[UPDATED] 6 ways to keep your content fresh
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Companies that publish 16 or more blog posts per month generate 4.5 times more leads than companies publishing 0-4 monthly – so who can afford to have blogger’s block?
Whether you’re on a tight deadline, writing content you love, or creating copy on a topic you know nothing about, posting engaging content should be part of everyday life for any successful business.
But at some point you – or your content writers – will experience writer's block, no matter how apparently stimulating the inspiration. The trick is knowing how to combat obstacles when they happen. Content needs to be consistently making it out of the door; whether you’re having a good creative day or a bad one, your readership will expect to see a great blog post in their inbox.
Fail to deliver, and you’re breaking valuable trust – and losing potential leads. On average, companies with blogs produce 67% more leads per month than those without. Refreshing, originally written content is essential to giving your business the edge and forge lasting relationships with your audience.
Here, three members of ESM Inbound’s senior team share some tactics for getting yourself out of a content funk.
1: Lucy says: Focus on the persona
"There’s no point in publishing any content at all unless it's going to be useful to your audience, and drive more traffic to your website. Before you can create content that really speaks to your ideal customers, you need to know who they are. Use your current customer base as a starting point to build your customer persona.
Who are your best customers, i.e. the ones who love your product or service and continue to use it year on year? What pain point did your product or service solve for them? What were they looking for when they found you? Focus your content on answering these pain points and you’ll be off to a great start."
2: John says: Read before you write
"Reading makes us mighty. If you’re not reading a varied diet, then how can you expect to produce varied content? At ESM Inbound, our team will routinely share great content that we discover both on- and offline. Create a simple Slack channel for sharing great content with your team so that they're always up-to-date with the latest changes in your sector and have a great resource full of inspiring ideas.
Content marketing balances the science of analysing data and understanding your audience with the creative art of writing. Learn from the great artists throughout history and overcome your writer's block by finding a new way to bring two things together. Did you read an informative article about changes to your sector's regulations? Have you read something about how to spend budget more efficiently? Then why not combine elements of the two to create an article helping your audience make the most of their new budgets while complying with regulatory demands?"
3: Anna says: Get physical
"It might sound obvious, but writing is hardly one of the most physical jobs in the world. Creating exciting, compelling content only comes from a clear, relaxed mind so – especially if you’re home-based – get moving. Even mild exercise will release endorphins, clear your airways and get your blood pumping, all leading to a more creative mind.
- Walking to ‘the office’ in the morning by going for a stroll before coming back to the house to start work at your desk.
- Jogging through the park or along a scenic route to work that you haven’t taken before.
- Taking a ten-minute walk between meetings, even if it's just in your garden.
- Taking a shorter lunch break so you can go out in the fresh air again at 3pm (avoiding the dreaded afternoon slump).
Whether your primary role is a copywriter or you’re a small business with a team juggling many roles, you can make your day work for you, as a writer. Writing is an intensely thoughtful activity, requiring focus and no distractions.
Knowing the benefits of business blogging, be sure to craft out time in your day to writing. Turn off your notifications, close your office door and give yourself the space to create great content. The benefits are worth the investment."
4: John says: Cluster up
"Create subject clusters. This is a technique promoted by HubSpot to enable a deeper coverage of core topic areas. The basic premise is to ensure you’ve exhausted every avenue of content in a particular topic and haven’t missed a trick that your audience might be searching for. Start with your main topic idea in the middle of a document, and around the outside write as many sub topics as possible – these become your content ideas. Try:
- Creating a pillar page: a broad overview of a specific topic, such as finance transformation or piano exams. This is an all-encompassing summary of the topic, like a road map of all you need to know. You’d cover everything there is to know about this topic in a series of chapters, covering 3000+ words of content.
- Build a pillar page for each major focus area – the purpose is to provide free educational content for your reader to access, like loaning them a library book.
- From the pillar page, you can create several linked pieces of content – videos, blog posts, case studies – that cover individual, more specific sub-topics, otherwise known as cluster content.
- Each cluster topic page for the pillar focuses on providing more detail for a specific long-tail keyword related to the main topic. The pillar links to each cluster page and each cluster page links back to the pillar with the same hyperlinked keyword. This gives the reader the chance to continue their education whether they navigate away from the initial page or not.
By using topic clusters to dive deeper into missing content, you can elevate search rankings for all the other pages linked to the pillar and better organise your content, spotting gaps as and when they occur."
5: Lucy says: Find a theme
"If you’re really struggling for ideas for a blog post, find some national and international awareness and celebration dates relevant to your target audience to sing about in your blog. Not only will you show your support for worthy causes, but having a focus will help inspire you, and bring you closer to your ideal customers.
Looking ahead at relevant dates and getting them in your content calendar, you’ll help avoid the ‘what do I write today?’ dilemma.
- Using a focus group in your content team to work out the kinds of causes that both matter to your customer persona and align with your brand.
- Use a free awareness day calendar to find out when these causes are marked through the year and plot them into your calendar.
- Assign different writers in your team to the different topics they want to take on and, as a team, think of ways they might be able to work your useful, educational content into this theme.
By creating topical or theme-based content, your business will be seen as relevant, trustworthy and helpful. You’re not relying on repurposed content from months ago, you’re creating purpose-written pieces that are offering something of genuine use to the reader."
6: Anna says: Use outsourcing power
Written content is the most commonly outsourced content marketing activity with 57% of business bloggers outsourcing to contributing or guest writers. If you’re finding content ideas difficult to come up with, chances are someone else has got the perfect solution.
This delegation doesn’t mean you’re passing the buck or relinquishing responsibility; it’s a practical, proactive approach to solving something that is a problem in your business. If you’re repeatedly struggling to come up with content ideas, it could be that some fresh minds are just what your team needs.
Try finding an agency that specialises in content creation, your target market and has a proven track record with inbound marketing.
And finally, bookmark this blog post! Next time you get stuck, don’t panic. Try one of the tips above and let the creative, engaging, educating content ideas flow."
Updated with bonus ideas!
We’ve updated this blog to include 3 further content ideas. Keep reading to learn more.
Content can generally be split into three groups – interactive, video & audio, and downloadable – you’re probably doing at least one of them well already. Here are some fresh ideas to try for your next offer:
Group 1: Interactive content
Quizzes and questionnaires: Try leading your prospect through a short series of questions which result in a tailored outcome at the end: this can be used to help them identify and give a name to their pain point, help them consider all the options open to them to solve it, or help them make a decision about which product in your offering is right for them.
Gamification: Everyone loves games. Especially when we are supposed to be doing something relatively dull – such as choosing wallpaper – but the process is turned into a fun task. And remember: people love competition, too – if you introduce a competitive element to a game with a prize at the end of it, people will turn up, take part and interact even better with your brand. Here’s how 15 different gamification tools shape up.
Calculator or other free tool: Being a marketer, you probably love numbers, but most people don’t. Removing all the hard work from a job – such as working out take-home salary – by just asking a few questions, means users will love your tool. Think about the sums required by many of your audience: if you can create an automated, engaging tool to do the work for them, with quick and accurate results, they’ll want to share it with everyone they know.
Check out our 5-minute persona builder tool as an example:
Here are some other top tools you can use to set up your first piece of interactive content.
Group 2: Moving image/audio
Videos: There are so many different types of video content out there – so many ideas you could play around with which can seem overwhelming. It’s been predicted that:
"By 2021, 80% of global internet consumption will be video content."
We can all relate to this; with 5 billion videos being viewed on YouTube every day, there’s a staggering amount of content out there. This can mean that consumers become less sensitive to video advertising (which means your has to be really useful to stand out). This doesn't mean the production and editing costs have to be level with a Beyoncé music video, in fact Vidyard has put together this helpful resource to walk you through your first steps with video content, and it's not as expensive or difficult as you think.
Podcasts: In case you aren't familiar with this form, podcasts are an episodic series of audio files which a user can download in order to listen to them on the go. As we explored in our previous blog post about creating content your audience wants to come back for – podcasts are on the rise. All age groups and genders are experiencing an increase in engagement with podcasts, but in particular, the 15-24 age group has really rocketed: if your typical audience is within this age bracket, it's really time to listen up to podcasts.
At ESM Inbound, we are big fans of the humble podcast (It's verging on an obsession for me!) Here's a super-helpful guide to creating your own podcast for the first time.
Social media: A great place to host your quizzes, surveys, videos and latest episodes of podcasts, social media can also act as an interactive content tool all on its own. You can create polls where audiences vote on certain images or to help you make decisions about the direction of your content, and encourage users to upload their own images and videos using your hashtags so content is categorised.
Even something as simple as running a caption competition for an image you upload to social channels with a prize for the winner – a concept that is decades old – is a great way to engage your audience through social. Here are some examples of successful interactive content from social media.
Group 3: Printable and downloadable content
Case studies: One of the most valuable forms of content you can create – people are really, genuinely interested in case studies. Another interesting fact I learnt from Andy Pemberton at The Guardian was that:
"Case studies have an 83% finish rate! People like reading about real people who are like them. 300 words is prime length for a case study – don't overdo it: be succinct."
Contact one of your super-duper customers, someone who you've built a real rapport with and have concrete data to shout about and back up your points. Ask them for a phone interview (and make sure you get their permission to record so you can transcribe it later.)
Either create a case study as a PDF for download, or house as a webpage behind a form – the only problem will be keeping it to that magic 300 words. Here's HubSpot's shortlist of fantastic case studies everyone needs to see to get started.
Posters, checklists and timelines: The majority of people still work in offices. And the majority of those offices still have blank walls. Help people fill them with useful content! Yes, providing a poster or checklist resource might feel dated, but if people are still making use of them – what’s the problem? Engaging some of our tips from other sections, you might decide to make the poster a game, quiz or fun countdown with spaces for the user to tick off. Using a tool like Piktochart will help you build fun infographics and posters.
Ebooks: The ebook is not dead. People still like to bookmark something and return to it. An alternative though, could be a pillar page. In a similar way to an ebook, these tend to be at least 3,000 words of content, split into chapters on one specialist subject: so far, so good. The difference is, instead of putting this content behind a gated landing page (although you can still do this if you like) your pillar page is housed on your website for everyone to find. Find out more about building your first pillar page and the successes they create.
Mix it up
Why try new content?
Experimenting with different types of content doesn’t just potentially benefit your audience, it might inject something into your role that you’ve been missing. You might find you communicate more passionately about your product and the mission behind your business when you say it into a microphone or have a video recorder in front of you.
And how do you know what your audience likes unless you trial it? There are lots of ways to find out more about your buyer persona’s watering holes – the places they hang out and the content they enjoy accessing. Conducting this research is really important. But having the courage to put something different out there is just as important.
Be brave. Try a new style of content for your next offer. Measure the uptake against your last campaign’s results. If it doesn’t do well – then you’ve learnt a lesson. But if you never try it, you won’t learn a thing.