I dislike the term best practices. It implies my goal is to be the best when I’m mostly willing to settle for not the worst. As a result, I find tips that help me avoid screwing up are more my speed than guides on how to win an award for Outstanding Achievements in the Field of Excellence.
One thing I’ve become pretty good at not screwing up is content development, so I’m going to share five things you shouldn’t do when developing content. Hopefully, this will help the overachievers and the rest of us reduce the likelihood of egregious, public failure.
1. Don’t think too big.
Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re going to need to produce content for a long time, and that means you can’t afford to exhaust your topics too quickly. And yet, I still run into people all the time who want to exclusively write giant guides, in-depth articles and comprehensive analyses.
In a vacuum, that’s great! But when you need to publish two blogs a week, it’s troublesome. Those deep dives should be reserved for your pillar content, while your day-to-day content production should focus on more manageable topics. This makes producing the content easier – writing 400 words is easier than writing 4000 – and your bucket o’ ideas will last longer.
2. Don’t ignore analytics.
If you’re going to bother writing something, you should make sure somebody wants to read it. Free tools like Google Analytics, Keyword Planner and Google Trends make it easy to check the search volume on terms or evaluate the relative popularity of potential topics.
There are two reasons you should care about this. First, it’s a great way to generate something new when the bucket ‘o ideas is running a little low. Second (and most importantly), the first step to getting your content read is writing about something people care about.
3. Don’t forget your personas.
Personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer. (If you need to know more, check out our blog about them.) They’re also a great tool for taking content that seems a little flat and injecting some life into it. If you know your audience’s lingo or the things they like, don’t be afraid to inject it into your content.
It can be the difference between ‘5 Best Herbicides for Canola’ and ‘5 Canola Herbicides That Work Harder Than Your F-150.’ Which would you rather read?
4. Don’t just write blogs.
I’m a late-millennial who still has a library card, so this is a trap I fall into all the time. When I start developing content, I think about blog posts first. That’s not wrong, but it is limiting. Content comes in all formats, and a blog isn’t always the best one for whatever you’re trying to communicate.
When you do decide to write a blog post, or if you already have a robust blog archive, another great move is to think of ways to expand or refresh blog posts by adapting the content into other formats. Remember, a blog post is already 70% of the way to a video script. A listicle is basically a bunch of tweets strung together. And you’d be surprised how easily an old case study adapts into a traditional Japanese Noh play.
5. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect.
A reputation for quality is a great thing to have, but the occasional dud isn’t going to scuttle your brand (see Johnson, Dwayne ‘The Rock’). For most organizations, maintaining a consistent content cadence is more valuable in the long run than making sure an individual piece of content is polished to a mirror sheen.
Granted, things need to be technically accurate and grammatically correct, but don’t scuttle a piece if you didn’t get the interview you were hoping for or if a subject matter expert feels you haven’t added enough nuance to the topic. Just do the best with what you’ve got, hit publish and write another article that adds extra substance
To see more of our thinking on content development check out our Growing Digital: 7 Ways Agri-Marketing Can Become More Digital in 2019