On the evening of March 2, our content/marketing team found ourselves celebrating at a Soho dive bar called Milano’s for a few reasons: three birthdays; two new additions to the team; and, most importantly, a successful month of February in which we saw over 200,000 readers. We toasted, but in truth, a lot of that success was attributed to work we did months ago. Though it felt like new pieces were attracting all our readers, only 40 percent of our readers and 48 percent of our total attention time for the month came from posts published in February.
What had the biggest impact was that we spent the previous 18 months publishing three or four stories per day—and many of those stories were still generating significant traffic.
Amongst successful brand publishers, this experience is common. In December 2013, Jay Acunzo, then senior content manager at HubSpot, had a similar revelation. That month, he crunched the numbers and found that 70 percent of the roughly 2 million hits on HubSpot’s blog came from posts that were more than a month old. “That entire team could stop blogging for a whole month and still see 70% of the expected results—zero work needed,” he wrote in a blog post. “Now that’s ROI! Show me a PPC campaign capable of doing that.”
Jay was shocked. So was I. And that’s natural—when you do content marketing well, it can feel like highway robbery. As VC and content marketing expert Tomasz Tunguz recently wrote on his blog, “Content is one of the few forms of marketing that has a compounding return…Like a bank account that starts out small and earns incremental gains, but over time becomes quite large, content marketing efforts require consistent investment but ultimately can yield enormous results.”
Of course, simply publishing every day does not guarantee success. As we covered in Playbook No. 2, you need to have a content roadmap—a clearly defined audience and a sense of all the gaps in the content market so you can capitalize on every opportunity to capture your audience’s attention. You also need to produce stories that are good enough to be shared. Otherwise, there won’t be a compounding return on social. The same goes for search.
“There’s not a whole lot of value in writing a decent blog post anymore,” explained Moz founder and SEO luminary Rand Fishkin. “[There’s not a lot of value] unless you can be pretty extraordinary.”
While the potential compounding returns of content marketing are enough to make any brand marketer’s mouth water, the challenge of doing it successfully is still a massive undertaking. You need to create a steady cadence of content so your returns grow quickly, but that content also has to be so good that it will stand out in the sea of crappy posts that pollute the web. And since the competition is getting fiercer every day, you need to continuously improve and evolve if you want to stand out.
But if you take the appropriate steps, the likelihood of success increases—and the potential rewards are well worth the investment of time and money.
In our third content marketing playbook, we’ll take you through the five necessary steps required to execute a content marketing program, developed from best practices learned from our own experiences as publishers and the work we’ve done launching the content marketing efforts of hundreds of companies around the globe:
1. Crafting a brand voice and content marketing mission statement to guide your efforts.
2. Identifying your story types and requirements so you know what to create.
3. Building an editorial calendar to hold yourself accountable to a consistent publishing schedule.
4. Staffing your content team so you can begin creating content.
5. Creating an approval workflow so you can operate like a real newsroom.
Dig in. Download our third Ultimate Content Strategist Playbook: Staffing and Launching a Content Marketing Program, below.