Cutbacks. Job losses. Frozen budgets. Sinking morales.
In most parts of the world, people are now weeks into a lockdown as the global economy plunges into what experts deem to be the worst recession since the Great Depression.
When an unforeseeable crisis of this magnitude hits, it’s bound to throw a wrench into your plans and goals-as if everything has just evaporated into thin air.
If you’re finding it hard to think straight amid these tumultuous times, know that you’re not alone. But don’t let it drag you down. This is the time to persist and ride out the storm with your spirits held high.
As governments across the globe attempt to combat the virus, they’re seeking out cooperation from their citizens.
Stay home. Flatten the curve.
We’ve been hearing this repeatedly over the past few months. By now, you’re also well acquainted with your government’s much-heard verse: carry out only the essential.
As a marketing team lead, you’ve probably also received the same directive from the top-to prioritise the essential.
So then, where does this leave content marketing and how does it fit in all of this?
Frozen budgets or cuts entirely are certainly a cause for worry as you seek out any semblance of stability to keep your marketing plan in check.
You may think that publishing valuable content and keeping up your communication with your audience may not be as important in times of crisis.
And you’re right. It isn’t as important. It’s more so.
Now’s the time when people seek out reassurance and information. Now’s not the time to keep silent, if not to write more and publish more. Above all, it’s the perfect moment to be planning for the future.
You must now be wondering,
“How can I possibly keep up with content marketing given the limited resources?”
Even as budgets get slashed, there ways around it. Whether that means dialling back down to basics or getting creative with existing content, content marketing efforts must continue in a crisis and we’ll show you five ways to do it.
1. Adapt your editorial content
Nothing throws a plan into disarray like an unforeseeable crisis. Once you’ve had time to wrap your head around the new changes, you have to react. Holding your breath here isn’t going to help because problems will continue to compound and you’ll soon find yourself so deeply submerged the only way out is to grapple.
And you don’t want to grapple.
Reacting means acknowledging the situation — not just internally within your organisation and your team but just as importantly, in your marketing communication.
From your email newsletters and social media posts to blog articles and thought leadership pieces, any new content you publish from this point on should be contextualised within the new reality and your editorial content must be re-prioritised.
To adapt your content, you have to, as the great Rand Fishkin puts it, read the room. That means acknowledging the crisis, however grave it may be. Ignoring it isn’t only unempathetic, it can also be pretty tasteless.
“We don’t need marketing, content, advertising, or messaging of any kind that’s ignorant of or unsympathetic to this filter. When that stuff exists, it’s (rightfully) getting ignored, or worse, reflecting badly on its creators.”
— Rand Fishkin, Cofounder of SparkToro
Think about how your target audience has been affected and create content that caters to these changing needs (just like what we’re doing with this post).
Just because revenues may have fallen doesn’t mean traffic will too. In fact, internet providers have reported a surge in traffic since people started working from home.
Start producing content around the topic. You want to let your audience know you’re still around and there for them. That’s precisely what Oberlo has done so well at.
With China shutting down in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus and logistics getting hit hard, Oberlo’s target audience, dropshippers and ecommerce entrepreneurs, started to face problems with getting their products to their customers.
Immediately, their content team got to work and pushed out COVID-19-related content to address their customer’s concerns. From podcasts and YouTube videos to blog posts and Q&As with expert ecommerce entrepreneurs, they have their bases covered.
Set new priorities. Putting everything on hold until things return to normal isn’t an answer because, in times of uncertainty, there’s no saying when normalcy will be restored, nor the state it will be in if and when it does.
The best attitude to have is to start acclimatising to the new reality. That means reestablishing priorities based on new constraints and limitations.
Scaling back doesn’t mean cutting off entirely. It simply means reducing input, with a resulting output that may or may not necessarily reflect a proportional decrease.
Let’s say your team had a kickass ebook or whitepaper that was in the pipeline. Your talented team of writers was going to put it together and its design was going to be outsourced to a professional designer.
But now that your content marketing budget has been cut, you find yourself having to adjust. That’s no reason to can or even shelf the project. There are ways to keep it going.
For instance, instead of externalising the design to a professional, why not give free visual marketing tools like Piktochart or Canva a shot and get hands-on with the design?
These tools provide a host of wonderful templates and you’re certain to find one that fits your brand, tone, and messaging. (Trust us, you’re going to be spoilt for choice.)
2. Repurpose content
If you find yourself suddenly faced with slashed resources for content marketing, creating new content may be the last thing on your mind. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Instead of creating pieces from scratch, a more effective and efficient way of producing content with a reduced budget is with content repurposing.
It involves extrapolating existing content and doing something new with it. That may mean giving it a new format or producing smaller and snackable pieces from it. It’s a tried and tested method of scaling a content strategy with few resources.
Content repurposing benefits abound, beginning with a significantly lower amount of investment needed to produce than new content as you’ll be doing away with the brainstorming and conceptualising processes.
Depending on the new format it takes on, you can also extend your existing reach by publishing the repurposed content on new channels. Plus, it’s a renewed opportunity to reach audiences you may have missed the first time.
Dig deep into your existing content to see what you can make out of them. Your best bet would be to start with any big rock content you may have created, such as original research or analysis of internal data, to assess any content opportunities you may have missed and can squeeze out.
The two main things to take into consideration here are:
- Angle: Have all possible story angles been covered?
- Format: Are there formats you haven’t repurposed your content into?
Even if you have no big rock content to take advantage of, there are always existing pieces you’ll be able to repurpose.
Fire up your analytics and identify your best performing piece of content (if you don’t already know it). From there, explore new angles, formats, and possible target audience this content can take on, and this leads us nicely into our next point.
3. Analyse your GA and GSC
Checking through your site’s traffic data in Google Analytics and Google Search Console every day is akin to exercising or avoiding sugar-it’s a healthy routine you know you should keep up with, but you don’t always do so.
Now is the perfect time to get into the habit. And what better way to start than with an in-depth analysis?
Access to GA and GSC is completely free, so your only limiting factor is time. And given the amount of juicy data you can obtain from a deep scan, this should be one of your top priorities at the moment.
What you need to be looking at depends on your current situation. Basically, you’ll want a clear idea of what’s working and what’s not to know how to adapt your content going forward.
What to look out for in Google Analytics
Here are some things to pay attention to in Google Analytics:
- What pages are generating the most traffic? How are they related to one another? If you have a blog, look into its categories and the types of content that are performing the best.
- What pages have higher conversion rates? Again, identify how they relate to one another. Is it the topic, the copy, or the page layout? What lessons can you extract from these pages to replicate it on other pages?
- What content isn’t generating any results? As you look through your dashboard, you’re likely to come across some content outcasts. These are pieces that haven’t been performing and have been cast into a corner and almost forgotten. But that doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of the content. More often than not, the content remains valid and extremely valuable. Reusing this type of content is always highly recommended and even more so when budgets are tight. If it’s a blog post, you could turn it into an ebook and create a lead generation campaign with it.
This data can be accessed from various reports. But the best starting point (assuming you have no custom reports and dashboards) would be from Behaviour → Site Content → Landing Pages.
What to look out for in Google Search Console
In Google Search Console, you’ll want to search for:
- Technical errors. In Index → Coverage is a list of pages that have generated errors due to technicalities like a bad redirect, broken links, etc.
- In Performance → Search results, you’ll find a list of keywords that have produced results (generated clicks and impressions) on pages that are generating the most organic traffic. Here, you may discover new keywords related to those already used on an existing page that have not been optimised for. This helps to generate new content ideas and optimise existing content. More on that later.
4. Content benchmark DIY
Even though you should continue to publish content, don’t go into it blind or you’ll be shooting blanks. A period of uncertainty amid budget cuts presents a good opportunity to pause and reflect. And then take action.
- What’s the current state of your content marketing efforts?
- How can you get more from your content over the next few months?
- What opportunities will you lose over the mid- to long-term?
To answer these questions, there’s no need to redo your entire content strategy, simply take a look at where you are at in relation to your competitors.
That’s where a content benchmark comes into play. It’s an analysis of the pages, keywords, and type of content for which your digital competitors are generating the most organic traffic.
In our guide on creating a content marketing benchmark, we go through this process with you step-by-step using SEMrush, which you access for $99.95 with a monthly subscription (you can cancel whenever you want). They also offer a seven-day free trial for new users.
With the data from SEMrush, you’re equipped with the information needed to either reevaluate your content and SEO strategy or simply refresh it with new opportunities.
It’s a small investment that brings about huge potential in the medium and long term.
P.S. The same analysis can be conducted with any other SEO tool as long as it provides data on your competitor’s web traffic.
5. Optimise pages for SEO
The analysis and work you’ve done with your content benchmark, Google Analytics, and Google Search Control will play a big role in identifying keywords with a huge potential to generate organic traffic.
In some cases, it may be tempting to create brand new pages optimised for these keywords. In others, you’ll see that you already have pages that rank for similar or compatible keywords that target the same search intent.
In the case of the latter, instead of creating new content from scratch, build on the content you already have to improve your visibility in the search results.
For just a few hours of your time, you’ll get maximum results with minimal effort.
Imagine you’re doing marketing for a fitness studio. You have an article on weekly gym routines and you head to GSC to get a list of keywords generating the most clicks and/or impressions.
Here, you discover queries that are generating a ton of impressions but relatively few clicks and whose rankings can certainly be improved. These are keywords that may have been mentioned in passing in your article:
- “Three-day gym routine”
- “Four-day gym routine”
- “Five-day gym routine”
Now that you know their potential, you can act on each of them.
For instance, you could include these keywords in SEO hotspots such as H2 and H3 headings, etc. and beef up the section with more relevant content to increase its keyword density.
Ideally, you’d also add visual content such as images, videos, or gifs, where you can reinforce the keywords in their image titles and alt tags.
And hey, while you’re at it, optimise your time and take the chance to review the existing content and update any outdated or incomplete sections.
When one door closes…
…a window opens.
Or so the saying goes.
Those who make the best of a bad situation will emerge from a crisis stronger than ever before.
The same goes for your brand. It’s the opportune moment to work on it, to strengthen your relationship with your clients, and to build trust. That can all be achieved by going above and beyond to produce quality and empathetic content that resonates with your audience through these trying times.
Even though such content may not produce opportunities to scale, even though they may not fit in with your current strategy, you have to find a way to adapt and make it fit.
The need is there, there’s no denying it. Surely, the priority should be attending to them. Whether or not you take advantage of these opportunities is entirely within your control.