September 18, 2013: A recent survey of US agency executives from RSW/US, as covered by eMarketer, revealed that client case studies and content marketing were the top two self-promotional tactics used to generate leads, as indicated by 62% of respondents.
Case studies can be difficult to obtain. Speaking in our industry in particular, many of our clients are concerned with how a case study might give away a competitive advantage. This tends to hold true in other B2B verticals as well. Broadly speaking, case study development often involves multiple stakeholders in the review process, especially when working in coordination with larger organizations.
All that said, a good case study helps provides validation of an organization’s expertise and credentials. There is value in their development. With all this in mind, once a case study has been approved for digital integration, it is important to do more than just “publish” the piece online. Here are a series of SEO recommendations B2B marketers should consider in case study integration.
- Page Tagging – make sure you’ve marked up your content with proper HTML titles, meta descriptions, and other tagging elements (OpenGraph and Schema depending on applicability). A few SEO best practices can be found in this recent post.
- Cross-Link References – cross-link the most relevant products and solutions used or emphasized in the case study. Make certain to highlight material in applicable solutions pages as well (ideally via callout or designated promotional section of the web page).
- Call to Action – in addition to product-specific cross-linking, don’t forget to add specific call-to-action instruction such as cross-linking to a contact form or phone number. We typically add this to the bottom of the page but the right-hand margin or an existing sidebar could also be considered.
- Social Sharing – make sure your case study can be shared easily through social media platforms. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ share buttons are all recommended for B2B marketers.
- Draft a Blog Post – publish a blog post in coordination with the case study to serve as a way to provide additional cross-linking visibility and offer a more informal perspective on the process or elements of success. The key is to make sure these two content assets work in tandem with each; and are not just duplicate communications.
- Peer Review – get the word out to industry colleagues and trusted peers for initial review. Not only could this provide important feedback prior to launch but also sow the seeds for more effective social media sharing and third party visibility once published.
- Don’t Forget Design – layout and design matter more than ever in today’s digital environment. Consider how your page layout is organized for readability, share-ability, and even device usage (mobile versus desktop browser use) when crafting your case study landing page and content assets.
- Internal Distribution – lastly, consider distribution internally as well as through traditional online channels for purposes of visibility and promotional efforts. Sometimes case studies are just as important for internal team development as well as broader sales and marketing consideration.
It’s worth pointing out that in a recent column for Search Engine Watch, I wrote about another survey highlighted by eMarketer, questioning some of the value in self-promotional content. The survey report indicated that blatantly self-serving and promotional content is a major turnoff, cited by 43 percent of respondents.
While at the surface level, these two surveys might seem contradictory, it is important to consider where B2B case studies fit in the B2B buying cycle. As indicated previous, case studies can be a critical asset in validating expertise. This second report supports this notion as well, since case studies were still third on the list of content assets B2B buyers valued and trusted most, referenced by 48% of respondents.
Case studies and other forms of content marketing assets must address B2B buyer concerns from both a tactical and conceptual perspective.
The key to overcoming the fear of too much self-promotion is in providing a clear line of sight (for the reader) between problem identification and resolution, with meaningful tactical points of reference. As also referenced in this report, 58% of those surveyed indicated that content marketing assets developed should help “identify new solutions and approaches to solving problems / needs”. This is where effective case studies can truly excel.