Eric Ries developed a great process in his bestseller The Lean Startup – yes, this is recommended reading! It’s called “build-measure-learn” and by the end of this post you’ll be able to apply these principles to the content marketing on your own website to improve the quality of your traffic and build your audience.
Why lean principles?
Anyone who wants to grow their business today is faced with an almost paralysing array of choices:
- Your website
- Email marketing
- Social media
- Paid search engine advertising
- Paid social ads
- Business networking
- Cold calling
- Paid lead generation
- And my father’s personal favourite: “Get out there and knock on doors, boy!”
Perhaps you’ve tried one or all of these methods without really knowing what works. It’s the not knowing that’s a killer. You’re just not sure if you’re wasting your time or not. But you have to do something, right?
Time for a sanity check
Well, the lean methodology can provide you with a little sanity, and when done right it provides you with a measurable way of making incremental progress with your content marketing. It goes without saying that building a loyal audience for any business requires time and unwavering dedication to creating awesome content.
Let’s start by introducing The Lean Startup. The Lean Startup is a bestseller written by Eric Ries back in 2011. Eric shares his personal experiences of working on startups in Silicon Valley and adopting an approach to product development based on lean manufacturing principles.
At the core of the lean methodology is the build-measure-learn feedback loop.
You start with an idea or an assumption, i.e. you think problem X needs solving; then you build what is known as a minimum viable product (MVP) to test this assumption; you measure the results; and then take what you’ve learned and create a new test, restarting the cycle once again.
You continue to iterate through this feedback loop, trying to improve the results from each of your tests.
So what’s the big idea?
The big idea here is that: you think you know what people want, but actually you don’t.
The feedback loop provides an objective way for you to prove or disprove your assumptions.
So how can we apply this approach to content marketing?
The centre of your content marketing
Here at Wildheart we advocate creating regular, original and high quality content on your website to build a loyal audience for your business. We believe this is THE place to start when it comes to content marketing.
Regular blogging is also a fundamental part of content marketing as it helps to position you as an expert in your field and give people a reason to come back to your website.
So, when it comes to content marketing, we can adapt the build-measure-learn model to publish-measure-learn. Let’s break it down.
Before you start publishing content for your business, there are a number of steps you should go through first. Check out How to choose your blog topics for your business audience to learn the process we use with our customers.
You also want to set some goals for your website. We have a blog post coming up over the next few weeks about creating a measurement plan for your website. So keep an eye on our content marketing blog.
Your content calendar contains a list of blog topics that you’re assuming your audience is interested in. Publishing these posts, sharing them with your email list and on social media is going to give you something to measure.
If you’ve been creating regular content for a while then you’re in a good place to start measuring the results. If not, then you’d better get busy!
There are 2 important things to consider when it comes to measuring the success of your blog posts. First, you should be aiming to create relevant evergreen content that becomes more valuable to your target audience over time.
Secondly, your website traffic is constantly changing and your audience today won’t be your audience in a year’s time. You should be focusing your efforts on improving the quality, rather than the quantity, of your traffic over time. By focusing on the quality you’ll naturally increase the quantity.
Measuring the quality of your content
When looking at your top content you want to keep an eye on:
- Average time on page,
- Returning visitors to page,
- Page bounce rate.
Measuring the quality of your visitors
When looking at your audience engagement you want to keep an eye on:
- New vs returning visitors,
- Average pages per visit,
- Average visit duration.
An example of how NOT to do it
Back in 2006 I started blogging for my first agency. As someone who loves art and design, I visited an art exhibition on Constructivism in London and wrote a blog post about it. Over time this became evergreen content on our site, meaning it became one of our most popular pieces of content. Unfortunately, it was completely irrelevant to our audience of business owners needing our marketing services.
My first mistake here was to focus on my own interests rather than on the needs of our potential customers. Now, ideally you want to appeal to both. It’s important to write about what you’re interested in and knowledgeable about, but not at the expense of your business audience. Be disciplined and keep it relevant.
My second mistake was measuring content that wasn’t aligned with our own business goal: to generate business enquiries through our site. It sounds so obvious, but don’t measure what doesn’t matter. Get clear about your goals.
In this step in the process you’ll want to use the data you’ve gathered to inform what content you’ll create next for your audience. The more times you repeat this process the more you’ll learn about your audience and the better equipped you’ll be to offer them content that’s meaningful to them.
One of the greatest benefits of approaching your marketing using lean principles is that you’re always learning from your audience. This attitude of constant learning is very handy in the ever shifting sands of the modern business world.
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