The landscape of content marketing is changing. While it still can be a cost-effective way to generate leads and sales, it’s getting tougher. Part of this is because of oversaturation; to put it bluntly, everyone is doing it.
According to data from 2017, 88 percent of B2B marketers in North America use content marketing.
Not only that, but the quality standard is set much higher than it used to be, and competition is fierce.
Approaching content marketing like a product
The problem? Plenty of entrepreneurs see content marketing as an afterthought. After all, anyone can write a blog post, right? The reality is, that in order to get a reasonable ROI out of your content marketing, it isn’t that simple.
Thus, we’ve recently started treating content marketing the same way we approach software products.
Typically, the content marketing process looks like this:
- Idea generation
So, how does this process ultimately play out?
Usually, there’s some sort of initial spike in traffic, and then it slowly dies. This process gets repeated over and over (often on a publishing schedule of some sort). That isn’t the worst way to approach content; after all, traffic is still coming in, and maybe that’s all you’re after. However, it’s not the most sustainable, systematic or thoughtful way to go about content marketing, and it certainly won’t generate optimal results.
With quality being more important than ever, we recently moved over to a different content marketing process—one that looks more like product development.
The process of creating and growing a product as an iterative process looks like this:
- Idea generation
- Content creation
- Analyze performance
- Rinse and repeat
The key difference?
There is an inherent assumption that you might not get it right on the first try. By using this approach, you’re assuming that the work you’re creating may need to be improved upon. So, we measure quality, make improvements and release again. This process repeats until quality is high enough that it can continue delivering traffic, leads and sales for a very long time.
We tried this with one of our web pages and using this approach, we were able to increase traffic by 44 percent, along with trials to our product by 152 percent.
Here’s how to make this process work for your startup.
If you plan to spend more time creating a smaller volume of higher-quality content, the content you target needs to have more potential for traffic and leads.
We do this by conducting research upfront and estimating traffic based on keyword volume, partner traffic estimates or whatever the ongoing traffic source is going to be.
We examine the following components for each piece of content:
- Traffic potential
- Ease of creation
- Chance of success
First, we’ll look at content that is easy to create and has high traffic potential. Here, we’re looking for the quick easy wins that can generate a lot of ongoing traffic and sales.
This stage is pretty straightforward. However, we start by creating something that could be considered a prototype, i.e. something that you can gather more data and feedback from. This data will inform future content, and will help you iterate and improve on your existing content.
You should have enough information from the idea stage to be very clear on what needs to be created. If not, go back and do more research and analysis.
This is one of the most important aspects of this process. With traditional content marketing, when one piece of work is finished, you move on to your next piece.
Instead, release the piece of content, then gather data and feedback to see how it can be improved upon.
Metrics to look at include:
- Conversion rate
- Time on site
- Rankings improvements
- Other engagement metrics
Also, look at heatmaps, like those available via Sumo, and tools like Hotjar to play back recorded sessions. We’ll also do small surveys directly on the page where we ask a simple question.
There are times when it’s difficult to get feedback, however. Sometimes few people may be interested in answering your surveys. What did we do when we hit this wall?
We temporarily created popup surveys that needed to be answered before seeing the content, and ran exit intent surveys for people leaving the page. We’ve even offered visitors free Amazon gift cards to jump on brief phone calls with us. Obviously, this is not a great user experience, so we only recommend doing this if things get tough and you need answers.
As you can see from our results, this strategy was key in taking that new site from no traffic to a few thousand monthly unique visitors in just over three months:
Rinse and repeat
Depending on what your goals are and how much traffic you receive, you might have to wait a few days (or weeks) before you have enough data to repeat this process. On average, we’re able to get to what we consider a successful piece of content in about three iterations.
The key here is to approach content creation with less of a “one and done” attitude, where you are continually creating and moving on to the next piece of content. Rather, think of content creation as an iterative, product-based process.
Successful content marketing isn’t as easy as writing a blog post or resource page and leaving it at that. For your content marketing to be successful, you need to ideate thoughtfully, plan content creation sustainably, and carefully analyze the success of your content, making adjustments as need be.
With a focused effort and collection of the proper data, it’s almost impossible not to improve upon your content in a way that will generate more leads and sales.