How Much Content Should You Be Creating?

Producing content may be easier than ever, but does that mean every company should be turning on the hose? Online marketing expert Lee Odden reveals the key to determining the best publishing schedule for you.

How Much Content Should You Be Creating?

The temptation is strong. Once your blog posts start gaining traction in search results, and you see the organic visits creeping north, you feel the urge to start cranking out content as feverishly as Stephen King or James Patterson. It’s difficult to know when enough is enough, let alone which topics to prioritize and what channels to focus on.

Lee Odden, SEO expert and CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, sat down with OpenView to discuss the best way to achieve a balance of quantity and quality with your content marketing, and how to point your content compass toward the topics that are going to resonate most with your audience and earn you new business (listen to the full interview here).

Is There a Magic Number?

RolloverFirst things first, how much content should you plan on producing right out of the gate?

While Odden makes it clear that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the how-much-content question — “It’s on a case-by-case basis,” he explains, so saying that one post every day, week, or month is the right amount would be “making a sweeping generalization” — he does recommend a method for zeroing in on the optimal publishing schedule for you.

Before you get distracted by arbitrary quotas, it’s important to establish what you hope to accomplish with your content in the first place. After all, just because you can publish x number of articles a week doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to or should.

“The most important thing is to start with what’s reasonable according to your goals, not your resources,” Odden advises. He suggests that you “forecast what kind of percentage increase do you want to actually achieve and work backwards to identify how much content it will take to get there.” That way, you’re not blindly churning out content in an endless drive to push the organic search needle up.

If you are not entirely sure how to get started with your forecast, or you don’t know how much content will push you toward your goals, Odden recommends that you work with a consultant for some direction. Once you have an idea of what your realistic goals are, and how much content you need to achieve them, then you can make the commitment to start creating content and pick an interval — whether it’s once a week or once a month — to get content out there.

After your content gains some traction and you start to collect data on how your audience interacts with it, you can then refine your strategy to “optimize frequency or velocity of content creation going forward.”

Tips for Launching Your Publishing Schedule

Image provided by: {link:http://www.flickr.com/photos/keso/}keso{/link}

Image provided by: keso

Once you have your goals in mind, an idea of the amount of content you need, and an initial publishing schedule, now it’s time to flex your fingers and start writing. As a good entry point, Odden suggests you first answer the question: “Why do customers buy from you?”

It’s important to keep that answer in mind when creating any piece of content, since you should always use your customers’ needs and interests as your foundation points. “Think about what’s happening in their life or in their business that’s causing them to need your product or service,” Odden says.

For more topics to write about, Odden recommends that you talk to customer service for commonly asked questions, or ask your salespeople about the kinds of questions they hear. “The gold of ideation when it comes to initiating content and defining your content marketing strategy is tapping into the actual Q&A dialog that’s occurring between frontline employees and the folks you want to do business with or who you are already doing business with,” Odden says.

For more help getting started with your editorial plan, Odden recommends paying a visit to Content Marketing Institute, where you can get an amazingly rich education along with lots of advice and templates for getting started with content creation.

You can also visit Odden’s site OptimizeBook.com, where you can download an editorial plan template along with a keyword glossary template as ungated Excel spreadsheets.

Take the Next Step: Download the Free eBook

In today’s online world, the best way to attract and retain great customers is by developing a steady stream of highly targeted content.

Download OpenView’s eBook, It Takes a Content Factory! and learn how to:

  • Develop a strategy to align your content with your buyers and drive the array of content factoryconversions necessary to reach a sale
  •  Assemble the team you need to operate your content factory
  •  Produce high-quality content that is optimized to get the greatest return on investment.
  •  Amplify your content by delivering using a combination of vehicles and programs
  •  Maximize your conversions and manage, measure, and continuously improve your content factory
  •  Get started right away by implementing an easy five-day plan to bring your content factory to life

 Download

We Want to Hear from You

What are your tips for getting started with a content marketing strategy, and how do you balance your own goals with a realistic content calendar?

photos by: zoetnet & garryknight

Share Your Thoughts

  • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

    Great stuff Lee…consistent quality is the key….and thanks for the shout out!

    • jcrowe_openview

      Really enjoyed your post on this topic, Joe: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2013/02/content-marketing-fallacy-more-better/

      Looking forward to the “Epic” book!

      In the meantime, are there any tips you can share for how marketers can produce more “epic” content, but still be consistent schedule-wise?

      • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

        Honestly, it’s a mind set more than anything. For example, at CMI, we pump out an awesome (hopefully) post every day, 365 days per year, with less resources than 99% of companies out there. If you really focus on the outcomes for the reader first, that makes all the difference. Most brands put the majority of focus on their own goals without thinking about what’s in it for the reader.

        And thanks for the book plug. Comes out in September ;)

        • WebRevenueCo

          Agreed that need consistently quality posts to engage audiences and attract new!

  • http://www.toprankmarketing.com/ Lee Odden

    Thanks Joe – I think it’s a pressing question for a lot of marketers feeling the friction of limited resources and demands for content performance.

  • jcrowe_openview

    Lee, I really can’t tell you how much I love your point about planning your schedule/strategy around your goals rather than your resources. It’s easy for marketers to get caught up in a routine of “we’ve got to get x pieces of content out there” when really the goal should be more along the lines of “we want to generate x number of impressions and generate x number of leads.” It’s a case of losing the forest for the trees.

    It’s interesting the poll seems to indicate a strong preference for quality over quantity, but does that translate over to good SEO practice, as well? Is it better for marketers to put a lot of effort into one big “keyword killer” or is it better for them to get a bunch of content out there and see what sticks?

    What’s been more effective in terms of your experience?

    • http://www.toprankmarketing.com/ Lee Odden

      I’d say the trend is towards thematic content that inspires engagement and reaction – visits, shares, comments, links etc. It’s hard to do that with a quantity superficial content.

      Of course, whether you go deep or wide/thin it’s always a good idea to collect data and optimize.

      What works well is to decide on that one thing and go deep with it. As momentum occurs, start to expand deeply with more topics. The ancillary social content, repurposed content and off site mentions via blogs, industry media, syndicated content etc will support the long tail of those deep, core topics you want to be known for.

      • jcrowe_openview

        Great points, especially the idea of honing in on one thing (hopefully the one thing that stands to make the most productive impact) and going deep with it. Thanks again, Lee!

        • http://www.toprankmarketing.com/ Lee Odden

          It’s a resourcing thing too. When there are robust resources and smart planning, one can go deep on multiple topics simultaneously. That’s good for audience, brand and of course, SEO.

  • http://www.concentricdots.co.uk/training.php Stephen Bateman DipM MCIM

    Hubspot research suggests 52 posts the magic number or the inflection point or threshold at which deeper content begins to drive more traffic to a content hub – I often aim for this objective threshold when I want to jump start an effective content plan

    • http://www.toprankmarketing.com/ Lee Odden

      Hey Stephen, you know that “the answer to life the universe and everything” is 42. HubSpot is off a little :) #hitchhikersguide

      • http://www.concentricdots.co.uk/training.php Stephen Bateman DipM MCIM

        Haha! :) love it . This is great discussion and I hope OpenLabs choose to release my latest response, this time to @Ardath’s excellent point re planning – I hate being held in a moderation queue :(

        • http://blog.openviewpartners.com/author/megan-mcneill/ Megan McNeill

          Hi Stephen – there is nothing in our queue. Perhaps try reposting?

          • http://www.concentricdots.co.uk/training.php Stephen Bateman DipM MCIM

            hate it when that happens :(

          • http://blog.openviewpartners.com/author/megan-mcneill/ Megan McNeill

            Me too, what a pain. Hopefully it was just a momentary hiccup with your browser or something, but let me know if you have any trouble the second time around. Just so you know, we don’t really moderate anyone (except spammers!).

  • http://www.concentricdots.co.uk/training.php Stephen Bateman DipM MCIM

    Perhaps like piloting a car: more gas to get up to speed then ease off at cruise level – key thing is not to kill the tune and sound like a scratched record – like @Joe says when responding to companies on the false trail for the Holy Grail of CM: it’s no longer about more more more…

  • Ardath Albee

    This is a great post, Lee, and a question I’m hearing a lot. What I’m starting to see is companies that have developed a lot of content but have published without intent that extends beyond just publishing. In other words, the content isn’t connecting the dots for buyers, so it’s not pumping momentum into the pipeline.

    For companies that have been producing quality content and have a depth on a specific topic, I’d suggest pulling up for a minute and auditing what you have. How is it connected? What’s the flow for the buyer? Where does it lead them? And, is it inspiring action that leads to next steps toward purchase?

    Rather than just producing more quality content, marketers would be well served to map their content across channels and – as Lee said, toward goals. Content’s job is much more than creating likes and mentions and viewers. It’s about creating intentional behaviors that result in a customer relationship.

    In our quest to produce more content, I think many of us forget that. Then again, it depends on how we define “quality” in relation to content marketing. In my opinion, table stakes for quality content is engagement. So we need to reach beyond that to creating “intention” to actually earn a trusted place in the buying process.

    This doesn’t mean start pitching people. It means defining what next steps will move them forward now that they’ve read/viewed/engaged with a specific content asset. So keep asking, What’s next? for each piece of content you create and make that possible and enticing.

    • http://www.toprankmarketing.com/ Lee Odden

      As always, I learn every time I read or see you Ardath. Thanks for contributing your insights here :)

      • Ardath Albee

        You are too kind! And back atcha – you always make me think!

    • http://www.concentricdots.co.uk/training.php Stephen Bateman DipM MCIM

      That’s such a good point about stepping back, looking up, auditing, mapping and planning @Ardath – the whole reason there is so much crap @DougKessler talks about is because there is no planning nor mapping – it’s easier to keep your head down writing rubbish than it is to look up and under the bonnet – it’s for this reason I’m so intent on helping marketing managers with their planning bit.ly/10k7UrF

      • Ardath Albee

        Thanks, Stephen! And, you’re right, but it’s a new skill set that marketers need to learn. It will take time. But I see progress :)

        • jcrowe_openview

          This is such a great conversation. Thanks to both of you for pushing it forward!

          I think there are a lot of marketers who fall into a “content Groundhog Day trap”. They feel pressure starting out to get a lot of content out there to test and see what works, and they’re also hearing that they need to publish consistently, so they set up a schedule that’s probably too aggressive to begin with (things always take more time & effort than they think at first).

          Then they get stuck in a routine with the blinders on — they’re focused on producing content, when they should be focused on producing engagement or the larger strategic goals. Like you put it, Ardath, content becomes a “rote activity” http://marketinginteractions.typepad.com/marketing_interactions/2013/05/b2b-content-marketing-thoughtful-or-rote-activity.html

          Have got to keep emphasizing and focusing on the larger goals.