How many articles are you planning to publish next year as part of your content marketing plan? If you know that already, you have a big problem.
Too many companies and content marketing agencies look at production of a certain amount of articles as the equivalent to solving a marketing need.
Focusing on Content Quotas Will Kill Return Business
Content is a deliverable, not an outcome. When an agency promises a client 16 pieces of content without tying that to a measurable outcome, they are setting themselves up to lose a client.
When an agency tells a client, “We will help you become a thought leader by producing 16 articles,” they have effectively transformed their agency’s entire value to a client into a commodity (in this case, 16 articles). That makes it very easy for another agency to come along and say, “We’ll give you those articles for $10,000 less.”
When you determine value to a client solely on deliverables (like three articles, two videos and a website), you have diminished the worth of your services.
Rather, you should be promising clients a measurable improvement at the end of a year of working with you. How will they be measurably better? How will they know that they have moved toward their goal? If the client (or your own company’s) goal was to be a thought leader, devise some measurable metrics for that that goal.
Content should be a tool that helps move the needle on some of those measures of success, but is not a measure of success on its own.
Content Quotas Lead to Topic Saturation
When you promise a certain amount of articles in a year, rather than creating the amount of targeted content needed to achieve a goal, you wind up with a certain amount of poorly targeted filler material.
Do a Google search for “tips to winterize your home” and you will find hundreds of articles all covering the exact same topic. Many of these will never be read at all, but that’s not the point. The point here was that they filled a content quota.
All content should be written with specific intent. In the planning stages, editors should ask themselves, “What action I want readers of this article to take?” Is it a thought leadership goal (backlink, social share)? Is it a conversion goal (sign up for newsletter, make a purchase)? How does this article tie into the overarching goal.
The other question should be: why is this relevant to your audience? WebMD ranks on page one for this search, but to what end? How relevant is that topic to WebMD readers? Will this prompt WebMD readers to take some sort of desired action?
When content is written without clear intent, we end up with 1,000 articles on the same topic. It’s wasted time for the writers and wasted money for the brand behind the article.
Content Creation Should Be Data Driven, Not Ego-Driven
This is where content calendars become a killer.
Ego-driven marketing happens when you make marketing decisions based on what you think sounds good rather than using data. Content quotas lead to ego-driven decision making, because content is being created to fill a slot rather than to fill a need, leading to conversations like this:
Editor: “We have to write three articles for December. Any ideas?”
Writer” “How about ‘10 Tips to Winterize Your Home’? That’s seasonal.”
Editor: “That sounds good, do it.”
Data-driven content starts with research and asking some questions..
-Who are you writing this for?
– Where do they like to consume content (Facebook, your website, LinkedIn). Remember, the best place for a piece of content to live may not be on your website. Content should live where it has the best chance of reaching its intended audience. Here’s a look at how a few major brands are researching their audiences.
-What content types does your audience like? Is it videos, slideshows or long-form articles? This ScribbleLive survey shows one example of audience research that you might cite in choosing content types.
-Is this topic fresh? Do a Google search or use a tool like BuzzSumo to see if this topic has been beaten into the ground.
-Is this topic relevant to my brand? How does this amplify or reflect my brand’s identity?
-What problem does this piece of content solve? Why would someone read it or share it?
-What keywords should you use? There is already an overload of content. To give your work a better shot at visibility, do keyword research. What terms do people use?
-What action do I want people to take after consuming this content? Is it an awareness action, a conversion action or a thought leadership action?
Constantly measure; review your analytics and refine your approach. What content types and topics activated the audience to take a desired action? Which ones fell flat?
Now you are starting to develop real, actionable data that can inform your next round of content creation. Get rid of the calendar and the quotas. Start making content that has data behind it and that offers measurable performance.