If you publish great content and hardly anyone reads it, is it actually great content?
That’s a question for the ages – or maybe the comments section.
Every content marketer plans, crafts, reviews, and publishes articles with the best intentions. We all want to publish the most helpful content, sharp insights, and genuinely leading thoughts.
Sometimes, articles you think will be great don’t hit the mark for audiences. (I’ve written about steps to take when your content “fails.”)
But what about the content assets in the middle? They are not top performers or true duds, but they didn’t get quite all the love you think they deserve.
Looking at CMI’s 2022 content, I found a set of articles that deserve another look. Here are a few that feel particularly relevant to this moment.
Author: Jonathan Crossfield
Reading time: 10 minutes
Why read (or reread) this now: Competition for audience attention will increase in 2023, and it will be harder to stand out. Jonathan shares his secret for finding a unique angle – even on topics so widely covered that it feels like an “SEO-to-the-death” competition. (It doesn’t hurt that Jonathan’s storytelling style kept me laughing all the way.)
They make this week’s topic about the common problems users experience with doodads because understanding the limitations of doodads is often the first step to deciding to upgrade to a full-featured doohickey. The team checks the keyword list, jots down the first few ideas that come to mind, and starts writing the briefs.
However, at this stage, the content ideas are wholly undeveloped.
Anyway, the writer is briefed with a title and a bunch of keywords, so they develop a straightforward structure and smash out 800 words. Time to tell the marketing assistant to look up stock images of attractive women smiling or looking thoughtfully at laptops while sitting in the most impractical and/or uncomfortable places possible. (Does anyone really write their blog posts on the stairs?)
Read the rest and learn to apply Jonathan’s originality formula.
Myth: Creative inspiration strikes out of nowhere. Reality: It takes a series of fortunate events – and a lot of brain strain, says @Kimota via @CMIContent Click To Tweet
Reading time: 7 minutes
Author: Ann Gynn
Why read (or reread) this now: Summer isn’t the only time your content program slows down while everyone’s on vacation. If you’re one of the only people in the office this week or next, revisit Ann’s suggestions for using the lull to work on things you know will pay off but rarely have time to focus on.
You probably write alt text for your images, use Pascal case for your hashtags (#SummerLull, not #summerlull), and provide captions for your videos. (If not, start there.)
But have you ever experienced your content as people who are blind, deaf, or have vision or hearing impairment might? Take the time to do it now.
Download text-to-speech software and feed your most popular written content assets into it. How is the listening experience? Are there commonly used acronyms, terms, or phrases that don’t translate well to the ear? Are there other glitches you could remedy by editing the content or avoiding them in the future?
Download speech-to-text software or read – word for word the assistance you already provide (i.e., video captions and transcripts). Are the spoken words easily translatable into text? Do the terms you use have multiple spellings that could cause confusion? How is background sound translated or disclosed in the text?
Review a few pieces of content in each format, then note and share potential trouble spots with your content creators. That way, they can avoid them in the future.
Read the article for more tips on how to have a productive slow season.
Have you experienced your #Content the way people with vision or hearing impairments might? Use seasonal downtime to try it, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
Reading time: 7 minutes
Author: Lakshmi Padmanaban
Why read (or reread) this now: End-of-year analyses tend to uncover a few mysteries. If an underperforming landing page is one of them, you might want to investigate. In her first article for CMI, Lakshmi explains the curious phenomenon of stagnant conversions – even when traffic increases – and what to do about it.
If much of your traffic comes from search engine results, your page’s content, especially its keywords and key phrases, could be the top suspect.
Google and other search engines like categorize and rank your content differently than how you intended. Let me break it down with this example:
Let’s assume you create a landing page designed to convert visitors interested in your air conditioner maintenance services. The target keyword is “air conditioner maintenance.” You include product names and key phrases mentioning buying options.
When the search engines crawl the page, they interpret it as a page selling air conditioners. People who click on the ranking result intend to buy air conditioners. Instead, they find content about how to maintain them after they buy.
Now you can see why visitors who land on the page don’t convert.
Read the rest of the article for other reasons more traffic didn’t lead to more conversions.
If search engines misinterpret your #Content, search-directed visitors likely won’t convert, says @Lakshmi_writes via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
Reading time: 6 minutes
Author: Dennis Shiao
Why read (or reread) this now: Many content teams feel stretched to the limit, but economic uncertainty may put a big chill on hiring in 2023. Even if your team is adequately staffed, a standby freelance network can help during employee turnover, illness, or other unexpected events. As a marketing agency owner (and former accidental freelancer), Dennis hit on an easy way to develop and test his freelance network– and explains how you can, too.
I didn’t want to ask people for their writing samples or lowball them on a “let’s get to know each other” project. Even though I didn’t know them, I took a leap of faith and hired them for a paid gig.
I needed to decide what they would write and thought of two opportunities at my disposal – my agency’s newly launched blog and the Bay Area Content Marketing Meetup I help organize.
I gave a paid assignment to every writer who contacted me on Twitter: Craft a summary of a presentation chosen from the meetup’s playlist. Based on the length and subject of the recording, I gave a target word count, typically in the range of 800 to 1,200 words.
… The full-length article appeared on my agency blog. (If writers requested, I added a link to their websites or LinkedIn profiles.)
This first paid assignment was essential to helping me build a network of outsourced writing talent.
Read the rest of the article to learn Dennis’ method for building a freelance network.
Don’t assess a #freelance writer as average or excellent. Get specific enough to know what type of assignments they’ll excel at, says @dshiao via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
Reading time: 7 minutes
Author: Robert Rose
Why read (or reread) this now: Twitter’s acceptance of Elon Musk’s takeover bid prompted Robert to reflect on this content marketing advice: Don’t build your home on rented land. With high-profile people loudly quitting the platform (and the wait-and-see or quiet exit of many others), this column seems prescient.
Renting isn’t a bad thing. Finding your audience on rented platforms is critical for content and marketing strategy. But think of these platforms as rivers, not lakes. Use them to flow users to your own home (a website, resource center, email newsletter, etc.).
Think about how to encourage visitors on a rented platform to visit your home. Remember, a social media platform’s goal is to get you to help build its audience. Your goal should be to use a social media platform’s audience to help build yours.
You can (and should) build on rented land, as long as you only build what you’re willing to lose or can easily transfer, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
Read Robert’s entire column to understand when and how to use rented platforms (like social media) in a way that won’t jeopardize your content strategy foundation.
Take another look at the quiet ones
I hope these articles sparked (or renewed) your interest. Now it’s your turn to reflect on your year in content.
When you do your review, which content stands out? Most people investigate the best and worst performers. Figuring out the why behind their performance can help you repeat the success or avoid future duds.
What about your serviceable performers? How do you resurface those to an audience that might have missed them the first time around?
Let me know in the comments.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute