By Nicole George
Recently I completed an audit of the company blog that I maintain and from a content marketing viewpoint, I learned quite a bit (which is after all the point of completing the audit). Whether this means much to you or not, I got insights on:
• Which blog topics perform better on social media
• How Google reads headers and text in the blogs
• The importance of keywords and questions
• The importance of tagging photos in blogs
• What CTAs move people to action more frequently
• Which authors consistently perform well
Some of these insights confirmed assumptions I already had, but more importantly, some of these insights totally defied assumptions I had, and some of those assumptions were honestly prideful.
Assume Nothing About Your Results
I had previous assumptions about certain topics or styles of posts performing better than others. But when we checked data on blog views, shares and engagement, some of these fell flat. And of course, that applies to some blogs that I wrote and came up with, which was somewhat of a blow to my pride. I literally had the thought as I went through the comprehensive audit, “I don’t understand why that didn’t work.”
Other blog topics or ideas that either I or members of our team came up with soared with success when I doubted the validity of those ideas. In some instances, the thought crossed my mind “Why in the world did that succeed?" Then the next thought was "Why didn’t my idea succeed?” and this is totally prideful.
When we make decisions based on our confidence in our own ability (which I can quickly slip into doing as I schedule, write and maintain content) we can easily act out of pride. Malcom Gladwell describes our overconfidence in our decision making as feeding off a sense that we know more than we do.
Put Aside Pride for Best Practices, Experience & Data
Thank God for the abundance of expert marketing advice, data and my team’s work experience because these things keep me in check. In the workplace, there's just no room for pride.
During the blog audit, I had to remember that much of the success the content has experienced comes from previously curated “best practices” that other marketers put into play. This means by putting into practice what I learned from other marketers’ success, our content performed better--I might have good ideas, but other people have even better ones. This act of constant learning means I have to set aside the idea that I know more than someone else so that I can humbly say “let me learn from you.”
I also had to set aside my confidence in my content knowledge (LOL I’ve only done this for a year so why should I be prideful at all?!) and put trust in the experience of weathered marketers on my team. This means taking direction from the social marketer’s ideas, latching on to the SEO guy’s suggestions and taking heed of my boss’s insights.
And of course, you set aside confidence in what you think works so you can learn from what the data says actually works with your customers. For me, this means looking at the data of what people are actually clicking on, reading, sharing and engaging with. I might have a great idea of what I think our customer wants to know, but when I set aside my pride in my understanding of them, I can have a clear vision for what they actually need.
Try Everything and Keep What Works
Now all of that must be balanced with this thing called creativity, which is super important for any innovation. Creativity is key to invention and just staying with “what works” would not carry us forward to greater things. You’ve probably heard how Henry Ford said if he asked man what he wanted, he would’ve said a faster horse. You have to think outside of the box and go outside of what you already know sometimes to create the next great idea.
However, we still cannot be prideful about these great new ideas. For instance, we had no content describing how mobile home trade-in works. We didn’t really know if this was a topic people would engage with, but it’s an important topic to our industry, so I figured we could write about it. I wrote a blog post about how the process works and when I checked back in on the blog’s stats for the audit, my jaw dropped. It had sky rocketed with success.
A similar situation occurred last summer with a simple blog that highlighted one of our home models. We didn’t know whether or not people would want to read a blog that just described a home, but when we published our first blog highlighting a specific model, it also soared with traffic.
The Key to Trying Creative New Strategies
It’s important to try new ideas, but not to hold tightly to those ideas with pride. We’ve tried ideas that flopped. If I held onto those ideas with pride in it being great when it clearly didn’t perform well, we’d sink to the bottom. It takes humility to learn and pivot your strategies as you check decisions against others’ experience and what data tells you.
Granted, this can also take time. Months after certain blogs got published and had low performance, they suddenly took off in popularity. (AKA, Google suddenly showed the blog in search results or someone “discovered it” and started sharing.) This only reiterates that you can’t hold onto success with pride, but you must constantly learn.
We must continue to learn from others and from our data. Then we must make decisions not based on confidence in our knowledge, but based on objective information with counsel from others.