There Are Two Kinds of Content Strategies: Publications and Libraries

A year and a half ago, Jimmy Daly of Animalz wrote a popular article explaining that there are two kinds of content strategies, publications and libraries. It got a lot of us thinking.

The Publication seeks to build an audience of repeat visitors by consistently and frequently publishing topics of broad interest to an industry, promoted to subscribers and followers.

The Library seeks to build relevance on more narrowly focused topics with deeper, more interconnected articles, discoverable through search and there when the visitor needs them.

We’re going to expand on Jimmy’s thesis here, starting with this visual breakdown showing the main differences:

So here’s what it comes down to…

To news or not to news? 

That’s the big content strategy question. And it’s answered when you create your content mission statement. If you haven’t done this yet, you can create yours using this template.

It’s a question of topics, which is that middle part.

Let’s look closer at these two types of content strategies.

“The Publication” Content Strategy

What is happening? That’s why your readers are paying attention to you. They click and read because they want current information that is relevant to their industry.

Promotion and traffic patterns

Because your content is about the latest information, social media and email marketing are your most important promotion channels. They aren’t searching for it. They’re tapping, not typing. So, the key is to get them to follow and/or subscribe.

Publications need subscribers

Here’s an Analytics account for a publication. Notice the spikes. Notice the traffic mix.

Social and email are high bounce rate channels, which explains why publications have higher bounce rates than libraries. And because social and email work so well, publications get a lot of mobile traffic.

Key success factors: Speed and frequency

Publications move quickly. You need to jump in fast and report on trends, add a new spin to the topic du jour. And to condition your subscribers and followers to keep opening your emails and following your streams, you need to publish frequently and consistently.

Our annual blogger survey shows the power and effectiveness of high frequency blogs. Bloggers who publish more often are far more likely to report success.

Bloggers who report “strong results” based on publishing frequency

Pro Tip: Uploading a press release does not make you a publication. The idea is to BE the press, not to RELEASE information to the press. Really, no blog should ever post a press release. It’s far better to turn that press release into an article before publishing.

Blog design and management tips for publications

The design of publications is a bit different than the design of libraries.

Team and resources

Publications are difficult and expensive to maintain, which is why most of us are building libraries.

“The Library” Content Strategy

How can I do this? That’s why your readers are paying attention to you. They click because they want utility. They want to learn. They want practical, how-to information and advice.

Promotion and traffic patterns

Because your content answers questions and is evergreen (it time travels well) search is a big opportunity. SEO is key. Align your content with keyphrases and make it easy to find.

SEO is library science

This solves a huge problem inherent to blogs: the reverse-chronological order. Blogs are basically huge piles of posts with the most recent on top. It’s an ever-growing mess. Fine for publications but bad for libraries.

Google helps solves the problem of organization. It doesn’t matter much if the blog is disorganized, as long as the content is search optimized and the technical SEO is good.

So in the end, libraries get huge amounts of traffic from search. Here’s an Analytics account for a library. Notice the rhythm of weekday traffic and low spikes. Notice the traffic mix.

This is an amazingly efficient way to create visibility. A high-ranking article may attract hundreds of visitors everyday for years. But the downside is the over-reliance on search. Beware that big, looming SEO trend: declining click-through rates from search.

But even if search traffic declines, there’s another benefit to best-page-on-the-internet content: it attracts links, especially when it’s original research. This is the cornerstone of the content strategy framework for SEO, which is the key to B2B lead generation.

Pro-Tip: Create a start here page. Clear blog categories are critical for libraries, but a page that welcomes the visitor to the blog is the ultimate in categorization.

Key success factors: Depth and length

Libraries have detailed, practical, often exhaustive articles.

Again, the blogger survey shows this clearly. Bloggers who publish long-form content get better results.

But wait. We saw that frequency correlated with success. How is it possible to publish a new 2000 word best-article-on-the-topic every day? 

It’s not.

The bloggers who write long-form posts are building libraries. The bloggers who post daily are running publications. These are two different content strategies.

Blog design and management tips for libraries

The experience for visitors is a bit different for libraries.

Team and resources

Libraries are inherently more efficient, because each piece of content works harder over time. But they still take dedication, time and possibly money.

Headline tips for the two content strategies

They are the key to unlocking website traffic for every content strategy. But the headline isn’t really just one thing.

There are title tags, H1 headers, subject lines and social media posts, and each should be tailored versions of the article “headline.”

Every headline is a balancing act, but the balance depends on the channel and the content strategy.

*To see a list of those 3-word trigrams and for all of our best advice on headlines, read this article

8 things every blog needs

There are a few things that every content strategy needs. Every blog can benefit from:

  1. Author names, faces and pages
  2. Strong calls to action
  3. Visuals and video
  4. Good internal linking
  5. Gated resources
  6. Expert sources/contributors
  7. Original research
  8. A bit of paid promotion

Hey, what about commentary and opinion?

It is its own, third type of content. Where does this fit in? More common in publications than libraries, but it can fit anywhere. And it’s very effective.

Strong opinion is the key difference between thought leadership marketing and regular content marketing. Brands that take a stand are more likely to attract an audience and trigger action.

A simpler way to think of things…

A or B? This or that?

It’s helpful to break things down. If you found this useful, here are some other posts that make simple distinctions. It’s a fun, fast way to learn.

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