But first! I mentioned in a previous email I’d write more about the decision to move to contentaudience.com. If you’re at all curious about the process that led up to that (and the daily emails and the research project), I wrote a review/testimonial of the program sharing my experience and mindset shifts around an approach to work based on committing to a practice of building expertise clients care about.
Back to, “What should I write about?”
I love this question because it requires multiple inputs, context, and prioritization to answer well.
Let’s say (for now) that in the pursuit of content excellence we can only serve one master at a time, given these two options:
- our existing audience (we want to engage them with a high value email)
- a new audience (we want post an article to get traffic from Google as a means of increasing exposure and therein list size)
For #2, we can swing for the fences or do predictable content things to grind out more traffic over time. A model I like for this:
Hygiene – Hub – Hero Content concept
This pyramid concept developed by content creators at Youtube says (video) content is typically one of the three types that you stack as part of a strategy to address different goals and needs. But it’s a good model for thinking about content irrespective of format.
Hygiene – think groceries. This content is the stuff your target audience needs in a consistent ongoing basis. They might need a couple ingredients in a pinch for dinner, or they’re weekly getting perishables. The point here is it’s commoditized and predictably inelastic in the demand for this type of content. The problem is there is no loyalty. Another grocery store opens next door and you never see half your customers again.
Predictable demand is good, but it means constant competition.
Hub – like a nice restaurant. People think of hub as elevated, engaging. The demand is “lower” than for groceries as you can’t eat out all the time. But it’s the on-brand engaging content you become known for that will bring people back. When people can expect a measure of style and quality, they’ll come back for the experience of consuming your hub content.
Audiences can be finicky as hub is less predictable, but increase the frequency of resonance in content, and the right things can compound.
Hero – sort of painted myself in a corner here with the food analogies, but think of a chef competition show: you “go big,” investing a lot of time, energy, and money preparing and the goal is to make an impact catering to the judges and winning attention even if just for 15 minutes of a much broader audience base.
Also tricky. Nike can crunch the numbers for a smart safe bet on Colin Kaepernick. But you can’t. So you need to reduce your risk by validating and minimize potential losses when going big.
The autopilot approach
When people think about writing for traffic, they do keyword research, look at search volume, and then write a post satisfying the intent of those searches. This is only slightly better than getting content ideas from questions or conversations (which is often better for hub content).
The problem with hygiene content is that someone else is going to come along and put more time and energy into ranking something similar above you for similar queries.
I imagine a bank putting a billboard with the current time up on a highway. Then another bank wants their logo next to the current time so they make a “better” digitally displayed time and rent a more prominent spot. Then another bank with even more money comes along and makes an even prettier and more legible sans type font for the time display.
And… no one cares. No one cares who’s logo is next to the time. They’re all similar enough that they get the job of telling people what time it is done, and in the process earning a moment’s attention.
Getting to mixed content
You’ll see a lot of content rank looking pretty formulaic. If you’ve ever met someone who’s done contract work for eHow or another content farm, you know they have it down to a science: write in this structure, this many words, that many steps, include these phrases. Then they arbitrage the projected pageviews to ad clicks to make more over x time period than they pay the copywriter for it. Google “knows” this so its a safe bet to rank an eHow article for “how to install GE all in one washer” under those conditions.
But that’s not you. You’re not robotically writing content for machines.
Each pageview is an opportunity to make an impression, get some consideration. If you’re just doing hygiene content, you need to start thinking about how to elevate that with hub content standards.
The problem with the time on billboard approach is that it assumes that winning on hygiene queries and content is an incremental game of doing the least amount possible to get to the top spot. But the opposite is true.
Hygiene content competition is jam packed with incrementally “better” content, all with the same status quo, vanilla approach to satisfying an intent.
So if you choose hygiene for traffic, innovate on it with a layer of hub.