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When Playing the Long Game of Content Marketing Can Pay Off

by Trenton Reed   |   May 15, 2020

In the weeks following the first confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, marketing think-pieces, LinkedIn posts, and blogs started cropping up. While some of these efforts were well-intentioned, we decided to stay relatively quiet. This was a calculated decision. Writing uninspired articles that lacked direction or purpose just didn’t feel right. It felt pandering.

As marketers and business owners, writing is about providing your readers with useful information—especially in times of uncertainty. But this comes with an important obligation. With the barrage of a 24-hour news cycle, and an unrelenting hive mind of social media constantly causing our phones to buzz, it’s tempting to respond to every update. This is understandable. We’re either inherently impatient, or afraid by the prospect of being accused of inaction.

But I’d argue that it’s okay to take a second to breathe. If you don’t have anything useful to say, don’t say it. Going through the motions—and writing for the sake of writing—isn’t helping anyone. In uncertain times, sometimes it’s wise to take a step back and reassess. Ask yourself:

  • Why are you writing in the first place?
  • Is your strategy airtight?
  • Where can it be improved?

Don’t sweat the small stuff. And once you’re comfortable with proceeding, it may be time to do so. Even if you’re not responding with a momentous take on doing business in times of economic uncertainty, it may make sense to proceed with your usual long-term content strategy. After all, content marketing often plays the long game. And as a business owner or marketer who already believes in the power of content, you may find this reassuring. I know I did.

Like SEO, content marketing is often a long game.

One of the most common questions we hear from clients is, “How long does it take for a SEO or content strategy to work?” The short answer is, “It depends.”

There are a myriad of variables that influence any successful SEO strategy. (I’ll leave it to our technical SEO team to explain them in greater detail). However, on-page SEO success is heavily informed by your content. As I wrote months ago, writers use metrics like reach, engagement, and conversions to prove the value of content marketing. But many times, these metrics aren’t fully reliable until months—or even years—after an article’s initial publication.

I know, I know. Patience is a tough sell in an industry that moves so fast. But according to Google, things like user demand and quality checks help influence how quickly a new blog post is indexed—meaning that it may take time for the search engines to see your post. Plus, many factors depend on your overarching site structure, including sitemaps and resource linking.

Simply put, time can be a gamble with content. Sometimes, you have to put in the effort and walk away. A piece of content you write today may not start generating traffic immediately. Instead, it may start gaining traction weeks (or months) down the line.

But...that’s not to say that you should wait if you do have something to say.

From an SEO perspective, the sooner you publish an engaging piece of content, the sooner it can potentially contribute to your overarching marketing efforts. Waiting too long can prolong the indexing and ranking process. For businesses that frequently publish content, it may be time to continue with your predetermined content objectives if you haven’t already.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean going back “to business as usual” (because, if we’re being honest, that doesn’t quite exist right now; and it may not for months or even longer...). It means remaining cognizant of the content you’re creating. At Workshop Digital, we’re still viewing content marketing through a strategic lens—and so should you. But your approach should be fundamentally different (at least for now).

When coronavirus first hit, our editorial calendar immediately grinded to a halt. And I’ll be the first to admit that it took a few weeks to get it back on track. At the time, we took a look inward and convened with relevant stakeholders to discuss a plan for moving forward. We agreed that it wasn’t the right time to launch new campaigns or test new lead gen tactics. Instead, it was time to focus almost exclusively on providing value to our readers.

In many ways, times of uncertainty require extra attention to detail and strategy. It’s essential to remain intentional and purposeful.

Now more than ever, the following question is relevant:

Is your content created around the needs of your readers?

Now is an ideal time to focus on building brand equity. It is not the time to exploit a situation for your own good. Your customers rely on you for a number of products or services. But it’s probably the time to pump the brakes on new product launches and promotional campaigns.

Playing the long game means focusing on addressing your customers with content that’s relevant to their needs. Your content already aligns around your values, right? Now is the time to ensure that you’re paying extra attention to your audience’s needs.

Luckily, the extra effort you put into your writing does matter, as evidenced by Google’s emphasis on Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (otherwise known as E-A-T). Basically, the search engines reward well-written, authoritative content that caters to specific audiences. It’s always important to publish content with intent and integrity. This is done by striving to accomplish specific goals with each piece of content and being transparent about your goals.

How we’ve tailored our content marketing strategy.

As analytical marketers, we want our content to be informed by data as much as possible. At Workshop Digital, we’re employing several tactics to ensure this rings true. When the pandemic first hit, we made it clear to customers (via newsletter) that we were available for any questions. As a champion of our client services team, I can say with certainty that they’ve taken the time to proactively listen to client concerns. In fact, we recently surveyed these team members to hear some of these responses and needs.

Surveying our team has opened up our eyes to real-life scenarios and provided fodder for content. To that that end, we launched an ongoing video series that answers specific questions such as using website notifications to share updates and ad policies during coronavirus. We’re also suggesting tools like Google Trends to help our clients understand their search marketing accounts during this time. And in the upcoming weeks, we’re keeping our ear to the ground—and plan on creating additional content that addresses more of these questions.

Playing the long game of content marketing means getting back to the basics. This can be done by assessing your current strategy. At Workshop Digital, we’re always thinking of ways to use data to help our clients succeed—so in this regard, our current efforts are an extension of our foundational strategy. Know that the work you put in now will pay off in the long run. That’s why it’s important to continue to create content that’s catered around your client’s needs.

portrait of Trenton Reed

Trenton Reed

Trenton joined the Workshop Digital team in January 2019. After earning his B.A. in English from Virginia Commonwealth University, he moved to Denver, where he explored the Rocky Mountains and built a writing career that spanned the digital marketing, advertising, and journalism realms. Since relocating back to Richmond in late 2017, Trenton has freelanced with local agencies and national nonprofits. As our in-house writer, he’s in charge of maintaining our brand voice across all channels.