These days, you can’t throw a rock without hitting an industry blog talking about how content marketing is 2015’s “must-do” strategy. In fact, the practice is so widespread that as many as 93% of marketing professionals already include it in their promotional campaigns.
But the trick with content marketing is that it's a long game. Successful content marketing teams don't just write a couple of blog posts and expect their traffic to skyrocket -- it can take months to build a backlog of great, search-friendly content.The great thing is, once that content's written, it'll work for you over time by accumulating traffic and generating leads.
It just takes time to get there. If you find yourself feeling discouraged about how long it takes your content to work its way through your audience, don’t give up! You don’t need to change tactics, but you can certainly find ways to speed up your content execution process to get the ball rolling at a faster pace.
In my work at Louder Online, I’ve been inspired by BuzzFeed and other popular online content platforms, whose lessons have shown me different ways to streamline my content marketing strategies and generate results more quickly. And if I can do it, so can you.
To help you get started, here are seven techniques I use every day.
1) Start with a detailed content strategy.
Want to experience content marketing success more quickly? Then you’ve got to have a plan. According to a 2013 survey from the Content Marketing Institute, only 44% of content marketers have a clear strategy -- one of the many reasons these marketers struggle to gain traction.
Think about it: If you don’t know who you’re writing for or how to best reach them, how are you going to nail your content execution efforts on the first try? Simply put, you’re not. You’re going to release content with broad appeal that speaks meaningfully to no one, and you’re going to waste time creating content piece after content piece that never really connects with your audience.
That’s why I don’t start by brainstorming blog post topics or throwing around ideas for possible ebooks or whitepapers. Instead, I create a document with a complete content marketing strategy that goes into detail on the following elements:
The brand image I want to convey through content;
The type of content that'll resonate with the target audience;
The ideal way to deliver content to that target audience.
Can you guess what most marketers find to be the most difficult part of content marketing? Here’s a hint: It isn’t creating the content itself!
In fact, many of the marketers I've worked with tell me that coming up with new ideas for content pieces is the most challenging part of their strategy. Fortunately, it’s an issue that can be easily resolved if you take the time to develop an efficient system for generating ideas.
In my experience, the best thing you can do is to come up with at least a month’s worth of content ideas in advance. Not only will your content be more consistent if your ideas are outlined ahead of time, you’ll be able to redirect the time you would have spent on individual brainstorming sessions to actually creating your content.
Of course, having a plan ahead of time doesn’t mean you have to follow your predetermined strategy to the letter. If hot topics or breaking news items come up in your industry, you can always bump your other ideas down your editorial calendar to accommodate new trends.
Basically, your content plan shouldn’t be a straightjacket that locks you into a predefined content plan -- it should be one of many tools in your arsenal that helps minimize the amount of time needed to create your content pieces. And while it may sound extreme, I’m willing to bet that planning at least a month’s worth of topics in advance will enable you to cut your content marketing prep time needs by as much as 50% or more.
Headlines have always played an incredibly important role in marketing, but they’re even more critical for content marketers given the amount of digital noise that exists today. It's your headlines that serve as your call to action in the SERPs, in your social media posts, in your emails, and in a variety of other channels.
Unfortunately, many people fail to find quick success with content marketing because their headlines aren’t properly optimized, leading them to create more content than they actually need to meet their marketing goals.
So once you’ve got your list of content piece topics put together, I’d recommend also using some of that time to brainstorm possible headline ideas as well to help find the one that’s most likely to gain traction. And I’m not alone in this recommendation: Content marketing strategists at BuzzFeed, Upworthy and some of the world’s leading marketing firms often create 25 or more headlines before selecting one for publication.
This all might seem unnecessarily time-consuming, but trust me. Setting aside a chunk of time to take care of your brainstorming and prep work before you actually sit down to create your content will save you huge amounts of time in the long run. (And check out this infographic for more headline-writing tips.)
4) Create original content more efficiently.
Content curation can be a touchy subject in the content marketing world. Although some experts find it to be an easy way to increase scalability, others argue that repurposing other people’s content makes it difficult to gain traction as a brand.
And it seems as if this latter camp might be winning out: A recent survey from Social Media Examiner found that 81% of content strategists are expected to focus more heavily on creating original content in the next year, rather than deploying curated or repurposed content.
Me, personally? I think there’s truth to be found in both positions. While curated content can be helpful in terms of filling out editorial calendars, original content is still where it’s at for brand building and driving social awareness.
Of course, creating original content doesn’t always have to mean slaving away over 2,000+ word blog posts or investing countless hours (and dollars) into infographic creation. Here are a few of the techniques I use to create original works as quickly as possible:
Conduct an expert interview. One quick way to generate content is to come up with a question (or series of questions) and send it out to several experts on the subject. They send you their responses, you paste them into a blog post ... and just like that, you’ve got a content piece that’s polished and appealing to your readers.
Gather user-generated content. Don’t want to create your own content? Have your users, fans, and followers do it for you! If you have an active user base, asking them to do things like submit pictures or them using your products -- perhaps as part of a contest with a reward for the best entry -- could result in tons of unique content you can re-package and call your own. (Just be wary of laws surrounding contests like these.)
Publish “behind-the-scenes” posts. I think a lot of us fall into the trap of assuming that original content must present totally new ideas, but a lot of your readers just want to get to know you better. Walk around your shop or office with a camera and document what happens on a day-to-day basis. Then, throw the images you’ve captured into a blog post. For a tiny amount of effort, you’ve now got a unique blog post that offers the added benefit of helping readers form stronger relationships with your business.
5) Optimize for different channels.
Sharing your content on social media is important, but there’s no doubt that it can take a substantial amount of time on your part. That’s why it’s a far better idea to encourage your customers to share your content for you.
If you fall into this camp, consider the following tips that I share with all new clients at Louder Online:
Make sure your social sharing buttons are clearly visible on all of your content pages. If they aren’t accessible, readers won’t use them.
Use calls-to-action to encourage your website visitors to engage with your brand on social media. Great CTAs include phrases such as “Please share your thoughts on our Facebook page!” or “Help us spread the word about this by sharing with your friends on Twitter and Facebook.”
Create alternate headlines for different social media platforms to account for different social network audiences and the unique ways they engage with content. For example, if you’re packaging your content for Twitter, use “Click-to-Tweet” links to encourage readers to tweet your content with just a click of a mouse.
6) Pay attention to your personal productivity.
I’m a morning person. Through extensive trial-and-error experimentation, I've found that if I get up and sit right down at my desk, I slide into a hyper-focused state that allows me to knock out email messages, proposals, and content pieces before other people’s alarm clocks even begin going off. What works for me might not work for you, but you won’t know unless you do your own experimentation.
Since it’s nearly impossible to create quality content if you’re tired or stressed out, I’d recommend the following experiment: Over the next few weeks, pay attention to the way you feel at different times throughout the day. If you’re observant, you should be able to identify natural energy peaks and lulls. Use these to structure your workday so that your content creation sessions always coincide with the times when your mental focus is highest.
It can take time to find your ideal rhythm, but once you figure out when you’re able to concentrate most easily, you’ll find that you’re able to generate higher quality content, faster.
7) Don't self-censor.
All of us have critical inner voices that hound us with all the ways the content we create could be better. On the positive side, these voices help us find errors and make changes that help improve our content. But if left unchecked, these critics slow us down by requiring constant corrections and revisions.
If you’ve ever written a sentence in a blog post, deleted it, and then repeated the cycle over and over again until you were satisfied with the finished result, you know exactly what I mean. The best solution to this challenge is to take away the power of your inner critics.
How? What I do is set a timer for 20-30 minutes and just use that time to create, create, create. No pausing or self-censorship allowed. If I run into any issues that threaten to derail my progress, I simply include the mark “[TK]” -- an editing mark that roughly translates to "to come" and indicates that you'll revisit it later -- and carry on with my work. Once my time is up, I go back and make any necessary changes. (I also run a document search for “[TK]” so that any marks I missed don’t make their way to my clients.)
By saving my editing for a dedicated time and letting my mind free before that, I find that I’m able to create significantly more content than if I was to pause every time my inner critics spoke up.
Certainly, content execution speed should be a priority for every marketer who cares about results. But while the techniques above can help, they aren’t the only strategies out there. So now I want to hear from you! How do you plan to speed up your content marketing strategy in 2015? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Originally published Feb 16, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017