We’ve all heard the phrase ‘content is king’, and I certainly believe this to be the case; it’s proven that quality, in depth content gets the most engagement. At a point in digital marketing when linkbuilding is much less about reaching out, and more about enticing people in via content they want to link to, it would seem that the best way to get more traffic is to create as much content as you can… but is this really the case?
In Steve Rayson’s article; ‘the future is more content’, he illustrates that more content equals more traffic using the Washington Post. The site now publishes a whopping 1,200 posts a day, and as a result has seen a 28% increase in site visitors in the last year.
Likewise, the web as a whole has apparently seen significant content growth in recent years, with the number of Google indexed pages growing from 1 trillion to 30 trillion since 2009.
If you are in digital marketing, like me, then the emphasis for a long time now has been on quality, rather than quantity. Yes, regular posting of content is good, but not so often that it becomes a constant churn of articles.
Rayson argues, however, that the future is more content. Not just because it has worked for sites like the Post, but also because content will take a wider range of forms, these include:
- High volume content strategies (a la the Post)
- Automated content
- Short form content
- Video content
As a result, the accessibility of publishing tools will also improve, making it easier to create and publish content.
How has increasing content volume increased traffic?
The success of the Post’s content strategy relies on the long tail theory. This originated in e-commerce and, in a nutshell, is the theory that collectively, the demand for a large number of niche products – even if very low for each product – can exceed the collective demand for a small number of popular or bestselling products. Using long tail theory, the Post is creating thousands of niche articles, which each attract modest traffic, rather creating fewer, big content articles, as collectively the niche articles deliver more traffic overall.
The Guardian, Huffington Post and Buzzfeed have all adopted high volume content strategies after seeing the success of the Washington Post. Last year Hubspot analysed their own data and found that both traffic and leads increased with higher volumes of content.
But what about resources?
As Rayson states; ‘increased traffic and leads does not necessarily mean a good return on investment but the cost of content production is falling and distribution costs are very low, enabling more content to be produced. We are now seeing a high volume approach being taken by many established B2B sites and influencers.’ Tools are also constantly developing, which will help many people move to producing higher volumes of content, such as…
- Using bots to write long tail content
My first instinct when I read this was ‘aagh! No!’ but Rayson talks about using bots to create short form content based on facts, such as sports reports which cover little more than scores, scorers, time of score and league position, rather than the long tail, authoritative content. In addition, a human would also still edit it. Could this make sense?
- Video and audio
Lots of reports have been produced showing that video content is engaged with the most. There have never been so many tools for easily creating videos as there are now – with Facebook Live, for example, users don’t even need a separate video creation tool.
- Short form content itself
Whilst long form content consistently receives more shares on average than short form content, more often than not the top most shared posts include a high number of short form articles. This could be either due to readers having less time and patience to read many long form pieces, or the fact that the volume of short content by far outweighs long content. Regardless, short form content is clearly more accessible and collectively can deliver more traffic – particularly if serialised to break down a long form topic into easily digestible chunks.
What does this mean for content creators?
Don’t panic. This trend for the high volume content strategy doesn’t mean you need to start writing 100 posts a week – that’s probably not even possible for most digital marketers, especially as it is important that content is still of high quality. In Ronell Smith’s rebuttal to Rayson’s article, he states ‘I’m very clear in understanding that Rayson is not advocating for quantity at the expense of quality. My contention is simply that quantity is typically the wrong goal, at least for the vast majority of brands.’ In my view this is key. Instead of blindly producing masses of articles, your strategy should be an alignment of the resources you have alongside the wants and needs of your audience. What are the articles that drive the most traffic to your site? Are they long, in depth pieces or short snippets? Could you feasibly increase your rate of content production if needed? Would your audience engage with your content as much if its volume increased?
If you want to ramp up your content but are struggling with how to do it, it could be as simple as breaking down articles that could be 1000 words or more into a series of three or four shorter posts, rather than finding three or four separate topics to write about. Alternatively, an ‘easy win’ is to find a niche that is lacking in content online generally, and dominating that niche. With little pre-existing content, there’s prime opportunity to cover multiple angles, becoming an authority on the matter. Authority = Traffic.
No matter whether you decide to adapt your existing content strategy, or stick with what you’ve got, one thing which will grow in importance is content promotion. With the volume of content increasing across the web, it will be less and less likely that people will find it. Therefore content promotion will have an even more integral role in getting the reach and engagement your content deserves.
Struggling to know the best way forward for your clients’ content strategy? Get in touch – we’d be happy to help.
Also published on Medium.