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Content Strategy

Field Notes #066:  Applying Financial Concepts to Your Content Portfolio

Content should be treated like a portfolio of bets. Similar to how a financial portfolio of stocks involves asset allocation, monitoring, and rebalancing, so should a content portfolio.

We take this approach with our barbell content strategy.

Some content is meant to satisfy search intent and align with search engine queries. Someone searching for a given query wants to accomplish a goal. That might be to evaluate products (BOFU), learn how to accomplish a task (MOFU), or educate themselves on a topic at a high level (TOFU). That content tends to be optimized to be distributed through search engines (SEO). These feel like safer investments for growth, like index funds, because there’s a straightforward distribution channel.

Other content may be written based on questions from or discussions with your customers or original research. This content might be more “buzzworthy” and may not directly align with a search query, so it’s less likely to be distributed through search engines. That means they require active distribution, say through social media channels, paid ads, email, or even one-to-one conversations. Because they require active distribution, they’re less likely to get compounding passive returns in traffic and leads. But if a handful of them get traction, you’ll be rewarded with traffic and backlinks. Because of that, you can consider these to be “riskier” bets. You have to make a bet that what you have to say about the industry will resonate. Think of these like picking stocks.

Your content portfolio is likely diversified and has a mix of these two types of content and a little bit of other stuff mixed in (company and product announcements, customer spotlights, employee spotlights, interviews, etc.). Whether intentionally or not, someone made these asset allocation decisions at some point.

Diversification is good because it allows you to place bets on multiple types of content and topics (like stocks) to understand what will perform best. From this point of view, asking, “What’s the expected ROI on a piece of content?” is like asking, “What’s the expected ROI from this one stock in this investment portfolio?” You can’t predict it, and it just doesn’t make sense.

Now, unlike a financial portfolio, the ends of the content barbell are synergistic. 

Every website needs a strong domain rating, topical authority, clean website architecture, and backlinks to rank. 

However, people rarely reference or link to educational content, the ones that are often written to satisfy a search query. These tend to be more dry, informative, and even highly technical. 

That’s where the “riskier,” buzzworthy content does the work. This content tends to be opinion-and research-driven and often gets referenced and shared, resulting in backlinks, social sharing, and increased topical authority. This enables the website pages to rank higher in the search results.

And as with financial portfolios, you should monitor the performance of your content portfolio on a regular cadence to identify opportunities to optimize or rebalance the portfolio (unfortunately, we don’t have a content index fund to invest in passively 🙃)

Rebalancing a content portfolio might involve updating or removing outdated or non-performant content, increasing focus on high-performing content types, or exploring new content strategies to align with current market or industry trends.

For example: 

  • Client #1: We found hundreds of blog articles that were published years ago (about 50% of their content portfolio) weren’t bringing in traffic OR leads. Most of that content was weighing the site down and will likely be unpublished. This is similar to selling off stock that hasn’t performed, and you don’t expect to perform.
  • Client #2: We found that a specific type of content drove a lot of traffic and a high pageview-to-signup conversion rate, so we doubled down on that type of content which generated millions in revenue.
  • Client #3: We found that the search performance of their blog and product pages had declined over the last year due to a pause in content production and a lack of SEO maintenance. The search algorithm and SERP updates over the last year were not kind to them and competition didn’t help. They were ranking in positions 5 and beyond when they previously consistently ranked in positions 1-3. It’s not that their content was bad. It was that Google got better at identifying what people want when they search for a query. After a period of consistently declining rankings, the blog and product pages were updated to align with search intent and jumped back to positions 1-3 (and captured many more semantically related keywords) 

Look at your whole content portfolio and its performance over time, then determine whether you need to invest in some types of content more than others, if content needs to be removed, and what needs to be iterated upon.

Ad hoc updates and optimizations are helpful, but those efforts typically look at a handful of pages at a time in isolation.

By looking at the content portfolio as a whole and on a long enough time horizon (6-12 months), you’ll be able to identify broader trends and patterns to get more out of your content program.

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David Khim

David is co-founder and CEO of Omniscient Digital. He previously served as head of growth at People.ai and Fishtown Analytics, and before that was growth product manager at HubSpot where he worked on new user acquisition initiatives to scale the product-led go-to-market.