We’ve created more than 800 content campaigns at Fractl over the years, and we’d be lying if we told you every single one was a hit.
The Internet is a finicky place. You can’t predict with 100% accuracy if your content will perform well. Sometimes what we think is going to do OK ends up being a massive hit. And there have been a few instances where we’d expect a campaign to be a huge success but it went on to garner lackluster results.
While you can’t control the whims of the Internet, you can avoid or include certain things in your content to help your chances of success. Through careful analysis we’ve pinpointed which factors tend to create high-performing content. Similarly, we’ve identified trends among our content that didn’t quite hit the mark.
In this this post, I’ll share our most valuable lessons we learned from content flops. Bear in mind this advice applies if you’re using content to earn links and press pickups, which is what the majority of the content we create at Fractl aims to do.
- There’s such a thing as too much data.
For content involving a lot of data, it can be tempting to publish every single data point you collect.
A good example of this is surveying. We’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of not only sharing all of the data we’ve collected in a survey, but also segmenting the data out by demographics — regardless of whether or not all of that data is super compelling. While this can give publishers a large volume of potential angles to choose from, the result is often unfocused content lacking a cohesive narrative.
Only include the most insightful, interesting data points in your content, even if that means tossing aside most of the data you’ve gathered.
One example of this was a survey we did for a home security client where we asked people about stalker-ish behaviors they’d committed. The juiciest survey data (like 1 in 5 respondents had created a fake social account to spy on someone — yikes!) ended up getting buried because we included every data point from the survey, some of which wasn’t so interesting. Had we trimmed down the content to only the most shocking findings, it probably would have performed far better.
Furthermore, the more data you include, the more time it takes for a publisher to wade through it. As one journalist told us after we sent over an epic amount of data: “Long story short, this will take too much time.”
Consider this: It shouldn’t take a publisher more than 10 seconds of looking at your project to grasp the most meaningful data points. If they can’t quickly understand that, how will their readers?
- Turning published data into something cool doesn’t always yield links.
If you’re going to use data that’s already been reported on, you better have a new spin or finding to present. Journalists don’t want to cover the same stats they have already covered.
A great example of this is a project we created about the reasons startups fail. The majority of the data we used came from CB Insights’ startup post mortems list, which had performed really well for them. (As of the time I’m writing this, according to Open Site Explorer it has 197 linking root domains from sites including BBC, Business Insider, Fortune, Vox, CNBC, and Entrepreneur — impressive!)
It worked well once, so it should work again if we repackage it into a new format, right?
We used the startups featured on the CB Insights list, added in a handful of additional startups, and created a sexy-looking interactive node map that grouped together startups according to the primary reasons they went under.
While the content didn’t end up being a failure (we got it picked up by Quartz, woo!), it definitely didn’t live up to the expectations we had for it.
Two problems with this project:
- We weren’t saying anything new about the data.
- The original data had gotten so much coverage that many relevant publishers had already seen it and/or published it.
But of course, there are exceptions. If you’re using existing data that hasn’t gotten a ton of coverage, but is interesting, then this can be a smart approach. The key is avoiding data that has already been widely reported in the vertical you want to get coverage in.
- It’s difficult to build links with videos.
Video content can be extremely effective for viral sharing, which is fantastic for brand awareness. But are videos great for earning links? Not so much.
When you think of viral content, videos probably come to mind — which is exactly why you may assume awesome videos can attract a ton of backlinks. The problem is, publishers rarely give proper attribution to videos. Instead of linking to the video’s creator, they just embed the video from YouTube or link to YouTube. While a mention/link to the content creator often happens organically with a piece of static visual content, this is often not the case with videos.
Of course, you can reach out to anyone who embeds your video without linking to you and ask for a link. But this can add a time-consuming extra step to the already time-intensive process of video creation and promotion.
- Political ideas are tough to pull off.
Most brands don’t want to touch political topics with a ten-foot pole. But to others, creating political content is appealing since it has strong potential to evoke an emotional reaction and get a lot of attention.
We’ve had several amazing political ideas fail despite solid executions and promotional efforts. It’s hard for us to say why this is, but our assumption has been publishers don’t care about political content that isn’t breaking (because it’s always breaking). For this reason, we believe it’s nearly impossible to compete with the constant cycle of breaking political news.
- Don’t make content for a specific publisher.
We’ve reached out to publishers to collaborate during content production, assuming that if the publisher feels ownership over the content and it’s created to their specifications, they will definitely publish it.
In general, we’ve found this approach doesn’t work because it tends to be a drain on the publishers (they don’t want to take on the extra work of collaborating with you) and it locks you into an end result that may only work for their site and no other publishers.
Remember: Publishers care about getting views and engagement on their site, not link generation for you or your client. Read full article here