Leave Early. Go Far. Stay Long.
It’s an old saying from the time of the plague. When epidemics swept through Europe, there was no better advice.
So why are there medieval survival tips on this marketing blog? Fair question. It’s because there is a wave sweeping through your industry. But it’s not a gangrene-inducing bacteria; it’s content.
As we head up the adoption curve of content marketing, we’re seeing a massive increase in the volume of publishing. Already 1,800,000 blog posts are published every day (extrapolated from WordPress data and WordPress marketshare).
If you think that number is big, just wait. In the past year, the average time and investment spent producing content has almost doubled (eMarketer). There will likely be more than a billion posts published on 2014. Many of those will be published by your competitors, targeting your audience.
So here’s what to do about it. These are the three secrets for plague survival and content marketing success.
The social streams, inboxes, and search results of your audience are becoming more crowded. Clever competitors are finding ways to connect and become relevant through content.
They’ve already started. Someone in your field is slowly becoming a thought leader, slowly building a list of engaged subscribers, slowly creating an encyclopedia of useful content that your audience would love.
What’s the main difference between the popular and the unknown blogs? Age. Content is cumulative, so older blogs are bigger, with more posts and pages. And according to Vertical Measures, sites with more pages generate more leads.
Consider the popular marketing sites and the relationship between age and size. Here are the start dates and the number of pages indexed in Google.
Copyblogger: started in 2006, currently at 6,500 pages
Social Media Explorer: started in 2007, currently at 3,800 pages
Marketing Profs: started in 2000, currently at 141,000 pages
You’ve likely noticed a similar correlation between age and size in social media. Early adopters of any given social network tend to have larger followings.
What’s the first secret? Start now. Leave early to beat the rush.
The crush of content came early to certain fields, and the competition is already intense. For example, 2014 isn’t a great time to start an all-purpose social media blog. Big players have been “flooding the zone” there for years.
But if you go farther, you can find a less competitive place to plant your content flag. The narrower the niche, the greener the pasture. One way to gauge the competition for a given topic is by checking the “domain authority” of relevant websites.
Domain authority is actually a link popularity metric, used by search engine optimizers. But it’s also a great indication of how established a website is in general. Here’s how to use it to find your new homestead:
Think broadly about the topics that may be useful to your audience.
Select sub-topics within those topics, list the likely keyphrases associated with these sub-topics.
Using Open Site Explorer, check the domain authority of the high ranking sites in Google for these phrases.
If the domain authority of these sites is less than 50, you’ve likely found an open field, ready to farm.
Example: When Ian Cleary looked at the competition in the social media space, he saw how crowded it was and decided to go a little farther into a subtopic. He chose “social media tools” and Razor Social was born.
Think broadly about the problems your audience faces and all the ways your content could help them. Go farther into more specific topics and subtopics, where you can win relevance more easily.
The second secret is choosing a less competitive topic. Pick a niche, stay ahead of the noise, and avoid the crowds.
Once you’ve picked out a green pasture, dig in. You’re going to be here a long time. Content marketers are farmers, not hunters.
The outcome of each action is uncertain, so keep planting seeds. The benefits are incremental and come slowly. Subscribers, links, and followers are earned one at a time. Trust and relevance will gradually grow in the minds of your audience.
While the competition struggles with consistency, here’s how you can create a sustainable content program.
Assess your resources. Who will contribute? How much time can the team dedicate? Is there a budget to outsource tasks?
Plan ahead. Set a realistic publishing calendar and stick to it.
Curate and collaborate. Leverage your network to produce and promote content.
The longer you stay, the better you get. You’ll have sharpened skills, both in writing and content promotion. You’ll have more data about what works and what doesn’t. You’ll have more allies and stronger connections. Best of all, you’ll have a growing lifetime body of work.
Endurance is the third secret. There are no overnight successes in content marketing. It takes persistence.
Competition isn’t the Black Death. We’re all going to survive, but it is getting harder to thrive. So take a tip from the year 1347: start now, go deep, and be persistent.