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April 13, 2017

5 Strategies to Create Content That Brings Home Real ROI (Not Just Shares)

This year, who’s bringing home the bacon in your digital strategy?

If you answered “content,” you’re right on the money. It’s no secret that marketers everywhere want to develop content that incites positive changes for their companies.

All too often, however, the metrics used to measure the success of content aren’t valid. For example, while social shares are great, you’re going to need more than that to succeed. With this in mind, here’s a complete breakdown of how to create content that brings home the bacon, in 2017 and beyond!

Why Shares Aren’t Enough

Although shares are a fantastic thing to aim for in your content, they’re not sufficient to keep your content strategy afloat. Why, you ask? The answer is a little complicated: today, a ton of shares doesn’t necessarily translate into a ton of links or sales.

This is due in large part to the way people read (they don’t, anymore) and the way people share online (people commonly exchange information without reading it, first). Steve Rayson points this out in a recent Content Marketing Institute article in which he points out that an online quiz with 8,000 shares and 5,500 views still managed to get no links. That’s right – zero.

While shares are helpful, sharing alone isn’t enough to build authority, boost conversions, and help drive traffic to your site. Although sharing should always stand out as an important part of your content strategy, you can’t build your hopes on it and it alone. As a part of the content amplification process, shares aren’t a relevant success metric. Instead, you’ll need to focus on gaining links and shares if you want to succeed.

Content Shock 101

Before we start talking about the secrets of high-performing content, let’s talk about the term “content shock” and why it matters here. Popularized in Mark Schaefer’s article, “content shock” is an exclusive key term that Schaefer coined for the first time. In doing so, Schaffer got more than 900 backlinks to his piece.

While the shares for this article weren’t massive (only 4,700 compared to the 8,000 for the quiz mentioned in the Rayson article above), the link value of this piece was incredible. This just goes to show that shares aren’t your only reliable metric, and that you’ll need to start thinking about what makes an article worth something in the long run.

How this Works for Us

At my company, it’s all about creating solid content that holds value long after its publication date. For an example of how we do this and why it works, consider two separate content pieces we’ve recently published.

One piece of content that garnered a high-quality link was a ​Twitter chat recap where an influencer, Mark Traphagen from Stone Temple, guest hosted. His site subsequently linked to it (not on our request – we never ask our guests to do that). A second link we just received was from CrazyEgg, a very high ranking site, that picked up my podcast episode with Joanna Wiebe almost a year after it was posted. These are high-value links that will add a great deal of domain authority to our site — and all because we created quality content that influencers chose to pick up.

This was a hard-won lesson, though, and, at first, I struggled a bit with tempering our expectations during the process of creating content that “brings home the bacon.”

For an outline of this process, check out my recent post on The Write Blog. In this post, I tell the story of a piece of content I just poured my heart and soul into.

After weeks of writing and lots of promotion, the piece had only earned 20 shares. Frustrated, I decided to send it out to my email list. I did that at about 2 PM on a Tuesday. Over the next several hours, I received a handful of in-depth, thought-out comments, some links from prominent influencers, comments asking about our writing services, and more. Despite all that, though, I’d still only earned 25 shares.

I was disappointed, until I realized that shares are nothing more than a number and that I had already succeeded in building relationships and conversations with that piece – so why was I punishing myself for small social share stats?

It didn’t make any sense.

By creating content that offers real value to readers, we consistently get links (not just shares) from high-quality influencers. These are far more valuable than the alternative, and they take us further as a company. Next, we’re going to talk about how, exactly, you make it happen.

5 Tips to Create Content that Brings Home the Bacon

So, shares aren’t enough. Now that it’s time to dig deeper, here are a few tips for creating award-winning online material:

1. Always do your best

For the piece I mentioned on The Write Blog, I spent three weeks writing. While I was initially devastated that this article “hadn’t performed,” it’s ultimately the quality of the writing that was responsible for those relationships and conversations it created.

In a day and age where people don’t read much anymore and there’s no guarantee that anything you put online will earn the reach you want, it’s critical to do your absolute best (every single time) to create the greatest content you can muster. No exceptions. No breaks.

Take the time to create legitimately inspirational content that benefits your customers and your readers. Great content is the reason people keep coming back and, even if it doesn’t go viral on social, you’ll likely notice a much higher ROI regarding conversations and relationships gained.

2. Make it useful

Content that is useful is much more likely to stand out with your audience than content that isn’t. Before you publish anything, ask yourself how much value your readers will get from it. If the answer is “not much,” think twice. Your content should exist solely to answer questions and provide in-depth answers. If it doesn’t, it’s time to work harder. If it’s not useful, it has no right to be online.

Creating highly useful content is the best way to “bring home the bacon” in 2017.

3. Make it visual

Visual content will only become more important as the years go on. Today, readers aren’t equipped to handle long, text-dense pieces. Instead, they want multi-media content that features text, visuals, graphics, and videos to help them dig deeper into your topic and understand what you’re talking about. If you’re not giving this to them, it’s going to be tough to stand out in their minds.

With this in mind, add the following types of visual content to your content in the coming year:

  • Custom drawings
  • Infographics
  • Embedded videos or SlideShare presentations

Not a visual creation expert? No worries. Hire a professional to do it for you or head to to do it yourself.

4. Go in-depth

Going in-depth is similar to creating useful content. The more in-depth you can get on your content, the better. Readers want material that addresses their questions and makes it easier for them to solve problems.

With this in mind, dig deep as you create your content. Find valid facts and stats. Don’t cite references that are citing references. Instead, dig harder to find the original source. Approach old topics in new ways. When you do these things, your readers will notice, and your content will have more intrinsic value than something that just went viral on social.

5. Develop a strategy

Your content is more likely create better relationships if there’s more for readers to look forward to than just a single piece. With this in mind, be sure that you’re creating a content strategy that guarantees there’s always something else for readers to look forward to. Clustering content around a series of topics is an excellent idea, as is developing material for various stages of the buyer’s journey.

When your strategy encompasses all your reader’s wants and needs, you’ll hit the nail on the head. Be sure that you’re providing several different content formats, ranging from videos and blog posts to podcasts and white papers, to suit all your audiences’ various content needs.

Bring Home the Bacon with Content This Year

If you spent the majority of 2016 staring at social share numbers with your face in your hands, now is the time to cut yourself some slack. While social sharing is important, it’s not enough to make or break your content’s success.

2017 is the time to start creating more valuable, more well-rounded content that ever before. Even if your social share numbers don’t go off-the-charts, you’ll likely see a real ROI that encompasses everything from relationship building to a higher lead-to-close rate. Remember: social shares aren’t everything today, and they don’t always translate into real results.

That said, create valuable, focused, strategic, visual content in the coming year to bring home the bacon for your company.


Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.