The First Law of Content Marketing
I’ve always been a huge evangelist of content marketing—content has fueled the lion’s share of growth at every company I’ve run. I truly believe that anyone can succeed with content, and I want to share my learnings over the past 10 years.
The following post is a preview from an upcoming eBook on how to succeed with content, The Content Marketing Playbook from 83,232,461 Website Visits.
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To impress your offer on the mind of the reader or listener, it is necessary to put it into brief, simple language… No farfetched or obscure statement will stop them. You have got to hit them where they live: in the heart or in the head. You have got to catch their eyes or ears with something simple, something direct, something they want.
—John Caples, Tested Advertising Methods
We’ve come to a point in SaaS where there’s little technical differentiation between various tools. More and more often, customers aren’t choosing products based on features, functionality and technology—they’re choosing based on brand.
That’s why in a hyper-competitive space saturated with content, there is one thing that will make or break your content marketing strategy: quality.
In the short term, you can drive traffic and get conversions with quantity and mediocre-to-poor content, but you’ll never be able to build a brand. That’s what makes quality the first thing you should focus on from the beginning, before you try to up the quantity.
When you build a brand, you get direct, unattributed visitors—people coming to your site for no clear reason—and that means that your content is memorable. It’s getting people to return to your site organically. Your content is doing its job, spreading awareness of your brand through word-of-mouth.
That’s a critical, early indicator of how you’ll perform over the long term with direct traffic and organic search, the two most important channels for sustainable growth. If your quality isn’t up to par over the long haul, you’ll see your brand and your search traffic suffer. The vast majority of long-term traffic comes from these channels, which means that if you don’t start with quality, you have no content marketing endgame.
In fact, the most common mistake that people make with content is scaling prematurely. As with everything in business, you need to nail it before you scale it.
The First Law of Content Marketing is Quality + Quantity = Eyeballs.
The Kissmetrics Content Marketing Secret
As a startup, you’re low on budget and resources, but you’re high on enthusiasm. You started your company because you experienced the pain point first hand, and you want to help people like you succeed.
Content marketing is how you operationalize your passion and turn it from a characteristic of your personality into marketing.
When you love your people and that love comes through in the content, they recognize that as quality. They tell their friends about you, your direct and search traffic grows, and you have the beginnings of a content marketing engine.
That’s why high-quality content marketing always begins with these three questions:
- Who are your customers?
- Where do they hang out?
- How should you engage them?
Once you know who your customers are, talk to three of them. Figuring out where they hang out can be as simple as asking them, “What blogs are you reading?”
To learn how you should engage, ask them, “What’s the most frustrating part of your day?”
What your people tell you gives you the context you need to define what quality means to them, and points you in the right direction for getting your content in front of them. It furnishes you with invaluable feedback, and the ability to improve.
Kissmetrics began with this framework and applying it led us in an unexpected direction.
Around 2009, we were still building our product—an analytics platform for marketers. We were looking for a low-cost way to reach our audience before our product was ready, with a small budget and limited resources.
Doing some basic research, we found out that analytics folks in the Omniture and Google Analytics ecosystems, as well as a broader audience of marketers, hung out on Twitter using the #measure hashtag. These were the exact people that we wanted to engage with.
They weren’t just talking about online marketing—they were actively looking for fresh information. They had real problems that needed solving, and we knew we could play a role in solving them. But first, we would have to show people that we knew what we were talking about.
— justinkistner (@justinkistner) April 6, 2010
We started sharing links under #measure. We would share anyone and everyone’s content, as long as it was genuinely useful and high-quality. We became the go-to Twitter account to follow for marketers to learn more about analytics. Over time, we grew our Twitter following to 200,000+ people, all 100% organic, without spending a dime.
Because Twitter was exploding in popularity during this time, we were able to grow an audience faster there than we ever could have on our own blog. When we were ready to launch our blog, Twitter also gave us a huge base of people to kickstart it with—and a concrete, tested idea of what they wanted to read.
By answering the 3-question framework, we were able to find our market and get a sense of what quality looked like for it. The next step was to drill down on quality.
Quality Bubbles to the Top
The signal-noise ratio compares the power of the desired signal to the background noise that it operates in. The more noise there is, the stronger the signal needs to be to be heard.
Content operates in much the same way, where the fidelity of your signal is directly correlated to quality. Think about it this way: there’s a massive amount of noise. In such a competitive environment, if an article can stand out, it’s likely that the piece is high quality.
People get hung up on the idea of quality because it’s hard to pin down quality qualitatively—but this is why it’s actually pretty easy to measure quality quantitatively.
If articles for individual, trusted blogs within your market are shared a lot, for example, it’s a pretty simple way to benchmark what’s good and what’s not. Shares are more than just traffic or clickbait—they indicate that people care enough about what you’re saying to actually get it out there.
Creating high-quality content is a data-informed process, which makes it deducible and reproducible.
Reverse Engineer Content
Figure out what’s working. Do more of it. It’s a fundamental principle that I run all of my businesses by.
This rule applies to content, with a twist. Figure out what’s working for others. Imitate it but don’t rip it.
Everything having to do with content is publicly available and out there, so it can be measured. If you can measure it, you can reverse engineer it. The key to imitating great content is to first determine what content to imitate, since quality is specific to a market or customer.
Fortunately, if you know who your customers are, where they hang out, and how to engage them, you already have your answer. The content you want to imitate is the highest performing content in the places on the web where your customers hang out.
You can use any number of tools to dig deeper into this data, and discover what content performs the best. From there, it’s easy to study the piece, break down why it was successful, and imitate it.
Next: How to Grow
This is how you begin to build a repeatable process for doubling down on quality—the next step is to combine that with quantity.
To learn how to grow with content marketing by combining quality with quantity, subscribe to my newsletter and you’ll receive an advanced copy of the eBook, free.