The ROI of a great content marketing strategy

Screen grab of Umgas Article about Skarsgards being Swedish Kardashians

Two years ago when I spent 30 minutes writing an article about the Skarsgård family being the Swedish Kardashians, I would have never dreamed it would still be getting website traffic. And not just single views, I’m talking multiple thousands of views with ZERO promotion. But that’s the long game – and payoff – of a solid content marketing strategy.

Back in 2015, we helped our client at Swedish Match North America launch a storytelling platform to help share Swedish-American stories and news. For four years, we produced daily articles for Umgås Magazine covering current events, music, food, sports and business. On top of the magazine itself, we built a system of channels to continually drive organic and paid traffic to the site.

But like all good things, our work on Umgås came to an end. At the beginning of the pandemic, we stopped producing original content but maintained organic social media through 2020. By 2021, Umgås lives on but with no active content marketing or social media strategies to support it.

So tell me, how is it that 60K new users viewed over 80K pages in the last six months?

Writing content with SEO in mind

First and foremost, we optimized every article we wrote with the SEO tools we had available. We ensured the right use of keywords, wrote clear and concise meta descriptions and wrote articles with appropriate <h2> headers, which were also rich with keywords.

Given the niche focus of Umgås, there were many opportunities to link back to existing content – and out to related articles and information. Doing these things helped us set the foundation for search engines to crawl and find our content for years to come.

Balancing timely vs. topical ideas

We had a regular series on Umgås called In the News, which leaned into headlines that featured Swedish-American subjects. These weren’t the best web traffic drivers but would sometimes drive a lot of engagement on social media. That was great for community engagement sake, but our KPI was website traffic and visitors – and if they weren’t leaving the platform, we weren’t hitting our goals.

So, in addition to the timely news stories, we unpacked a variety of Swedish topics like tunnbrödsrulle (a Swedish hot dog street food that has held the title as No. 1 most-read story for the last two years) and Pippi Longstocking, a beloved fictional character that originated from Swedish author, Astrid Lindgren. This approach appropriately tapped into a curiosity for the uninitiated and a nostalgia to those with Swedish roots – driving them back to the website to read more. The former approach helped us while we were managing the overall content marketing plan, but the latter is what’s helping us to this day.

Anticipating enduring content

The Umgås editorial team would often find themselves in conversation about the balance between rich, robust articles with interviews from Swedish subject matter experts and those quick, 30-minute writing exercises of roundups and silly topics like the aforementioned Kardashian piece. While the lengthy articles were high quality and fantastic reads, it was the shorter, more evergreen pieces of content that continue to endure today.

For example, the top five posts in 2021 (tunnbrödsrulle, the Skarsgård family, Swedish flowers and plants, Princess Cake bakers in the U.S. and Will Ferrell embracing his inner Swede) are just a few examples of content that to this day is still getting linked to and enjoying a viral moment on Reddit, or even a top highlighted hit on a Google search.

Even before we stopped our work, we would get the occasional super spike in traffic due to a particularly viral Reddit or social thread. Case in point: the three charts below represent Jan 1 – July 15 for 2021, 2020 and 2019, respectively. In most of these wild spikes, one single piece of content took off into the universe – and not one of them was for a recently written story.

The moral of this story is that the work you’re doing now – if you’re doing it right – will pay off in the long run. And not only will it pay off, but for the price of your annual domain and hosting fees, you can reap the benefits of brand awareness and subject matter expertise in perpetuity.

The most interesting spike in 2021 is June 29 when Will Ferrell’s inner Swede lit up via Google Search. Coincidentally, the AP published a story on the same day about Ferrell sharing his support for Sweden in Euro 2020. It makes you wonder…
Our biggest spike in 2020 can be followed back to Reddit. Turns out, there are some strong feelings about the Swedish hot dog street food, tunnbrödsrulle.
When we were still running Umgås, we came back from the new year and our metrics were skewed before January was done thanks to this Reddit thread about Irv Gordon.

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Casey Prentice

A self-proclaimed organizational junkie and data geek who confesses to a secret desire to be a professional organizer, Casey enjoys account management, writing, editing and digital content strategy. Her agency work has helped clients like Virginia’s Community Colleges, VCUarts and Swedish Match.

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