Stuck in a Content Marketing Rut? Try This TrickBy Justin Lambert October 17th, 2014
Are you getting tired of your blog?
If so, there’s a good chance your readers are, too.
There’s really nothing wrong with that, believe me. You’ve worked hard creating fantastic content that’s educational, engaging, and entertaining—possibly for years now. But for whatever reason, it’s just not working anymore. Or it’s still working, but your traffic and key KPIs are flatlining.
What’s even more important than figuring out why these problems exist is figuring out what to do about them. The answer is far simpler than you might think.
Is Diversification the key to content marketing success?
Think of your content assets as a stock portfolio. While we’re at it, let’s get some investment advice from the nation’s wealthiest investment guru, Warren Buffett:
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
“Diversification is a protection against ignorance. It makes very little sense for those who know what they’re doing.”
Whoa, Warren, hold up. How can both those statements be true?
The explanation will help you pull your blog from the doldrums and rejuvenate your entire content strategy if you put it into practice well. Are you ready?
The key to continued content success
If you want your blog to build an audience for years to come, the key is to diversify your content strategically.
Warren Buffett’s main investment vehicle, Berkshire Hathaway, is widely diversified in the companies they invest in. But, interestingly, they consistently derive over 70 percent of their income from just their top five investments.
As explained in a recent ValueWalk article, “The key is distinguishing between the professional and non-professional investor. Buffett certainly does not advocate wide diversification for the professional investor—the investor who ‘knows what he is doing.’ Buffett would rather see the professional investor invest in his best ideas.”
For those who don’t know what they’re doing, diversification is a safe and smart thing to do. For those who know what they’re doing, concentrating on the winners just makes sense.
So how do you diversify strategically as a content marketer? It’s all about experimenting and testing.
Finding new ways to engage
If you’ve been trotting out the old text-based blog post twice a week for four years now, you’ve got a ton of content at your fingertips. You may also have a ton of subscribers, links, and traffic. But what kind of engagement are you seeing?
If engagement has dropped, maybe your audience is interested in types of content you haven’t tried yet. Or maybe your tone has grown stale. Again, regardless of the reasons behind the problem, the solution is remarkably familiar: Diversify strategically.
I don’t mean to imply that you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to content marketing. In a sense, though, we’re all newbies. Technology, tools, best practices, the industry itself—they’re all in a state of flux. We’re all learning all the time, and the best way to do that is to experiment and test.
Start with repurposed content
To jump into strategic content experimentation, start with what you already have, like that archive of hundreds of text-based blog articles.
- Turn them into videos. Boil down the main points of a blog post into 2–3 minutes of compelling talking-head or slideshow-based video, or an animated videographic. (See steps 5 and 6 from chapter 10 of QuickSprout’s excellent guide on blog marketing for more details.)
- Turn them into podcasts. Read and record a blog post for a few minutes of straight information, or share it with a colleague and record your discussion. For the audio-learner, podcasts offer a more useful means of taking in your blog information.
- Carve them up and tweet them out. Or use Facebook, or Google+, or any other social network your target audience uses. While each network has its own unique flavor and tone, you should be able to extract at least 3–4 interesting nuggets from each blog post.
- Combine them into white papers and e-books. Collect and combine posts with a similar theme. Use them as lead magnets to build your email list or premium content for subscribers only.
- Do all this backwards, too. If you’ve already made a bunch of content, the same repurposing methods work backwards and sideways as well: Make an e-book into several brief videos, read and discuss a white paper for a few podcast episodes, etc.
But there’s an important question to ask yourself here: When you repurpose in these tried-and-true ways, you’re certainly diversifying your content portfolio, but are you doing so strategically? Ask any cosmetic surgeon out there: Changing how something looks doesn’t automatically improve it.
Test your diversification strategy
Every one of the repurposing avenues discussed above—and others I didn’t touch on—are fodder for your testing program.
The goal is to create stellar content in various forms and then rigorously test how well it’s received by your target audience, as well as how its success compares to that of your original content. While identifying and capturing a 0.005 percent lift in clicks is great, the purpose of testing is to figure out what your audience—or specific subsets of your audience—really wants. Maybe it’s text-based blog posts. Maybe it’s infographics. It doesn’t matter how much you enjoy creating videos or podcasts if your audience doesn’t want to watch or listen to them.
To get the most from this testing, you’ll need to use metrics that actually matter, not just the old visitors/time on site/number of shares tropes we’ve all grown accustomed to. Instead, focus on these metrics many content marketers overlook:
- Brand lift: A boost in perception of your brand, as measured by customer interactions after being exposed to your content.
- Engaged time: How much time each person is actually spending with your content, a much better gauge of engagement than sharing stats.
- Average finish: The percentage of your readers (or viewers, or listeners) who actually finish the entire content piece, and where you lost the ones who didn’t.
- Return readers: One of the key results of engagement is that your visitors need to come back and see what else you have to say.
- Visitor loyalty: How often and how soon did they return? This metric enhances the value of the return readers metric.
- Longevity: How long do you keep reaping rewards from your content? This will do wonders for your repurposing efforts and other editorial calendar considerations.
(Interesting and self-promotional side note: Contently released a specialized analytics engine earlier this year for publishers that measures some of these and other engagement-related metrics and provides actionable advice based on them.)
Testing as you experiment will likely yield a whole mess of data and feedback that you can use to inform what you create in the future, and help you connect more deeply with your audience. And that’s what you’re really shooting for with all of this content diversification: greater engagement with your audience by meeting them where they are and where they want to be.
Go off the deep end
To find the right formula for your content, you’re going to have to try a lot of different approaches and go out of your comfort zone. Consider setting aside 10 percent of your content creation time and budget to develop some really out-there ideas, then test them out! Get outside your comfort zone. Don’t do what seems safe. You may just stumble across viral gold.
Here’s another partial list of ideas to get the ball rolling:
- Create a video spoofing a current industry trend
- Create an interactive infographic
- Create a videographic (animated infographic)
- Jump on a trending meme
- Interview yourself via split-screen video
- Incorporate a branded game, quiz, or survey into your content
- Create a comic strip around your theme
- Experiment with live social media events like Twitter chats or Google Hangouts
Go forth and prosper. And above all, don’t be boring!Image by Soloviova Liudmyla