David Siegel, Chief Executive Officer of Investopedia, presented tips for how to use company data to create unique content that drives distribution.
Siegel began his keynote address at the 2017 Financial Services Forum: Marketing & Technology Innovation, which took place in Boston on September 7, by telling a story. “There was a flash crash in the market on August 19, 2015 prior to its opening that morning. I was sitting in my office, looking at my 401K, sweating, when the head of marketing ran in and said, ‘David, you’re not going to believe this. Our short-selling tutorial is going through the roof right now.’ As a result of this event, we decided to build the Investopedia Anxiety Index (IAI) to track page views on Investopedia for scary terms such as ‘bankruptcy,’ ‘correction,’ ‘recession,’ ‘volatility,’ and ‘short selling,’” said Siegel.
Investopedia found that the major features in its Index correlated with major economic events. “Interesting, but not that interesting, because it’s after the fact,” said Siegel. “The cool thing would be to get information before things happen in the market. So, we decided to plot the index against the VIX, which is known as the fear gauge. It has to do with option trading and has nothing to do with what people read on Investopedia. We found the overall features were remarkably similar despite very different provenance (content consumption vs. option market prices). Importantly, we also discovered that the major VIX peaks were preceded by peaks in the IAI—for three or four weeks prior,” he noted.
“The major problem I was faced with when I became CEO of Investopedia about two and half years ago was that 86% of our traffic was driven through organic search. We were one Google algorithm away from me being fired. So, my top priority was to optimize our distribution across channels outside of search. We needed to grow our email, social, referral, and direct traffic. Over the last two and a half years, we’ve tripled our traffic outside of SEO,” Siegel stated.
“About two and half years ago, 86% of our traffic was driven through organic search. We were one Google algorithm away from me being fired. So, my top priority was to optimize our distribution across channels outside of search.”
Siegel then shared the top 10 ways (in reverse order) his company optimized traffic distribution.
10. Topic sizing content: “Grow your audience by creating what people want to read about by analyzing what the demand for content is online. We create content where there’s a high demand and a low supply,” said Siegel. “We create 2,000 pieces of content a month.”
“We create content where there’s a high demand and a low supply. We create 2,000 pieces of content a month.”
9. Newsletters aren’t dead! “Our traffic has grown more than 600% over the past three years using newsletters. All of our newsletters comprise a series about a particular topic, and when we did that, our traffic doubled. We found the sweet spot is two newsletters per week. We also personalized these newsletters, which created a 150% increase.”
8. Content volume. Investopedia uses data science; the data decide what content should be recommended.
7. “Social media is critical to building out distribution on our site,” said Siegel. Investopedia experienced five-fold growth in the last three years by differentiating its strategies for the various platforms—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
6. Content expansion—topics, not terms. “People used to come to Investopedia, look up a term, and leave,” said Siegel. “We realized it’s about building a comprehensive experience on our site, like happens on Wikipedia: You start by looking up one thing, and, 25 minutes later, you’re reading about Kim Kardashian because you went from one inline link to another. That’s the change we made to drive distribution.”
5. Business development works. Investopedia pushes out content to Yahoo! Finance, MSN, Flipboard, Motley Fool, etc. that’s tailored to each of these sites. These articles link back to Investopedia.
4. SEO ownership. “Everyone needs an SEO guru.”
3. News—keep it timely. “Evergreen content is boring and doesn’t bring people back to your site. News is a lot more engaging on home pages and in newsletters, and it’s great for social.”
“Evergreen content is boring and doesn’t bring people back to your site. News is a lot more engaging on home pages and in newsletters, and it’s great for social.”
2. Drive direct traffic to your site. “We look at direct, daily users. This means you have a brand. You want a site that people are going to, not just ending up on. There’s a world of difference between the two.”
1. Data. “Figure out how to use the terabytes of data you’re sitting on to create something special and unique for your users. Then figure out how to partner with media to get exposure for this user data.”
ABOUT DAVID SIEGEL:
David Siegel is a digital media executive with over 18 years of experience leading organizations through innovative product development, rapid revenue growth, and traffic acceleration. He’s currently the CEO of Investopedia, the largest finance and investing education site, which currently reaches over 27 Million monthly unique visitors.
He most recently served as President of Seeking Alpha, a crowdsourced investment research business with over four million registered users. There, he oversaw all U.S.-based functions—sales, marketing, product and business development. Under his leadership, digital media sales grew by 30% and subscription sales by over 300%.
Prior to Seeking Alpha, he served as the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Everyday Health’s Local Division, which connects consumers to healthcare professionals. Leading a large team for the fastest-growing division of the company, he built out specialty content sites, directories, and marketing services for physicians, payers, and hospitals.
David was previously the Senior Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development for 1-800-Flowers.com, overseeing strategic planning, business and corporate development, marketing strategy, partnerships, and analytics. Prior to that role, he served as GM of New Businesses at Duane Reade. David has worked as a strategy consultant for Deloitte Consulting and William M. Mercer and as the Director of Organizational Development for DoubleClick.
David holds a BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. David is also an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University and Pace University, where he teaches courses in Strategic Planning and Entrepreneurship.