When Is It Time for a Content Strategy Update?
By Daniel Tay on June 8, 2018
Smart Insights reports that every 60 seconds, 500 hours of content are uploaded to Youtube, 1,400 posts are published on WordPress sites, and 448,800 tweets are sent. What's more, the sheer amount of content that people are exposed to and are readily consuming is accelerating. Moore's Law has it that technological progress is exponential, not linear-and content production appears to follow that same pattern.
In the midst of this madness, if you've put in place a solid content strategy, you are already ahead of the content-producing competition.
That said, a rapidly changing field makes it inevitable that there will come a day when your content strategy needs a refresh. Knowing when that time has come and what it takes to approach a successful content strategy overhaul can be the difference between long-term success and a short-lived effort.
When Is a Content Strategy Update in Order?
I'm definitely not advocating for content marketers to jump from one trendy growth hack to another. In fact, I'm a huge believer in slow, steady, and sustainable content marketing.
That said, it's important to know when it's time to try something new. Some major external factors that may contribute to the need for a strategy overhaul are:
- Your target market has shifted and your content is no longer reaching or resonating with the right reader or viewer.
- External forces in the marketplace have changed your target audience's needs and interests.
- Distribution channels are fluctuating in popularity, so the way in which your audience consumes content is changing.
- You need to differentiate from a new competitor who is threatening to capture your audience's attention.
These are just a few of the factors that can contribute to a shift in the performance of your content. So how do you know that one or more factors is having a negative impact?
Image attribution: Gianni Zanini
The Data Doesn't Lie
If your metrics are declining, it's a clear signal that you need to examine your strategy.
Skyword content strategist Joanna Guberow shared an instance when one of her enterprise clients realized that their intended audience just wasn't engaging with their content in the way they expected. At that point, their blog was "very persona driven and targeted small business owners," Joanna recounts.
Based on analysis, however, Joanna realized that the client's audience were mostly coming in through and engaging with "wheelhouse" topics-topics that the company had the most authority to speak on. As such, they decided to re-focus their categories to the three main wheelhouse competencies, which closely tied to their major product lines. "Essentially, we cast a wider net at the onset and found a more narrow net was more effective," she explains.
Joanna highly recommends "taking a holistic view of your messaging and how your audience is choosing to engage" when deciding if a content strategy reboot is necessary. "Seek to understand how and why, and then make the change to your strategy-what content you create, what topics, and how you choose to distribute your content," she advises.
Of course, there are a couple of less obvious scenarios to consider.
Your Metrics Are Flatlining
Another sign that you should start updating your content strategy is when you see your metrics flatlining over a sustained period of time-say, three to six months.
Take Piktochart, for instance. When I joined them in 2015, their blog traffic was hovering at around 50,000 pageviews per month-definitely not underperforming! The problem was, despite a steady diet of regular blog posts and social media updates, it had been stagnating at that level.
In other words, though fuel was being poured into the tank, the rocket was just not taking off. We needed a content strategy update to achieve that major launch.
You Have Growth, but It's Constant
Constant growth is always good thing when building an audience. However, the most successful companies aim for exponential growth. If your graph is moving slowly but surely up and to the right, then you're on the right track. But chances are you want more.
When do you dare to bet on taking it to the next level and change a formula that is clearly working out? How much can you take your foot off the pedal to try new things, without disrupting bottom-line metrics like lead generation and revenue?
As Buffer marketing director Kevan Lee explains, "Whenever you alter something that's proven to work, you run the risk of creating something that doesn't work, something that people won't like [. . .] Think about your best-performing marketing channel. When was the last time you iterated on it?"
Buffer's blog has been the bedrock of their marketing strategy for much of the company's history. While they experienced exponential growth in the early days, it gradually tapered off, but development never stopped. By using data and context, however, they've hedged their bets and brought the blog to some 1.3 million sessions per month.
When certain aspects are bringing you consistent positive results the next question becomes: How do you decide which elements of your content strategy to change?
Image attribution: Brooke Cagle
Updating Your Content Strategy
Once you've realized it's time to reconfigure your content marketing plan, you're ready to come up with a new strategy that's going to get results.
Create a Data-Driven Plan
Successful content marketing is all in the numbers. By now, you have an established content marketing strategy. And by looking at what has worked in the past, you're well-equipped to make an educated plan for the future.
Key areas to analyze include target keywords, content type, topic categories, and distribution channels.
As always, it's important to take a holistic approach and take into account metrics for volume, engagement, lead generation, and conversions to measure success. For example, your content could be getting a lot of traffic and engagement, but if your target audience has changed, it won't be resonating enough to create leads and drive conversions.
Staying open-minded during this process is crucial to ensuring future success. You may be surprised at which keywords have the highest conversion rates or the number of qualified leads you get through a particular type of content. But if the data is there, it's signaling an area where efforts could be ramped up.
Don't Change Everything
It's important not to completely drop the things that have been working for you so far. Even things that don't consistently get amazing results could remain in place, but scaled back. For example, you may find that certain topic categories have had more success than others. You might keep covering these at your existing rate and drop coverage of less popular topics by 50 to 75 percent.
You don't want to go radio silent on any one topic as you risk losing the attention of certain segments of your hard-earned audience. Plus, search engines recognize the value of regularly published content, so there's a strong SEO incentive if you want to keep ranking for keywords associated with those less popular topics.
The same goes for content types and distribution channels. It might not make sense to rule out video or a particular social media platform entirely just because it's underperforming. Instead, you can scale back efforts or change your approach in that particular area.
Work Smart by Repurposing or Collaborating
A content refresh doesn't only apply to fresh content. Rather than start from scratch, you want to deliver content in a new way. By now, you've likely amassed a lot of great content, and the next step is considering how you can build on that foundation.
By repurposing your best-performing content, you can test out new marketing channels and reach a wider audience. This is a low-risk strategy as the content has already proven itself with your audience.
For instance, if one of your e-books is already generating a ton of leads, consider breaking it down chapter-by-chapter into a series of SlideShare presentations with a link back to the original e-book at the end of each presentation. You're reaching out to a whole new audience on SlideShare with content you already own. It's a small effort for a potentially big payoff.
In a similar vein, you may consider partnering with other companies or publishers to produce mutually beneficial content. For example, a content partnership between Fitbit and Men's Health saw writer Chris Carter attempt to master extreme sports while tracking his heart rate and steps.
Depending on the partnership, you may relinquish some creative control, but the payoff of a well-planned strategic partnership is exposure to a new audience that has already been primed and impressed by your partner.
Experiment on the Side
So far, I've essentially preached that you need to take what is working for you and focus more of your efforts in those areas. But there's a catch. If you continue to go down that route, you could end up with too narrow a focus, and a content strategy that's inflexible and can't be adapted to the changing market.
As such, it's important to constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities. This may mean capturing the interest of a new demographic, experimenting with different channels, trialing new categories, or tweaking your sales funnel. Diverting resources away from underperforming topics, content types, or distribution channels can free up space for experimentation.
None of this has to be a shot in the dark either-it can be wholly data-driven. Look at what is working for competitors or even companies in adjacent industries that are successful in the channels you want to perform in.
A content strategy update should never be taken lightly. But content marketers should always be prepared to make the call when the time comes-even when it might be more comfortable not to do so. After all, the content landscape is ever changing-what works today might not tomorrow.
For more stories like this, subscribe to the Content Standard newsletter.
Featured image attribution: Raw Pixel