'Quality matters': Saatva's content chief on how great editorial drives revenue

There are now 175 bed-in-a-box companies, and it’s Laura Goldstein’s job to make sure you know that Saatva is different. As Saatva’s vp of content and communications, Goldstein has built the mattress company’s content marketing program into a revenue-generator with room to grow. Goldstein talked to Industrious Content about getting buy-in across the company, how her journalism roots inform her content approach, ranking for SEO, paying writers, and more.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

How did you make the jump from journalism to content marketing?

I decided to make this transition after my last Time Inc. layoff. Like a lot of magazine and digital journalists, I really didn't see a path forward there. I met Joe [McCambley], who is the CMO, through a former editor of mine. He really believed in the power of content… and he made me a promise that I would be able to produce branded content of a quality that I was comfortable with. I would not have taken the job otherwise.

What kind of journalistic mission did you bring to Saatva?

We believe in trying to be as helpful and informative as a brand as possible, particularly in an industry like the mattress industry, where there's so much misinformation. 

I wanted to produce the same kind of service content that I did at Money Magazine and This Old House. And because I was coming into an organization that had no content marketing program, no experience with it and no expectations, I was able to do what I wanted to do, provided that we could demonstrate that it worked.

And has it worked?

It has. One thing that’s happened is that content has been leveraged across the organization in ways that I don't think people were expecting. Another thing, the blog has driven 2 million organic sessions and more than $5 million in organic revenue.

So the SEO content we are producing for the blog feeds our organic channels, particularly social media, where we get strong engagement. But we're now also using it in paid channels. When we use blog content in our Google search campaigns, it converts at a higher rate and costs much less than sending that search traffic to our e-commerce homepage.

The blog content is also being leveraged for email and even transactional email. When somebody needs a little more information about mattress height or firmness, we're pulling it from the blog. The customer service organization gives out our content when customers call with questions. That's helped content marketing get buy-in across the organization.

And revenue?

The ROI on content is higher than just about any other channel at the company. We are driving roughly $250,000-$260,000 a month in organic conversion revenue. That's a lot when you consider the resources: the content manager's salary, a content platform that is not very expensive, content creation costs. 

We have one article in particular—“Do I need a foundation or box spring?” Not particularly sexy, but something that people are genuinely confused about. By the time they get to that level in the funnel, they're ready to convert. And so that article generates roughly $40,000 a month in revenue for us. 

There’s an innate editorial instinct to write great stories, and it’s hard to scratch that itch with SEO alone. How do you balance the two? 

I was lucky because there's really not a lot of conflict for us around stuff that is good SEO and the stuff that's really in our wheelhouse around mattress education.

The original mandate was to create content around our top paid search terms, because in the last few years the cost has gone through the roof, because there are now 175 bed-in-a-box companies. If we can get organic traffic, we don’t have to spend [as much] on our paid campaigns. 

We also supplement that with seasonal or timely and trending topics, and then it's really a lot of editorial judgment. And then there was really a lot of editorial judgment about what makes a “good story.” Because of the world I came out of, I hired real journalists and I paid them real money. 

Not 25 to 50 cents a word?

No. With SEO content, the expectations are low, and what people are paying is low. But how much time and energy is somebody going to invest if they're not being compensated very well?

I didn't want to play that game. I wanted people who had experience to do some actual reporting. Call up a chiropractor, talk about the issues people are having with joint pain and sleep. And what surprised me, and was very gratifying, was people were very open to doing this work. 

Do you run stories that are more editorially-driven?

We have done a bunch of things that are a little bit outside the strict SEO stuff. We’ve done personal essays, stories of people who have slept in exotic places on the sides of mountains or in ice caves, design stories, articles that I think are engaging and I want to be part of the experience.

That’s the content that feeds our social media outreach. Because social media [content] is not really about the difference between latex memory foam. It's about what it's like to sleep in an ice cave, or what it's like to sleep in space.

And our PR director is using a lot of content in her pitching. She did some pitching around Earth Day because we have some organic products, but she used our Earth Day content and content that we created around our new product launches. That's been very effective.

"I wanted to produce the same kind of service content that I did at Money Magazine and This Old House."

Having crossed over, what would you tell journalists looking to do the same?

I came out of a world where everybody did what I did. I've worked with some of the most talented writers and editors in the business. 

Then I came into an organization where I'm the only person in my role. For me, it was easy, right? Come in, set up the infrastructure, make the editorial calendars, do the assigning and editing. That's what I had done my whole career. 

You don't realize how much you know until you’re in a different context. 

What do you wish marketers knew about creating content?

I wish they knew that quality does matter. It’s not just about creating the content, but it's about creating the right content. I would rather do less and be strategic, and do it well than give you a keyword-stuffed SEO article that nobody's really gonna want to read. 

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