Salvaging a Struggling Content Marketing Operation

7 Steps to Salvaging a Struggling Content Marketing Operation

August 16, 2019 | by Timothy Wier

What’s harder: salvaging a struggling content marketing operation, or starting one completely from scratch?

Probably the former. Not only do you have to build from the ground up, you have to do damage control if your brand’s been negatively impacted, rebuild all the systems for tracking success metrics, or reset your audience’s expectations for what to expect. 

If you are salvaging a struggling content marketing operation, you’re probably facing some of these common challenges:

  • Low quality content that either is irrelevant to buyers’ needs or appears unprofessional
  • Infrequent content creation so you can’t realize the full benefits
  • No clear plan or strategy to use the content to get you to your business goals
  • No tracking of metrics to see what’s working and what’s not

With these challenges in mind, here are a few helpful steps to ensure that your content marketing is driving success.  

1. Audit your current assets

It’s the textbook first step when you take over a marketing operation: start by performing an audit. You have to know what you have before you can fix it. 

Even if the content marketing operation is struggling on the whole, it doesn’t mean that everything is all bad. There’s probably some good stuff that your predecessors have published.

An audit requires you to take every single piece of content that’s been published and find out:

  • Date of publication
  • Number of views/impressions/visitors
  • Number of conversions
  • Traffic by source
  • Engagement metrics (bounce rate, exit rate, form submissions, etc.)

If you aren’t able to determine all of these because sufficient tracking isn’t in place, then just leave it blank. The point is to gather as much information you have. Once you have done this for all your content assets, you’ll have an idea of what’s been performing well and what isn’t. 

For example, if you have a blog post that’s been obtaining 70 percent of its traffic from organic search, you know that that piece is ranking well for the target keyword. If, however, that same traffic is creating a 90+ percent bounce rate, it probably means that the keyword is not something that’s relevant to your audience. 

2. Grab the low-hanging fruit

One of the most overused phrases in marketing, especially content marketing, is: grab the low hanging fruit. But it’s overused because it’s true.

In the startup world, execution is key. There’s no time for a three-month planning and strategy stage before you produce a single piece of content. You’ve got to execute and start generating results now, because tomorrow is never guaranteed.

I said earlier that starting a brand new content marketing operation was easier than salvaging a dying one. While that’s true in most cases, one of the unique benefits of salvaging an existing content marketing operation is that you already have material you can work with. 

Rather than having to write new blog posts, you can take one that’s performed decently in the past, and refresh it to create something new: 

  • What can you refresh and repost with minimal effort?
  • What can you convert quickly to another medium to start to generate traffic from a variety of channels?

Taking what you have and getting some mileage out of it should be the first place you start, so you can quickly and easily start to get the wheels moving for your business. 

3. Refresh and repost 

The first and most immediately impactful tool you have to getting high quality content out there is to refresh the content you currently have and repost it across all your various channels. 

If you have content that’s performed decently in the past, you can make some modifications and turn it into something superb. Maybe you have a blog that’s generated a lot of organic traffic, but your conversions aren’t great. Either change the call-to-action, or rewrite the blog to better tie into the one you have. 

If you aren’t sure what’s wrong with a content piece or how to fix it, here are some steps to quickly find out:

  • Show it to your team and ask them “what’s missing?”
  • If possible, get on the phone with current customers (your most trusted customers) and see if you can get them to tell you a) if they read it, and b) what they would find helpful on the topic
  • Google similar topics, especially articles written by competitors, to see how others are tackling the same issue
  • Let the metrics guide the way: pageviews, bounce rates, exit rates, conversion rates are all indicators of specific problems with content, ones that you have the power to address

That way, you’ve got something out there that’s generating interest, engagement, and hopefully leads, while you work on building your long-term strategy.

4. Repurpose existing content

Once you’ve refreshed your content, you want to make sure it’s achieving maximum impact by repurposing it for other channels. 

Let’s take, for example, a series of 2-3 related blog posts you’ve recently created. Here are some ways you can repurpose that content:

  • Convert them into a series of social media posts
  • Convert them into infographics
  • Combine the blogs into an eBook
  • Convert them into scripts that can be used either as a podcast or video

You should think of five to seven ways to repurpose each piece of content you have. That way, you’re taking the same information and communicating it to as many members of your audience as possible. 

5. Create a content strategy

Once you’ve grabbed the low-hanging fruit, it’s time to look to the future. If you’re going to take this struggling content operation to the next level, you need a strategy to figure out what you need to do. 

Here are some steps to developing a solid strategy:

  1. Develop a clear idea of what your customers are looking for. Whether you’re building buyer personas or simply researching customer questions, the end result is the same. You need to address your buyers’ needs and solve their real-life problems; otherwise, what’s the point? If you haven’t done research in this area, go ahead and get started. 
  2. Determine the areas where you want to be recognized as an expert. These will provide the “pillars” for your content marketing strategy. What do you want your audience to think of when they think of your brand? That’s what your pillars will be based on. Eventually, you’ll want a content-rich pillar page that’ll serve as a resource to provide SEO benefits for your website. But for now, think of these pillars as your “lane”, allowing you to focus on specific and impactful topics. 
  3. Set your KPIs and timeline for success. Ultimately, your goal is to generate revenue for your startup, but even with the most agile and tactical plan, it takes time before the money comes in. There are plenty of other leading indicators you should be tracking against that will get you to your goal. Determine what those are for your business — common KPIs are traffic, engagement, conversions, search engine rankings — and then set a plan for how to get there. 

These three areas provide the backbone for your content strategy. The first helps you determine who you’re helping, the second how you’re going to help them, and the third what you need to do to get there.

6. Start producing new content

Once you’ve put together your content strategy, it’s time to start producing new work. But for a startup, producing good content in a high enough quantity for it to make an impact can be a challenge, especially with dozens of other important tasks and projects vying for your attention.

Here are a few ways you can prioritize content development:

  • Establish a calendar. Everyone responds to the pressure of an impending deadline, so use that as an incentive and a tool for holding everyone accountable.
  • Set aside time every day. Whether you’re the one creating the content or assuming an editorial role, you still need to invest time and attention in content. The only way you can ensure this happens is by setting aside the time to do it. 
  • Utilize your team. You’re not in this by yourself, as much as it probably seems that way. Let your team carry some of the load in terms of ideas, research, and even some of the writing. 

The sooner and faster you can start producing content, the sooner you’ll see results. 

7. Analyze content performance

Creating content is half the battle. But the other half–analyzing content performance to determine what’s working and what isn’t–is still a very important piece of the puzzle.

But with all the metrics available for you to analyze, what do these numbers tell you, and what should you be looking to when deciding what to impact or adjust? Here are a few:

  • Impressions or pageviews. No matter how great your content is, if no one sees it, then it’s certainly not going to do anything for you. Understanding how many people view your content helps you see if people are interested, and whether your content has gathered enough attention to draw accurate conclusions from the metrics. 
  • Bounce & exit rates. If someone comes to your content and isn’t enticed to learn more, that could mean several things. For some people, it may mean that your content solved the problem they had in the moment and they were satisfied. Or, it could mean that they found it unhelpful. Or it could mean that you’re attracting the wrong audience altogether. Looking at your bounce rates helps you understand whether your content is attracting an engaged audience or not.
  • Time on page & time viewed. If someone spends several minutes on a webpage, that’s an eternity in internet time! The same applies to videos and podcasts. A high time on page means that you’ve gathered your audience’s attention and held it. Even if the bounce rate is high, this is a good sign that your content is meeting a need. 
  • Conversions. While tracking first- or last-touch conversions has gaps, it’s still an effective way to look at the overall trajectory of your content marketing. If you’re bringing in conversions–particularly, conversions that turn into customers–then that’s the ultimate indicator that your content is performing well.

The more you understand about your content performance, the better able you’ll be to adjust and adapt to ensure you’re meeting your goals.  Once you follow these seven steps, then it’s just a matter of repeating the process over and over again. 

Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you’ll need to bring in outside help to create content at the volume your business needs. With the solid foundation built by salvaging this struggling content marketing operation, they’ll be able to build on what you’ve accomplished, resulting in overall wins for your business. 

Creating content at scale is a challenge for many new startups. Here’s a guide we created specifically to address the quantity vs. quality conversation: and provide some helpful tips for accomplishing both.

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