When Cognitive FX (a concussion treatment center based in Provo, Utah) reached out to us to do their content marketing, we were unsure if we’d be able to help them.
There were a number of reasons why we thought that they might not be a good fit for us or our process:
- They were a B2C (business to consumer) company and historically we’d focused on doing content marketing for B2B (business to business) companies. We’ll explain more about the differences below.
- It required getting people to a physical location. How many conversions could we really get from people who weren’t local (Provo, Utah)? They had patients from all over the country, and the world, but would non-local leads come from cold inbound traffic, like SEO? We weren’t sure.
- From a SEO perspective, we’d be competing against sites with massive domain authority and huge brand awareness — sites like WebMD, Healthline, the CDC, Mayo Clinic.
- We needed to write high-quality content that required deep expertise on concussions.
Yet, despite these hesitations, we decided to take them on as a client (more on why below). To our surprise, Cognitive FX has been our fastest growing client from a traffic and SEO perspective.
In 14 months, we’ve grown their blog by over 70,000 pageviews per month and 50,000 organic sessions per month. We’ve grown consultations (their conversion goal) to over 60 per month. Our content for them is now responsible for ~50% of their overall consultations per month.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- The differences between B2C content marketing vs. B2B content marketing
- Our “readability index” to decide if long-form, written content makes sense for a business (and thus why we decided to take them on)
- A detailed analysis of the content strategy we used for Cognitive FX
- The rankings, leads, and traffic results we’ve achieved so far
Finally, even though we use a healthcare client as an example, the lessons in this post apply to many B2C companies like direct-to-consumer eCommerce, software, or other service businesses.
Note: A huge thank you to Olivia Seitz, one of our amazing content strategists who has worked with Cognitive FX since Day 1 and is primarily responsible for the results we share below. We also want to thank Jeff Gaufin and the entire Cognitive FX team for being wonderful clients.
Curious about having us do content marketing for your business? You can learn more here.
If you’d like to learn the content marketing strategy that we share here, we also teach our content marketing process in our course and community.
B2B vs B2C Content Marketing: What’s The Difference?
At the time Cognitive FX reached out to us, we were holding onto a (now defunct) assumption that B2C content marketing wasn’t a fit for our process. Our assumption was that B2C content had to be a volume game, where you publish a large number of shallow, easy to write pieces and hope that through basic optimization, some fraction of them will rank and get traffic.
In other words, we thought there was a big difference between B2C and B2B content marketing.
It turns out we were wrong.
To understand why we had this view, let’s introduce the concept of a readability index. By “readability” we mean: How much do people read and learn about the topic before buying?
Most B2B companies have high readability because there’s typically a lot to explain to decision-makers about the product or service before buying. For example, we have a content marketing agency. Buying content marketing services or doing it yourself isn’t easy. There’s many things that need to be explained for us to build trust with our clients — the content strategy, that we know how to write, how we drive traffic to articles, how we drive conversions, what we do about SEO…the list goes on and on. So, a B2B service like ours is high on the readability index.
On the other hand, take a commoditized consumer product like, say soda. Who the heck reads about which orange soda is the best? No one. You just buy what you like, what your friends drink, whatever is around, or whatever brand happens to be on your mind. This is why B2C brands like Coke, Pepsi, Levi’s Jeans, Tide detergent, and more spend a ton on brand advertising like expensive TV commercials.
Hiring Grow and Convert to sell more soda via a small number of in depth blog posts every month just doesn’t make a lot of sense. (Even more hilarious would be us trying to attribute sales of Pepsi back to individual blog posts we wrote.)
But not every B2C company is Pepsi.
That was our critical mistake when initially thinking Cognitive FX wouldn’t be a fit, just because it was B2C. We thought every B2C company meant low readability. That’s flat out wrong and Cognitive FX could not be a better example of why.
What we learned, and what we hope to convince you of through the rest of this case study is: B2C and B2B content marketing may not be different at all if the companies you’re comparing have similar readability. In either case (B2B or B2C) you need to figure out the pain points of your ideal customers, and write to those pain points. We’ll show how we applied that principle to Cognitive FX below.
How to Know When In-Depth Content Makes Sense for B2C Businesses
Cognitive FX is one of the world’s most advanced concussion treatment centers. They have a cutting edge method of treatment that can undo damage from concussions for patients for whom the usual “rest and darkness” prescription hasn’t worked.
These patients have usually had multiple concussions, or symptoms for years or decades. They may have seen multiple doctors; oftentimes, their concerns had been dismissed as imagined or not that severe when those doctors can’t figure out how to treat them. But in reality, their lives are extremely impacted by the symptoms (difficulty going to noisy or bright places like grocery stores, difficulty concentrating at school or work, extreme fatigue, etc.). They are desperate to find a solution. They read, Google, read some more, talk to friends, comment on content with their stories, and talk to anyone to try to find a solution.
That is high readability.
Other B2C brands with similarly high readability include businesses like:
- Nutrition and Fitness: There is a massive community online of people reading about workouts, diets, lifestyles, etc. Think keto, CrossFit, paleo, veganism, etc. They all have thriving online communities with very high readability.
- Investing and finance: This space has had people (consumers, not just businesses) reading and learning a ton since before the internet (and crypto) was even born.
Finally, notice what is correlated with high readability: content quality and complexity. If people read a lot about a topic, that means there are interesting, in-depth, complex ideas to be discussed. If everything in a space is simple, it wouldn’t result in a community of in-depth readership.
For example, ranking for “Best mens boots” is more a matter of showing up with a list, photos, and some basic feature differences. In contrast, our posts for Cognitive FX are on the details of things like post concussion syndrome, how it works, and how to treat it — i.e. advanced.
A Simple Test To See If a Business Has High Readability
Finally, one “hack” you can use to decide on readability is to ask: are either books or academic papers consistently written on this topic?
- Fitness and nutrition? Yes.
- Investing and finance? Yes.
- Concussions, medical, and health? Yes.
- What’s the best soft drink? No.
That’s why Cognitive FX ended up being a perfect fit for us.
Our B2C Content Marketing Strategy: Applying Pain Point SEO to Cognitive FX
It’s important to start by saying our goal was still conversions from content for Cognitive FX. We did not change our goal to some vanity metric like shares, views, or impressions just because it’s a consumer facing company.
Our main value proposition is to focus relentlessly on driving leads or sales from content, so our approach with Cognitive FX was no different.
To refresh, the core thesis of Pain Point SEO is that prioritizing conversion intent of a keyword yields a bigger benefit than prioritizing by search volume, as measured by conversions from content.
You can easily understand the impact of this strategy by this screenshot from a past client that we shared in our content ideation post.
The main takeaway from this screenshot is that a pain point SEO post doesn’t just get a little more conversions than other posts, it can get a lot more conversions.
You can see this in 2 ways:
- The 3 boxed articles are Pain Point SEO Topics, all others aren’t. Those 3 generated 41, 33, and 51, conversions each for this client. The rest produced 5, 3, 0, 8, 0, 0, 3 signups. That’s a huge difference.
- Within the 3 boxed articles, the top article got 10,000 users in this period while the bottom got only 1,000. Yet the bottom article yielded more conversions (51 vs. 41)!
Together, these takeaways teach us that finding the exact right keywords with lots of buying intent yields huge dividends in terms of leads generated. Or, inversely, if we don’t find those keywords, we could get traffic all we want, but that traffic won’t generate much business (this is the trap that most companies fall into).
Discovering the Pain Points of Cognitive FX Customers
The first step to finding these high converting topics is to uncover and write down the ideal customer’s pain points. We’ve written about our process for doing customer research extensively, but for those that are interested in learning more, here is a specific 3 part series that can help:
- Part 1: What you need to know from your customers and what questions to ask to learn that
- Part 2: How we used a simple survey to learn about our customers – including analysis of each survey answer
- Part 3: How we turned those responses into content ideas
In addition to our blog posts on these topics, we also teach this how to do customer research and come up with high converting blog topics in our course and community, check out our course here.
For Cognitive FX, we accomplished this by interviewing multiple people on their team about their treatment program, the patients it’s for, the patients it’s not for, what symptoms they have, what questions they ask when they reach out, and more.
We flew out to their offices in Utah and interviewed the founding doctors, the head of patient services, the marketing team, and more.
We do this extensive interviewing and customer research at the kickoff of every new client we have.
Here’s a shortened version of what we learned for the purposes of giving context to our content strategy below:
- Patients come to Cognitive FX and spend a week doing full-day, extensive treatment via their cutting edge processes for treating concussion damage that hardly any other center in the world does.
- Patients fly in from anywhere in the world.
- They aren’t a replacement for the emergency room when someone immediately gets a head injury nor really a replacement for the first call to someone’s primary care doctor.
- The key discovery about their ideal patient profile is lingering concussion symptoms. If the symptoms (a) haven’t gone away or have gotten worse over time and (b) interferes with happiness and daily life, then they’re a good fit for Cognitive FX.
- Those patients often have talked to doctors already and been told the usual advice about resting and avoiding bright lights. It hasn’t worked.
- Some of them don’t even realize they have a concussion, they just have these terrible symptoms that affect their daily life.
The B2C Content Strategy We Used to Attract Qualified Customers
Ultimately, the content strategy that we executed for them consisted of 3 main types of content:
- Bottom of funnel, pain point related posts
- Direct product-related keywords
- Customer stories
We discuss each, in turn, and give examples below.
But first, let’s briefly explain the connection between the pain points we discovered above and this content strategy.
To best understand why bottom of funnel, pain point and product-related posts (content types #1 and #2 above) were a focus of our B2C content strategy, we should highlight what we didn’t do: We did not prioritize high search volume keywords.
Because high search volume keywords are, inevitably, broad, introductory level topics. For example, here is the broadest, most high volume keywords you can get in Cognitive FX’s space:
135,000 monthly searches is really tempting. But who is Googling “concussion”? Anyone!
- Students writing a paper on concussions
- Reporters getting background info on concussions
- Anyone having any conversation about concussions and stopping to learn more.
Could some of the people Googling “concussion” be a potential customer of Cognitive FX? Sure, but in our experience, through measuring conversion rates, it’s a tiny, tiny fraction.
Do you want to go through the massive content marketing effort needed to rank in the top 5 of that keyword for a tiny conversion rate of those visitors into leads or sales? We don’t.
If, instead, you want to build a content strategy that is focused on business results, i.e. conversions, then you need to prioritize blog post topics and SEO keywords you go after by conversion intent instead of search volume. That, in our system, is done by searching for real pain points of a company’s ideal customer.
Of course, if something is pain point based, has conversion or buying intent, and has high search volume, by all means go after it (and we show examples of these for Cognitive FX below). But it’s a matter of prioritizing based on conversion intent first, then volume second.
(1) Bottom of the Funnel, Pain Point Related Posts
This is the outcome of the Pain Point SEO research we discussed above. We took the pain points of Cognitive FX’s ideal patients summarized above and thought through blog post topics that could help answer ideal patients’ questions or show them solutions for their problems.
The key strategic bet being: The act of searching for this article or keyword by itself indicates this person is a more qualified potential customer.
Let’s look at 2 pieces in this category and discuss the underlying reasoning so you get a sense of what’s possible.
From our research, we learned that headaches were one of the most common recurring, long lasting symptoms of a concussion. Many patients that Cognitive FX treats have had these for years and as we state in the intro of this post, they feel different than normal headaches.
Curiously enough, the search term “what does a concussion headache feel like” gets 1600 monthly searches (according to Ahrefs) so it felt like a great fit with their ideal patient profile.
As of this writing we rank #1 for that term, ahead of the Mayo Clinic, and have the featured snippet:
Does it convert?
In the year since being published, that single post has brought in 32 leads — defined for Cognitive FX as a consultation request form fill for their service, which costs $9,000 for a week of in-person treatment at their center in Utah.
To put that in perspective, that’s equal to 4% of the leads they got from their homepage in that same time span, from a single blog post. That’s a lot from a single blog post. Many companies’ entire blogs don’t generate that percentage of attributable leads.
So our hypothesis here was validated.
Another great example of Pain Point SEO in action is the above post about multiple concussions. Patients that have had multiple concussions are uniquely well suited for Cognitive FX as that often means long lasting symptoms that really affect their ability to work and do basic daily tasks easily and comfortably.
Rankings: This ranks #1 for “multiple concussions” (600 searches per month) and various longer tail variants like “long term effects of multiple concussions” (250/m).
Conversions: This has brought in 91 conversions to date, which is 11% of the leads attributable to Cognitive FX’s homepage in that same time period!
You can see additional keywords and posts in this category in our rankings summary below but let’s move on to another category of articles we produced for them.
(2) Direct Product-Related Buying Keywords
The above 2 examples (and many others like it) are around pain points that their ideal patient has:
- I have this weird headache that feels different than a normal headache. What do I do? Let me learn more about it.
- I’ve had multiple concussions (or my child has had multiple concussions). What do I do? Let me learn more about it.
In marketing terminology, people googling this know the problem that they have, but don’t necessarily know what the solution is. They might not know that a concussion treatment center is an option that they have for treatment, or that they can be treated at all. They’re just looking for answers to their problems.
For almost every business we’ve worked with, there are a handful of even higher intent keywords than the pain point based ones: direct product related keywords.
People interested in these topics are solution aware, and they are literally Googling for the best option for the known solution.
For Cognitive FX, this includes terms like the following (for each of these I’ve linked to the Google SERP. At the time of writing, you should find Cognitive FX in the top spot or close to it depending on your location):
- Concussion clinic near me – #1 position on page 1
- Concussion doctors near me – #1 position on page 1
- Best concussion clinics – #1 position on page 1
- Best concussion clinics in the US – #1 position on page 1
- Concussion clinics – #2 position on page 1
All of these rankings are via a single post we wrote on best concussion clinics in the US
In addition, since the line between problem aware and solution aware is not always clear, we also have posts targeting semi-solution awareness like:
- Post concussion syndrome treatment (#4 position on page 1): Although this term is not as product related as “concussion clinics near me”, someone Googling this is a savvy potential patient in that they know about post concussion syndrome (PCS) and are looking for treatment options about it. They aren’t just Googling a pain point, they have some idea of a potential solution to their pain point already.
- Physical therapy for post concussion syndrome: We recently published this and aren’t yet ranking but similar to the above, someone Googling this already knows about PCS and they also know that physical therapy-like treatment can be effective and are looking to learn more on that or possibly find a treatment center that can help.
We Rarely See Companies Systematically Targeting These Direct Buying Keywords
Obviously, the conversion intent of direct buying keywords is high. If you sell flowers online, for example, ranking for “buy flowers online” is extremely valuable. (You don’t need to educate or “nurture” that customer, they’re literally looking for what you sell.)
Yet, we are shocked at how many companies don’t have a strategy in place to rank for these direct buying keywords. Most companies accidentally rank for one or two of them via their homepage or a feature or solution page. But there are usually between 5 – 15 more of these keywords, depending on the business, that a solid blog post could rank for.
Yet B2C marketers are instead blogging about “10 tips for ____ in 2020” or “Exclusive Interview with X Influencer,” sending posts out through email marketing or social media channels, and hoping this will somehow lead to conversions…when the most targeted, qualified B2C customers are literally Googling for products like theirs.
So, if you don’t have a plan to rank for these keywords, make a plan, and prioritize it above everything else on your content and SEO agenda.
The key is that there are only so many of these keywords available. For Cognitive FX, there aren’t a ton of keywords around finding advanced concussion clinics. So a long term, sustainable content strategy needs to move to pain points (discussed above) or more higher up in the funnel (discussed below).
You can visualize this via funnel schematic where the lower you go, the more buying intent (and thus high conversion rates) you get:
(3) Patient Stories
Lastly, while the above two strategies can do really well from a results perspective (and many companies would do well to just implement those strategies and nothing else), we also wanted to incorporate pieces that built an emotional connection with Cognitive FX’s patients and prospective patients.
What Cognitive FX’s treatment does for patients is, to put it bluntly, life changing.
Some people that have PCS (post concussion syndrome) get overwhelmed by lights and noise and can barely be in public places, such as grocery stores. Others can’t continue their jobs or hang out with their kids.
Some of their patients have had these symptoms for decades before they come for treatment. Some don’t even realize they had a concussion, they just have spent years going to doctor after doctor being told “nothing is wrong with your body” when something clearly is.
With all due respect to our B2B clients, Cognitive FX isn’t some sales app or analytics platform. Cognitive FX’s customer stories are amazing and a content strategy that didn’t incorporate them would have been a shame.
So, we mixed in many of these stories including…
- This story of a father and businessman from Utah who suffered from symptoms like brain fog, noise sensitivity, short term memory loss, anxiety, and depression for 33 years and now, after treatment, has amazingly renewed energy in his career and at home.
- This story of a mother and psychology grad whose life was never the same after a horrible skiing accident who, after treatment, has made a nearly 90% recovery according to brain scans and self-reported symptoms.
But the most amazing story we wrote for them was that of our own Grow and Convert content strategist, Olivia Seitz, who during the course of being the content strategist for Cognitive FX thought “Hmm, maybe some of the symptoms I’ve been dealing with for years could be related to a concussion or TBI (traumatic brain injury)”, talked to the Cognitive FX team, decided to give it a shot, got treatment for a week in Utah, and had an amazing transformation herself:
Do These Stories Rank or Convert?
These stories are not SEO motivated, so it’s not essential that they rank, but some still do. The story above, for example is now #1 for “figure skating concussion”:
So if you do customer stories like this it can be helpful to pair them with some SEO keywords, even if they are lower in search volume. We typically do this after the story is conceptualized. So telling a great story takes precedence over what search engines want.
Instead, the benefit of these stories is that:
- They build emotional connections with your customers. Even if customers come in via a more utilitarian SEO based post, reading this can be important for remembering and converting
- They do really well on social media platforms (paid and organic). As a result of the emotional appeal we see really good CPCs, comments, and people sharing the stories. Brands with a heavy social media presence would do well to produce these and promote them there.
- They build a brand story. A bunch of these emotionally connecting stories can help showcase your brand as a thought leader, and tell your brand story about changing lives, solving problems, helping people, etc.
Finally, they do bring in first click conversions as well, even though again that’s not the main purpose. The figure skating post above has brought in plenty of leads for Cognitive FX from both paid and organic Facebook:
Small Note on How We Produced Articles This Advanced In Topic and Detail
Note that these articles are extremely advanced in topic and detail. We cover in-depth physiology and cutting edge research on concussion treatment, that even the other articles competing with us on Page 1 of Google’s SERP often don’t cover.
How? Because Cognitive FX is on the industry forefront in concussion treatment. Their strategies and techniques are based on the latest research (often published in peer reviewed papers by their founding doctors).
For example, to properly discuss their approach for treating multiple concussions, you can’t just ask a writer to Google around and come up with something to say. If you do that, you’ll get the same old cliche advice that Cognitive FX’s ideal patient has heard a thousand times.
We have a detailed content creation process for producing advanced articles like this that we’ll be writing a separate post on. If you want to get that post when it comes out, you can join our email list from our homepage.
Note: Interested in how we apply this content strategy in B2B? Check out one of our B2B content marketing examples here.
Overall Stats and Results: Traffic and Conversion
Here’s what all of this strategy resulted in.
Conversions from our Content
We’re actually going to discuss results in the opposite order of what most people do and start with conversions first because that is the goal of Pain Point SEO. The best way to summarize how well these pieces convert for them is to show the leads that Cognitive FX got from our blog posts versus total leads from the entire site:
(Note that being an in person clinic, CFX had to close down their clinic from March – April due to COVID-19 and, as expected, their leads dropped considerably.)
Or, here’s the exact same data, plotted in a different way — as a percent of total site leads that came from our content:
You can see how leads from our content have become a larger and larger share of overall leads to the site. We started with no content, and now our content is bringing in ~50% of all leads from the site.
And this is just the attributable leads. As discussed in our post on content marketing ROI and attribution, anyone who comes in via a blog post and later comes back via the homepage but on another device, on a different browser, a different family member signs up, etc will not be tracked, so the above is actually a lower limit estimate.
We are very happy with the lead generation from our content marketing campaign, and so is our client.
The SEO rankings for Cognitive FX have been amazing.
(Which is surprising since, as we said at the beginning, we were nervous that it’d be hard to rank against big sites like WebMD and the Mayo Clinic.)
Here is a screenshot of just the #1 rankings we have achieved so far, according to Ahrefs:
That’s 31 #1 rankings!
Tying these back to strategy, you can get an even more holistic sense of Pain Point SEO in action when looking at these keywords under the lens of Cognitive FX’s target audience.
In total, Ahrefs is showing 78 first page rankings of just the keywords we know to track; there are far more long tail keywords that we aren’t even tracking.
Note that these aren’t all low volume keywords either. Even though our Pain Point SEO strategy calls for prioritizing over search volume, if a keywords has buying intent and search volume, that’s a great outcome, and many of our rankings are for nice, high volume keywords, including:
We think the high SEO rankings has to do with the fact that we research the best angle to take when writing each topic, we interview Cognitive FX’s doctors for every piece to get cutting edge insights that educate post-concussion patients for every piece, and we do our best to write the most comprehensive take on the topic available.
Finally, here’s how all of these rankings have affected traffic.
Here’s overall traffic:
And here’s just organic traffic to our posts:
(For those that are curious, the large increase from April to May is due to a combination of search volume reducing in April due to COVID, which then picked back up in May and, because our rankings continued to improve, showed a seemingly large increase. In addition, we may have benefited from a Google algorithm update that happened around that time.)
Final Thoughts: Why Conversion Intent Matters More Than Traffic and Keyword Volume
Finally, now that you’ve seen all of the results and the strategy, I want to leave you with this contrast between two of our posts:
When the top post, symptoms of a concussion, generated 23,500 sessions and produced 23 conversions, the bottom post got only 1/3 of the traffic, but still got more conversions in the same timeframe!
That means the conversion rate is more than 3X as high as the top post.
Why? Why is the conversion rate for the bottom post so much higher? We didn’t use any “conversion hacks” on the bottom post. No popups, no fancy CTAs, nothing different than the top post. So it’s not about “AB testing” a bunch of elements on the page.
It’s the conversion intent of that topic.
People that know enough to Google or read an article about post concussion syndrome and its symptoms are advanced and perfectly suited for Cognitive FX (just knowing what “post concussion syndrome” means is a sign they know enough to understand the value of Cognitive FX).
So the best takeaway from this article is to ask yourself, for your business, or your client’s business: what are the topics or keywords that are most indicative of your customer wanting your product or service, understanding its value, and thus most likely to convert?
In our experience, this is the key to content marketing success. If you stay laser focused on that, good things should happen.
Further Learning or Doing
- Our Agency: Don’t want to produce your own content? You can learn more about working with us here.
- Our Content Marketing Course: Individuals looking to learn these skills and become better marketers, consultants, or business owners can join our private course and community. We teach our entire content marketing process via case studies through both written and video content. Community members also get exclusive access to interactive Q&As with our team and other experts in the digital marketing space. Learn more and view testimonials here.