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Case Study: The ROI of Re-optimizing Content (Plus Bonus How-To)

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Case Study: The ROI of Re-optimizing Content (Plus Bonus How-To)

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

We’ve been re-optimizing Brafton’s blog content consistently since 2018. It’s been one of the main SEO strategies we’ve used to increase our blog traffic from 20,000 to 200,000 monthly visitors over the last three years, and we’re continuing with this strategy into 2022 (and probably beyond).

For the purpose of this study, we wanted to answer the question, “How well does content re-optimization work, and is it worth your time?”

But first, let’s back up and get some definitions out of the way.

What is content re-optimization?

In its simplest form, content re-optimization is the process of updating existing content with new material in order to add value to the original piece.

There are many ways content can be updated. Here are some methods we’ve used over the years:

  • Adding new visual content, like an infographic, to an existing blog to appeal to readers who are more visual learners.

  • Adding a video tutorial to help elaborate on a topic we’re covering.

  • Replacing outdated examples featured in a roundup blog post with better, more recent examples.

  • Adding missing topic gaps that our competitors are covering but we aren’t.

  • Completely re-writing the content in favor of a better target topic (a very drastic measure).

In all instances, we’re adjusting existing content in some way to make it better for our audience. Ideally, that content will also perform better in organic search.

Why re-optimize content?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably invested significant time and energy into creating awesome content for your brand — and just like me, you know exactly how much effort goes into every single word published. There’s the planning, the research, the writing, the rounds of review, the copyediting, the proofing, the curation of helpful visuals, and finally clicking “Publish” once you’re done. All of this takes time and participation from multiple stakeholders.

It’s exhausting. And expensive.

It’s in your best interests to protect the time and monetary investment you’ve put into every single piece of content you create for your brand, and make sure it keeps performing at or beyond your expectations. This is why we re-optimize our content at Brafton. Because we’ve found it’s an incredibly cost-effective way to keep our content competitive and generate the business results we expect from our website.

Why this study was conducted

We know that our content re-optimization efforts can take credit for a portion of the organic traffic results we’ve seen on our website. For this analysis, my goal was to calculate the exact impact content re-optimization was making on our blog performance.

Let’s get into it!

Methodology

I focused strictly on written content updates that had been made to our blog posts between January 1, 2021, and October 31, 2021. Using this timeframe, I was able to use all 16 months’ worth of Search Console data for the metrics analyzed:

  • 41 articles were analyzed.

  • The articles had been republished with written content updates — their publish dates were updated at the time of the re-optimization.

  • Each article had a unique keyword target.

  • Primary tools used:
    • Search Console. I compared the three-month timeframe before the republish date with the three-month timeframe after the republish date.

    • Ahrefs. I took a snapshot of the data from three months pre- and post-re-optimization.

  • Each article selected had been indexed for a minimum of three months before being re-optimized, with a subsequent three months of data to evaluate.

  • Metrics evaluated (and which we were looking to improve with re-optimization):
    • Clicks to the URL from the target keyword.

    • All organic clicks to the URL.

    • Total number of page-one keywords each URL ranks for.

    • Target keyword position for the URL.

    • Total organic impressions for the URL.

Results: More clicks to URL from target keyword

Our primary goal with re-optimization is to increase the number of clicks each page is generating. The first thing I wanted to look at was how well this works for each blog’s specific target keyword (with the understanding that these aren’t the only keywords these blogs will get clicks from — more on that in a bit).

Using Search Console, I looked at how total clicks have changed/improved after each individual blog’s republication:

Clicks to the blog post for the target keyword “creative content.”

According to the data pulled from Search Console, 41.46% of the articles had more clicks to their URL for their target term after being re-optimized. In aggregate, all articles saw a 5.89% increase in clicks to their target keyword after we re-optimized them.

Results: More total clicks to re-optimized content

re-optimized blog posts also rank for more keywords related to the target keyword — and I wanted to track that change not only for our target keywords, but for all the keywords these blogs rank for. This is because, when we do written content updates, we are often filling in topic gaps to make the piece more comprehensive. With more mentions of these related topics, there’s more chance to rank for related keywords as well. This then drives up the total number of clicks to the page.

Here’s an example of what that looks like:

1648020585 856 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To
Increase in total clicks to URL post-re-optimization for a blog about structuring a marketing team.

Data from Search Console showed that 85.37% of the articles had more total clicks from all keywords in the time period after they were re-optimized. In aggregate, the re-optimized articles received 29% more clicks after they were updated and republished:

Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To
1648020586 275 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To

Bonus: The data shows a 0.96 correlation between re-optimization and total clicks generated — a near-perfect correlation.

I could end my study right here and walk away perfectly happy with our decision to continue with our re-optimization strategy in 2022. But there’s more to the story…

Results: More page-one keyword rankings from variant keywords

As an added benefit, many of the blogs we re-optimized started ranking on page one for other terms related to our target keyword:

1648020586 569 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To
Total Page 1 keyword rankings for the keyword “creative content.”

Our data shows 43.9% of the re-optimized articles had more page-one keyword rankings after their republish date. In aggregate, all articles ranked for 36.45% more page-one keywords after they were re-optimized.

1648020587 656 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To
1648020587 824 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To

Results: Target keyword position changes

For this part of the analysis, I looked at how the blog’s ranking position changed for its target keyword — comparing the timeframes from before and after the article’s republication.

With Search Console, I can see a three-month average position for our target keyword and can compare those numbers pre- and post-re-optimization.

1648020588 105 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To
Example of improved rank positioning in Search Console, for the keyword “paid search marketing.”

73.17% of the articles had a better average ranking position for their target keyword after being re-optimized, according to Search Console data:

1648020588 741 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To

56.1% of the re-optimized articles had improved target keyword positioning after the re-optimization, according to Ahrefs:

1648020589 564 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To

Results: More organic search impressions

As far as results go, I’m more interested in the clicks coming to the blog, but it’s important to look at changes in click behavior in the context of search impressions. After all, a searcher can’t click on your result if you’re not even appearing in the SERP.

By looking at the change to impressions from before and after the re-optimization, we can get a better understanding of the impact of ranking for more of these related keywords.

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Example of how total impressions have changed after a blog post about sales enablement content was re-optimized.

This is also where we saw the most impressive return for our efforts — every single article we re-optimized had more organic search impressions after it was republished.

100% of the re-optimized articles generated more impressions after they were updated and republished, according to Search Console data. In aggregate, the re-optimized articles generated 62.35% more impressions after their updates.

1648020590 139 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To
1648020590 367 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To

Insights: Why re-optimization matters for SEO

The main reason for re-optimizing content is to drive more qualified traffic to your website. By re-optimizing existing content, you’re enhancing a blog post or a landing page that’s already working for your audience.

In addition:

1. Google rewards fresher content

Each time we re-optimize a blog post, we update its publish date to reflect the time the changes were made. We also manually submit the article to Google for reindexing so there’s a higher chance Google will notice our content updates as quickly as possible.

Now, I’m not saying you can achieve the same results simply by changing the publish date to an article and not changing anything else, but a more recent publish date is likely a signal to Google — and searchers — that your content is fresh and probably contains useful and relevant information. They may be more likely to click on your content.

From a behavioral standpoint, when I perform a Google search, out of habit, I change the search filter to only see results from the last year (and sometimes I’ll only look at content if it’s published within the last month). I’m picky, and I can imagine other searchers are, too. Have you ever glanced at the publish date of the top results and chosen to click on the newest one?

Updating the content’s publication date at the same time we re-optimize it is our attempt to better serve the behavior of searchers and encourage more clicks.

2. Topic comprehensiveness (not word count) leads to more clicks

When we set out to re-optimize a blog post or a landing page, we’re not just looking to beef up its word count and call it a day. A longer word count doesn’t always equal more clicks.

Instead, we strive for topic comprehensiveness, and often that means we are building on what’s already there. But not always. Sometimes we’ll remove sections that are no longer relevant.

What’s important is that we’re comparing our content to competitors in the space, and finding ways to improve on what we’re missing. And we’re doing all this to serve our audience with the best content we possibly can. As a result, our content covers more ground and gets more impressions and then, ultimately, more clicks.

Conclusion

By honing your message around a target topic and adding value to your content with a re-optimization, you’re giving Google more reasons to serve your content to its users.

In a perfect re-optimization scenario, Google notices you’ve provided more useful information, your content will rank higher in search for your target keyword, and you’ll get more clicks to your page. And best of all, those clicks will be visitors that are highly interested in what your business has to offer!

Adding more information to an existing blog post or landing page makes your content more comprehensive. You cover a broader range of related topics, and therefore there are more chances to rank for those variant keywords. This is what helps extend your reach beyond just that initial set of target keywords.

And the more chances you have to rank for these variant topics, the better. The more often you show up in search, the more users will start recognizing your brand. They might even start searching for your brand name directly.

Bonus: Re-optimize your own content and analyze your results

Checklist: How to determine which content to re-optimize

If you’re sold on content re-optimization — great! — but you’re also probably wondering where to start.

I’ve created a checklist that I use for the Brafton blog to help me decide whether or not I should spend time (and money) to re-optimize a piece:

1. Look for pages that have had a dip in ranking position or estimated traffic. This will be the first flag that you might want to re-optimize your content.

1648020590 977 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To

2. Check the current content’s score in a TF-IDF tool (I recommend MarketMuse or Clearscope) to see if there is room for improvement. If your content score is lower than the tool’s recommended score, it’s a hint that you probably have some missing topics to cover.

1648020591 180 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To

3. Check ranking changes/SERP-rank volatility to see what’s changed on page one. Take a look at the top 10 ranking positions and how those results have changed over time. A SERP with a lot of volatility or new competitors coming onto the first page is a good sign that you’ll need to improve your content to stay competitive.

1648020591 285 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To

4. Look at the current results on page one and determine if you can still realistically rank there. If you’ve been outranked for a SERP and you can’t reasonably get back onto the first page, your efforts might be better spent elsewhere.

1648020591 595 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To

5. Estimate the traffic you might gain from your page-one ranking. Don’t forget that clicks decline the farther down the page you rank.

1648020591 901 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To

6. Ask yourself: Is this good enough? If yes, then proceed to the re-optimization!

Walkthrough: How to tie content re-optimization to ROI

Now for the fun part — diving into your own data to find out if your updates made a meaningful impact on your business goals.

Speaking of goals, you’ll want to make sure to determine the goals that make the most sense to your business and what you’re trying to accomplish with organic search before starting on this re-optimization strategy.

Some examples:

  • More clicks to the blog, year-over-year.

  • More website conversions from organic traffic.

  • Better brand awareness in search.

If you’re just starting to re-optimize your content, I recommend bookmarking this article and coming back to this section later. While it’s true that performing updates to your content may have an immediate impact on your content — a jump in keyword position, perhaps — you’ll want a decent chunk of data to perform your analysis. And the only way you’ll get that is with time.

Step 1: Choose content to analyze

Once you’ve got a few months of data to work with, you can start your analysis. Say you re-optimized a few blog posts three months ago (and these blogs have been live on your website for at least six months). Add those URLs to a spreadsheet. Here’s the template I used for my study if you want to start there.

1648020591 596 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To

Step 2: Note publication date, and determine timeframes for analysis

Log your republish date for each article in the sheet. Then determine the timeframe for three months before your republish date and three months after (not including the actual republish date). 

Tip: You can search this in Google Search for an accurate answer, no calculator or calendar required:

1648020591 866 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To
1648020591 292 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To

Step 3: Pull your data

For each metric you’re looking to measure, pull the data from the two separate timeframes:

1648020591 482 Case Study The ROI of Re optimizing Content Plus Bonus How To

Step 4: Analyze your data

It might look like steps 1-3 are quick and easy, but they’re surprisingly time-consuming and tedious. Once you’re done you’ll have a lovely block of data to analyze. Calculate the changes for each article individually, and in aggregate, to see how your optimization efforts paid off.


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Top 3 Strategies for Success

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Top 3 Strategies for Success

With the advent of e-commerce, manufacturers have unprecedented opportunities to expand their reach, streamline their operations, and enhance profitability. Amidst this digital revolution, adopting Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) is pivotal in optimizing production processes, quality control, and resource management.

As the lines between traditional brick-and-mortar sales and online commerce continue to blur, manufacturers increasingly realize the need to adapt and thrive in this new digital landscape. This article explores the top 3 strategies manufacturers can employ to succeed in e-commerce.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

MES (Manufacturing Execution System) is specialized application software designed to solve the tasks of synchronization, coordination, analysis, and optimization of production output within any production. MES systems belong to the class of shop floor-level management systems but can also be used for integrated production management at the enterprise as a whole.

MES collects and analyzes production processes, product demand, and inventory data. This allows manufacturers to adapt more quickly to changes in the market, reconfigure production to meet current requirements, and closely monitor trends. As a result, manufacturers can more easily predict and meet customer needs, which helps increase online sales.

MES helps in maintaining accurate inventory records and managing inventory turnover. This avoids overstock or shortages, which can affect a company’s ability to meet online demand and maintain customer service levels.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) enhance transparency and automate operations, reducing human errors and operational costs. Integrating Manufacturing CRM streamlines customer data, allowing manufacturers to tailor products, respond to market changes, and offer competitive prices in online stores. The synergy between MES and CRM creates an agile manufacturing environment, optimizing efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Content Marketing

Kapost’s research shows that companies in the B2B segment that blog get 67% more leads on average than companies that don’t. However, it’s worth remembering that content marketing requires a lot of resources to prepare and regularity in publishing it. This content can be, for example, brand identity and E-commerce logo, articles and videos, webinars, research, and interviews.

The content should help solve a specific problem to create the image of an expert and thus influence the decisions of potential customers. The topics discussed should not be chosen randomly. A little research in Google Trends will help select the main topic, discussion areas in the video, phrases, and words that should be included in the article. Publishing content based on such a prepared analysis allows you to achieve high positions in search engines. It provides a good user experience for customers looking for answers to product/service questions, comprehensively covering the subject matter.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are free traffic, increased user confidence, and the creation of an expert image.

Content marketing is a form of promotion that requires patience and time. Its effects will also depend on the quality of thecontent itself, its optimization, and promotion methods. No specific terms can be specified here.

YouTube channels as a form of content marketing

You can discuss your production process and show and test products on your YouTube channel. If someone is looking for information about a product and is unsure which brand to choose, they will likely find your video and maybe make a purchase. Remember to choose a title that matches the search query and prepare a video description with product links. You can send out an email to announce when new videos are released. Whenever you have particularly compelling videos, you could also promote them via texting notifications to drive even more traffic.

Utilize user-generated content and social media

Not utilizing the content that your users generate is a huge issue. This is because it’s not easy to refresh an e-commerce website and keep it alive. But photos and videos taken by real customers are great for this purpose.

Adding a “widget” that connects your online store’s website to its official social media accounts brings significant benefits. These include revitalizing your social media accounts, increasing your credibility as a manufacturer, inspiring other customers to buy, and encouraging repeat purchases.

Snapchat Planets

Snapchat’s “Planets” feature provides a unique and interactive way to engage with your e-commerce store’s audience. Here are some creative ideas on how to leverage Snapchat Planets to create engaging content:

  • Virtual Store Tours: Use the AR feature to create a virtual tour of your store. Each planet can represent different sections or categories of your store. For instance, one planet could showcase your latest collection, another could highlight bestsellers, and another could offer exclusive deals.
  • Product Launches: Announce new product launches by creating a cosmic journey. Users can travel from one planet to another, each unveiling a new product with engaging visuals and detailed descriptions. This creates a sense of excitement and discovery around new arrivals.
  • Interactive Shopping Experience: Create interactive shopping experiences where users can explore products in a fun and engaging way. For example, users can navigate through different planets to find hidden discounts or special offers, making shopping more interactive and rewarding.
  • Customer Rewards and Loyalty Programs: Develop a loyalty program where users earn points or rewards by exploring different planets. Each planet can offer unique rewards, such as discounts, free samples, or exclusive access to new collections. This gamifies the shopping experience and encourages repeat visits.
  • Themed Campaigns: Align your marketing campaigns with planetary themes. For instance, during holiday seasons, you can create a holiday-themed planet where users can find special holiday deals, gift ideas, and festive content.

By leveraging Snapchat Planets, you can transform your e-commerce store’s content into a captivating and interactive experience that keeps your audience engaged, entertained, and coming back for more.

Use newsletters to captivate your target audience

Newsletters can strengthen the connection with the consumer and demonstrate that shopping with you is safe and profitable. Remember that the more personalized the message, the more effective it will be. It should contain a call to action (CTA), such as a button that redirects to products.

Don’t forget to put a box to check for consent to process personal data when subscribing to the newsletter. Also, add an option to unsubscribe from the newsletter in each email.

A regular email account is not adapted for the newsletter, so do not use your everyday email address. This way, you risk being blacklisted by spam filters. The benefits of newsletters are optimizing advertising costs, increasing loyal audiences from different channels, and building mutually beneficial relationships with partners.

Print and PDF Channel

1716522964 432 Top 3 Strategies for Success

In the digital landscape, the significance of Print and PDF channels cannot be underestimated for manufacturers engaging in e- commerce. The tactile experience of print offers unique psychological advantages, enhancing comprehension and retention, which are vital for technical manuals and complex product details. PDFs merge this benefit with digital accessibility, ensuring wide reach while maintaining format integrity. This dual-channel approach not only caters to diverse consumer preferences but also bolsters marketing efforts, making technical content more engaging and understandable. Utilizing catalog software further streamlines the integration of Print and PDF channels into e-commerce strategies, enhancing product presentation and distribution efficiency.

Contextual advertising: Google Ads

1716522964 713 Top 3 Strategies for Success

If you want the advertising you invest in to have an immediate effect, it’s worth turning to Google Ads. Google displays paid ads in search results and on Google’s network of partners (on-site ads in the form of banners).

You bid when you search for a keyword for which advertisers have set up a campaign. The search engine determines who will appear in the search results and at what position. When assigning bids, the quality of the landing page, the quality of the ads, and the stated maximum bid per click are all considered.

To start setting up your campaign, simply login to your Google Ads account. Using the service is free, and you’ll find plenty of online tutorials on creating a campaign. However, you may find that it won’t generate valuable traffic if you don’t set it up optimally. Your budget will be wasted on clicks that won’t lead to conversions. This is why most companies resort to the help of agencies, including specialized agencies.

There is probably no industry in which Google Ads campaigns cannot be used. However, advertising can be moderately profitable if there is a lot of competition in the industry and margins are low.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are large audience reach, the ability to get the target audience as accurately as possible, and very detailed statistics on results.

The effect of launching a campaign should appear almost immediately. A properly set up campaign will increase traffic to the website. By systematically optimizing the campaign, you can achieve much better results.

You also can use paid Facebook Ads post promotion. It is important to pinpoint your target group, but how do you do it? A popular way is to draw up a customer portrait, that is, to make a collective image of your customer.

This considers age, gender, income level, location, interests and hobbies, and online behavior. Such a person will display a group interested in your services or goods.

Implement personalized product selections

Recommended product block and cross-selling are very powerful internet marketing strategies. In addition to the recommended product block, which shows the analogs of the product being viewed, it is worth paying attention to the website’s functionality.

As a rule, the products in the “You may also like” block are selected based on the pages previously viewed by the customer, his previous purchases on the website, as well as what was purchased by other customers with similar tastes. If this functionality is implemented technically sound, it can lead to additional items added to the shopping cart. “You may also like” block partly acts as an alternative to the advice of a specialist or consultant.

With blocks for cross-selling related products is a similar situation. Usually, in them are placed products from the same product line, collection, or simply those that perfectly match the product being viewed. You can use AI-powered live chats to proactively engage in customer conversations and suggest products based on their behavior.

Conclusion

E-commerce for manufacturers is a vast field, and in this article, we have presented the most popular and most effective forms of selling online. Remember, no effective e-commerce strategy exists. Each industry and business will have specifics. Try combining the above mentioned e-commerce strategies to maximize your chances of success and increase your profits.

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”

“Exactly!”

“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 



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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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