Case Stories

Contently Case Story: Inside the Strategy That Increased Gild’s Audience by 574 Percent

Contently Case Stories is a series highlighting some of Contently’s most successful clients.

In 1985, Marty McFly and his Back to the Future companions transported themselves to 2015—a world of flying cars, hovercrafts, and self-tying shoelaces. While cars remain road-bound and regular laces still rule the playground, many of the film’s predictions were not far off. A hologram Tupac performed at the 2012 Coachella music festival, flat screen TVs are ubiquitous, and FaceTime has made video chat seamless, to the delight of moms everywhere.

Yet in the land of corporate recruitment technology, innovation has come slowly over the past three decades. The applicant tracking systems (ATS) of the 1990s largely operate with the same processes and mindset today. Most hiring software is clunky and inefficient, far behind its equivalents in marketing and sales.

That’s why when end-to-end recruiting solution Gild entered the scene in 2011, it wanted to not only introduce a more efficient product into the market, but also change the way companies thought about hiring software.

“We had a new product come out, a new platform, and it was really important for people to understand this wasn’t business as usual,” Robert Carroll, Gild’s SVP of marketing, explained. “It was important for us to change the conversation around the technology that supports hiring.” To shift the narrative, Carroll turned to his journalism roots and sought to tell compelling stories about hiring in the digital age.

In just over six months, Gild grew its audience by 574 percent, increased the total amount of attention time on its stories by 995 percent, and bumped its engagement rate by 14 percent. As Gild’s audience grew, it simultaneously became much more engaged with Gild’s content, solidifying the tech startup’s role as an industry leader.

Becoming a real media company

In September 2015, Gild partnered with Contently to access the talent, editorial services, and content marketing technology that would help Carroll’s small editorial team establish a unique brand voice. “I’ve always been a fan of [partnerships] that can scale what you can’t do internally,” Carroll said.

Teaming with a brand editor at Contently and freelance journalists through Contently’s talent network, Gild created a content plan that would increase reader engagement rate, amplify story attention time, and more than quadruple its audience.

I sat down with Ryan Galloway, Contently’s director of content services, to break down the pillars that attributed to the recruitment solution’s success.

Investment in content strategy

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 benchmark report, only 32 percent of B2B marketers rate their content marketing efforts as “successful.” A larger number—55 percent—don’t know how to classify successful content marketing in the first place.

This is precisely what makes Gild a compelling case study. From the start, the small- to medium-sized recruitment solution knew exactly what it wanted to achieve, and how it planned to measure success.

“Gild’s mission was to develop a unique brand voice,” Galloway said, “It wants to be a real media company, not just another SaaS solution with a blog no one reads.”

“Gild invested in strategy from the beginning,” Galloway said. “It developed a sophisticated content schedule, researched audience definition, defined goals and its maturity model, conducted a tonal analysis, and created a social schedule.”

Then, it executed.

Establishing a culture of content

Unlike brands that opt to outsource content marketing work to an agency, Gild has been hands-on during the planning, creation, execution, and optimization phases. “Gild’s mission was to develop a unique brand voice,” Galloway said. “It wants to be a real media company, not just another SaaS solution with a blog no one reads.”

Following Contently’s methodology that promotes nurturing a “culture of content,” Gild didn’t only decide to change its marketing scheme. It made high-quality storytelling the lifeblood of its content program.

“If I’m not drawing in the reader, if I’m not changing the way they think,” Carroll said, “Why am I doing it at all?”

At Gild, this culture of content has been driven by Carroll, the brand’s content leader, who employs his background as an investigative journalist in the U.S. and Asia. Carroll believes that if a company is not willing to invest in the talent, technology, and editorial services to tell well-researched, groundbreaking stories, it has little chance to move the needle as an industry leader.

“If I’m not drawing in the reader, if I’m not changing the way they think,” Carroll said, “why am I doing it at all?”

A commitment to quality

Head to Gild’s blog and you’ll find articles you’d share with your wittiest colleague in HR.

How OkCupid Changed Hiring Forever” compares tracking down the right candidate to finding the right romantic partner, digging into what happens when too much data affects the quality of your selection pool. It may sound like a stretch, but Carroll brilliantly creates an analogy between the two processes and extracts a larger finding about the impact of data overload in our personal and professional lives.

In “Data Science: The Benefits of Hiring Former Interns” the data science team at Gild analyzed the digital résumés of U.S. college graduates to discern if having an internship prior to a first “real” job correlated to the length of time interns remained at their first employer.

While internship benefits are usually spun from the perspective of the intern, Gild’s article presented research that revealed why hiring a former intern is beneficial to employers. Two years after their start date, 75 percent of the former interns were still at the same firm, whereas only 50 percent of those who had interned elsewhere remained at their new company.

The quality of these articles and Gild’s larger content program is measured by Contently Analytics, which measures the depth of reader interaction through attention time, average finish, conversion rate, and other key engagement metrics. “The time people would spend on our articles was pretty significant,” Carroll said, “which is very meaningful because that tells us it was great content.”

Paid distribution

For Carroll, distribution strategy is not black and white. “Honestly, I have mixed feelings about it,” he said. “Obviously, increasing your reach is really important, especially in the B2B environment. The question is ‘Are you reaching the right people?'”

That’s why Contently Analytics were key in analyzing the effectiveness of various distribution sources. “I can’t argue with the numbers,” Carroll said. “You have to be a bit careful because [paid] distribution can artificially boost your numbers, but if you boost the number of readers that are really valuable to you—that’s the goal.”

Distribution has become an integral part of Gild’s recipe for success. Working with Galloway and Contently’s distribution team, Gild has distributed stories through Outbrain and optimized headlines with A/B testing. An Outbrain algorithm scans the stories to publish on relevant sites, while Contently monitors costs per click (CPC) to ensure that the CPC drops as a campaign gains momentum.

Ultimately, much of Gild’s success comes back to its willingness to be incredibly creative in its content marketing.

“Part of the reason I think we are successful is that we don’t want to be tepid and business as usual or corporate speak,” Carroll explained. “We try to go for things that are iconoclastic and a little bit combative.”

And while the Content Marketing Institute and other marketing research centers are keen to inform brands about their lack of strategic insight and reported success, Gild serves as a reminder about the possibility for brands to write their own success stories.

In the words of Doc, your future hasn’t been written yet. (Great Scott!) It’s whatever you make it.

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