You may already know that the reality of effective content marketing is that it takes time. But what you may not realize is that there are things that you can do in the short-term that will drive more traffic, more leads, and more business until your content starts to kick in.
That period where you keep your head down doing the work without getting a lot of immediate results is what some in our industry have called the “slog.” It started with Scott Clark at Buzzmaven. Then Rand Fishkin held a whiteboard Friday on “surviving the SEO slog.”
Slog is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
“to keep doing something even though it is difficult or boring: to work at something in a steady, determined way”
Scott’s post touches on the SEO slog as well as the broader slog of digital marketing with interviews from six seasoned digital marketers. He equates building an SEO foundation to that of a skyscraper’s “un-sexy infrastructure.” Rand follows up with his visual explanation of how that same slog is “insidiously frustrating for lots of folks in the field” due to the lag time of work and results. He even refers to the difference in effort of what is needed versus what is expected as the “delta of dissatisfaction.”
Their messages apply to content marketing as well. Ask anyone with experience and they will tell you – content marketing takes time to work. You need to be disciplined, patient, and in it for the long haul.
Like so many things in life, there is just no shortcut to content marketing.
Everyone seems to be looking for immediate results in our always-on world that we live in today. And sure, who doesn’t want immediate results? But like so many things in life, there is just no shortcut to content marketing. You have to put in the time. It’s no different than losing weight or working out. You can’t take a pill to lose 10 pounds. You can’t watch a video and double the amount of weights you’re lifting. Committing to something and seeing it through is hard – even when you know it’s good for you. It’s why more than 50% of people stop their New Years resolution of going to the gym.
History is riddled with people giving up. And it’s also riddled with people that have stuck it out and eventually have been successful. The late Monty Hall said it best: “Actually, I’m an overnight success. But it took me 20 years.” And let’s be honest, if you’ve ever accomplished something after working at it for a long-time, doesn’t it feel good once you start to see the results? At Vertical Measures, we’ve been practicing what we teach for 10 years. And we’re still learning. We’re still sharpening our ax.
The bottom line is this – commit to content marketing, see it through and it will absolutely transform your business.
Our Take on the (Content Marketing) Slog
Initially, there is that honeymoon period. You are excited to get started and off you go. While we certainly believe having realistic expectations is important – it’s hard not to get fired up and be overly optimistic. Typically, in this honeymoon phase you may be doing some discovery, building out personas, putting together an appropriate plan, analyzing the SEO landscape and getting started on some initial content. Life is good.
After the honeymoon, we enter the pre-Slog stage where content creation is in full swing and you’re likely in need of some technical SEO clean up. This SEO work is critical because you cannot build a successful content marketing system on a weak foundation.
Next we enter The Slog, where—from a distance—one month looks similar to the next. A lot of work is getting done but with few obvious and immediate results. Two issues can cause the slog to be longer and more dreadful than it should be
- Lack of communication internally or with an agency partner
- Being too critical of the content
The issue of lack of communication speaks for itself. The issue of being too critical of the content is where there is often a misunderstanding. In many cases we find that our clients are looking for perfection whereas we’re looking for progress. This stands true if you’re producing your content internally or working with a partner. It all comes down to the fact that if you don’t publish it, Google cannot find it. Neither can your prospects that you are looking to educate.
If you don’t publish it, Google cannot find it.
Here are four things that we have seen be very successful in driving some quick traffic and leads until the power of content marketing kicks in.
1. Free Guides
A big part of our content marketing process is following the hub and spoke model. The hub is a bigger piece of content like a free guide. We typically start with this type of content first and then over time build out more pieces of content, called spokes, that lead you back to the free guide, or sometimes known as a whitepaper. We recommend that this guide is gated behind a form on a well designed landing page.
This guide can be used to gather leads from existing traffic with a strong CTA on your homepage and throughout your site. It can also be leveraged alongside two of the other tactics that I’m recommending below.
2. Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC)
Pay per click advertising can sometimes be viewed as the antithesis of SEO, but we prefer to view it as complementary. The real beauty of PPC is that it drives qualified traffic at a predictable volume and price. It can also provide some early learnings on what type of content your customers are interested in. Follow my first recommendation of creating a free guide and use that in your PPC campaign. We’ve seen these type of guides drive as much as a 50% decrease in lead cost for clients.
The real beauty of PPC is that it drives qualified traffic at a predictable volume and price.
Do you have a database that can be easily rekindled? It’s far too common that we encounter a client that either has a dormant list or a list that is not being appropriately handled. In one case, a new client of ours pointed out that they had a database of about 6,000 people that had not been communicated with for some time. After carefully reviewing the list and pruning the necessary emails, we delivered an email encouraging them to download a free guide. Marketing automation, in this case HubSpot, was used to nurture them based on where in the buying process they were. From there, we were able to serve up more appropriate content to help move them through the buying process.
4. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
In some situations, it may not be an issue of more traffic, rather of capitalizing on the existing traffic that you’re already getting. No doubt, you’ll want to grow your traffic in the long run but in the meantime, see if you can better maximize the traffic you already have. This is where conversion rate optimization, or CRO, comes in.
CRO is a methodical approach to improving the performance of your website based on analyzing and testing different designs. By identifying friction points on your site you can make small, incremental changes to increase conversions.
After just a week, we were able to capitalize on one client’s existing traffic to increase conversions by more than 77% on one of their key landing pages.
Content marketing takes time. But if you are disciplined and consistent about creating content that your customers want – it can transform your business. Until it does, consider the options here to help drive some earlier wins.
Content Marketing Quick Start
Our 29-page DIY workbook is jam packed with information that will help you tangibly understand the basics of content marketing 101, as applied to your business.