Finding your way to content marketing success is not an easy journey.
After a three-year quest, sheer willpower and a lot of A/B testing, my company recently hit the 100K subscriber mark. Content marketing is now our highest-performing and most cost-effective channel: For every $1 we put in, we get $14 out.
How did we make it happen? Here are four lessons and a few secrets to help you on your own path to content marketing success:
1. Consistency and cadence supersede volume.
Despite our initial thoughts, the volume of content you publish doesn’t necessarily translate to content marketing success. Rather, it’s all about consistency and delivering a regular cadence of content.
2. Remove the guesswork: Create content you know will perform.
In the early days, building an editorial calendar was thought to be the easiest part of content marketing. The process was qualitative, mapping article ideas against specific product offerings and ensuring there would be an even distribution of posts to hit each product category.
The problem? That process doesn’t take customers’ needs into consideration.
The solution? You must become obsessed with your customer’s data and transform your editorial planning process based on those data:
- SEO analysis: What content receives the highest search traffic?
- Pageviews vs. engagement time: What articles are driving the most page views with the highest engagement rate (more than 30 seconds)?
- Content formats: What formats work best? Infographics, video, long-form articles?
- Audience analysis: What content do our VIP prospects and customers find most valuable? What are they reading and sharing?
Through a data-driven editorial process, you’ll learn how much content your prospects are engaging with before becoming customers.
More important, you’ll discover exactly what content they’re engaging with at different stages of the purchase journey-from white papers and webinars to newsletters and nurturing emails.
3. Don’t reinvent the wheel: Optimize your highest-performing posts.
Rather than writing new posts around the topics that are performing best, just beef up the old ones. Make them longer, add more data, add more links, and add a stronger point of view.
Because they’ve done well in the past, double-down on your distribution strategy, adding a boost of paid media and sharing those posts via social media and email:
- Older content that has high engagement but a low page-view count. We define engagement as anyone who spends more than 30 seconds actively reading an article. If a post has a 60 percent or greater engagement rate but fewer than 1,000 page views, we’ll distribute it further.
- Content with high search traffic but relatively low overall page views. This subset of articles is a gold mine: People want this content; they’re searching for it, and it answers their questions. Why not give it a distribution boost?
4. Your best-performing channels might surprise you.
Newsletters are our highest-performing distribution channel, accounting for about 40 percent of total traffic. Over the past three years we’ve published roughly 400 newsletters, and we’ve found a few key tactics that work time and time again:
- Offer easily digestible content: Top two posts are infographics.
- Harness the BuzzFeed effect: Four of the top 10 articles had headlines with words such as “top,” “best,” “most.”
- Know your audience: 35 percent of the top 20 articles mention “content marketing” or “content marketers.”
- Stats and numbers matter: 70 percent of the top 10 articles have numbers in the headline.
- Stay with the familiar: 25 percent of top 20 articles have a brand name in the headline, such as Ello, Vice, BuzzFeed, Nike and Red Bull.
Use the resources you have—your data, your content, your team, your customers—to gain insight into what your audience is looking for. Take a step back, evaluate them, and listen to what they’re telling you.