Six years ago on a rainy day, while driving through the Chicago suburbs, we had an idea. We turned that idea into this little blog post with a little diagram. It was an instant hit. Later, we turned that idea into the theme of our book, Content Chemistry.
The book is still popular, but the post is out of date. It’s time to dust this off and give an update. Here is a new version of that famous little guide for content repurposing, The Periodic Table of Content.
Content is made up of pieces. And pieces can be broken down into smaller pieces or combined into larger pieces, just like the elements on the Periodic Table.
Thinking about content as particles is the key to repurposing your work. It helps you quickly create new work, transforming old posts into high-value content with less effort.
But before you turn your articles into particles, let’s look at what the content universe is made of. Once you know what’s on the Periodic Table of Content and all the formats for content, you’ll be ready to start smashing particles in the content accelerator.
Here is a description of each particle and examples of how to break it down or combine it with others.
A tiny particle, which survives in nature for only a short time, typically a few hours. Tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram shots and other social media posts are all variations of this element. They are known for traveling far and in many directions, and they may be comprised of subatomic links, mentions, hashtags and quotes.
This is the universal building block of web content. Sometimes simply called an “Article,” the Blog Post is the hydrogen of the website. Unlike other web content, they typically have authors, date stamps, social sharing features and comments. Topics may be timely (news) or evergreen (how-to). This determines their longevity.
An outbound particle that lasts much longer than Social Posts, newsletters live for days, not hours. Content in the email channel involves more trust and has more properties, including subject lines and open rates. Newsletters require careful handling.
The Podcast is pure, distilled audio and has very little visual energy. Podcasts are typically less powerful than Video, but more powerful than text, because of their ability to convey tone. Podcasts build trust.
But Podcasts are the dark matter of content marketing. They are platform-independent, existing everywhere and nowhere. Listeners may love the content but never visit your website. Results are hard to measure. There is very little data for this particle.
This particle comes in two parts: the live presentation and the slides. The live presentation is short-lived, but the slides can always live on. Presentations are most powerful when charged with visual content, such as charts, data and step-by-step instructions.
Here’s how to get the longest lasting impact from every presentation:
Possibly the most powerful formats in all of content marketing, Research reports are difficult to create but extremely effective. They make the brand the primary source for new data. That data can become useful to the broader industry by supporting common claims, answering a question or providing unexpected insights.
Also known as a “success story,” the problem-solution-result format of Case Studies are easy to spot. They increase trust by telling a specific, supportive story. They are especially important when sales cycles are long, and there are many decision makers involved. Here’s how Case Studies act as a strong link in a long chain reaction.
These targeted, highly-charged particles travel quickly. They are created to attract attention from the media, but in their natural form, they are unlikely to be read by most visitors. Press sections of websites are typically very low traffic areas. But Press Releases are easy to repurpose.
Although the content and messaging may overlap with surrounding particles, Video stands alone as the most compelling and powerful format for content. Only in-person meetings (live Presentations) can build more trust. Most content can be atomized into Video in any properly equipped lab.
But it has one major weakness: the messages within Videos can’t be crawled by search engines, so compared to text formats, it has a disadvantage in organic search results. Video’s power is in conversion, not attraction.
The online version of the Presentation isn’t limited by the size of the room, and is almost always made available as a Video later. Registrants know that the video will be shared later, so it’s common for as few as 20% of registrants to attend the live webinar. Some webinars are pre-recorded. Combining a full day of back-to-back webinars creates a compound called a Virtual Summit.
Webinars are easier to produce and easier to attend than live events, but they do require paid software. Their benefits include attracting email addresses and accelerating list growth.
This is the only element on the periodic table that is created to directly sell products and services. It’s the demand generating particle. There are two kinds of visitors to websites, and visitors to web pages have commercial intent.
Guide visitors to them from all other particles. This is main reason the other elements exist! Be very cautious in linking away from web pages. It may be hard to get visitors to return.
A popular format for content, the Round Up is a great way to get started on content collaboration. They feature short-form input from a group of experts on a topic. The goal is often to create a chain reaction of Social Posts when each contributor shares the final piece.
The Round Up asks many experts one question. The interview asks one expert many questions. It’s the deep dive into collaborative content. If the questions are good and the formatting is scannable, it’s often higher value for readers.
Select an expert interviewee whom your audience knows and is active on social media. This will maximize both credibility and reach.
A purely visual particle, the infographic is as easy to scan, easy to embed and easy to share. This has made it a super popular format for marketers. It usually stands in the place of a Blog Post but has little more than an intro paragraph.
Note! Infographics can drive SEO benefits. Bloggers who publish your infographic on their blog will typically link back to the original. Some SEOs publish infographics, then pitch them to bloggers as a way to attract links and build authority. Results depend on the quality of both the content and the outreach.
The Landing Page is laser-focused on a single goal: convert visitors on their first visit. They are designed for a specific source of traffic: a social, paid advertising or email campaign. They promote a specific particle of gated content.
Note! Although Landing Pages don’t directly promote a product or service, the visitor who converts may get a call from a sales associate.
Great landing pages use the same words used in the campaign that attracted the visitor, so visitors know they’re in the right place and are less likely to bounce. They offer strong evidence and few distractions. Language is concise. Call to action are specific.
Don’t link from landing pages to anything else!
White Papers tend to be long, formal and text heavy. They typically go deep into a single topic with a linear flow, establishing the credibility of an expert author. They are a common format for B2B companies with complex products or services. White Papers are prime candidates for atomization.
Offline particle with a history of endurance. No particle is older except the ancient Scroll (Sc) and Slab (Sl).
Books increase the authority of the author, but few marketers create them. They are by far the largest element on the periodic table and the most expensive to create. They require editing, design and printing. But through a bit of chemistry, they can be created gradually over time.
Shorter than the Book, less formal than the White Paper, eBooks are an in-between element perfect for repurposing. They are a balance between visuals and text. Marketing eBooks are actually very similar to the slides of a Presentation and can be created using presentation software such as Powerpoint or Keynote.
There are millions of examples in the universe of content. But here are a few that come to mind, good and bad.
After giving a Presentation at Content Marketing World, the event organizers asked if I would make a Video. Sure! They used it in their content, social streams and as promotion for future events. For me, the same video was an opportunity to publish an article that went deeper into the topics.
So we turned the Video into a Blog Post called Free SEO Advice for Beginners which has details and diagrams that go far beyond the video. The Video is embedded at the top. Take a look!
Robbie Richards know a lot about SEO. Of course, there are a lot of bloggers who publish a list of tools. But Robbie saw the opportunity to reach out to other experts and gather their insights into SEO tools. Rather than just post it as a roundup, he created a scoreboard of the 10 top tools based on the “votes” of the contributors.
After five years of blogging, I’d written around 75 articles. They were good but as a body of work, completely disorganized. So I wrote the outline and began shaping them into a Book. Three months later, I had something to send the editor. Three months after that, it was shipped to a designer. In less than a year, the first edition of Content Chemistry was in print.
A biomedical company hired a PR firm that used their home Web Page as a Press Release and submitted it to online news wires. The explosion in duplicate content caused Google to blacklist the domain. The company no longer ranked, even for it’s own name.
This is a real-live example of the extremely rare duplicate content penalty. Hazmat suits and a Reconsideration Request were needed to clean up.
Content marketing is exactly like high energy physics. Well, not really. But you can accelerate your publishing. Just look at all content around you. Find ways to combine things and break things up. Be a marketing scientist, experiment, atomize and make your marketing go boom.
Content chemistry is a science, but don’t forget the art. If your writing is boring, salesy or irrelevant, no amount of chemistry will help.
Hi! What do those numbers in the upper right corner means? Thank you.
Thank you Andy! Content Chemistry was a fantastic book to read, and finding quickly online the key takeaways through the blog adds a real value to your readers.
This is an extremely clever article. Borderline genius! Thank you for this great depiction of content.
This is outstanding, and dovetails nicely with a current project I’m involved in. Thanks for sharing!
Great concept! Thanks Andy
Hi Andy, I’m always a huge fan of the periodic table. Will there be an updated downloadable version?
Who says content marketing isn’t cosmic! Once again, you’ve dropped the mic on how to make it clear, simple and clever! This is going to be my next screensaver! Thx, Andy.
This a fantastic framework for laying out content marketing. I too agree with the thesis, although I did biochem, so I’m partial. 🙂
Lots of good insights here. Totally agree with your suggestions for when/where/how to link from one piece of content to another. For example, it rarely makes sense to link from a Web Page or Case Study to a Blog Post, whereas it’s great to link FROM a Blog Post to the other two.
Don’t forget that videos can be transcribed for blog posts so the content can be crawled by search engines!
Andy–I love the content chemistry approach. It’s important for content creators to consider how they con transform their content into smaller and larger pieces of content. Thank you for your amazing content. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen – Actionable Marketing Guide
Wow – love this! I’ve been thinking a lot about Atomic Design (currently reading Brad Frost’s book of the same name after seeing him speak at a workshop earlier this month). I love atomizing content just as much! What a great set of guidelines. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much for this Andy. As usual some great advice and lots of practical tips and ideas – thank you!
What are your thoughts?