5 Ways To Experiment With Your Content For Better Results
To be successful with content marketing you need to balance art and science. Creating great content is based on the art of storytelling but the marketing side of the equation requires experimentation and iteration. With so much advice available online, it can feel like you need to stick to a tried and true strategy. Yet just because something worked for a successful blogger you follow doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. It’s important to test things out and step out of your comfort zone rather than relying on assumptions.
The start of a new year is the perfect time to try new ideas and learn something about your audience. Here are five experiments with great potential to improve your content results:
Headlines are incredibly important. They’re the first interaction readers have with your content – whether they stumble across a social media post, find you via a web search or receive an email with your headline in the subject line. Try split-testing headlines for each blog post or piece of content you produce. You can do this by trialling two different headlines in a Twitter or Facebook post before picking the best performing one to run on your blog, relevant landing pages, emails and all remaining social channels. Use a tool like BuzzSumo to look at the headlines your competitors are using and how well they’re performing. This will give you a good idea about what to test. Here are some examples of headline experiments to try:
- Numbered lists Vs. ‘How to’ headlines
- Long Vs. Short headlines
- Including bracketed qualifications, e.g. [Infographic] or [New Research]
- Emotive Vs. Factual headlines, e.g. ‘How Content Marketing Will Help You Destroy The Competition’, compared to ’17 Useful Statistics About Content Marketing’
Once you’ve done this a few times, you’ll have a good idea of what works for your audience and what doesn’t. This doesn’t mean you should stop testing – you never know what might unexpectedly resonate with your audience at a particular time.
After testing your headlines you should start to see an increase in the number of people clicking through to your content. Now you can try some experiments to encourage engagement. Depending on your goals you might want to track how long people spend on a page using Google Analytics, or whether they convert by clicking on a call-to-action button. If you’re aiming to increase conversions, you’ll need to keep people engaged until the end of a piece of content so they see the CTA. The formatting and visual appeal of your content can have a big impact on whether people stick with it. Here are a few examples of engagement experiments to try:
- Test blog posts with images compared to blog posts without
- If all of your blog posts are about 500 words long try writing a 2000-word post
- Add images, dot points and pull quotes throughout to break up the text
- Change text elements like font style and size as these can have a big impact on engagement
Don’t get disheartened if you see a decrease in engagement or no change at all. Any results you get will teach you something valuable about how your audience consumes content, which you can apply to future efforts.
If you’re creating content to generate leads, you probably spend a lot of time trying to get people to click on call-to-action buttons or links. To earn more conversions, experimenting with your call to action is crucial. Sometimes things that seem inconsequential can have a big impact on the success of your CTA. Think about how you could redesign the call-to-action button, rewrite the copy or reposition it on the page. It’s also worth considering how to win more attention using different text sizes, fonts or colours.
Here are some A/B split tests you can try:
- Test buttons in two different colours, shapes or sizes
- Change the copy to include a time-sensitive word, like ‘Download Now’
- Make the copy more personal, e.g. ‘Download Your Free E-Book’
- Move your CTA to the side of a blog post so people will see it without getting to the end
Try testing these elements on the same page by running each option for a few weeks. This means you’ll have fewer variables like the image, content format or number of people visiting the page to take into account.
There are plenty of experiments you can run on your social channels, like testing time of day or including images. There are also elements within your content you can test to encourage social sharing. You’d be surprised at how changing one small thing can have a dramatic impact on your social engagement. For example, Venture Harbour tested the location of the social share buttons on its blog posts. By moving them from under the headline to a floating sidebar it increased sharing by 52 per cent.
Others have found that removing sharing buttons altogether increased social traffic. The only way to find out what works for your content is to test different options. Here are a few more ideas:
- Add easily shareable elements to blog posts like pictures and quotes
- Add ‘Click here to tweet’ pull outs using a free generator or plugin.
- Include a call to action at the end to encourage conversation, e.g. ‘Tweet us to let us know what you thought about this article!’
- Add social sharing buttons to all audience touchpoints including your emails and longer content assets like e-books
Marketers often fall into the trap of making assumptions about email. Most of us are using it daily so find it hard to separate ourselves from the audience. The start of a new year is a great time to try tactics that might seem counter intuitive. There are lots of small things that can have a huge impact on your email results – a different style of subject line might dramatically increase opens while audience segmentation boosts your click-through rate. Whatever you try keep it aligned to your main goals whether these are winning new customers, improving brand awareness or increasing customer loyalty.
Here are some more experiments for you to try:
- Send your weekly email newsletter on a weekend or during the night
- Test sending an email that’s just plain text with no HTML or images
- Get personal by signing your name and using a non-generic email address
- Try an intriguing, one-word subject line like the infamous ‘Hey’ email from Barack Obama
- Use a really long, descriptive subject line, like this one from Mumbrella:
Now Go Experiment
The best thing about these experiments is that you have nothing to lose. If you try something that doesn’t pay off, you’re now equipped with a better understanding of your audience. Learning is an essential part of any content marketing strategy, so don’t be afraid to try new things and test your assumptions. The most important thing is to take it slow and track your findings. Don’t change everything at once, because you’ll never be sure what contributed to an increase or decrease. Experiment with small changes – you never know, they might lead to big results.