The idea of future-proofing is quite simple at its core: you create something with the knowledge that it won’t immediately become obsolete in the coming weeks, months, or even years. The way you do that is not to actually see into the future with some kind of content crystal ball, but rather to make sure you’re not setting yourself up to fall short of your goals. After all, why go through all the hard work of researching, writing, and promoting your content if it’s only going to wither and die within a month or two?
Not all content is destined to live forever, of course. Some pieces are published to (wisely!) hop on trends, chip in and join a conversation, and be as timely as possible. Like any singular component, these trendy articles are useful but absolutely not the be-all, end-all to any cohesive content strategy. The same goes for that beautifully optimized landing page you just created for a client. You may be seeing the returns you like right now, but what about down the line, when those returns begin to stagnate or fall?
We’ll discuss those issues in more detail as we explore five different ways that you can help to future-proof your content strategy, ensuring that you can keep rocking it for years to come.
Tip #1: Remember that publishing is just the first step
Allowing your content to live (long) and prosper is a lot like caring for that new plant you just bought for your porch. Just like you can’t expect mother nature to take care of your plant because you put it outside, you can’t expect your intended audience to find your article simply because you published it. This isn’t merely a call for sharing your work on the proper social channels, though you definitely need to be doing that, too.
Let’s say that you published a piece that has been performing exceptionally well for the past six months, even going beyond your expectations. It’s doing well in the SERPs, people are organically sharing it on social media, and (let’s say in this particular case) it’s meeting most of your KPIs for this particular type of content (conversion rate, time on page, bounce rate, etc.). You’re clearly doing everything right, unless, of course, you haven’t done anything to further optimize the page since publishing it.
It is crucial to the life of any page, never mind just those that are performing well, that you are optimizing it for the best possible return. If you have pages or articles that are connected by a greater overall theme, make sure your readers can find and read them through best internal linking practices. Have you implemented a new or different CTA on more recent content? Insert it into this piece, too. Has some news broke that could impact the state of the copy on this page? Update the article and make sure everyone knows it’s received a new coat of paint (hello, social media).
Also, while we won’t take too much of a deep dive into theories on Google’s freshness ranking factors, there is evidence to suggest that frequent and significant updates to a page (typically additions or changes in the <body> of the text) helps contribute to positive ranking benefits. A page that performs well organically should be regularly updated to maintain its competitive edge.
Tip #2: Stay agile and anticipate
Remember those trendy pieces I talked about earlier? This isn’t the same thing. These are trends as they relate to content marketing and how you build out your strategy. Similar to how you don’t want to just build one type of content (I’ll touch on that later), you don’t want to stick to a strict strategy—even if it happens to be working well at that particular time. You need to remain agile, sharp, and thinking ahead.
Let’s use the example of something as simple as design. You have built out a great resource hub for your client, and it’s overflowing with articles and guides written by experts. The content is being shared and performing well, but there’s one thing that’s always been bothering you about it: the design and user experience. You know that if you were able to improve on those two aspects, the content could perform even better. But why fix what isn’t broken, right? Wrong. Even if your resource hub looks better or is of the same quality of a competitor, don’t be complacent.
An ideal solution in this scenario is that you present your findings (backed by data and insights) to the client with the understanding that these changes work two-fold. They’ll make the content itself easier to read and share, thereby increasing engagement and the opportunity for conversions. If you get a negative response or something along the lines of “We can address this later,” be agile and find ways to make it work within an existing budget.
Tip #3: Think like a journalist
This particular quality is helpful beyond increasing the potential of a journalist covering your latest content marketing campaign or linking to one of your articles. It’s helpful because it keeps you on your toes and ensures that you remain curious. Journalists are always digging and searching for their next story, avoiding that whole complacency bug I mentioned in the point above.
The key point here is to remain not just interested but curious and engaged. Read everything you can (within reason, obviously) about the subject of your marketing campaign and from other folks in the industry who are executing similar projects. Remaining properly engaged means more than reading, too. If you’re seeing others participating in an interesting chat on Twitter, join ‘em! You never know what even the tiniest bit of information may do for you and the content you’re producing. Sparks often start small, but they have to start somewhere, and that often comes from remaining intellectually curious.
Tip #4: Diversify your approach
Any content strategy worth its weight drives home this point, and it’s one that bears repeating: diversity is incredibly important when it comes to your strategy. It’s more than simply creating a varied set of content, though, because that’s really only the first part of what makes it work. You also want to ensure that you’re optimizing the success of your biggest, most expensive projects by making them more than a single splash, no matter how big.
If you published a successful eBook that resonated with readers and helped hit most of your KPIs, then you need to make sure you capitalize on that success. Pull bits and pieces from the eBook that could be their own long-form articles or blog posts, and then point them back to the eBook in the CTA. Doing this extends the life of that more expensive piece of content through much more affordable means.
Follow the success of those pieces and the original content, and you’re bound to find inspiration from any feedback you receive. This can result in anything from a new blog post to an intriguing Twitter conversation that you started. There are myriad possibilities.
Tip #5: Determine and embrace your niche
If there’s an opportunity for something to be more curated in 2017, it’s likely that it has been. From playlists to monthly deliveries of wine and nearly everything in between, companies are figuring out that the best way to reach their customers is to make their relationship more personal and targeted. In the case of the editorial side of content marketing, it’s one thing to churn out a bunch of articles and target a user group through promoted posts on social media. However, it’s another strategy entirely for those articles to continue to hit a refined and clear audience.
In other words: you can try, but unless you’re a publisher, don’t be everything to everyone. There was a time when following the crowd and latching on to huge, trendy events worked for even the most tenuous campaigns. But users are too aware of this now, and you’ll end up with a surge of vocal and negative feedback paired with (even worse) a loss of trust.
With the proper research, data, and persona insights as your guide, you can start to build and execute a content strategy that centers on a very specific demographic. And it’s in catering to that audience that you can develop your niche even more, potentially carving out a winning angle you were previously unaware of. Find your corner of the web and own it.
Future-proofing content can come with many challenges—some of which have been discussed here—but these five tips are sure to make those hurdles even easier to jump over if and when you confront them.
If you want to learn more about content marketing and how best to approach it, remember to check out Ayima’s free content marketing strategy course for a full breakdown of how to plan and implement a content strategy of your own.
And do get in touch if you want to know more about what we at Ayima can offer you.