You’ve probably heard that “content is king” when it comes to online marketing. While that’s often true, it can be easy to fall down the rabbit hole of creating content but struggling to connect it to any real ROI in your business.

Businesses of all sizes often fall into a routine of creating more, more, more: write the blog post or article, share it to social media, email it out, then start all over again. But more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to content.

Ruthie Bowles, CEO of Defy The Status Quo, and Sarah Greesonbach, founder of the B2B Writing Institute, recently shared their insights on how to get more bang for your content buck at the Managing Editor Live conference, which Showcase Workshop sponsored in October.

Tying content to business goals

Instead of tying ourselves to the content creation hamster wheel — rushing to simply produce more, more, more — try taking a step back and asking how any given campaign or individual piece of content will support your bigger business strategies.

Always know why

It’s important with any content strategy or any single piece of content to understand why you’re producing it and how it relates to your bigger business goals. You want to know not only how the content relates to your business’ goals and strategy, but also how you will measure its ROI.

What the business says is important; and marketing, just like any other functions in a business, needs to support the business’ goals.

Bowles said, “It's a lot easier to prove ROI, return on investment, when you tie content creation to business objectives before you actually create it.”

Connecting content to business goals allows marketing teams to demonstrate how they helped move the needle in the company. Then you can also be assured that your content marketing strategy — and your marketing strategy overall — is in line with your actual business goals.

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Attach KPIs to marketing goals

Understanding the overall business goal and how the marketing or content goals relate to it will help you be able to define key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you measure the ROI of your content.

For example, if your overall business goal is to sell a certain number of products, then the marketing goal might be to increase awareness so that your sales team has enough leads to reach that goal.

From that, you could set a KPI of a certain number of email leads generated in a set amount of time. Let’s say you want to increase email leads by 5% each month. That’s a measurable goal, and you can look at each piece of content you’re producing and ask, “Is this contributing to that goal?”

Once you know the goal and the KPI, you can work backwards to determine what type of content you could create to reach it. If increasing email leads is your goal, for example, one of the best ways to achieve that is to create “gated” content — something the audience is excited to give up their email address for.

Plus, if you can look back at a piece of content and say, “We generated 50 new leads from this blog post,” you can directly determine how much ROI was generated.

Without specific KPIs and goals, content marketing can feel very “fluffy.” You might know that you’re churning out lots of quantity, but have difficulty determining the quality. In Bowles’ opinion, a business shouldn’t be spending time, energy, and money creating content unless it can be directly tied to supporting a business goal.

Continue generating ROI with repurposed content

Another common issue with content is that once it's created and promoted, we tend to forget about it. Social media, in particular, moves so quickly that we feel compelled to create new content all the time.

But your content archive can be a trove of value for your business, and each piece inside it can continue to produce ROI for the business.

Sarah Greesonbach wants us to make the most of the content we’ve already invested in creating by revisiting, repurposing, and reusing content we already have in the archives. She shared these steps for auditing your content catalog.

Prioritize what content to revisit

Consider these five types of content that you might want to revisit or repurpose:

  1. Seasonal timeliness — many businesses have topics that come up every year, like tax preparedness, back to school, public holidays, etc.
  2. Performance — it’s a good idea to optimize articles that are doing well and some that might be underperforming but have the potential to do better.
  3. Product — you may be able to reuse articles or messaging around a product to promote it multiple times.
  4. Opt-in — resharing articles that promote your most popular opt-ins has the potential to generate lots of ROI.
  5. Bottom of the funnel — especially if you have competitors that are focused on educating customers at the top of the funnel, repurposing your bottom of the funnel (conversion) content can be useful.
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Update old content to produce new ROI

Once you’ve identified maybe 10–20 pieces of content that you could revisit or repurpose you want to consider three things:

  • Relevance — Who should read this, why, and why now?  This can also tell you which parts of the piece need to be rewritten (often including the headline and the introduction) to make it more relevant.
  • Resources — Are the resources used to produce this (e.g. data or backlinks) outdated? Is there updated information available? If the data is 10 years old and there’s no update, it may not make sense to revisit this piece, even if it’s performed well in the past.
  • Reason to read — Is there a strong reason for your ideal audience to read the piece? Is it useful, practical, and actionable?

Redistribute old content to new audiences

Finally, you want to look at what you can do to redistribute this piece of content.

You might update and improve the SEO with better keywords, backlinks, etc. You also can look into how you might supplement this piece to make it even more valuable with additions like an infographic, a video, more data, and so on. And finally, think about where and how you can share it to extend your reach.

And it’s important to note: it’s highly unlikely that anyone in your audience will notice that you’re serving up content they’ve already seen. As marketers, we tend to overestimate how much attention our audience is paying to us, and audiences are rarely unhappy to see valuable content again.

The upshot is that, even if you’re producing less content overall, the content you do produce will have a higher ROI. If you spend $1,000 to produce a really great article — but you can reuse, reshare, and repurpose that piece of content over and over again for a year or more — that’s a good value.

Combining these ways of thinking about content can help ensure that every piece you produce is not just valuable to your reader, but ultimately directly very valuable to your company. Start by aligning each piece of content you produce with your business goals and assigning it a measurable KPI, then continue to use your best content to that it keeps delivering a return on that investment over a long period of time.

Header image by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash