Don’t give up on content marketing. Your lack of ROI can be explained and fixed using some simple criteria and analysis. You don’t need to engage a marketing agency or download any clever software in order to do this.

You just need to have had a conversation with a human.

I stumbled across this formula completely by accident, following about eight months of consistent publishing, and equally consistent failure. Having worked hard to produce content that added value, paid handsomely to promote the content and shared it in line with social media best practice, my engagement stats were…what is the technical term?

Oh yeah – crap.

Giving up, I decided to place less emphasis on the quality of content and maintain my daily publishing schedule. That way, I could reduce my stress and still achieve exactly the same numbers – not many.

Then something weird happened, my engagement increased and the website stats went up exponentially. To qualify “exponentially,” when you are not getting any more than 20 hits a day and that turns into more than 70, it feels exponential.

I kept publishing, and the numbers kept going up. What the frick was happening? Why would the average copy that I smash out in 45 minutes, achieve a higher level of engagement than researched, intelligent information that can tangibly make a difference to people’s lives. You know, probably.

Anyways, I did some research and none of it made sense. There was nothing about the timing, advertising budget, social media shares or anything else that marketers like to measure that would make any difference at all.

It had to be the content – and the content sucked.

When I say sucked, I mean there was none of the juice that traditional “copywriting experts,” lead you to believe is crucial when it comes to creating content that works. I feel qualified to say that because I have done all the courses, read all the books and knelt before the thrones of many marketing and copywriting gurus.

So what the #$%@ was going on?

My content had changed. It was no longer research-quality copy citing sources and solving technical issues, it was just me babbling about stuff I knew. Which of course, was why I didn’t need to cite any sources, and why it only took a short period to smash out 700 words ar so.

Also, because I assumed nobody was going to read it, I just wrote it as I normally would. This is where I put in a shameless plug for one of my novels…

Cover of Little White Helpers, a book by Rhys Knight
Rhys’ book…

As an author, I’m far more comfortable telling a story that has a beginning, middle and end than I am conducting detailed research, and translating someone else’s ideas into my own. It feels like work because it’s not natural.

As it ends up, the most important metric for me was ‘time on page.’ It told me how many people were actually reading the entirety of my blogs, and how many were being engaged by the title and instantly bouncing. I’m not gonna put up any screenshots from Google Analytics, but let’s just say we went up over 65%, from not much to a lot.

So is the formula to tell a story? As with everything else in content marketing, formulas need to be tempered with quality. It’s not good enough to write five blogs a week if they’re terrible, everything has to be of a high quality.

So, begin with an idea. Something that you know a lot about and can extrapolate into something of value. My preference is to take something from my own experience, but if you are skilled enough to use someone else’s knowledge effectively, then great.

Next, take your idea and think about how to make it entertaining. Importantly, entertaining doesn’t necessarily mean funny with or packed with drama, but it does mean having a beginning, middle and an end. Take the time to flesh out all three of these before you start creating anything.

Now you have an idea and a framework within which to operate. Begin at the end, and create a conclusion you are happy with, this gives you something to write towards and keeps you on track. Then go to the beginning and craft a paragraph that draws people in.

Obviously, you need to know who those people are, so keep your target personas in mind.

Finally, focus on the middle. All your storytelling is done in between the first and last paragraphs, just like every book is based on its central chapters. The middle of your blog should ask and answer a question that relates to your core idea. Without a question being answered, what are people reading for in the first place?

Once you have a compelling idea, a beginning, middle and end that work and a question that is answered, you can be confident that you have a blog it is worth reading.

Content marketing isn’t really about content or marketing, but instead about conversations between human beings. High-quality conversations involve both participants leaving their egos behind in favour of a connection. So tell the truth about a great idea, help others understand it and have a conversation that matters.