I know that half my advertising is working. I just don’t know which half.
This oft-quoted comment about advertising in the “old days” (credited to a number of business people) takes on new meaning in the modern age of content marketing. Companies are producing and publishing tons of content. They know some of it’s working, but not necessarily exactly what’s working.
When they do have a moment to catch their breath in the race to keep up and get better results, content marketers tend to ask similar questions like:
Luckily, many companies are tackling these questions in a multitude of research projects. Let’s look at what they’ve discovered.
Publish more content to increase results.
You’ve likely heard this content marketing adage. It makes sense. If you get a little interaction with a little content, you’ll get more with more content.
While that concept is logical in theory, it may not always play out in the real world. In fact, two companies, CoSchedule and Pottery Barn, reported their interactions and shares dropped after they began posting more content.
Just before the 2014 holiday season, Pottery Barn decided to start posting more content on Pinterest. After all, the retailer had gained a great response from the content it had already published on the social media site. It just made sense to publish more. But the company quickly faced a content marketer’s nightmare: Creating more content, but generating less impact.
“Across the time period when their Pinterest output quadrupled, Pottery Barn’s engagement level (measured on Pinterest as the combination of likes, re-pins and comments) was falling off a cliff. Their average interactions per pin decreased by nearly 75 percent, from a high of 402 in January to 109 in July,” according to TrackMaven, which conducted the research. The company revised its strategy to boost engagement by the holidays.
Similarly, editorial calendar company CoSchedule experienced a similar drop in engagement when it went from publishing two to three blog posts each week. When it compared the data, the company’s analysis showed that three posts:
So, was it worth it for CoSchedule to publish a third blog post per week? No. “It’s not worth publishing more posts to get fewer than a thousand page views per post,” stated Nathan Ellering, the company’s content marketer.
CoSchedule offered a few suggestions for ways to spend the time you save when you stop creating low-performing content:
Google robots and humans both love expert content.
When Google published its latest guidelines, section 4.3 of Part 1 stated: “High-quality pages and websites need enough expertise to be authoritative and trustworthy on their topic.”
According to Search Engine Journal: “What is interesting about Google’s new guidelines is that they place a huge emphasis on the need for expert writers, especially on pages that Google views as being very important. While it’s clear that Google has always valued quality content, it seems as if they’re now placing an increased focus on things like authority, as well.”
But does this digital guideline play out in the real world? Native ad firm inPowered conducted a study and found that expert content—credible third-party articles and reviews—is the most effective source of information for impacting consumers along all stages of the purchase process across product categories.
The study, which measured the impact of expert, branded and user-generated content, found that expert content:
According to inPowered: “Expert content’s ability to provide the greatest breadth and variety of information compared to branded and user content, combined with a perspective that it was perceived as unbiased, appears to be driving its consistently high performance in all areas of the purchase process.”
The research also uncovered some insights about the three types of content—branded, user reviewers and expert content.
Where exactly should companies focus their expert content? Google’s guidelines provided some examples:
Add graphics to boost content impact.
According to the CMO Council, nearly 65 percent of senior marketing executives surveyed believe visual assets (photos, video, illustrations and infographics) are core to how their brand story is communicated. Further, the majority believes the importance and use of visual assets (79 percent for video, 60 percent for infographics and 50 percent for photography) will grow in the future.
But what is the real impact of graphics?
A small insurance company, HCC Medical Insurance Service, realized that it needed a way to stand out in its market against larger competitors—and decided to use interactive infographics. The gamble worked. The company gained a 1,000 percent lift in blog traffic, as well as significant lifts in social media followers and email revenue.
Mindjet experienced a similar result when it added infographics to its content marketing strategy. The work management software firm said that while a good blog post before the new strategy would receive 700 to 1,000 views, the first infographic it published received 13,127 unique page views. Since then the company’s blog has gained an increase of 420 percent in monthly unique page views.
Mindjet’s content strategy around infographics is this:
Results like these are likely why the use of visuals is a key part of most companies’ content marketing plans. Social Media Examiner reported that last year 73 percent of marketers planned on increasing their use of visual images.
Even though content marketing has taken over, we’re still in the early stages of separating what works from what doesn’t. Expect more research along our journey toward discovery. Tested insights will make our marketing investments that much more successful.