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If You Want To Create Exceptional Content, Limit Your Options

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If You Want To Create Exceptional Content, Limit Your Options

Many content marketers are asked to do more without getting more resources. With audience attention harder to capture than ever, how can a creative content team cope?

Go to Raising Cane’s and study the menu.

If you don’t have time to go or aren’t near one of the chain’s 500 restaurants in 27 states and five countries, I’ll explain. The restaurants sell:

  • Chicken fingers
  • Crinkle fries
  • Coleslaw
  • Texas toast
  • Cane’s sauce

Five things. That’s it.

Why such a limited menu? Raising Cane’s says the model lets it deliver exceptional quality food quickly without cutting corners. And the model seems to work for customers – the company surpassed $1.5 billion in annual sales in 2020, with the average unit (i.e., restaurant) earning 25% more than the average McDonald’s store.

What does this have to do with content marketing operations? It’s a reminder that you don’t need to be the McDonald’s of content marketing. You can deliver a big return by carefully curating your content strategy like Raising Cane’s does its menu.

You don’t need to be the @McDonalds of #ContentMarketing. You can achieve more by limiting your menu items a la @RaisingCanes, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

1. Identify your core content items

A do-more-without-more content marketing approach starts with determining your content menu. To do this successfully, you need two things:

  1. Buy-in from your internal content stakeholders
  2. Analytics that show what content has worked best

Get stakeholder buy-in

To get stakeholders on board, bring together everyone involved in the content – those who create it, use it, share it, and approve the budget for it. If that’s not feasible, bring together the key stakeholders in each of those categories and email a short survey to everybody else so they can have input, too. Everyone involved needs to have a voice in this process, or it won’t work.

Give the stakeholders a list of topics that you already cover or think might be valuable, and include a write-in option. Ask them to rank the top three topics – labeling them as 1, 2, or 3 (with one being the most important).

Record their responses on a spreadsheet. Start with two columns – topic and topic ranking.

Let me illustrate a simple example for a financial services company. In this situation, three stakeholders ranked options from a list of seven topics: commercial real estate, community development, investing, leadership, market and economy, taxes, and wealth planning.

1649339266 802 If You Want To Create Exceptional Content Limit Your Options

Add two more columns to the spreadsheet:

  • Rank value, which translates the responses into a point value to make the math easier.
  • Total topic value, which shows the cumulative score for each topic.

In this example, every first-place ranking equals 10 points, second place is eight points, and third place is six points. (In this visual, I show only those topics that received a ranking.)

1649339266 539 If You Want To Create Exceptional Content Limit Your Options

Using this method, internal stakeholders at the financial services company rated these content topics as the most important to cover:

  • Investing. One stakeholder rated it most important (10 points), and one ranked it second (8 points) for a total topic value of 18.
  • Wealth planning. One stakeholder rated it most important (10 points), and one ranked it second (8 points) for a total topic value of 18.
  • Taxes. One stakeholder rated it most important (10 points), and one ranked it third most important (16 points).

TIP: Consider adding a column to track the respondent’s role. It may be helpful to weight the rankings if one role affects your goals more than another. For example, if your goals are tied to sales, you might weigh responses from the sales team over those from a writer.

Study audience data

Now it’s time to see what topics your audience prioritizes by studying data that measures progress toward the goals detailed in your content marketing strategy.

Let’s keep it simple and use three website-related metrics for topical content hub pages: total impressions, total conversions, and conversion rate for the financial services example.

1649339266 167 If You Want To Create Exceptional Content Limit Your Options

Combining both sets of information reveals the qualitative (i.e., people) and quantitative (i.e., data-based) topic priorities for the financial services company:

  • Stakeholder topic priorities: investing (tie for first), wealth planning (tie for first), taxes (third)
  • Data-based rankings: investing (first), wealth planning (second), leadership (third)

Given these results, investing and wealth planning definitely go on the content menu. But the third topic requires a closer look. Leadership received no votes from internal stakeholders, yet it earned the third-highest conversion rate. The taxes topic came in third for internal stakeholders and fourth for conversion rate, losing to leadership by just 0.22%.

My conclusion? Taxes will be the third topic on the content menu.

2. Offer content combos

Now that you know the topics, you can package them into convenient options that serve your audience.

Looking at your content menu ingredients (i.e., topics), identify which formats resonate best with your audience based on the same metrics you used earlier.

For the financial services example, let’s say the team creates content in four formats: blogs, e-books, podcasts, and videos. How does format affect the conversion rates?

To discover this, I create a new spreadsheet that breaks down the content hub into individual assets, identifying the format, total impressions, conversions, and conversion rate.

1649339266 930 If You Want To Create Exceptional Content Limit Your Options

With this data, I can see the top formats for our three topics are: e-books (~56% conversion rate), videos (~8% conversion rate), and blogs (~5%). Podcasts (< 2%) don’t make the cut.

Now the team can develop the content combos based on three topics (taxes, investing, and wealth planning) and three formats (e-books, videos, and blogs).

3. Make your limited menu an ingredient in your content mission

Raising Cane’s incorporates its limited product offerings into its brand narrative. Here’s how the company explains its menu concept:

Our concept is simple and unique… we only have ONE LOVE – quality chicken finger meals! At Raising Cane’s you get an exceptionally high-quality product served quickly and conveniently. We can do this because we offer a limited menu. The specialized systems developed by Raising Cane’s allow us to maintain a level of quality unmatched in the industry. Our commitment to this concept will not allow us to compromise our quality, cut corners or clutter our menu with new products that do not fit our core menu offering.

While your selective content menu may not make it into your brand story, it should be part of your content mission statement.

As Jodi Harris explains: “A content mission statement is a centering principle of your brand’s content, and it can govern your content team’s creative and strategic decision-making.”

A #content mission statement is a centering principle of your brand’s content, and it can govern your content team’s creative and strategic decision-making, says @joderama via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Most mission statements center on three components: who you aim to help with your content, what kind of information you provide, and how that information delivers a positive outcome or benefit to your audience.

Consider including a fourth component – why a limited content menu better serves your audience and brand. For example: “At ABC Financial, we believe in delivering our audience only the highest quality, most timely, most relevant content. To do that, we don’t create content about everything in every format on every platform. We focus on investing, wealth management, and taxes in video, e-book, and blog formats because that’s what our audience prefers.”

4. Don’t take special orders that require new ingredients

When you implement a limited model for your content operations, expect special-order requests, especially initially.

These inquiries (which may sound like demands) will likely take one of two forms:

  1. A new combination. This kind of request only requires repackaging. If you have the resources to fulfill it, do so.
  2. An off-menu request. In the financial services example, an off-menu request might be a blog post about commercial real estate. Explain that you can’t order a burger at Raising Cane’s – in other words, that the content team isn’t set up to do special orders. In declining the request, reiterate why your brand has decided to limit its content offerings. (You can even share the content mission statement if you think it would be helpful to the conversation.)

Don’t delete special-order requests you can’t fulfill. Add them to a research-and-development spreadsheet, noting the “what and who” of the request along with the expected outcome. Review the R&D tracker quarterly to see if any of those ideas are worth a pilot project.

If an off-menu request tests well, consider whether it’s worthy of placement on your content menu.

Don’t delete special-order #Content requests you can’t fulfill. Test them when possible. The results will indicate if they deserve a place on your limited content menu, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

5. Check content ‘sales’ frequently

Even the best-researched menu may have items that don’t sell well. After implementing this limited content model, frequently review the relevant metrics to see what’s “selling” better (i.e., helping you achieve your goals).

But don’t let that frequent monitoring lead you to make kneejerk changes. If one content combo isn’t doing well, consider amping up its promotion to ensure your target audience knows it exists. If it still doesn’t do well, you can consider changing it. Similarly, if you find a combo sells particularly well, repackage it to see if you can amplify that success.

Review your metrics to see which #Content sells better, but don’t make hasty decisions. Test promotion or package tweaks before changing the menu, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Host a content “sales” meeting every six months or year (depending on your content cycle). Revisit the menu from quantitative (i.e., metrics) and qualitative (select stakeholders) perspectives. Then, decide if you need to change your content menu items.

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Enjoy this delectable content model

The Raising Cane’s approach to content can serve your brand well. When you consciously curate a limited set of content products and offerings, your content marketing team’s productivity should rise. Content creators won’t don’t have to jump between many topics and formats. Instead, they can hone and perfect quality content your brand and your audience will appreciate.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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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.

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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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