We’ve written before that there is often little correlation between the time spent on a piece of content and the results it achieves. Great ideas, simply written, can generate thousands of views. Long, ponderous guides and reports can slip into obscurity.
This idea becomes particularly important whenever content teams are stretched to their limit (especially when you’re a content team of one). Holidays, launches, vacations, and plain old deadlines can all make it difficult to keep the content calendar going.
Our advice: Embrace your lack of time and focus on intentionally high-impact, low-effort content types. These are popular, proven formats that take advantage of curation, templating, and personal perspective to yield compelling content in a fraction of the time and headspace demanded by most blog posts.
Usually, the most time-consuming part of content creation is research. Meta content—that is, content about content—is a way of accelerating the research phase by using yourself as the primary information source (after all, there’s no need to interview anyone if you’re the subject-matter expert).
Choose an experience—a lesson learned, a campaign you executed, a process you developed—and share it in an article.
We use meta content a lot:
- We’ve written about our writing process.
- We’ve shared our experience with publishing a viral article.
- We chatted about the nitty-gritty of launching a new product.
(Heck—this is a meta article).
This meta content is particularly valuable for us because our audience is interested in marketing, but the same principle can be applied to any company and any audience.
Adrienne Barnes calls this “How We Built This” content: share an inside look at the development of your latest product or feature, and in doing so, humanize your company and help readers understand the thought process behind your launch.
You can also fast-track the research process by leaning on the experience of your team.
We’re currently drafting a “Strategists’ Year in Review” blog post. Our Content Strategists have spent a year in the trenches of content marketing, developing strategies and content ideas for dozens of companies in dozens of industries. There’s a lot to be learned from their experience, so I’ve asked each Strategist to share one big takeaway from a year spent content-marketing.
You can do the same across your marketing team, your sales team, or even your executive team: Ask them to reflect on the year, and share a prediction, a lesson learned, or a favorite resource.
The key thing is to make your request as small and manageable as possible. Be explicit about the exact type of information you’re looking for, share an example, and attach a concrete due date.
Not every article has to blaze a trail and cover a totally new, never-before-seen concept. In fact, it’s safe to assume that most of your website traffic consists of people who have read a bare handful of your blog posts. Any great ideas that are locked up in your older blog posts may as well not exist to those readers.
As we explained in The Auteur Theory of Content Marketing, it’s a great idea to systematically resurface these important themes throughout your content marketing:
“By repeating the same messages throughout every article, you’re guaranteeing a taste of your core ideas, regardless of which article brings a visitor to your website.”The Auteur Theory of Content Marketing
Cross-cutting is a time-efficient way of realizing that goal.
We use a simple process:
- Identify recurring concepts and themes from your existing blog posts (like “sales enablement”).
- Collate the best references and tactics together in a dedicated blog post (“10 Ways Content Can Support Your Sales Team”).
Any topic that repeatedly appears throughout your blog is worthy of its own article. Cross-cutting allows you to uncover these hidden concepts while also providing new access points to your existing content.
Cross-cutting pairs particularly well with the humble roundup article: There’s sometimes a benefit to collecting together a bundle of themed ideas and resources, providing a centralized “home” for your chosen topic.
But because roundups and “best of” articles are—rightfully—everyone’s go-to when it comes to high impact, low effort content, it’s important to expend a little mental energy on the subject matter and the angle you choose.
For one, roundups don’t have to be limited to top 10 compilations of blog posts, statistics, or predictions. We’ve curated lists of:
- Mental models we find useful for better writing
- Core content marketing concepts we always return to
- Content trends that were mentioned most often on sales calls
If you do want to tackle a well-worn topic, a simple tweak to the title and positioning can help differentiate from the dozens of other roundups that exist. For example, we’re publishing our “best of 2020” roundup with a little twist: as well as sharing our most popular blog posts, we’re also sharing our “deep cuts”—the great blog posts that slipped under the radar.
There are a few weeks each year—around election time or spanning major holidays—where publishing new content feels like shouting into the void. When the world’s attention is firmly elsewhere, it can be a good time to publish content refreshes: updated versions of older blog posts.
The best refresh contenders are articles that:
- Used to generate significant organic traffic, but have started to wane
- Cover highly changeable topics (known as Query Deserves Freshness, like “Netflix shows”)
- Have become outdated in light of changing data, trends, or best practices
While some articles might need a complete rewrite, many can be improved by small changes: adding in new sections, updating old information, or tweaking the title, headers, and metadata to better align with the article’s top-ranking keywords.
There’s an easy way to identify your best refreshing candidates: Use our free content tool Revive,connect up your Google Analytics, and wait for an email of articles suffering from traffic decay.
Many blogs have big landmark pieces of content, like ultimate guides, white papers, or research reports. Key findings and sections from this content can be spun-off into stand-alone content, creating a series of articles that widens the reach and distribution for the landmark content.
Spin-off articles aren’t just a chance to rehash the same information; they provide crucial opportunities to:
- Address questions raised by your readers
- Reuse content that didn’t quite make the cut
- Elaborate on your ideas and share additional context
- Reframe concepts to provide another entry point for readers
At Animalz, we’re working on spin-off content to support our Content Marketing Benchmark Report. At 6,000 words long, there’s a huge amount of data and insight in the report, but it’s easy for the casual reader to miss key insights. We’re helping to reinforce these key ideas by turning individual findings into stand-alone blog posts focused on specific audiences.
4 Realistic Traffic Goals for Small(ish) Blogs builds on our research into traffic benchmarks but focuses explicitly on small blogs. Our advice is geared exclusively to that audience, and additional data points and traffic models are added in.
Not every article needs to share mind-blowing revelations and never-before-seen ideas. In fact, the constraints offered by crunch periods—holidays, vacations, you name it—can force you to embrace efficiency and realise that “easy” content can have a big impact.
All the content types explored here offer real, concrete value for your business and your readers, primarily by collecting a year’s worth of good ideas and insights into one place. If you’ve spent 12 months publishing a steady stream of detailed, valuable content, it makes sense to amplify those efforts with spin-off content, cross-cutting, and refreshes (and it’ll make your life a little less stressful).