Last week, Ashley Tate, Content Lead for SEOMoz, flew all the way down from Seattle to speak at our Lean Content meetup. Ashley has an extensive background in blogging, content strategy, and community management, and had some awesome insights to offer! (Also, she has the cutest dog ever.)
It’s interesting to hear the many different definitions of lean content, as they’re all unique yet based upon the same concept. Here’s Ashley’s:
Lean content is:
-All about testing and finding out what works and what doesn’t
-Easily shared across multiple platforms
-Able to be repurposed and reused across time
It’s all about metrics.
The first thing that Ashley talked about was metrics. Don’t run away - as scary as metrics can be, they’re one of the most important parts of a content strategy, and guess what? Anyone can come up with them!
SEOMoz has a super handy widget that publicly displays the highest priority metrics for measuring the performance and effectiveness of your content. These numbers include:
-Likes (in the form of a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”
-Visits, pageviews, and average time spent on the page
After defining these metrics, Ashley reminded us that you don’t have to be a data expert to analyze them; you just have to be “someone with excel on their computer.” With the simplest numbers, you can easily gauge what content people (quite literally) like and dislike, what turns out to be the most shareable, and what people spend the most time reading. Comparing these numbers for each of the different types of content that you’re experimenting with can be extremely helpful to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
At SEOMoz, Ashley conducted some experiments with the metrics described above, and she learned lots of interesting things that helped her to create the best possible piece of content for her community. She focused mainly on the numbers as well as the emotional reaction of the community to different types of content, and collected and examined data to find out what the SEOMoz community wanted to read more of.
Some of the key takeaways from this effort included:
-Guides work (leading her to create “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO”)
-Specific topics work better than umbrella topics
-Long content wins
-The best way to create new content is to base it upon the feedback from your first successful content series
On Content Mining
The second part of Ashley’s presentation focused on a concept known as content mining. Content mining, she pointed out insightfully, supports lean content.
“When you’re running lean, the best way to find content is to look at what already exists around you.”
Ashley explained that most companies are actually “sitting on content gold” and don’t even know it yet! About a year ago, they realized that this was actually the case at SEOMoz. They had lots of content coming in from many different sources, but didn’t exactly have the right strategy to figure out what to do with it.
To figure this out, they took the following steps:
-Identified content sources
-Tested existing content
-Reached out to their community for guest posts
-Focused on “big content” projects
-Created community-friendly posts
So, now that the strategy is figured out, what steps can actually be taken to get the content created and out there?
Tap your content avenues
Ashley advises looking into the different ways to discover as well as to push content. These include blogposts, user generated content (UGC), videos, webinars, and social networks.
Test, test, test!
A pattern is starting to develop here! It all comes back down to the metrics. Make sure you’re keeping track of those numbers, so that you can test the community’s reactions to different types of content. As many content experts have explained in the past, and many will continue to explain in the future, the answer isn’t written in stone; each business has different needs and each community will react uniquely to various types of content. The only way to find this out is - you guessed it! - testing!
Lean on your team members
Just because the content strategy is led by one person, this doesn’t mean that that person has to be the one doing all of the creating. Chances are, there is a diverse team of multi-talented people working for your company, and it’s extremely helpful to leverage each of their strengths in your content strategy! Have an awesome engineer with a technical background? Have him tell his story in a creative blogpost, or create an awesome graphic. Does your latest intern have a cool story of how they found your company? Let it be known to the world! This is all brand-developing content that keeps your community interested.
Use your community
Who knows what type of content your community loves better than your community itself? Once your content strategy is off the ground, think about asking your community members to contribute. Ashley’s example is “YouMoz,” the SEOMoz blog filled with content solely from the SEOMoz community.
In addition to this advice, Ashley reiterates that “using your brain” doesn’t hurt either. Spend time sitting down with your team and just talking about what types of content could work for your strategy, and how to make that happen.
To learn more about SEOMoz and Ashley Tate, don’t hesitate to reach out to her on Twitter at @ashletate!