I’ve long been a fan of Evernote – the note keeping app, I joined way back in October 2008 but only seriously started using it the next year, and that’s the typical use case of Evernote.

The percentage of people who pay in the first month is like one half of one percent. But if they use it for a year, that goes up to seven percent. In the second year, it goes up to 11 percent. Our oldest cohort, the people who have been with us five years or so, it goes up to 25 percent. – Phil Libin, Evernote CEO

Thus Evernotes objective is to get you to try it, and then show you how it helps you do what you need to do. You can see they follow a very content-led vertical approach.

The challenge with this approach is:

  1. Finding vertical behaviors which are meaningful
  2. Producing good content
  3. Getting it in front of people
  4. Leveraging external community content
  5. Understanding what is working and how to optimize it

So, as a long standing fan of Evernote, here’s how I would tackle it.

But a few notes before we begin:

I haven’t touched on content creation as that isn’t or does not appear to be an issue. Evernote has content produced internally, by its community and advocates – the challenge is getting it out there in an effective manner.

In terms of this strategy, it’s fairly flexible, you can apply these to your own software as a service company. The assumptions are:

  1. You have a great product, which people talk about already
  2. You have already cracked content creation

The leveraging PR idea is one that anyone can execute, all you want to do is find content that converts, then support it.

Finding vertical behaviors which are meaningful

There are going to be a few methodologies but the one I would tackle is Twitter search.

  • Looking at people sharing notebooks publicly. What is the purpose they are using them for? i.e. click here.
  • What are people talking about with Evernote?
  • What kinds of people are talking about Evernote?

The insight here being that their user base is large enough that most known verticals should be within their usage. So look internally to grow externally.

Producing Good Content

Evernote is actually reasonably good at this with their forums and blogs. They continually produce it. However, I’m not sure they’ve cracked their distribution. I get it – but do others?

Let’s take a look at their top 10 pieces of content. Since 2008, they have produced 1211 pieces of content which collectively have had 116,558 shares. This is an amazing result.

Of the top pieces, many are product announcements, so we filtered through for the more marketing-focused or user acquisition focused pieces of content.

And here they are:

Shares are totaled across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and Pinterest.

Estimated earned impressions are calculated by combining public data with Nudge data to estimate how many impressions on the content the shares created. Earned impression value is the amount it would have cost to get that traffic if they had bought it as an ad from the social network.

A few tips for Evernote on optimizing existing content for Evernote:

  • Make sure that you are submitting content to StumbleUpon
  • Ensure images are Pinterest optimized, not only in size but also with “Pin It” buttons

Get it in front of people

This is the exciting part with native; it allows a lot of opportunities for spreading your content.

Here’s how I would tackle it:

Native Ad Units to Content

You buy native ad units, which slot in beside other content, to draw readers in to your content. Here are a few options:

  • OutBrain, since when we’ve tested it in similar styles of content it performs well.
  • ShareThrough, also great for getting attention to your content.
  • StumbleUpon, give each piece of content a push with this

Other opportunities include

  • Zemanta, as an aggregator of native ads
  • TripeLift, for your more visual posts

These absolutely work to drive distribution, and in our experiments drive targeted quality traffic.

One I would experiment with (as we have yet to do so):

  • Yahoo content recommendation units

So that gets you distribution to your content now.

What you want to measure is:

  • Engagement on the content- through distribution is it retaining the same quality metrics as it got organically?
  • Attention Minutes- some people don’t like to share but will read, especially as your content escapes the tech circles we operate in

Get your content in front of vertical audiences

The opportunity of custom native ads is to put your content on niche verticals. Once Evernote has proven that the content is good, seek to place it on vertical sites.

The best approach at this point in time, is placing it manually. Find vertical publishers and asking them if they will do this. Prices can range from a few hundred up to tens of thousands of dollars. I would recommend testing a few at each level of scale.

Here’s a couple we found:

  • Mashable
  • Outside Media
  • BusinessInsider

Then what you’re looking for on this, is measuring the reach of these, then the quality of the engagement on the content.You can also measure the conversions: who read this article then demonstrated intent to purchase (more on this later). It’s a little feature Nudge does. There are also, more manual ways of doing it if you want to.

Leverage your external community content

This is a no-brainer. People write amazing articles and blog posts that mention Evernote all the time. The purpose being at the end of reading we know they will probably sign up if they haven’t already.

A great example is this post from OutsideOnline:

It’s about organizing travel; one of the end recommendations is an Evernote premium subscription. If you’ve read that article and you’re not an Evernote user, you are going to check it out.

How you execute this:

  1. Look at your GA data
  2. What referrers are driving sign ups?
  3. Track down that content
  4. Buy traffic to it (ShareThrough, OutBrain, StumbleUpon), then measure the impact on your end.

It’s an extra step – but someone else has already done the hard work for you. By sharing their story on their platform to their audience they are helping to contextualize and sell the benefits of Evernote. Furthermore by buying traffic you are supporting them for their great work, helping attract new readers. In fact you could even make it an informal sponsorship.

Win/win.

Extra for experts:Set up a customized message that triggers based on a referral from that blog post. You can then show people how travelers use Evernote. This is harder to scale but that’s what makes it effective, it’s personalized.

Last minute update: This BusinessInsider article How I Wrote A 90,000 Word Book Using Evernote From Start To Finish is also perfect.

Understanding what is working and how to optimize

So you’ve got this running, how do you want to optimize?

You’ve got to break your metrics down based on funnel and assumptions.

For Blog Leverage
This is easy as you are already tracking the impact of the post. You want to see what incremental upside you get per 1000 visitors when you buy to the blog post.

For Custom Native Ad Placement
Measure purchase intent, as you want to maximize that, this will drive downloads. It would be short sighted to only measure direct sales & downloads.

Purchase intent is where a visitor has demonstrated behaviors intending to download and/or upgrade. Nudge does this nicely by measuring it. Of the people you have reached how many have demonstrated intent to purchase. It also measures direct conversions.

However initially as you are going vertical by vertical, you will want to stimulate the intent.

For boosting your own content
Each piece of content has its own lifespan, you want to buy traffic in increments of the initial organic reach, then dial it back once your quality metrics start to drop. Ideally, for niche targeted content they will continually perform well if the ads are targeted well. There will just be a smaller volume.

Pulling it all together

  • Leverage your existing content with native ads
  • Place your best content into verticals to expand your reach
  • Promote community content that converts

It’s that easy.

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