You’ve just finished writing up a long-form guide for your blog. It’s taken you months to get it finished. It’s full of useful tips and tricks. You even worked with a designer to create graphics that make it pop. You’ve got all your social promotion queued up.
After rounds of edits, your cursor is finally hovering over the “publish” button.
Then you wait.
Traffic spikes as your social promotions go out. But a month later… your initial deluge of traffic has almost entirely dried up 😿.
You realized too late that the moment for this content piece has passed, or the audience wasn’t there in the first place. Whatever the reason, your content isn’t ranking.
As content marketers, we’ve all been there. But agile content marketing can help you avoid that nightmare scenario, by helping you inspect and adapt more quickly.
This blog covers seven easily achievable ways to boost the agility of your content marketing process.
Ship Early, Ship Often
We’ve all got an inner editor lurking within us. Sure, it helps us keep a healthy habit of critiquing and improving our work. But inner editors also have a nasty habit of becoming… well, a bit despotic.
Fail to keep your inner editor under control and you wind up delaying that piece of work you meant to publish last week. All because you just can’t get that one pesky paragraph sounding right or find an analogy you’re happy with.
The simplest way to enhance the agility of your content marketing is to ship early and ship often.
The benefit of having something out in the wild, impacting people, and having an opportunity to rank is far higher than when it’s stuck on your computer.
Resist perfectionism and write according to a regular cadence, because the more you publish, the more opportunities you have to learn and impact the world around you.
Everything is an Experiment
Agile content marketing is all about forming hypotheses, experimenting, and seeing what works. Or as we like to call it – throwing spaghetti at the fridge and seeing what sticks.
If a tactic or strategy is bringing home the bacon, you double down on it. If it’s not doing so well, you spend time trying to learn why. Then you either divest or iterate on it.
Treat every piece of content you write as an experiment. Even something as simple as including video in a blog is a chance to learn how it impacts time spent on a page. That’s why it’s important to also frame every piece of work according to a hypothesis.
- What am I testing in this piece of content?
- What do I want this piece of content to achieve?
- How do I know if it was successful?
- What are the criteria for doubling down or divesting?
Hypothesis: Including expert commentary from influencers in our blogs and asking them to share will help us increase the reach of our content.
Why not keep a file of all your active experiments and what you’ve learned from them? That way, when a new person joins your team they can see all the experiments you’ve run and what your learnings are.
Reviewing the results of your experiments regularly is vital if you want to better iterate and course correct.
Because if you’re throwing spaghetti at the fridge every week and nothing is sticking, all you’re doing is making a big mess.
Decide on Leading Indicators
One thing that makes Agile content marketing hard is that results can take some time to reveal themselves.
Agile methodologies emphasize the importance of getting early feedback and iterating quickly. But search engines are slow. It can take up to six months to get a clear picture about whether your piece of content is destined to enter the SERP hall of fame or wallow in misery somewhere around page 47 😢
Leading indicators help teams get some early signal on whether a content idea or strategy might be destined to work or not.
Indicators don’t need to be complicated. They can be simple. For example, why not try:
- Comparing time spent on page to your most popular content
- Keeping an eye on the number of links earned
- Using social shares as an indicator that content is working
- If you regularly share content via email, comparing link clicks for newer pieces vs. your most popular pieces when you first launched them
- Running ads that promote content and comparing CTRs
All of these indicators help you get an early signal without having to wait for the Google algorithm to do its… algorithming.
But a word of warning.
Be careful when setting social shares as a leading indicator, because we can all fall prey to what Rand Fishkin calls the “spike of hope” when things go big on social and then turn into the “flatline of nope” when your piece fails to generate organic traffic.
Using leading indicators helps you iterate as you go along, so you can pre-empt the flatline of nope.
Create a Collaborative Content Backlog
When you think of a product backlog you might think of an ordered and prioritized list of all the things you need to do. In content marketing, it might be worth making your backlog more busy, collaborative, and creative. Here’s why:
Content is like fruit. Ideas need time to ripen and grow. When content ideas have had time to evolve in our minds, we’re better prepared to create something brilliant. And the final content pieces tend to be much better.
Because let’s face it, nobody wants to eat a green banana.
Treating your content backlog like an ideation space can help you build pieces of content passively as you go about your work. Here’s how we do it:
- Have a content idea and add it to the backlog
- Jot down a rough outline or thoughts on this piece of work
- Over time add pieces to it as the idea builds – perhaps a relevant tweet or piece of inspirational content
- Take it into a sprint
For our team at Parabol, everyone is free to contribute their ideas or thoughts to that content idea, which helps us benefit from more than just the power of one mind. It also helps us test opinions, arguments, and logic.
Content marketing agency Animalz have their own version of this called the “Idea Farm,” which is sort of like a content backlog on “endless scroll” mode. It’s a place where non-linear ideation can take place and ideas can be cross-pollinated.
Set up a Content Scoring Formula
Content backlogs can be creative and flexible spaces, but they also benefit from being prioritized so you’re putting effort into the right things. If you want to make the biggest impact in your niche, you need to make sure your content ideas fulfill your target keywords and align with whatever goals you’ve set out for your content.
We created a content scoring formula at Parabol to help us do this. When each content piece has been scored, we end up with an automatically prioritized backlog to work with.
The score for each content idea is based on:
- SEO relevance of the topic – Is it directly in our niche or slightly outside it?
- SEO size of the content – How big is this piece of content?
- Customer questions – How many users have asked us about this thing?
- Relevance – Is there a current debate we can tap into or not?
- “I’m into it” factor – If we’re fired up about an idea it gets a bonus point.
- Link/Share-ability – Does this have a chance to go viral? Will it generate links?
This scoring approach helps us keep laser-focused on the most important pieces of content we need to write. But there’s also a chance to defer to the traditional maker approach of “I’m excited by this idea and I honest to god had a eureka moment about it.” We’ve built that into the formula with the “I’m into it” factor.
Run Content Retrospectives
Leading indicators aren’t the only way to improve how often your content is hitting the mark. Retrospectives have a role too – for process and content improvements.
Specifically, running a content retrospective helps us to:
- Collate and organize what’s working
- Document what’s not working
- Suggest process improvements
- Think about new content experiments to take forward
- Raise any unresolved tensions around content
We recently ran a content retrospective at Parabol to do some deep thinking about where we need to course correct with some months of experience under our belts. It also helped us to pull together insights and observations that may have lived only in each other’s heads without being documented.
We split the retrospective into the following columns: What is working? What have we learned? What needs more attention? What new experiments should we run?
Pass the Baton to Work Faster
Sometimes you’ve put together a new blog post or landing page and something just isn’t right about it. You can’t figure out what, but you’re not happy. So what should you do in this situation?
The answer is probably: suppress your ego and pass the baton.
But what comes more naturally is: waste another hour fiddling with it and fail to make any real progress.
If you’re playing around with bits of text but not progressing, it’s time to pass the baton to a colleague. Think and live by the 80/20 rule: 80% of the value derives from 20% of the effort. And be prepared to recognize when you’re not delivering that extra % point of value anymore.
If you’re stuck on a piece of content and can’t find a way forward, you should also pass the baton. Your colleague might be able to see with surprising clarity what needs to change and will re-energize the process, helping to get you unstuck.
When it comes to editing content, we try to keep a 24-hour turnaround. Editing is less mentally taxing than creating, so consider prioritizing edits as the first task of the day to warm you up, or the final task of the day, to wind down.
Editing quickly helps you and your colleagues unblock each other quickly. It also helps to lower the amount of work in progress, which keeps you Agile.
Knowing when to pass the baton (and being confident doing so) helps us ship much more quickly and save ourselves a lot of agonizing over sentence structure, too.
Agile Helps Marketing Teams Outperform Competitors
Adopting an Agile workflow really does reap rewards. While your competitors create a messy pile of spaghetti on the floor, you’re iterating, improving, and moving faster.
Marketers face some unique challenges that developers practicing Agile don’t.
Perhaps the most difficult challenge of all is getting timely feedback to effectively iterate and course correct.
But with leading indicators, content retrospectives, and all the other tips we’ve mentioned here, you’ll be well on your way to running a successful agile content marketing process.
So what are you waiting for? Time to out-rank and out-perform your competitors.