Creating content is hard. Creating original content from new ideas is even harder. Content that is continually relevant and stays “fresh” for readers over the long-term is not only a highly effective part of any content strategy, it also makes sense from a cost and effort perspective. Sound good? Let’s jump into the details, as well as some practical takeaways.
Let’s take a minute to review the impressive output of Steven Speilberg, renowned film director, writer and producer. He’s notable for being one of the most commercially successful film makers in history. He understands what people want and has been delivering it to them since the 1970’s.
A quick review of movies he has been involved in shows a clear pattern: he spends a lot of time recycling content.
Sometimes it’s a much-loved movie or book re-created (West Side Story, The BFG, The Adventures of Tintin, War of the Worlds). Often it’s another instalment in a successful franchise (Men in Black, Jurassic Park, Transformers, Indiana Jones).
Of course, movies based on new ideas are also created by Speilberg and they are often successful. But they are a risk, and you can bet additional convincing is required when something new comes across an investors desk, as opposed to something that is a continuation of a long line of success.
Compare this to your favourite provider of news. By definition almost everything you read is new. It’s created for you on an hourly basis and is almost entirely influenced by the most topical events occurring in your world.
Rather than sit back at the start of the year and figure out what people want to consume, the hard-working people who write and film the news, are almost entirely reactive and original.
They typically don’t have the luxury of re-using content and it’s hard and constant work as a result.
Hollywood’s obsession with recycling ideas is not because they are lazy. Or out of ideas. If ‘original’ made them the most money, they’d be investing in the latest quirky young directors and writers, and movies would be a lot more interesting.
The reality though is that making movies is a business and it’s about creating a piece of content which a large number of people will spend money to watch now and in the future. Success is measured in ticket sales, downloads and views. For most studios, the KPI for a successful movie is not originality or brilliance.
Your job, when it comes to content marketing, is to create things people want to engage with. The aim is to influence them to think a certain way or take a certain action. An article you personally thought was original and brilliant will probably be less popular with your client or boss than something less interesting which drove genuine revenue over the previous 12 months.
Depending on the specific piece of content, and where it fits into your overall strategy, your KPI is likely to be one or more of clicks, views, form submissions, leads, sales or offline revenue, all connected to a person having viewed the content.
If you’ve been doing this for a while you will almost certainly have pieces of content which have been successful in the past.
Taking these content pieces, updating them for today and re-publishing them. This sort of content should be the cornerstone of your content marketing strategy. This is evergreen content in action.
There is of course also an important role to be played by new and unique content. Sometimes, something topical happens and your audience will be educated or entertained by you exploring it. Most of these events create one-off content pieces.
And sometimes, something genuinely changes for your industry or audience and you can deliver value to them by exploring it. Lasting shifts in an industry often create future evergreen content pieces.
When it comes time to fill your content calendar for the coming year, you should start with those content pieces which have worked in the past, and which, with some updates, will likely be successful again. That’s right, you start with the content you’ve identified as being evergreen for your audience.
It doesn’t matter if you are bored of the content or are no longer challenged by the subject. All that matters is how your ideal audience will engage with it.
Like Hollywood, you should leave space for the new and the risky. It’s what will keep your content fresh and interesting and help you attract new people. But it’s unlikely that all of the new pieces will beat the proven content. And just as importantly for most of us, the updated content will require significantly less work than producing something from scratch.
Bottom line, be like Hollywood. Pick the timeless content and enjoy the better return on effort and risk by making adjustments each year, rather than starting from scratch for your entire content strategy.
The first step is to review your analytics reports and see which existing content pieces have performed most strongly in recent months or years. The way that you define performance will depend on your own strategies and whether you know how to set digital marketing goals that are realistic for your business.
If possible you should also sit down with your sales team and ask them the top 10 questions they get from prospects. I bet the questions from 2023, will resemble those from 2020 and likely those from 2017 as well.
You should also review the best performing content created by others in your industry. Do you have content on these topics which could be improved to compete with the best-performing pieces already out there? This is often a cornerstone of a solid SEO strategy.
David Lawrence is the MD and Co-Founder of Rocket, an award-winning Australian digital marketing agency. He is also the co-author of the Amazon #1 best-selling marketing book 'Smarter Marketer'. David has presented at several events including Inbound, Search Marketing Summit, Mumbrella360, CEO Institute and a variety of seminars and in-house sessions.
David has built his expertise from a diverse career, starting with an economics degree before jumping into all things web in the late 90s.
Today, David is Rocket's Managing Director and is known for his ability to find clarity in the bigger picture. He is highly respected as a digital marketing authority, sharing his expertise with an extensive network here in Australia and around the world.