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With companies under pressure to cut costs as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown, some have begun to take an axe to their content marketing programs. Traditional digital media buys, including paid search campaigns, can be instantly turned off and on with a couple of mouse clicks.
Your content marketing channel operates differently
Content marketing programs take months (and in highly competitive segments, years) to build up momentum in the form of traffic, SEO, leads and sales. An easier way to think of it is like an automobile. It takes a significant amount of energy to get it moving at a high rate of velocity.
Similarly, when content marketing programs completely stop, an increasing deceleration across all metrics occurs. Like the car, when you stop giving it gas, it slows down and eventually comes to a stop.
When your content marketing spending stops, your program’s performance will, too
If you don’t provide enough fuel for your content marketing engine, it will grind to a halt as well. As a result, all of your previous efforts and money spent is lost. The speed by which your program loses momentum is directly proportional to the level and intensity of your competitive set within your industry.
If you are in a highly competitive space or one that is changing rapidly, your content marketing program will stop faster than you realize.
Again, using the automobile analogy, if you are in a competitive space, it’s like driving up a steep hill. It takes a lot of energy to make moderate progress. If you take your foot off the gas, the car quickly decelerates and starts rolling backward down the hill, destroying all that you’ve put into the program.
Market leaders have more content marketing momentum
Does it seem like the leader in your industry seems to effortlessly suck up market share? Unfortunately, the same applies to content marketing and SEO. Market leaders, who have achieved the #1 position on highly competitive keywords have done it by dominating their space. Their content marketing program is an extension of that domination.
They have likely invested massive amounts of money, resources and time to get to that #1 position. As such, they may not need to expend as much of their company treasure to maintain it. Like the car, they’re already at the top of the hill and need less energy to maintain their speed. They don’t have to burn much energy climbing it.
What does it mean to lose content marketing momentum?
You may not realize it, but losing content marketing momentum can hurt you in more ways than you realize. Here are a couple of obvious and not-so-obvious ways your company can be affected.
Drop in leads and sales
You will not see it immediately, but it will happen and will grow worse with each passing month. In our experience, former clients who stopped their content marketing programs began to see a pronounced drop in leads and sales by month three. Even when they resumed their content marketing program, leads and sales remained depressed for several months thereafter.
SEO rankings are the result of consistently publishing high quality content, effectively promoting and amplifying that content, and staying on top of website maintenance. When a content marketing program is stopped, the fuel (new content) that was powering SEO is shutoff. We’ve seen two consequences:
- Keywords phrases where the customer was ranked on the first page of the SERPs (search engine ranking pages) began to drop to either lower positions on that page or onto the second and third pages.
- Click rates on results pages dropped. We can only infer that this may have meant that competitors were creating content that was more relevant to the user or that the lower position resulted in a lower click-rate.
Inbound organic visitors
As SERPs drop, new organic inbound visitors begin to drop as well. Depending on the level of competition for your keyword phrases, the drop may not be felt until two or three months later, as your previously earned content marketing program loses momentum.
Declining social media presence
It was no surprise for us to see social media take a hit faster than the main website. By its very nature, social media needs ever-increasing amounts of content (curated and original) to sustain itself or grow. When content inflow is stopped, your social media program goes dark. You’re not posting anything that your social media followers can read and share. Eventually, they stop following you and move onto another relevant source.
Of course, one of the areas that will experience lasting damage is your company’s brand. An easy way to measure your brand value is by using Google Trends. Here, you can type in your company name and see how your brand grows over time.
Now, if you stopped your content marketing program abruptly, over time, your brand will become more and more impaired. To explain why, let’s use an analogy.
Imagine that you are searching for a restaurant to go to. You find a place on Google Maps, but when you look up the restaurant, you see that nothing new has been posted to their website or social media for months.
What’s the first thing that is going to come to your mind? You’ll probably ask yourself whether this restaurant is still in business. The same thing happens to B2B companies who have websites that haven’t been updated for an extended period of time.
The scary thing is that as your brand value diminishes, it has a negative impact on your SEO program, which can lead to a vicious, downward spiral for your company. However, the opposite is also true. The more that your content marketing program grows, the more positive of an impact it will have on your brand.
Click rates and price paid for keyword phrases within your paid search program
This is an area few companies realize is impacted by their content marketing programs. Content drives organic search, and if your content appears on a search result, where you are also participating in PPC (pay-per-click), it will likely have a positive impact on both the click rate and the cost paid for bidding on that search term. The bottom line is this: If you are running a paid search campaign but then turn off your content marketing program, you’re likely to see gradually deteriorating performance and increasing costs.
Inbound links and referral traffic
Like social media, inbound links and referral traffic need content to be able to sustain themselves. Unlike social media, however, their decay rate is typically much slower. This is not to say that it will not be impacted — it will — but it can be one of the more stable declines. Keep in mind though that it is also one of the hardest and time-consuming aspects of content marketing to build up.
Your market leaders are able to lean on thousands of relevant inbound authority links to power new content that they create and to sustain their momentum, even when they temporarily slow down their content marketing program.
The hidden opportunity is right in front of you
You’ve heard about the negatives of stopping your content marketing program. Now, let’s talk about what happens when you keep your program running (or even growing), while your competition puts everything on hold.
The majority of companies create content so that they can generate awareness and interest in their products or services and ultimately get prospects to take action. That can be anything from a simple newsletter registration all the way to generating a sale.
I don’t care about the upside. I still need to cut marketing costs. What do I do?
Today, many heads of marketing (if they haven’t been laid off) have been given mandates to cut costs across the board. CEOs don’t take such decisions likely. Your company may have been brought to the brink of insolvency because of the disease or because of unrelated issues.
Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to get your content marketing program cost down.
Outsource to achieve flexibility and bring in specialized expertise
For companies running content marketing programs exclusively in house, it’s now time to take a serious look at outsourcing some or the majority of your content marketing program to a managed services provider. Companies, like Tempesta Media, can be up to 80% less expensive than using an in-house team.
These companies bring together on-demand teams of content marketing experts for a fraction of the cost of hiring staff in house. They are able to achieve these cost savings because of massive investments in technology and automation. Additionally, they have gained significant operational expertise from working with thousands of companies.
Take a company’s payroll, for example. Few companies have their accounting personnel manually enter payroll, file government compliance forms or handle payroll disbursements. Today, companies use firms like Gusto, ADP or Paychex to do the heavy lifting.
Like the accounting function within a company, marketing is increasingly leveraging specialized providers who can perform excellent marketing functions more cost effectively than an in-house employee.
Another way to cut costs is to have existing staff take on additional responsibilities (e.g., doing more with less). However, don’t set your team up for failure by assuming they will simply work harder. In the short-term, they will, but burnout will soon set in. As a result, your team’s productivity (and your performance metrics) will take a nosedive.
If you’re going to make your team do more, give them the tools to do so. Some content marketing functions can be automated to help alleviate some of the responsibilities.
For example, the process of formatting and publishing content is low-hanging fruit. There is no reason why your team should still be manually publishing content to your website. Tempesta Media has direct publishing integrations with both WordPress and HubSpot, giving our customers the ability to instantly publish content (with images), once it is ready.
Scale up your content marketing for tomorrow
Regardless of whatever approach that you take today to rein in costs, you still need to be able to compete tomorrow. To learn how Tempesta Media can help you optimize your content marketing program for both cost and performance, please check out our solutions or learn how we have helped others in your industry succeed.
If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook: 100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs. Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies. 100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.