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The book is still popular, but the post is out of date.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.
Atomize Your Content: 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.
- Atomize your big pieces of content into smaller formats.
- Combine smaller pieces into larger compounds
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.
A guide to understanding the chart:
- Elements at the top of the chart are small and have a shorter half-life.
- Elements at the bottom are larger, slower to create and last longer.
- Elements to the left appear everywhere, on millions of sites and locations
- Elements on the right are more likely to be on your site.
Here is a description of each particle and examples of how to break it down or combine it with others.
Sp (Social Post)
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.
- Any content can be atomized into Social Posts. For best results, use the best quotes, statistics, captions and visuals. Doing so can lead to small chain reactions of shares and clicks. The simplest way to post (just using the headline) isn’t always the most effective.
- Social posts can be combined into blog posts. Ask a question on social media and pull the answers from the audience together into a blog post. Or look at you social data to see which posts got the most traction. Use those tiny particles as seeds for bigger ideas.
Bp (Blog Post)
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.
- Blog Posts should always be broken down into social posts. Share the best sound bites, not just the headlines. Science has found that more visual, collaborative and emotional Blog Posts travel farther and faster in social.
- Combine several blog posts on a common topic, or expand on the most successful blog posts, turning them into White Papers and eBooks. Once transformed into downloadable content, they can be added to Landing Pages and attract email addresses.
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.
- Newsletters should always link to Posts and Articles. Their energy is lower unless this bond is created. If a Newsletter gives the full text of the article and doesn’t link to something else, there is no click and no traffic is generated. Never put the full text into a newsletter. Always combine!
- Newsletters should contain smaller particles.
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.
- Podcasts are relatively easy to create and publish. The simplest form may be reading and discussing a Blog Post. The most common form is an interview show, which has powerful networking properties.
- Add show notes with links and visuals to turn any Podcast into a Blog Post. Failing to do so would be to limit their power. Give calls to action during the show to guide visitors toward the Blog Post “For more details on this topic… to see this diagram… visit our website…”
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:
- Link to Blog Posts on relevant slides. Link to Web Pages in calls to action on the final slide.
- Upload to Slideshare and embed the presentation in relevant Blog Posts
- Schedule Social Posts to go out during the live Presentation. Include images, tips and juicy soundbites from the slides. Use the event hashtag sub-particle.
- Record the live presentation as Video. For conferences, these can be packaged as a virtual pass or gated behind an email signup.
- Edit the strongest points into smaller videos and embed on relevant Blog Posts.
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.
- New Research is news, making it one of the rare events that call for the creation of a Press Release
- Sound bites from the research become Social Posts and should be kept in heavy rotation on social media
- Extended versions of the research can be made into downloads and used as gated content. These can be promoted on Landing Pages, where they attract email addresses from visitors.
Cs (Case Study)
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.
- Link from Blog Posts to Case Studies, guiding visitors from advice to stories.
- Link from Case Studies to Web Pages, guiding visitors from stories to sales pages.
- Use the best sound bites (testimonials and statistics) on those Web Pages to increase conversion rates.
Pr (Press Release)
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.
- Rewrite it for a broader audience to turn the press release into a blog post. Change the formatting by removing more general, less useful sub-elements, such as “For immediate release.”
- Share the information from the press release with specific bloggers and editors with personal outreach. Offer to discuss the topic or collaborate on a related piece. This can lead to off-site Interviews.
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.
- Embed Video in Web Pages to increase conversion rates. These videos should be high quality, tell stories, demonstrate expertise and build trust. Use a pro player like Vimeo or Wistia.
- Embed Video in Blog Posts to increase engagements. These videos can be lower quality, give advice and increase engagement. Use YouTube.
- Embed video in Newsletters (or at least, add the image of the video thumbnail and play button) to increase clickthrough rates
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.
- Before the webinar, create a video of the presenter with a short summary of the topic
- During the webinar, trigger the spontaneous formation of Social Posts by specifying a hashtag
- After the webinar, summarize the top tips of the Webinar in Blog Post, Interview and Video
- Repurpose the webinar video to create shareable content for social media directly from your webinar.
Wp (Web Page)
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.
- Link to Web Pages from each Blog Post and all other on-site content.
- Link from Web Pages only to credibility building particles such as Case Studies and White Papers
- Embed Videos into top visited Web Pages to build trust and increase conversion rates
- Web Pages rarely get shared and can’t be repurposed into Social Posts, Newsletters or other formats.
Ro (Round Up)
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.
- Trigger Social Posts from contributors or by mentioning them when sharing it on social networks or sending them each a “Click to Tweet” link.
- Transform Round Ups into Research by gathering a lot of contributions, then analyzing responses (“4 out of 5 experts report that collaboration is effective”)
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.
- Ask questions that relate to past blog posts, then link to those posts within the text of the interview.
- Conduct an email interview, but add a short Video to make it more compelling.
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.
- Successful Blog Post can be transformed into an infographic and republished.
- Any Infographic can be pitched as a Guest Blog Post.
- If designed carefully, sections of Infographics can be turned directly into social content, adding visual impact to Social Posts.
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.
Lp (Landing Pages)
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!
- Use larger particles from the bottom of the periodic table as the gated content behind a landing page: Research, White Papers, Case Studies and eBooks
- When using a Landing Page to promote a Webinar, be sure to emphasize the deadline and create urgency.
Wt (White Paper)
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.
- Break down a single White Paper into three or more Blog Posts.
- Add visuals and compelling title to transform it into an eBook
- Use the new, more compelling title to pitch it as a Presentation to relevant industry events
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.
- Combine many Blog Posts into a Book through editing fusion. Begin by writing the table of contents. Then gradually write Blog Posts for each section and sub-section.
- Break a large book down into Blog Posts, White Papers and eBooks by adding headlines, visuals and links. Each piece can end with a call to action to buy the complete book.
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.
- Turn Presentations into eBooks by adding text and compelling cover slides
- Combine the top points of Blog Posts on a similar theme into a eBook. Add a call to action to download the eBook on each of those posts.
- Gate them behind an email signup on Landing Pages
Atom Smashing Examples
There are millions of examples in the universe of content. But here are a few that come to mind, good and bad.
1. Video into Blog Post
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!
2. Round Up into Research
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.
- Today, Robbie’s Best SEO Tools article attracts thousands of visitors each month.
3. Blog Posts into Book
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.
Atomic Meltdown: Web Page into Press Release
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.