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Lessons Learned From Publishing 17,000 Articles In Two Years

Content MarketingIn 2009, I launched a network of sports websites with the mission of giving sports fans in North America and Europe a place to interact and engage with other like-minded fans.

The first order of business was to build brand awareness, traffic, and page views for the sports network. To do so, I embarked on a two-year content marketing effort overseeing the publication of over 17,000 pieces of original content.

The value of publishing original and engaging content was the spectacular growth of traffic from 652,000 visits to 2,800,000 visits. Page views tripled from 1,600,000 to 3,900,000 in two years.

Five Considerations for Those Who Have Like-Minded Content Aspirations:

1. Writers

I could not write 20+ posts a day by myself, so we advertised via social media and a freelance writer website, saying that we needed writers. The quantity and quality of these writers proved impressive. While it was easy to find sports-loving writers who were passionate about their team and sport, I also found writers who wanted a platform to showcase their expertise.

2. Editorial Calendar

We did not use an editorial calendar. In retrospect this was a big mistake. The lack of an editorial calendar meant that there was no rhythm or flow to when content was published. One day a site might have ten new posts, another day just one or two.

The writers also had the freedom to write about either a team they were covering or the sport in general. An editorial calendar would have highlighted the big events and focused the writers where we needed them; NFL Draft, World Series, Champions League Final, coaches getting fired, etc. Because we didn’t have an editorial calendar, we likely did not maximize traffic to the sites during the big and important current events.

3. Style Guide

Another mistake was not implementing a style guide for writers. A style guide would have covered basic formatting issues like whether to write “semi-final” or “semifinal” and which words to capitalize within titles. The lack of a style guide did not impact the traffic or readership of the posts, but it impacted the feel of the site.

Having a style guide would have allowed each site to develop its own voice while still maintaining a professional and unified appearance.

4. Self-Edited Copy

At first, we reviewed and edited all posts, but as the volume of posts increased, we decided to allow preapproved writers to publish their content live, without editorial approval.

While this change made it easier for content to show up across the network in a timely manner, it also meant that some posts were published with spelling and grammatical errors, which impacted the readability of those articles.

In the future, I would spend time to create an editorial process flow before accepting articles. That way posts from all sites would be approved by copyeditors in one central location before being published.

5. Metrics to Measure Success

Before we started we did not clearly identify what success would look like. Would it be traffic? Page views? Time spent on site? Something else?

As I mentioned, our visitors increased from 652,000 to 2,800,000 with 1,160,000 page views increasing to 3,900,000. Ultimately the content had to increase revenue in some way and without the right metrics in place, we were pumping out a lot of content that we could not tie directly to revenue.

We should have defined the metrics and measured the content against them, the site and writer levels. Without the right metrics in place, we couldn’t tell who our best writers were—whose content readers returned to time and time again, or who our worst writers were—those whose content just did not resonate with readers.

Having metrics would have allowed us to identify our most valuable writers so we could have worked closer with them instead of treating all writers the same.

It’s interesting to look at how many steps we use now with our clients. I wish I had seen this before I started!

Step 1: Define program objectives
What are the objectives and goals for the program?

Step 2: Define content needs
What types of content will be produced?

Step 3: Establish process and technology
How is content produced today and what changes will be needed in that process?

Step 4: Define writer strategy
Who will be the best fit to write for the program?

Step 5: Prepare site for content
Is the website optimized for search?

Step 6: Define content Promotion strategy
What paid, owned, and earned marketing channels does the client use?

Step 7: Define Measurement strategy
What key metrics will be used to measure content performance?

Step 8: Execute, Measure and Improve
This is an iterative process that improves engagement and interaction over time.

Are you struggling with your content marketing or overwhelmed by the idea of starting a content marketing program and don’t know where to begin? Then use our experiences to take your content marketing to the next level by contacting us today!