I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in marketing miracles either.
Some people say you can’t predict success and that viral campaigns are just a matter of luck. That’s simply not true.
Success and virality are computable. You put a piece of content in front of an initial audience of a reasonable size, trigger a cocktail of emotional responses that create an urge to share and voilà!
How come big brands like Old Spice or Dove pull off great video campaigns every single time they launch one? One viral video after another. If it was sheer luck, it would be against all odds — but we know that’s not the case.
They follow a formula.
I have a formula for successful content, too. Each piece of my content should pass this test containing five simple questions before I show it to the world.
Let’s dive in.
Question #1: Is this topic novel, and if not, do I offer a unique point of view?
Sometimes I get very mad. I open an article with a promising title, from a credible company, only to find the very same listicle with almost identical points that I read in the last two articles.
Let’s face it: there’s too much content out there. Oh, that’s not true…. there’s too much great content already out there, so readers sure as hell aren’t going to waste their time on bad content. Nobody is interested in another article on how to make money online.
The Internet is too small.
So before writing any draft, ask yourself a couple of questions.
Is the topic of this draft new? If yes, go ahead and work on it.
If not, then is your take on the subject or angle unique? If yes, go ahead and bang it out.
If not, consider changing the topic or coming up with a new angle.
With a little bit of creativity and extra effort, you can find a unique angle even for the cheesiest and most exhausted topic. Just do your research and connect the dots that nobody has connected before.
Question #2: Do I have a distribution strategy for this piece of content?
Content is key, but distribution is even more so. Without a proper distribution strategy, even a masterpiece is not likely to take off.
I’ve come across so many talents that have no clue about marketing. And not surprisingly, they don’t get eyeballs. Because the web is too crowded. Because properly marketed bullshit drowns out quality content without marketing.
So what happens when you finish your draft? Will you pay Facebook to put it in from of people? If so, in front of whom and why? Do you have an email list or a social following? That’s great. Will this content suit the demographic and interests of your audience?
Do you have relationships with the media, blogs that would be interested specifically in this topic? If not, how are you going to approach them? Have you studied their guidelines? Maybe they don’t accept listicles… just checking.
Lay out the distribution plan for this specific piece of content. If you think it can catch on when you considered everything, go ahead and put together this draft.
If not, consider changing the topic or preparing a better plan for distribution.
Question #3: Is this content relevant to the audience that buys my product?
This is digital marketing 101 — don’t fall prey to vanity metrics.
For those who are not familiar with this term, it’s metrics that create a false sense of success. It’s usually big numbers that make us happy, although they have a questionable effect on the end goal. The most common vanity metrics in content marketing are views, visits, and sometimes even opt-ins.
One of my blogs had an article that generated 1,000,000+ views in a month. It was a clickbait article. But because of its general appeal, the audience that came to read it was, well, general. And so few visitors opted in to my newsletter.
What’s the value of this article apart from my superficial excitement at numbers? None.
The same holds true for lead magnets: ebooks, white papers, checklists. If you put together an ebook on a broader topic, it’s more likely to bring in more leads. But how many of these leads will get to the bottom of your funnel? How many of them will pull out their credit cards and actually buy?
Isn’t it better to focus on a more targeted and niche lead magnet that would tempt in the people that feel the pain your product addresses?
Don’t use the top of the funnel to judge content ideas. Don’t create content that drives most visits/leads. Those are vanity metrics. Instead, create content that addresses people who will buy.
Question #4: Does this content serve its purpose in any stage of the buyer’s journey?
So we’ve already answered the question whether our content is relevant to the buyer of our product or service or not. Now let’s get a little bit deeper into this.
Where in the buyer’s journey you’d like to hook your audience with this piece of content?
Do you want to build awareness for the issue your product solves?
Do you want to tempt in people who are just starting to research products or services like yours?
Or do you want to get your product in front of them when they are deciding between different providers?
If you haven’t yet, map out the journey of your typical customer and think where this content fits in it. This will serve as a guide for making your content and messaging more tailored to your potential prospect.
If it doesn’t serve its purpose in any stages of your buyer’s journey, scrap it. Visits don’t matter.
Question #5: Finally, is this the best you can do?
Picture a thousand of people — professional journalists, your marketing heroes, etc. –sitting right now at their laptops and pounding out drafts on the topic of your article.
Well, this is the reality. If you are tackling a broader topic, there will be many more.
How will your article stack up against their drafts assuming part of them are professional journalist, writers who have access to talented editors, research resources, and vast amounts of data into reader behavior and preferences?
In this light, do you still think your draft is the best you can do? Can you do more research and flesh it out more? Can you edit out the redundancy and improve its readability for a better reading experience? Can you spice it up with a joke at the beginning?
In the age of information overload, there’s no place for the second best. You have to be the best in one way or another. Maybe it’s your voice. Maybe it’s the time and effort you put into research. Maybe it’s your niche. Maybe it’s your creativity. You have to have an edge.
If you think your article has an edge, finish it and show it to the world. If not, scrap it. The Internet is too small.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.