blog posts out there that I've written for PrettyLitter and other clients five, six years ago that still exist and are still driving sales for them and they paid me $300 or $400 for that one blog. Imagine the ROI on that over time. That is the thing that my clients really latch onto and then when I throw in the psychology layer, they just get all excited and that's when we build that bridge, that connection. So that's really that process you have to go through.Gary Pageau:
So when you're trying to build your SEO strategy and using blogs for that now, there's always the sort of belief that if you don't buy Google ads, google is gonna ignore you. Is that true and can you expand on that?Rai Cornell:
Yes, absolutely. That's not at all true. The only true aspect of that is in order to be at the top of the SERP, the search engine results page you need to buy that sponsored spot. But think about how you use Google. I know personally, when I type something into Google, I go right past all those sponsored things because I think those aren't actually what I'm looking for. Those are just the ones that paid to put themselves right in front of me. But I think I actually want the things a little lower on the page.Gary Pageau:
As long as you're still on that first page.Rai Cornell:
Well, not necessarily. That's actually changed recently. Google has switched to the infinite scroll, so there is no first, second, third page. So now positions like 12, 13 and 14 that used to not hold much value because nobody clicked over to the second page those actually hold a lot more value now because on the infinite scroll people will still see 12, 13, 14. Now, of course, if you're in position 30 or 40, people don't tend to scroll that far down. But the truth of the matter is Google and this is all about intent your intent as a business owner, your client's intent, google's intent, google's intent, is to be the go to resource for information. If you are providing that information and if you are including SEO keywords correctly not overdoing it, not underdoing it that is how you are going to get to a solid position on that SERP and Google is going to rank you whether or not you are paying anything into their ad mechanism.Gary Pageau:
So talk a little bit about those SEO keywords, because that's something that here that comes up. Let's say, for example, if I'm running a camera store, do I just throw in all the brands I carry, or what is it that you think I should do?Rai Cornell:
Content marketing is 50% a thinking process and 50% a doing process. You have to start by thinking through what are the people that I am trying to reach actually looking for? So let's say, let's use your example, let's say people are someone's running a camera store and they're thinking okay, the customers that I want to reach. They're looking for the latest equipment that's not going to be astronomically priced. They want somewhere where they can go, get their questions answered, feel comfortable about their purchase. They want to hold the camera in their hands and feel its weight or lightness. They want to pick out a strap that they like. Those are the things that the customers that you want are thinking about. So now, what are they going to be typing into Google? You have to put yourself in their shoes, and this is where people just go oh, I want to rank for Nokia and Nikon and I don't know camera brand. Sorry, that's what they think, but unless you take that time to really put yourself in their shoes and go through that process of, if I were shopping for a camera and these three things were really important to me, what would I be typing into Google? That's where you start. Now, to get more detailed, I use a tool called KW Finder by Mangools. That's the one that I love because even on their free version they show you everything. They show you the keyword, the MSV, which is monthly search volume, and they show you the KD, which is keyword difficulty. A lot of free tools will gray out those data points and they're pretty much useless. When you put your starter keyword let's say you think people are going to type in lightweight cameras, lightweight telephoto cameras I don't know, is that a thing when they type that into the keyword search tool, then you're going to get that keyword's data and a lot of related keywords. There are three criteria in particular that you need to look at when choosing a keyword. The first is the intent and relevance of the keyword itself. Is it relevant to your business and what is the intent of someone typing it in. For example, if someone is typing in what is a telephoto lens, they're probably not a photographer, they're probably someone who is just trying to have a conversation with a photographer and they just need to fill in this quick gap of knowledge. If someone is typing in lightweight telephoto lens, then they're probably in the market for buying one. That first one is the keyword itself. The second piece of criteria is the monthly search volume. Now a lot of people think, oh, I have to pick a monthly search volume that's in the six figures or seven figures. No, if you're a small business and you only need, let's say, three to five clients a month, you can probably do with keywords that are around 500 or higher. You can go for those lower volume keywords because those probably have a lower difficulty, which is going to be easier for a small business to rank for. So, getting a little ahead of myself there. But that third criteria is keyword difficulty.Gary Pageau:
Now I was going to ask you what that means yes.Rai Cornell:
What that means is there's a ranking scale of the competition for that keyword. Now brands like Target and Walmart and all of those big box stores. They are able to rank for keywords that have a difficulty of 70 and higher because they pour all of that money into the ads. You don't have to do ads in order to find good keywords for you, but when you're looking at the keyword difficulty, it's on a scale of one to 100. And a lot of people equate that to grades in school and they think, oh well, then 70, that's like a C, so I should be able to do that. No, for a small business, pretty much anything above a 45 is going to be very difficult to rank for. So you're looking for keywords that have high relevance to your business and high intent to buy. You're looking for high MSV monthly search volume. But if you're a small business, you can set your threshold lower at like 500 or so, and you're looking for a keyword difficulty of about 45 or less. When you find those Keywords that meet those criteria Bingo, write a blog post about it, do a podcast episode about it, write a landing page about it and optimize that page.Gary Pageau:
And do it more than once. I think that's one of the things that people run into when they do blogs is I posted a blog about it and they don't realize that it's a generation game in the sense that you have to keep revisiting. You don't copy and paste it on me, so you change it to find a different angle on the same content, same topic.Rai Cornell:
Yes and no. You don't want to use the same keyword. So let's say you write an article about keyword A. You don't want to use keyword A in three more articles because that's called cannibalization, and that's when Google starts to see that you are competing with yourself for the same keywords and then it demotes you. So you want to pick keywords and derivatives of those keywords that you can use individually in separate articles. So if you do one article on lightweight telephoto lens, then do another one that's the best telephoto lenses of 2023. Then do another one that's telephoto lenses that are great for outdoor photography. You can center around a particular product, but you want to do variations, not the same keyword across the board.Gary Pageau:
Right? Well, that's where I was getting to. Is that it's a program, not a just one off. Because that's when I run into people who are thinking about doing this. They think I need to start a blog, I need to start a podcast and I was asking well, what are your first 10 topics? And they're like 10". I've got one. It's like well, maybe it shouldn't be. Maybe you need to rethink your strategy then, because it's not just putting it out there and then being done with it.Rai Cornell:
Exactly. And so the other thing that Google rewards is consistency, right. So the way Google operates, it's indexing the entire Internet. Now think about what a big undertaking that is. And then not only does it do that once, it does that on repeat. So previously, prior to let's see, we're at the end of May 2023, prior to this month, you could expect Google to index your site about every two weeks. That duration in between indexes is actually lengthening. Google is saying there's way too much content out there on the Internet. We don't have the time and resources to index this every two weeks. We're going to about every two to three months. So now you can expect that when Google checks your site every few months, it wants to see changes, it wants to see new pages, new content, and if you do that, it's going to pay attention to you. If you don't post, then you're going to end up like those websites that we started when we were in elementary, middle, high school. Just as a whim, I'm going to start this website on Angel Fire or GeoCities or whatever that was going to say, geocities. Yes, it still exists out there somewhere in the deep, deep recesses of the Internet. But Google doesn't have the resources to pay attention to all of those things, and it knows that it doesn't have to because there are no updates on there since we were 16 years old. So now, if you continuously update your website, you don't have to do it every day, but aim for a couple times per month. Then it's going to say OK, this is one that's alive. I need to pay attention to this. I need to continue indexing it.Gary Pageau:
Content marketing isn't specifically advertising per se, but can you tie it to sales?Rai Cornell:
Yes, absolutely. Now there's a bigger matrix of factors that go into evaluating ROI for content marketing. Because the thing is, with advertising, what advertisers are banking on is they're going to show an ad to someone once, and that person is either going to click it or they're not, and so that's how they calculate ROI and success. With content marketing. You are not trying to sell someone on a blog post. You're not trying to sell someone with your podcast episode. You're trying to build a relationship, and normally it takes seven or eight touch points for someone to start to build trust with your brand and decide to buy from you. So this is kind of like, if you think about, have you ever said I like that brand to friends, to family members? What you're saying is I don't necessarily know, maybe I know, maybe I don't know, but I just like that brand and even if they're not the cheapest, I'm going to pick that one over the others that I have available to me. That's what you want. You want people to look at your brand and say I like that company, I like that person, I like that brand. That takes time. Now, in terms of tying that to ROI, you have to look at longitudinal data. So what that means is, if you have not started content marketing yet, take a snapshot of your website traffic, the number of leads that are coming in to you not that you're going out and getting, but ones that are coming into you per month and track those numbers over the course of a year. As soon as you start content marketing. It should be. If you're doing a very modest, not aggressive at all, content marketing strategy and you're posting once per month, you should start to see improvement at about the six month mark. If you're doing two, four, six, eight posts per month, then you can start to expect results around the three month mark and again, that's a little longer now that Google is an indexing. But you should start to see your traffic increase, your visibility increase, your number of leads coming in increase. And the one caveat to that is, with all of these pieces of content that you're putting out there, you don't want to be super salesy, but you always want to have a call to action. You always want to have something at the end that says hey, if you want to know more about this, or if you want my particular recommendations for the particular camera that you should buy, based on the photography that you're doing, then contact me. Send me an email, use this contact form, send me a DM on Instagram, whatever you prefer. Give people a way to take that next step closer to you and initiate more of a relationship.Gary Pageau:
That's good advice, because I do see that happening where people do have. You know, 10 tips for great nature photography, and then at the end of the article, there's nothing right, there's no follow up, there's no pop up, there's no nothing. So you got to connect that dot. How does this approach dovetail into email marketing, once you've gotten the person into your fold, if you will? Let's say they've come to your site, they've read the thing and they oh, this is a grandma, sign up for this. What is the next step? To have email? Part of this.Rai Cornell:
Yeah, that's a great question. So, content marketing you really have to look at the sales funnel as a whole. Now most people look at the sales funnel as four stages awareness, interest, decision, action. I include a fifth stage, which is retention. That's really important because, especially for service-based businesses, you wanna retain those long-term clients so you have consistent and reliable income. So if blog content or podcasting is the top of the funnel that brand awareness where people are typing a keyword into Google, they find your article and then they become aware that you exist then you have to capture them into interest. This is a great way to get that contact information so that at the action or, I'm sorry, the decision stage, you can start using email marketing. So how do you build that bridge between blog content and email marketing? Usually you wanna do something that we call content upgrades. So let's say you're doing a blog post and you are ranking the top 10 lenses for photographers who do outdoor photography for the year of 2023. At the end you can, or in the middle, wherever you want, you can say hey, want a infographic that details these so that when you go to the camera store you have it right there on your phone type, in your phone number here or type in your email address here and I'll send it to you. That's a content upgrade. You might also do some kind of lead magnet, a checklist, a guide, a resource of some kind, or a newsletter, if you don't wanna create extra content. If you wanna say hey, want updates on our upcoming content, then enter your email address here and I will send you a newsletter once per month to let you know what's new. You capture their information that shows that they are interested in what you have to offer. Then you can email them with whatever it is that you promised, as well as updates on your offers, your products, your services.Gary Pageau:
And can you repurpose the blog post as part of your email content? Is that okay?Rai Cornell:
Absolutely, and so this is a myth in marketing that everything that you create has to be brand new. That's not true. If you're writing a blog post or if you're creating a podcast, repurpose that in as many ways as you can Put that into an email. You wanna do a parsed down version for the email, like, if you do podcast content, include a clip. If you're doing blog content, include the first three items that you're including in your article and say read more, find out what the other seven are. Click here to read the full post. If you are doing social media, you can break that blog post into social media content. You can conglomerate a handful of blogs that are all very related and create an ultimate guide. You can repurpose your content in a number of ways so you don't have to reinvent the wheel every day.Gary Pageau:
You work a lot with subscription businesses In the photography industry. There have been various attempts to try that. We have a couple subscription businesses that have worked with photo books. People like that. Chat books is an example. I don't know if they're familiar with them, but what are some of the top line qualities of a successful subscription business? Because everyone's looking at it. But with photography output, for example, like printing your pictures you're not just sending someone a box every month. You actually have to get their content and do something with it and then basically ship it to them. So if you're interested in starting a subscription business, what are some of the top line factors that they should be looking at? What are the kind of like the bullet points?Rai Cornell:
Yeah. So a lot of people struggle to figure out what a successful subscription model would look like for their business, but it really comes down to a few different needs that you can meet. So one need is surprise and delight. I subscribe to this box where every month I get candles and incense and there's really no purpose other than it makes me happy. I like to have candles and incense around my house and so when I get that box and I open it up, it's the surprise and delight factor. That's one. Another one is set it and forget it need. People want to know hey, I have this ongoing need for image editing or licensed photos, and I don't want all these crazy stock things that I find on pixels and unspash and Pixabay. I want things that are custom to my business. You are fulfilling a recurring need. That's another one. Another option is to fill the need of ease of use. So a good example of this is a course or a consulting service or some kind of membership where a lot of information is conglomerated and organized into a way that's easy for people to use, and some people would look at that and go why would I pay money to access this course when all of this information is available for free on the internet. Well, because it's gonna take hours upon hours to find all that information, read through it, see if it's actually useful. Is this source reliable? Is it out of date? It takes a long time to find everything that you need. If you're just going out into the vastness of the internet, people will pay for the convenience of having someone do all of that sorting and vetting for them. So lean into one of these three categories of surprise and delight an ongoing need that people would wanna just set it and forget it. Or ease of convenience and providing everything that someone needs in one place. I mean, the agency model is a perfect example of this. People come to my agency because they don't wanna go find a writer, a designer, a web developer, a VA. They wanna go to one place and get everything all in one point of contact, even though they know it's gonna cost more.Gary Pageau:
In the photography industry. It sounds like the model has traditionally been the set it and forget it. Right, we're gonna look at your pictures and we're gonna just send you a book of the pictures that we think are the best, or something like that. What would be? I'm just curious and again, you're not a photography expert, so don't feel compelled to have the top answer in this thing but I'm interested in the surprise and delight piece as sort of what that could involve, because there's a lot of products in the photo output world that are just amazing in all the things you can do right, for example, you can put a photo on a candle, I'm sure, for example, to go with something you want, but again you're using the customer's content, which I think is the sticking point. How do you decide if you're gonna send somebody what's a? We're gonna surprise you every month with a new photo output thing, whether it's a key chain, whether it's a mug, whether it's something, something, something, but you're using their content. What do you think of that sort of idea?Rai Cornell:
Yeah. So with the surprise and delight idea, this is where and I think creatives in particular are really good at doing this this is where you can go above and beyond. Let's say, you are offering that particular set it and forget it service, but you wanna add that extra layer so that your clients never leave, because they're always kind of wondering what's coming next. It's the same reason why I never unsubscribe from the candle in and sense box, cause I'm like, oh, I wonder what I'm gonna get next. I don't wanna miss out If a lot of creatives like to experiment. So right now the trendy thing is experimenting with AI or manipulated photography, things like that. If you can throw in, hey, here are your images for the month, but hey, I've been experimenting with this, or hey, this thing is really popular nowadays and users are really responding to this kind of imagery. I did a couple of images for you so you can see if that fits into. Whatever they're using, you're giving them something extra that they wouldn't get anywhere else and, frankly, they wouldn't even know that that's an option. So you're kind of their competitive edge. You are their secret weapon because you're always coming up with new and innovative ideas or creative options. That doesn't mean they're always gonna use everything that you create, but companies like to have this sense of differentiation that, oh, we have something that our competition doesn't have.Gary Pageau:
So this all sounds great. Where can people go to get more information on your company and your services?Rai Cornell:
Sure. So if you wanna learn more about me and our agency, you can go to Cornell. Like the university contentmarketingcom and I do have a SEO checklist for people. I know SEO can be a really intimidating thing, that people think, oh, I don't understand it. I have a checklist that simplifies the process and tells you exactly where to put those keywords, exactly how often to use them, so that you can really leverage the power of content marketing and the way that Google wants to operate without stressing about how to make it all work for you.Gary Pageau:
And where would somebody go for that?Rai Cornell:
Oh, I don't have that URL memorized. Do you have it on hand?Gary Pageau:
Perhaps it could be cornellcontentmarketingckpageseo-checklist. Perhaps that might be it.Rai Cornell:
Thank you. I need a simpler URL because normally I just tell people and they go to the website and it's right there.Gary Pageau:
Well, thank you, Rai, for your time and your expertise. Really enjoyed talking with you, and best wishes to you and your business.Erin Manning:
Thank you for listening to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. Read more great stories and sign up for the newsletter at wwwthedpixelssocietycom.