When you start publishing content regularly, you can land on a very broad spectrum of results.
You could start ranking for some key search terms, especially at the top of the funnel stage.
You might gain traction and momentum on social media, suddenly finding yourself in hyper-relevant industry discussions.
Customer retention becomes easier and your customer-facing teams are more empowered to share your thought leadership and position you as the best solution on the market.
Your content falls flat.
Because the practice of publishing content regularly has become so popular over the recent years, the lines between its success and failure have become quite blurred.
If we dig deeper, there are several issues behind this:
- Many content pieces exist without a goal, both from a marketing and business perspective
- Lack of goals make it difficult to update and refresh that content
- New, similar content is created without analyzing previous pieces to see what worked and what didn’t
In other words, content is often produced just for the sake of content. It’s seen as a magical solution to all positioning, marketing, sales, and retention problems.
But content is expensive and time-consuming, and the sooner you take intentional action to analyze its impact on your company as a whole, the better action you’ll be able to take.
From my experience, content failure can be categorized in two distinct groups:
- Content that didn’t gain traction it was supposed to
- Content that gained traction, but didn’t achieve the result it was supposed to
Let’s dive into questions for each of these categories that will help you bring your failed piece of content back on track.
Failure #1: Your content didn’t get enough traffic
When you’re on the content hamster wheel, it’s easy to end up in production mode without looking back to analyze the basic signal of content success: traffic.
Now, I’m not saying that traffic is the end-all-be-all metric to call a piece of content a success; 500 pageviews from qualified prospects are a lot more valuable than 100,000 random pageviews.
However, if your piece of content isn’t seen by anyone, qualified or not, you stand no chance to reach the right people in the first place.
Question 1: Does your headline convey the direct value of your piece of content?
No matter how great your piece of content is, if the headline doesn’t communicate that, all your efforts were for nothing.
And after you’ve spent hours perfecting your blog post, it’s easy to settle to a generic headline that vaguely describes your topic:
- 5 tips for successful [topic]
- Ultimate guide to [topic]
- 7 ways to improve [topic]
These seem great at first glance, but they don’t speak to a particular pain point (even if they do so in the blog post itself!). They don’t present a transition from a problem to a solution.
On the flipside, have a look at these titles from CoSchedule’s blog:
They could have named these articles “Guide to remote working” and “Tips to handle a social media crisis”, but they haven’t. Instead, they painted a vivid picture of the issue at hand and presented their articles as the solution.
Question 2: Is your topic valuable?
Updating your headline will only work if the core of your blog post is what your audience actually wants.
If they don’t, you’re working with something that folks from Grow & Convert named mirage content.
In essence, it’s content that looks good (and targeted) on the surface, but when you dive into it, it actually isn’t what your target audience is looking for.
A perfect example is something that Benji Hyam, co-founder of Grow & Convert, shared with me when I interviewed him on my podcast.
He said they worked with a VC company that worked with experienced founders. Their content looked really good at a first glance. But then, as they started to analyze it further, they realized that a lot of their content was focused on first-time founders, which their target audience was too advanced for.
In other words, topics like “Series A checklist” weren’t valuable to them. No matter how well their headlines might have been, the content was still unappealing to their ideal customer.
If your content is underperforming, make sure to get more specific with who you’re targeting with it. Some resources that will help you are Grow & Convert’s specificity strategy, and Benji’s insights on mirage content.
Question 3: Have you done everything you can to win links?
If you’ve sorted out the above two questions, your next item is to analyze whether you’ve done your best to build links to your content asset.
No matter how great your content actually is, it’s still crucial to do intentional outreach and PR to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.
If you’ve already done outreach for your piece and haven’t seen success, make sure to identify whether you’ve made the same mistake in communicating your content’s value as you may have in your headline and your topic.
Beyond that, dive into:
- Doing the opposite of what your competitors are doing
- Researching journalists and industry leaders you can connect with organically
- Building links internationally
Then, rework your pitch, collect feedback and analyze results, rinse, and repeat!
Question 4: Can you spark organic social media activity around your topic?
When it comes to organic social media, there’s only so much you can do.
If your customers, supporters, industry partners and influencers already like talking about you on social, they probably naturally share your content.
If that’s not the case, though, you can still create a lot of buzz.
My favorite tool for this is Quuu Promote, a content promotion tool that gets your content into the social media queues of real people and in front of relevant audiences.
It’s simple: you add your valuable piece of content, you write your captions for various platforms, and you select your post’s category. Once it’s approved, it is shared over the coming month by people who curate their content through Quuu.
The results? Hundreds of clicks from your ideal audiences:
And unlike methods like Facebook advertising, this is completely organic, which means people are more likely to share your content further and amplify its reach.
Failure #2: Your content got a lot of traffic, but it didn’t achieve its goal
Maybe you’re on the flipside: Your blog post got hundreds of visits. Thousands! But out of all the people that landed on it, only a few have:
- Stayed on the page for longer than 30 seconds
- Signed up for the free resource you’ve offered in exchange for their email address
- Clicked through to another blog post or page on your website
…or whatever else you hoped they’d do.
Most of them arrived and left too fast to benefit from anything in your blog post. So what can you do to remedy that? Here are some questions to answer.
Question 5: Did your introduction sell your topic?
The best blog post introductions are those that poke straight into the pain point of your reader—and promises a proven way to solve it.
This is particularly important if your content pieces are long. Before they invest 10-15 minutes into reading it, your visitors want to know it’s exactly what they’re looking for!
The king of snappy, to-the-point introductions that go straight into what you’ll learn is Brian Dean of Backlinko:
Other great examples come from Airtable…
…as well as Teamwork:
They all do a great job of telling you what’s in their blog post for you and your exact challenges.
Have a look at your blog post’s introduction to identify any opportunities to make your blog post more appealing to your target reader.
Question 6: Have you answered all the questions you were expected to?
Of course, you first must make sure that the rest of your blog post delivers on the promises made in the introduction.
Then, check if you’ve presented the solution to any questions and issues that are related to the original challenge you were solving with your blog post.
This is particularly effective when you’re targeting a broader topic and are creating some form of an in-depth guide on the topic.
For example, if you were writing a guide on building a website, what are all the sections you’d want to include? Picking a domain, host, a variety of design options, and page layout are probably where you’d start.
To expand from there, you can type in ‘how to build a website’ into Google and look at the People also ask section to identify closely related questions:
This will add sections on the costs and software involved in this process.
When you open these questions to see suggested answers, you’ll start seeing even more questions.
The more of these (genuinely related) areas you cover, the more complete, in-depth your piece of content will be, and the more value it will bring to the exact people asking these questions. Make a list of all the questions that pop up and review your blog post to make sure you’ve answered them!
Question 7: Is your call-to-action fully optimized?
Finally, what is it that you want your reader to do next, and have you explicitly asked them to do so?
The first part of this section is to simply make sure that your CTA isn’t hidden somewhere deep in a long paragraph.
The second part, and perhaps the most important one, is to ensure that your call-to-action aligns with the general approach and the end goal of your blog post.
For example, if your blog post is extremely in-depth and educational, targeting people who are just starting to learn in this field, but your CTA is straight up selling, it probably won’t work in your favor.
Just like that, if you have built one resource after another, deeply pulling your reader into your universe, but still hesitating to offer a paid product or service as your main call-to-action, you might be leaving money on the table.
When you place yourself in the position of your reader, and their level of knowledge and readiness for a free resource or a paid offer, you’ll be able to offer the best option for their current position in the customer journey.