May 12, 2017
Could Less Content Actually Be More?
Have you fallen into a content trap?
By now, we all know that “content marketing” is a thing. In fact, we know that it’s a very powerful tool for getting businesses found online.
At Design Pickle, content has brought us a lot of new business and has helped to spread the word out to a larger audience. We have no doubt that content marketing works and is something we should be doing, but we do sometimes find ourselves questioning the circumstances that make content effective.
You see, there is an absolute proliferation of content being created out there and it’s getting more and more difficult to be heard among the noise.
Consider these stats:
- 88% of B2B marketers in North America are using content marketing. (Curata)
- 75% of marketers are increasing investment in content marketing. (Curata)
- 2 million blog posts are written every day. (Marketing Profs)
All of this indicates more, more, more when it comes to content, and the pressure is on for small businesses to be able to make an impact.
That’s where we see challenges coming into play. More and more content marketers are focusing on “getting things done” rather than creating the biggest impact. This can lead to content for content’s sake and some less-than-inspiring, poorly targeted pieces being produced.
How can small business owners define and monitor content impact? Is there a case for “less is more?”
OUR CONTENT SCHEDULES
We’d all like to think that the content we produce is always top-notch and impactful, but the truth is everyone misses the mark sometimes. Even some of the top blogs you can name have content that is less-than-popular hovering around, and those include websites which have dedicated content teams!
For most smaller businesses, either the content falls to one or two people in the business or the founder is doing most of it. We all know that posting on a regular schedule is a good idea if you want to make an impact, but often schedules can become the enemy of effective content.
As an example, say you are a small business owner who wants to make the most of content marketing, so you design a content schedule for yourself which requires two blog posts per week to go up on your website.
Typically, things start out with full-steam and good intentions, usually with the founder taking on the content production role. Gradually though, out of every other task you could possibly be doing in your business, content starts to slip further down. You need to run campaigns, find partners, and take care of customers. By the time you get to the content you’ve either slipped completely, or you’re churning out something in a hurry because you “should.”
Recipe for impactful content? Not usually.
THE CASE FOR QUALITY
The problem with, “I need to write a blog post because it’s Tuesday” is that limited bandwidth can lead to “fluff” pieces, poorly targeted content, or content that generally isn’t doing your brand image any favors anyway.
Just check out some of the top challenges that marketers and business owners list when it comes to content:
- Lack of time/bandwidth for creating content.
- Producing engaging content.
- Producing enough content, including variety and volume.
- Producing content consistently.
- Measuring the effectiveness of content.
Wait, what?! We’re producing all of this content, yet we’re not even sure of its effectiveness? Yep, 57% of us aren’t sure, according to a study from Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs.
What we do know is what the term “effective content” means, this according to a LinkedIn partner report:
- Audience relevance.
- Engaging and compelling storytelling.
- Content that triggers a response or action.
Really, that third point is the easiest one to measure – it’s probably what tells you that you got the first two right. However, if you’re pressed for time, those first two points are likely to be what is missing from your content!
You’ve got to have some kind of benchmark if you’re really going to figure out whether or not your content is effective. TopRank lists some markers of content impact, as taken from Hana Abaza of Uberflip:
- Is my content in front of the right people?
- Is it driving quantifiable results?
- Is it the right content in the first place?
Benchmarking your content should start with having some kind of quantifiable goals. You need to know where your “base” sits to know whether more or less content is effective for you. For example, if a goal of your content is to drive sign-ups, that is a good measure to use. For engagement metrics, you might look at shares or comments on your content.
Moz and Hubspot ran some experiments on their respective blogs in tandem, to see whether they could prove or disprove arguments of quality over quantity. Both outline how they defined their baseline numbers first and some interesting points were found for quality and quantity.
THE CASE FOR QUANTITY
Hubspot (in a separate study to the previous one called out here), looked into optimal monthly posting quantities for businesses of different sizes. The short of it is that they did find that more was better in terms of traffic generation and lead generation for companies of all sizes.
They also note that in analyzing their own blog, 75% of views and 90% of leads come from old posts, with more leads coming in quite decidedly for those with 301+ total published blog posts.
I don’t know about you, but most small business owners we know would look at this and virtually yell, “But how are we meant to fit in 11+ blog posts per month?!” That’s the crux of it really. Do I create 11 mediocre posts to follow a schedule? Or, do I create four excellent posts which have got the time and research devoted to them?
THE MOZ AND HUBSPOT STUDIES
First of all, let’s point out the obvious here; both blogs conducting these “quality vs. quantity” studies are considered leaders in their field. Both have built huge audiences over time and have a reputation for great content and user engagement.
It’s quite possible that either one could publish a post of one sentence and find that they still have much higher levels of engagement than the average Joe who slaves over a 1,500-word post. Nevertheless, studies like this provide interesting results for businesses at all levels.
Hubspot concluded that reducing their (already hectic) publishing schedule for fewer, longer posts was not viable for them due to lower leads and traffic generation as compared to their overall benchmark. Switching to a higher frequency had little overall impact as well (but bear in mind that their “benchmark” is 20 – 25 posts per week on their marketing blog).
Moz found that, while dropping their publishing volume also dropped their unique page views, on the upside, engagement metrics were up slightly and there was no significant impact on email subscriptions. Here’s an interesting point:
“We also noticed that part of the stress of an editorial calendar comes from the fact that an artificial schedule exists in the first place. Even with the reduction in volume, we felt significant pressure when a scheduled post wasn’t quite where we wanted it to be by the time it was supposed to be finished.”
In practice, because most of Moz’s content is produced by external writers, reducing the schedule for their publishing couldn’t impact their authors because they didn’t have any more time than they otherwise would have to create more comprehensive posts.
This meant that the Moz editorial team had time for other things, without the same time pressure they usually would have; “our productivity gains, though, made us begin to think even more carefully about where we were spending our time… When a post that’s scheduled to be published on our blog just isn’t quite where we think it ought to be, we’ll no longer rush it through the editing process simply because of an artificial deadline.”
SO, WHAT ABOUT MY SMALL BUSINESS?
We get it, like most other small businesses, you probably don’t have a team of content creators and editors at your disposal as these larger brands do. What you can take away though, is the following:
- A regular schedule is important, but so is the quality of your content if you want engagement. Have that regular schedule and do your best to honor it, but don’t sacrifice quality for an artificial deadline. (Hey, as long as you don’t miss your schedule every time!).
- Benchmark what “normal” is based on the metrics which matter to your business. This is how you can monitor whether your content is impactful.
- Get help. Even if it’s a good writer who can produce one or two quality posts per week. Your productivity as a business founder will thank you for it.
IS LESS CONTENT MORE?
In short, sometimes. You don’t want your blog to turn into a content mill, but you do want to post on a regular enough schedule to facilitate traffic and engagement.
To determine whether or not you’ve got the right balance with quality and quantity, you need to have clear goals and metrics for your content so that you can create benchmarks. Experiment to see what works – if you could double engagement on half the posts, that would be a win, right? Perhaps less will be more for you!