Our jobs are at stake, content marketers.
Too many content marketers are taking the “more is better” approach to publishing. But when you focus too much on production and too little on strategy, things won’t scale. At some point, the impact (ROI) of your content will hit a plateau.
When your impact stalls, your organization begins to question your role, along with the content marketing function you’re part of.
When I started in content marketing, I focused on production: how many blog posts, white papers, webinars, infographics and SlideShares could I crank out this quarter? And once I hit that number, how could I increase that output next quarter?
Page views, social shares, inbound links, leads and opportunities told me how I was doing, but I couldn’t scale the operation solely from publishing more.
By taking a step back, I found I could grow the impact of content marketing by publishing less, but smarter.
By publishing smarter, content marketers can broaden the impact and reach of their marketing efforts.
Flying with Structured Content
Structured content has emerged as one way for marketers to work smarter, opening their marketing efforts up for wider discovery.
By separating content from design and using metadata to make content semantically rich, structured content allows you to reuse content in multiple channels.
The value structured content provides isn’t always immediately apparent, so let's look at a plane ticket to explore how it works in theory.
A plane ticket contains a wealth of metadata: departure date, return date, departure city, destination city, number of passengers, travel class.
As you approach departure, additional metadata surfaces: number of checked bags, flight status, departure time, departure gate, boarding time, available upgrades.
The metadata in this plane ticket enables systems to format and present this data to you in your boarding pass, the airline app, in flight status monitors in the airport or on the airline's website, etc.
Now consider the alternative. Imagine if flight information had no structure. So instead of being auto-generated, a flight attendant looks up your passenger info, then handwrites it on your boarding pass. On the airport display monitors, a technician looks up the flight information, then hand-enters it via a console.
Flying would be a disaster. The slightest human error could send airport travelers into pandemonium. People would go to the wrong gates and board the wrong planes.
Structured content in this case provides a single source of truth, which ensures that the content itself is consistent and can be distributed wherever it's needed.
Now, put your marketing content in the place of the airline ticket. Can you imagine an equal number of destinations it can go, in formats contextual to the channel it’s delivered in?
That’s the power of structured content.
How Structured Content Leads to Wider Reach
In a presentation titled "How Structured Content Can Increase the ROI of Your Website and Content Marketing," Colleen Jones, CEO of Content Science showed how to combine structured content with metadata to surface blog posts in ways that are meaningful to visitors.
Jones shared an example from the Content Science Review blog:
If your blog posts only appear on your blog index page, you're missing an opportunity. Jones suggested additional places to feature blogs such as on the homepage, category page, related article page, landing page, email and search results.
Meaningful metadata is essential to surfacing the right content in the right context. In this example, each blog post included relevant metadata on title, description, tags and category.
Category pages (e.g. “marketing automation,” “email marketing,” “lead generation” for a marketing software company’s blog) list all posts cataloged to particular categories. Related article pages surface posts with the same set of categories and tags. Search results list posts based on whether the title, description, tags or category matched the supplied search term.
By meaningfully cataloging each post, and using the capabilities of a content management system (CMS), content marketers can broaden the reach of their blog content. Not only can this yield more page views and engagement, Jones suggests it can create “engineered serendipity.”
Atomize Content to Expand Reach
In addition to separating content from layout and augmenting content with meaningful metadata, we can expand the reach of our content by atomizing it. Let’s consider SlideShare, a widely used content marketing channel.
In 2015, SlideShare announced its “Clipping” feature. According to Slideshare, “You can now clip and save the best slides from presentations across LinkedIn SlideShare to view or share later. It’s a handy way to keep everything organized in topic-based Clipboards.”
Clipping breaks a presentation down into its individual slides. Users can share individual slides via social media or email. When a viewer clicks on the body of a clipped slide, it redirects them to the main presentation, while clicking on the clip title takes them to the specific slide.
Clipping presents a powerful new method of driving visibility into the presentations on the site.
Atomizing content can set individual pieces of content free, which leads to wider reach.
Think of how you can bring this kind of approach to your content. While there aren’t many off the shelf tools to do this, examples are out there, such as the “click to tweet” calls-to-action on article pages, like those found on this site. Readers can select a segment of text from the article, then share that selection on Twitter.
Atomizing your content and inviting your readers to curate it opens a wealth of opportunities to increase reader engagement, trust and reach.
Expand Your Content Marketing's Horizons
“Publishing more” is not a growth strategy. Let’s slow down, take a step back and consider scalable strategies for growth. Approaches like structured content and atomization stretch our content marketing's reach, leading to better reuse and wider discovery.
By doing so, we not only broaden our reach, but we present it to our readers in contexts that are more meaningful to them.
Content overload leaves audiences feeling overwhelmed, uninterested or flat out annoyed. By taking a more strategic approach, we can turn those feelings into sheer delight.