30 Apr How Not To Hulk Smash Your Content Strategy
Remember the last Avengers film? That key LOL moment when the misfit group of superheroes find themselves backed into a corner, armed with hardly more than just Iron Man’s ego? Yeah, you remember that moment. That is the moment where almost out of nowhere, The Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo–doesn’t he look great in CGI?) turns and announces in green anger: HULK SMASH!
Yup. That’s the good stuff–the stuff movies are made of. More specifically, the movies that we are willing to call our favorites and watch over and over and over again.
Ask yourself, what is it about your content (web copy, blog posts, lead generating materials, etc.) that keeps people engaged and coming back for more? What makes them eager for your next big “film” so to speak?
Everything Happens In Threes
My rule of thumb is to always be working three months ahead. For those just starting out with a new blog or website, such an aggressive plan can feel like an overwhelming task. Trust me though, it is worth it.
If you’re just getting started, start with the basic rule of one-to-one. This means, if you’re beginning with a basic strategy of posting one new article to your blog each week, then you should have one month of posts written and scheduled. As you build your readership, maybe you decide to move up to two posts per week. At that point, you should start working two months ahead, and so on.
Q: Doesn’t this take away from personalization and/or being able to write about a real-time issue or current event?
Nope! On the contrary, by working ahead with some tried-and-true subjects that are either timeless or timed specifically for events you can rely on (I dunno, something like the release of a new, popular film… I’m just sayin’) you’re freeing up your day-to-day schedule to have the capacity to jump on board with more here-and-now subjects.
Consider certain posts in your strategy to be on a sliding schedule. That way, if you decided today you want to write a post about Google’s latest mobile algorithm release for example, you can take one of your timeless blog posts and push it back to a more appropriate date. By pushing back a more timeless post, you avoid allowing that post to be overshadowed by your more time-relevant topic. This brings up my next point.
Reliability goes hand in hand with readership. Think back to ancient times where newspapers were a regular thing and the Sunday Times was among the most popular publications. Each weekend, as a family, you’d split up that super-sized newspaper: games for the kids, coupons for mom, and an epic Sports section for dad. This was an event! It was something to look forward to.
If the newspaper suddenly decided to put out a smaller paper on Sunday due to being just a little too busy in the office or losing a handful of writers, a sense of trust would be automatically broken. Just one or two weeks of not meeting readers’ expectations would result in a massive drop off in subscriptions and sales.
Today, those numbers may not be reflected in your blog’s subscriptions. Not many will take the time to go in and unsubscribe from updates after a few disappointments. Instead, you’ll see those numbers as a sharp decrease in returning visitors, an increase in bounce rate, and a flat line in the number of comments you receive on each blog. Every post counts.
We’ve discussed planning a three month strategy of timeless posts, and here I want to make the point that a timeless subject does not in any way translate to making this topic a “filler” for your blog’s content. Every post must be relevant. Every post has a time and a place. Plan your strategy well to ensure that each post makes the most impact for you and your brand. This segues beautifully into our next topic.
Let’s say in January you write a blog post making predictions for the future of your industry. Awesome! This is great stuff. You know what makes it even better? Making predictions “a thing.” Although the post date is more than three months out, put it in big red letters, circle it multiple times, and paste a gold star on top to make sure that halfway through the year, you review your predictions, and at the start of next year you revisit your predictions topic again!
This works on a minor scale as well. Let’s say in this scenario, you write a post tied into a current topic in your industry. Perhaps this is something many people in your industry are talking about, and you’re really proud of being one of the first to bring up the discussion in a really fantastic post. Still, a hundred other blogs have written on a similar subject in just the first week. This is a chance to do a quick follow up and write a “Part 2” to your article within a week of your original post in order to catch the readers who didn’t hear it original news from you first.
We have a good, recent example of this here at Boostability. We wrote an article on Google’s mobile algorithm update, backed that article up with a fantastic social media campaign, and then wrapped up that campaign with a follow-up article. Let’s break down each step in the report, review, and re-purpose strategy.
Be sure you have Google Analytics installed in the header of your blog so as to track every page of content. Review your blog’s success every month by pulling a report specific to your content’s performance.
When I review blog stats each month, I like to specifically look at the site’s behavior patterns. I want to see how often users enter the blog via a specific blog post versus entering the blog via the blog’s homepage and I want to see where they click beyond that point. Did they click on related blog post? Did they click back into the main navigation? Did they go to a next or previous blog post? Did they go back to the blog’s homepage? Or did they click away entirely?
Once I have a brief idea of the user behavior flow, I look at referring links. I want to know how each user clicks into the blog. Did users come from social media? Did they come from an organic search? Did they come from another website?
Once I have a stronger sense of where my readers come from and what they do once they’re on the site, I dive into my top 20 most read posts. I look at recently read posts from the past week month quarter, and year. Then I look for patterns. If a particular article appears in most of these time frames, I know that the article is obviously one of our best. I carefully analyze the difference between what made this particular post extremely popular versus a post that is just “kinda” popular by looking into the specific metrics for time spent on page and bounce rate. Only then do I head back to the main dashboard in Google Analytics and view the high level numbers for bounce rate, unique visitors, and returning visitors.
I bring all this information together to determine what common properties our most popular posts have. Is it the layout? Is it the imaging? Is it a particular author? Is it a particular subject matter? Is it in the title or meta description and how the meta data is worded? I strive to find common factors that I use to plan each month of new content, always staying three months ahead of the game, giving time for strategies and strategy changes to become very apparent in the numbers.
Every quarter, I follow this same process, but with much more in-depth scrutiny and consideration. During this time, I notice what posts remain popular that could also be outdated either due to changes in the industry or to being a very old post (let’s say, 12 months or older). These posts are great ways of curating some new, timeless content pieces into your content strategy. Approach the old content with a new article that specifically addresses how the old content has changed. Be sure to go back to your old post as well and include a link to the most recent article. Comply with the unspoken rule of putting “Update” in bold at the top of your old blog post and make a brief note about how the content of that article changed. Within this update, you can easily have a text link to your latest post.
Q: What if the content is very old, but hasn’t necessarily changed?
Frequently, you will have old, frequently asked questions that still perform really well as your most viewed blog posts. As you review those high performers, you may find that the content remains true today without any notable changes. Even then, you should consider this content an opportunity to repurpose the subject in a new, creative way. A great example is to create a fun video, podcast, or infographic based on this popular content. Then you should also update your old blog post to include a link to your latest content.
Here’s a great example of creative repurposing: In this episode of The Booster Seat, Director of SEO Strategy at Boostability, Andrew Eagar, discusses some quick key points on content length and content strategy.
Q: How does an active content strategy help my search ranking?
I’ll conclude with this great question. If you could sum up a search engine marketing strategy in two simple keywords, they would be: usability and relevancy. While having a blog isn’t the best way for every type of business to build the foundation of what makes their site enticing and relevant, the strategy remains very much the same. Remain up to date, in the know, consistent, and trustworthy to your readers. This relevancy is directly related to usability. If your online “users” feel your content is relevant and useful, search engines likely will too.
There are a number of ways to approach your content strategy with or without a blog. A content strategy connects directly to your social media strategy, your lead generation and nurturing strategies, and your linking strategies. Press releases, interviews, guest articles, and news are part of your content strategy in addition to your in-house articles.
New videos, whitepapers, eBooks, or simple How-To’s are part of your content strategy. If you produce something you want your readers to see, then it works into your content plan. As you bring each aspect of your strategy together through web copy, blog posts, videos, social posts, and more, consider how each part works together to promote your business online.
The more fluid your strategy, the less likely you are to turn into the big green monster ready to smash your brand trust. Consider your strategy planning an experiment, but be sure to avoid any scientific disasters even if you do think you look jolly green fantastic in torn purple shorts. Leave that hot mess to the big guy himself.