On Creating An AI-Powered Content Strategy With 3x Growth In Three Years
I'm Jeff Coyle, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at MarketMuse.
MarketMuse is a content intelligence platform that sets the standard for content quality. Our AI-powered platform increases traffic and engagement, improves productivity, and drives revenue. MarketMuse analyzes millions of articles on demand, uncovering gaps and opportunities to empower marketers to craft high-quality content their audience loves and search engines reward.
"MarketMuse is an AI-driven platform that helps you build content strategies, find gaps in your topics, and accelerate research and publication."
I've been in the Search Engine, Product Management, and Content Strategy for over 20 years.
My background is in Competitive Analysis, Complex Site Migrations, SEO, Product Management/Strategy, Content Planning, and Search Engine Design are my main lines but I also have managed large-scale email marketing, massive-scale PPC, Lead Management Products, A/B/MVT offerings, designed and built Ad Servers and enterprise/vertical search engine products.
I lead the strategic vision of MarketMuse and I'm most passionate about User Intent, Measuring Personalized Keyword/Topic Difficulty to prioritize what to write and update/optimize/expand, internal and external linking strategies and their impact, Lead Management/Scoring, and understanding how Google is assessing quality/authority.
MarketMuse Suite, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform analyze millions of articles on demand, uncovering gaps and opportunities to empower marketers to craft high-quality content their audience loves and search engines reward.
MarketMuse was founded in 2013 with a mission to automate and accelerate content creation to further unleash human creativity. The platform uses proprietary metrics to uncover high-impact opportunities and streamlines the writing process so companies can publish best-in-class articles fast. MarketMuse accelerates content creation, reinventing how marketers improve organic search rankings, drive expertise in their industry, and impact business strategy.
We serve hundreds of SMBs, individuals, midmarket companies, and enterprises (including large publishers and tech companies). We have three product lines: AI content optimization, AI content planning, and AI content generation.
Content and inbound marketing are permission-based, educational, and more viable. We wanted to build an AI platform that helps society and we realized that combining AI with content, would help unleash a wave of creativity and knowledge sharing. Subject matter expertise and human creativity are more important than ever before.
For us, building a new product in a brand-new market, the tipping point came when the industry thought leaders like Rand Fishkin from Moz started talking about what topical optimization is and why every marketer should use software like ours.
Back in 2015, we were the only topical optimization platform in the market, so we started getting hundreds of demo requests every week. That then started an avalanche, and now we get thousands of inquiries around AI content optimization every week.
New entries create noise in the NLG space. But does noise mean better outcomes and functionality? On the NLG side, MarketMuse is the best alternative for GPT-3. I believe it is the only alternative in the market.
MarketMuse’s NLG offering is superior to Open AI. Here’s why.
1st long-form AI content generator in the market.
Disrupted the content space with AI-fueled content strategy & personalized content metrics.
In-house data science team.
“Not being beholden to GPT-3 is our competitive advantage.”
MarketMuse has been called the gold standard in content research. We provide a differentiated experience that isn't just content optimization; it is truly best in class. On the NLG side, we are the best (and only) alternative for GPT-3.
GPT-3 Vs. MarketMuse’ Data
There are a few key differences. One is how the model is trained and the frequency. Our filters remove harmful, biased, and negative content. The model is also consistently learning with each use and improves every day. GPT-3 was last updated at the end of 2019. MarketMuse is an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. But not all AI is the same, and the difference is in the training of the model and the data.
Our NLG offering is differentiated from Open AI because we are not beholden to GPT-3.
- Updated models
- Train models for each client
- Learning is the key differentiator
AI-generated content is only as good as the input that instructs the AI. Our model produces long-form drafts based on our content briefs which are detailed outlines with the heading, subheading, related topics, questions to answer, etc. By providing the structure and the research to the model, the quality of the output is higher and requires less time to edit and refine into a final draft.
MarketMuse First Draft can generate articles up to 5,000 words based on the length of the MarketMuse Content Brief, whereas GPT-3 can only generate up to 1,200 words.
Homegrown Data Science:
Controlling your data science gives you full control. Others who rely on APIs will have perpetual risk. We broke the cycle by creating our data science lab in Montreal focused on innovations in natural language processing and natural language generation.
Our original technology is a branch of artificial intelligence called topic modeling and we’ve been working on our NLG solution for the last few years. We built the briefs and automated content generation aligned with the briefs. Since we build and own our data sources, the quality of our data is significantly better than other vendors on the market.
Our data science team created our model which gives us more control. That is the biggest difference with our competitors because they are all using another model. They don't have engineers who are constantly updating the model and improving it.
Authority Marketing + NLG Innovation:
I believe in a data science approach to content marketing. For example,
Do you have the topical authority to speak on topics? MarketMuse will help you understand how to choose topics that align with topical authority and competitive intelligence. Subject matter expertise matters in organic search engine ranking results.
When you have the subject matter expertise, you can move a lot faster in SERPs.
Follow what the AI is telling you to write about. Ideally, you should be using a content optimization platform to understand how to use AI to guide your content marketing strategy and what to write about.
TL; DR: Personal experience + knowledge + what AI knows should be covered.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
Before joining as Co-founder at MarketMuse, I owned and operated my inbound marketing consultancy and managed the Traffic, Search, and Engagement team for TechTarget, a leader in B2B technology publishing and lead generation.
A big mistake other people make is that they do not correct marketplace myths, leading to communication gaps in brand messaging and marketing. You can quickly correct this with a content marketing plan by dispelling the myths and owning the message.
I was a practitioner and search leader for years before becoming a co-founder for MarketMuse. I started as a traffic manager, moved into a leadership role of a search team, and then created a product that solves problems I faced in those roles. I validated the product through connections and relationships I built over the years as a thought leader in the market before getting mass validation from customers.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
MarketMuse saw 3x growth three years in a row before 2020 where we saw 20% growth, despite the economic impact of the pandemic. MarketMuse is now poised to begin a period of unprecedented growth and international expansion.
We’re still a lean team. We have four people focused on driving customer success, a two-person sales team supported by two sales engineers, four marketers and our largest team is our engineering and data, science team. We have been able to do a lot and innovate in the market with few resources.
Short term goal:
My short-term goal is to make MarketMuse accessible to everyone.
Long term goal:
My vision for the business is that we are the industry standard for content intelligence and content quality.
Social Media Following:
We are active on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Slack. We recently built a new Facebook community for content marketers (Join our community here).
We also have a Slack community with over 1300 participants where we regularly host AMAs on broad and niche topics within the content strategy, SEO, and content marketing. Join the Content Strategy Collective.
Ad costs, Return on ad spend, conversion rate:
We historically have not done paid marketing outside of events. Our business has been built on our inbound demand, referrals, and events. We have a strong conversion rate on our site (around 10%) The power of word-of-mouth and referrals from existing customers or those who take MarketMuse to their new company has been extremely humbling.
We have differentiated our brand positioning from the saturated startup space with GPT-3 AI copywriting tools by doing a lot of events, podcasts, and educational webinars.
SEO: Branded or Non-Branded Keywords
Optimization is built into our content creation and update process. Since we create more content around non-branded terms, it’s natural that any optimization would skew this way as well. Non-branded keywords drive three times as much traffic as branded terms to our website. That is a reflection of the amount of content we have targeting non-branded search terms. Consistency is key when optimizing branded keywords. This is the opportunity to let everyone, people and search engines included, know who you are, what you offer, and which audience you serve.
Plans to expand new products
We constantly innovate and come up with new products to the market. Over the years, we’ve evolved from page-level AI content optimization to add competitive analysis, AI content audit and strategy development, AI-generated SEO audit ideas, ROI and Traffic value estimation, AI-generated content briefs and, our latest product, AI-generated content.
A few months ago, we launched a self-service version of our platform that now has several thousand paying customers. We’ve seen our industry evolve quickly and we’ve been able to stay agile and keep coming out with new products.
MarketMuse recently launched First Draft, a new AI-generated long-form content offering.
First Draft is an AI-generated content solution that enables marketing teams to build complete customer journeys and tell brand stories at scale. The First Draft language model builds the generated output based on the outline within the associated MarketMuse Content Brief, a detailed content outline with unique knowledge graphs for each subheading. A First Draft is delivered to the platform within 24 hours of being ordered.
First Draft launched in alpha for customers in July 2020 to gather feedback and conduct user interviews. After generating three hundred First Draft orders, the product is now available and delivered within the MarketMuse Suite.
The release of First Draft comes with a much larger update to MarketMuse Suite. The release includes an ROI module, streamlined inventory views, content saving, and team collaboration features. Now content teams can prove the worth of their content and manage more workflows all in one place.
First Draft’s natural language generation model was trained on a proprietary 80 million document dataset geared towards long-form text generation. It also incorporates the style and narrative from the website of the customer requesting the content generation.
Other AI-generated content technologies lack semantic coherence and the text often gets worse as it gets longer, making them impractical for content teams that need to publish well-written long-form content. Additionally, there can be bias based on the data set or it does not use a brief to provide direction/narrative.
It’s like a fast car engine -- no matter how fast it is, an engine by itself won’t get you anywhere. MarketMuse First Draft is like a car with the engine included.
- Uses an AI-generated Content Brief to provide direction and ensure comprehensiveness.
- Scales content production.
- Learns tone and voice from the supplied domain and incorporates them into the output.
- Content generated within 24 hours.
Scale content production. People need to publish more content in less time. Right now, that is currently done through writing networks, but AI-generated content through MarketMuse is turned around in 24 hours. With light editing, you can publish more, faster, which means better results for your content marketing strategy.
With the amount of content on the Internet and the number of increasing competitors, what you think is enough content to build authority most likely isn’t enough. MarketMuse will tell you how much you need to write, what you need to write about, how to cover it well, and you can order the First Draft to begin execution. First Drafts can learn tone and voice from the supplied domain and incorporate them into the output.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Good decision made: Launching CSC Live/ business maturity user conference.
This year, we launched our first-ever customer event conference for MarketMuse, bringing together leaders in data science, AI, NLG, GPT-3, and content marketing. The conference had over 1100 registrants, 28 speakers, and 11 out of the 28 speakers were women. Almost 50 percent of the AI conference had female speakers, which was one of our initiatives in creating the conference, to bring more women on stage and showcase their contribution to the rapidly changing field of content automation and AI.
The conference was a huge success for our company and everyone played such an amazing role. We more than doubled our registration goal and saw 54% show up live. We surpassed our revenue goal and met margins. We hosted 10 workshops, in collaboration with customers, and received a 9 out of 10 attendee rating. We’re proud of the content and are excited about the impact it will have on the participants.
Good decision made: Increasing the presence of women in AI through marketing.
Our VP of marketing is committed to hiring more women and bringing women into the AI space in the marketing department. Before Elizabeth, the marketing function was primarily handled by men including myself and my co-founder. She changed this by hiring women interested in AI/ marketing who had a passion for content marketing, data science, and AI. She is responsible for giving many women their first shot at ever working in the field of AI by combining their passion for marketing and AI. She runs a 75% female-based marketing team in AI, content, and data. She is responsible for hiring and building out the team of marketers who work with her.
Good decision made: Campaign to educate the public on responsible AI.
We want to increase visibility around the risks and responsibilities for content creators that frequently utilize AI-copy tools. One of the key marketing messages we strive to share is to use AI responsibly.
AI is a starting point and launchpad, but your spin and creativity paired with the AI are what makes your content unique.
Our ultimate mission is to rid the world of low-quality content. We are creating a series of thought leadership pieces around responsible AI about article spinning, copy scraping, and plagiarism in AI.
When COVID-19 ramped up, we offered the Pro product line for free for 3-months to anyone who wanted it, and with that effort, we added over 10k users to that product line and it validated our intent to execute the AppSumo. This best summarizes what we did in all capacities.
We upgraded every customer and gave away Pro for free for three months. Marketing budgets were getting cut heavily during this time and small businesses were at risk -- so we wanted to provide a way to help them safeguard their content at a time when that medium was a primary way to reach people.
Fast Moving SaaS:
Doing something well for a specific segment instead of trying to be everything to everyone fast is where we have found our sweet spot. Moving fast breaks things and entrepreneurs need to slow down. We focused on creating a high-quality product that we know solves our customer’s problems, especially because of our experience as practitioners.
TL;DR: Every entrepreneur should focus on creating a high-quality product instead of trying to meet conflicting market needs quickly before product maturity.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
MarketMuse Favorite Business tools:
Our team uses CoSchedule for social scheduling, Figma for design, Pardot/Salesforce for marketing automation and CRM, Trello for planning, Mutiny for website personalization, Descript for transcriptions, MadKudu for lead analysis, Gong for call analysis, Scribe for email signatures, Slack for communications, Zoom for meetings, and probably many more I can’t think of! Of course, we use MarketMuse for our content strategy. On our corporate Slack, we have a learning channel where everybody posts weekly content that leads to information gain for them.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
AI-cured newsletters from Inside.ai, StartupDigest, and Angel.co. First Round and Open View blogs.
Audience, Relevance, and Search: Targeting Web Audiences with Relevant Content by James Mathewson
An excellent book that talks exactly about the problems that MarketMuse is solving. Highly recommended for understanding what we're building.
Product-Led SEO by Eli Schwartz
A new way of thinking about SEO.
The Art of SEO by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Jessica Stricchiola, Rand Fishkin
This is an essential book for understanding the fundamentals of SEO.
Content Chemistry by Andy Crestodina
This is a great overview of the intersection of content marketing, SEO, design, email, and social media and the importance of content at the helm.
Content Advantage by Colleen Jones
This digs into the science behind the business strategy and the age of digital disruption.
The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Sh*t Together by Sherry Walling
Sherry is a psychologist and entrepreneur. Her book covers the different types of entrepreneurial personalities and what motivates them. A great read for better understanding oneself.
Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin
A practical, detailed book on entrepreneurship and the business of building a technology company. Written by SEO guru Rand Fishkin who founded Moz.
Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Antifragile systems get stronger as they face more shocks. This describes startups and startup people well. Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a multi-billionaire hedge fund investor, entrepreneur, and philosopher. This book is amazing.
The Joy of Work by Dennis Bakke
Dennis W. Bakke's passion is to make work exciting, rewarding, stimulating, and enjoyable. While most business books focus on top executives, Joy at Work is aimed primarily at the working life of the other 90 to 95 percent of people in large organizations. According to Bakke, co-founder and CEO emeritus of the AES Corporation, a worldwide energy company with 40,000 employees and $8.6 billion in revenue by 2002, a better measure of an organization's success than the bottom line is the quality of work life.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Always dispel market myths.
As companies evolve, there will always be myths about the company’s core product offering that differs from the reality of where the product has evolved to. A big mistake other people make is that they do not correct marketplace myths, leading to communication gaps in brand messaging and marketing. You can quickly correct this with a content marketing plan by dispelling the myths and owning the message.
Below is an example of the top 3 myths about MarketMuse – use this as a content guideline to swap out the myths about our business for the top 3 myths about your business and turn it into a blog post! Use MarketMuse to optimize the content.
Myth 1: MarketMuse is only for the enterprise.
All content teams have various workflows and use cases at different levels of maturity. We serve several functions for businesses of all sizes. We serve hundreds of small businesses, individuals, and enterprises, including large publishers and tech companies. We have three core product lines: AI content optimization, AI content planning and AI content generation.
Myth 2: MarketMuse is expensive and not affordable for small businesses.
We are not just an elite gym membership. We used to predominantly cater to larger companies, but this past year we launched self-service and free products (check out MarketMuse Trial, which is 100% free).
Myth 3: MarketMuse only offers content optimization.
With the original product we created, users only thought we offered that one application. There was not as much visibility to the rest of our capabilities and it was hard to get a demo. There are still people that think we are just another optimization tool.
Actionable Marketing Tips
Here are my top 3 actionable marketing tips that leaders can implement today.
Tip 1. Good marketing puts people in the right funnel.
Tip 2. Make great results an expectation, not a surprise.
Tip 3. Every marketing leader should champion AI data transparency.
AI, historical momentum & publish and pray: Publish and pray is a terrible content marketing strategy. AI Predictive intelligence will help you know when new content you publish has the best chance of performing and ranking. MarketMuse helps you understand how to use AI to know what you should be writing because you have historical momentum.
Ask: Do I have opportunities to put wins on the board quickly with content?
Content ROI: What is the true cost of poor-quality content? Create an inventory solution to understand how much investment you need to make in each topic. Build briefs and execute that content. Create a culture of content by aligning B2B content to business outcomes with a proven process. This is how to create a predictive return on investment of content.
From concept to the content brief: every business owner should use competitive AI intelligence to have predictable content outcomes.
Future Proof Your Content Strategy:
Data-driven insights: How can you use data to create more predictable outcomes using competitive intelligence in your content marketing strategy? Use AI and data to inform content decisions to drive growth and predictable success.
Where can we go to learn more?
Follow Jeff on Twitter at @jeffrey_coyle and MarketMuse at @MarketMuseCo.
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