10 Stupidly Simple “Hacks” To Win At Content Marketing
Columnist Quinn Whissen shares easy tactics that will help you get the most out of your content marketing strategy.
Content marketing is hard. But it doesn’t have to be boring.
Lately I’ve been trying my hand at testing smart little tactics — or what I call “hacks” — to get better results out of the content marketing strategy I oversee. And I’ve been amazed at what tiny, innovative tests can do to drive some serious results. Plus, it’s pretty fun!
I was first inspired by researching the idea of “growth hacking” for a presentation I’ve done at a couple of conferences called, in short, “Hacking Human” … which doesn’t involve body parts and machetes, I swear. The gist of it is that marketers can optimize their content for what humans want and are looking for online, and then use growth hacking principles to test their assumptions and get the most out of their efforts.
But whereas growth hacking implies ninja-like manipulation of technologies and code, all I’m advocating here is more of a shift in how we, as marketers, can carve out smart solutions to reach our end goals. In fact, Dan Martell of Clarity says it best when he stated on Twitter: “Growth hacking is a mindset more than a toolset.”
— Dan Martell (@danmartell) September 21, 2014
Content hacks don’t have to be huge or time-consuming. You can apply these 10 stupidly simple principles that will unveil opportunities you may have not been able to even see before.
1. Adopt A “Double-Open” Email Marketing Strategy
This one-minute hack is my new best friend. The idea stems from Noah Kagan of OkDork and involves three simple steps:
- Send an email to your list.
- One week later, put together a list of anyone who didn’t open that email.
- Resend the email to the list of non-opens and simply change the subject line.
Kagan argues that even if you have a relatively good open rate of 30%-plus, that still means 70% of your list isn’t giving your email the time of day. That could be for many different reasons, but this hack isn’t about finding out why, it’s about getting more eyes on your email.
You can see the results Noah got on his test in the images below, and I’ve experienced the same successes. Plus, if you have a marketing automation system, you can set it up to do this automatically! #stupidlysimple
2. Get Serious About Blog Subscription Forms
About a year ago, we redid the design of our Vertical Measures website to a responsive layout. Sparing you all the details, we never made our subscription form prominent on the new site (shame on us) and our subscriptions plummeted. The only way to subscribe was now tucked away in a small RSS button at the top of the site, hardly enticing or even visible.
We finally figured out this had to change and redesigned our whole blog. Since our new signup form went live, we’ve seen more subscriptions in our first month than we got in all of 2014, plus some. With the importance of subscription models resurging through the content marketing blogosphere, it was about time for us to practice what we preach. If your blog is part of your top-of-the-funnel lead-generation strategy, merely make it more visually prominent and watch the leads roll in.
3. Generate Tons Of Headline Ideas And Don’t Rely On Your Gut
Upworthy’s editorial process makes writers come up with 25 headlines for every content piece — 25!! That’s no joke. They understand that the first title isn’t always the best, and ideas will organically arise in the process of hammering out many. Plus, they combine this strategy with testing — i.e., find out which title actually draws in the most readers, rather than relying on best guesses.
If you don’t have the budget or resources for lots of automated testing, keep it simple and create a couple of tracking links for your different titles, and set a time limit. Then at the end of your time, see which tracking url performed better and continue to push and promote that version.
4. Keep The Journey Alive After Someone Fills Out A Form
Thank You pages — we all know they serve a purpose of delivering a simple message to anyone who fills out a form. But have you thought of really optimizing your Thank You pages as next steps in your lead’s journey to getting to know your brand?
Don’t leave them stranded; use the opportunity to engage them further. Here are some ideas:
- Build authority with trust signals, awards, and testimonials.
- Become a trusted source of informationby providing relevant and related content.
- Move the prospect down the funnel with a limited-time sales offer.
- Stay top-of-mind and give them an opportunity to connect with you on social.
5. A/B Test Your Email Sender Name
Another little email hack I haven’t heard much about has to do with who your email is being sent from. What you want to test here is the display name of the sender. So for instance, you can send from your marketing manager’s name, CEO, or whoever really, and then test that against sending with your brand/company name.
In the image below, you can see the results from one test I recently ran, and overwhelmingly the brand name lost out to the real live human. Also interesting to note, the email with the personal name sender had higher click-through rates. Make sure to consider the fact that you may lose out on some brand recognition this way, so use this hack wisely.
6. Resurrect And Repurpose Your Evergreen Content
Odds are you have quite a bit of content in your marketing arsenal. This hack is great if you struggle to come up with many topic ideas easily. Why not repurpose content you already have?! If it was successful once, there’s no harm in using it again with a fresh angle and messaging:
- That old whitepaper can be split up and rewritten into a series of blog posts.
- That long-ago video can be transcribed and reposted as an article.
- That webinar can be split up into segments and repurposed as a tutorial.
- That infographic can be turned into a more in-depth data visualization piece.
Don’t just stop at content creation; apply this hack to content promotion too! “Evergreen” content is like owning real estate online. Get the best ROI out of your investment by scheduling these older pieces of content into your current promotional schedule.
7. Jump On The Social Snippet Train
Make sharing simple and good looking with social snippets like OpenGraph, Schema markup, and Twitter Cards. These are all behind-the-hood coding elements that must be integrated across your whole website so your content will display the title, preview image, and description correctly on social sites. When in doubt, plug your URL into the Facebook Debugger or Twitter Validator to see how it will display on these two major networks.
If your content doesn’t look good or provide relevant information in the preview, you can kiss new traffic goodbye. Do yourself a favor and follow this hack for beautiful-looking social posts.
8. Understand That Humans Are Innately Lazy
One thing I’ve learned as a marketer and designer is that people are really lazy (yes, myself included). But rightfully so — we have a lot of information coming at us from all over the place.
That’s why it’s essential to make it very clear what action someone can take on your website, especially when it comes to sharing your content. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have sharing buttons clearly visible on my site?
- Can I test positioning for better results?
- What about more granular “in-content” sharing options like TweetThis and Pin It?
- Am I able to customize howpeople share directly from my site (like appending my Twitter handle, for example)?
You can be very intentional with testing this hack by utilizing a heat map tool like CrazyEgg to see exactly where and how people are interacting with your site.
9. Make Link Earning A Priority
I don’t advocate the proclamation that “link building is dead.” Links are still the currency of the Internet, whether you like it or not.
What has changed is the approach — rather than buying links or hiring out shady international companies, link building should now be considered “link earning.” It’s about creating valuable content that naturally attracts links.
You can join the world of today’s PR, making authentic connections with influencers who may or may not include a link to your content, or even search out unlinked brand mentions. Either way, nabbing a link on an authoritative site can generate tons of traffic and conversions and is still one of the simplest and oldest hacks out there.
10. Create Seriously Useful, Helpful Content … And Lots Of It
The most important hack of all goes back to my recent Marketing Land article, “The 1% Rule of Content Marketing.” The best way for you to win at content marketing is to continually make incremental progress.
After all, it can take six months to one year to really see results, and the more you “step up to the plate,” the more likely you are to get on base … and maybe even get a home run. Play content Moneyball and keep producing useful and helpful content that will help you get found online.
I’ll leave you with one nugget of wisdom as you set out to try some of these hacks: Don’t guess … test. If I’m being honest, I can say the majority of guesses I’ve made when it comes to testing for content have been wrong. A title I thought was going to be hit out of the ballpark fell flat. An image I thought would garner tons of click-throughs was beat out by one I never thought would get any interest.
Don’t guess … test. And have fun hacking!