Too many companies fall short with content because they fail to invest in the long term. But you’re never going to see the results you want by throwing up a few blog posts and hoping for the best.
Many factors play into a successful content marketing initiative: a great strategy, clearly defined goals, quality writing, iterating and testing, etc. But above all, you have to give content time to create a ripple effect.
Let’s take a second to borrow a foundational idea of investing and finance: the time value of money or — to explain it simply — “a dollar today is worth more than a dollar a year from now.” Because money appreciates through interest, any amount of money you have today is worth more than the same amount received in the future.
Content also continues to deliver over time, unlike traditional paid marketing or advertising. What happens over the course of a year that makes the content you create today more valuable than it would be if you wrote it a year from now?
Here are five benefits that start to brew and build momentum from the moment you publish content:
When you start building your content strategy, your audience reach is zero — or close to it. As you begin to write and circulate content, you’ll gradually garner followers and subscribers who are genuinely interested in your ideas. This makes for easier distribution and provides opportunities to create more consistent touchpoints through social and email with prospects.
As you build out high-quality content resources, people in the industry and your audience begin to take notice. Valuable content earns links and recognition from other high-quality sites. This not only generates traffic through direct referrals, but it also increases your domain and page authority, boosting your organic search rankings.
Now that you have more (and fresh!) content on your site, you’ve increased the number of pages that Google can index, giving you more overall opportunities to rank in SERPs for different keywords and amplify organic traffic. As mentioned above, your new content also improves the likelihood of drawing high-quality links to your site, which plays a huge role in increasing the number of pages you own in relevant SERPs, as well as your volume of organic traffic.
By publishing content, you’ve strengthened the connection between your brand and your industry online. You have a platform for adding value to your audience, getting your company’s perspectives and opinions published, and communicating your story.
For example, John Hall, our CEO, wrote an article for his Forbes column announcing that LinkedIn was opening its contributor platform. The article generated 469 views and 19 leads back to our site within the first week it went live. What’s more exciting is that it brought an additional 2,000 views and more than 60 leads over the past year — without any new effort on our end. With the ongoing traffic and engagement from that one post, John is continuing to build brand recognition and position himself and our company as leaders in the space.
Content also doubles as resources your sales team can use to further educate or nurture prospects. When your salespeople can back up their verbal conversations with detailed and thoughtful content, their words will carry more weight with prospects and clients. And when audiences see your guest posts on respected industry publications, another layer of credibility and trust is built.
Due to all of these factors, each piece of content you publish builds value and creates more opportunity with each passing day. In addition to individual articles seeing more value over time, there’s also a positive aggregate effect of consistently publishing complementary content in other ways.
Take our blog, The Knowledge Bank, for example. In the past 90 days, we’ve generated a total of 24,197 article views. Only 10,481 views (43.3 percent) came from new articles published in that period, while 13,716 views (56.7 percent) resulted from articles we’d published prior to that 90-day period. People oftentimes have to read multiple articles before they’re convinced that they need to subscribe or download a piece of content. So having more content not only increases inbound paths, but it also keeps visitors reading longer, digesting more information, and eventually discovering the conversion path that’s most relevant to them.
To further illustrate how your ROI grows with time, consider this hypothetical case.
First, let’s look at content in one-month increments. Assume you have a monthly budget of $10,000 for content creation, distribution, and paid promotion. Early on, the monthly ROI of your content — traffic and leads — is directly related to the amount of time you have to create and distribute new content that month.
In month 1, let’s say you create one premium piece of content (whitepaper, e-book, etc.) and publish two posts per week, with each post generating 25 hits at an average conversion rate of 4.4 percent (The Knowledge Bank’s average). You’ll generate about nine leads in month 1 and pay about $1,136 per lead. This is probably not where you want to be, but unfortunately, this is oftentimes the stage where we see many companies pull the plug.
However, at this point in the game, you’re just paying table stakes to get into content, and the reward is much further down the line.
Now, let’s visualize the next 12 months, assuming you continue to invest $10,000 each month in the same content output.
Remember that the key factors in the time value of content are all now moving positively in your favor. Your existing audience is making distributing new content easier, your old content continues to draw readers, and you have more conversion opportunities for different types of readers.
Taking those things into account, let’s conservatively say you’re able to double the traffic your new articles receive every six months on average, generating an average of 25 new views for each older article as well (an average from our experience across different industries). Assume that you maintain your 4.4 percent conversion rate.
Here’s what that growth looks like.
As you can see in these graphs, your traffic and leads generated continue to build over time, and you’re able to drive down your cost per lead significantly.
In this case, at 12 months, your monthly traffic has increased from 200 to 3,000 visitors, your monthly leads have increased from 9 to 132, and your cost per lead has decreased from more than $1,136 to $75.
And here’s what those graphs look like as you continue into year 2.
As your content marketing program continues to mature over time, the traffic and leads generated increase greatly while the cost per lead is driven down considerably. And these numbers are using conservative estimates for being able to distribute your content, drive qualified readers, and keep standard conversion rates. The actual numbers you can achieve in traffic and lead volume can be much greater with the right strategy, testing, and improvement.
As you can see, content can yield big dividends long term as long as you’re willing to give it the time it needs. Giving up after a few months of publishing will only stifle your content’s potential and deprive your company of opportunities and lower lead generation costs — much less the qualitative ROI that consistent content delivers. Stick with your investment, and don’t get discouraged if the results don’t pan out as soon as you’d anticipated. In time, the payoff will be well worth it.
I am a Vice President of Influence & Co. I'm passionate about entrepreneurship, technology, Mizzou, and all St. Louis sports teams. I've contributed to Forbes, Entrepreneur, Under30CEO, and Linked2Leadership.