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How Long Do Content Marketing Strategies Take to Succeed – and Why?

By: Zachary Vickers — May 09, 2018

A clock, a notebook and a smartphone on a white desk

Is your content marketing strategy taking ages to pay off, or are you wondering just how much time you’ll need to invest to see results? We’ll break down why most strategies can take months to succeed – and why it’s worth the investment.

Introduction

It’s a truth that no client wants to hear, but there are many variables at play that determine the time it will take before a content marketing strategy generates results.

And, unfortunately, “there’s virtually no correlation between time spent creating content and success.”

On average, profitable outcomes can take anywhere between six and twelve months, no matter what type of content you’re producing.

Anything shorter than that is just unrealistic, but if it’s taking longer than a year, you’re going to want to head back to the drawing board.

Defining Your Engagement Goals & Metrics

man writing on glass circling words

The success timeline of your marketing strategy will vary, as certain metrics take much longer to affect than others.

Determining exactly what your organization or client is looking for is critical to understanding how long your content marketing strategy will need before it starts to generate results. Ultimately, it comes down to how you define success.

For instance, a blog with banner advertisements would be more interested in increasing general traffic to increase their ad click-through rates, while a website focused on selling a service or product needs more targeted traffic to convert.

It’s likely most, if not all, of the following engagement metrics are going to factor into how you measure success.

Goal #1: Increasing Unique Visitor Traffic from Keyword Ranking

It’s a steep and time-consuming hill to climb trying to reach the top ranked spot on Google, and that means your content marketing strategy can take quite a long time to bear fruit.

Gaining organic exposure through search engine optimization (SEO) keyword ranking is arguably the main tactic used by content marketing teams. Organic and search engine PPC (pay-per-click) advertising are the most popular forms of content marketing out there, and a cornerstone of any good content marketing strategy.

But SEO is not for the impatient: a study by Ahrefs determined:

  • Only 5.7% of the 2 million pages that were studied ranked in the Top 10 search results within one year for at least a single keyword.
  • Less than 1% of pages ranking in the Top 10 for high-volume keywords did so within one year.
  • Nearly three quarters of pages studied weren’t even in the Top 100 search results by the end of year one.
ranking performance by volume over one year

Ranking in the Top 10 search results is an uphill battle and takes a significant amount of time.

The results of this study are pretty stark. Ranking for higher volume keywords (greater than 50k searches per month) is exceedingly more difficult within a year than ranking for lower volume keywords (less than 1k searches per month).

The takeaway here is that the competition is stiff when attempting to rank for high-volume keywords, so content marketing strategies which target them will require a significant time investment before you start seeing results.

To top it off, while getting into that coveted Top 10 is extremely important, ranking #1 is generally your prime directive.

32.5% of the average share of traffic goes to the top ranked site, while the second and third rankings fall off a proverbial cliff with only 17.6% and 11.4% respectively. You’re guaranteed to take the lion’s share of organic traffic and conversion rate potential once you achieve that top spot.

However, there are quicker ways to boost website traffic than organic keyword ranking.

Goal #2: Other Methods of Increasing Unique Visitor Traffic

Links From Other Websites

  • Contributing a guest post with a backlink to your organization on an established, high-authority, and high-trafficked website, like Forbes or The Huffington Post, can increase traffic almost overnight. But remember, organizations that send huge amounts of traffic aren’t likely to link to you easily. You’ll either need a reputation or a reputable website — both of which which take time to build up before you can successfully attract organic links or convince them to let you guest post.

Creating Viral Content

  • Whether it’s a meme, a clever infographic, or a sleek video, viral (highly-shareable) content is almost always visual content. Because viral content is so implicitly shareable, the distribution timeline of viral content is extended well past that of non-viral content. Cracking the code on viral content can generate a massive influx of new traffic initially and then continue to gain traffic as that content perpetuates itself.
Big Tip
Keep in mind that traffic boosts from links and viral content can be fleeting, and will taper off as your content loses newsworthiness and novelty. Depending on your strategy, this may work for your business.

Goal # 3: Decreasing Bounce Rates

This metric is a bit more abstract. Bounce rates are the percentage of users that leave your page without ever interacting with it (i.e. clicking a link, using the search bar, viewing a photo.) Although Google denies it, bounce rate is thought to have some tangential relationship to your keyword rankings. True or not, decreasing your bounce rate means that users are engaging more with your content, which is a benefit in its own right.

Exactly how you can decrease bounce rates on your content will be specific to your niche, but there are a few tried and true methods. While decreases in bounce rates will be instant as soon as you complete each of the following tasks, how long it takes you to complete them will depend on the size of your website, your budget, and/or the code it was built on.

Bounce Rate Improvement Methods

  • Enhance content readability – people like their content diet to be lean and bite-sized.
  • Enhance website design – internet users have higher expectations for web layouts and designs, and will abandon an ugly site. In addition, a thoughtful layout that keeps your niche audience’s needs in mind will enhance usability, creating more engagements.
  • Smart interlinking – take a look at our post on creating excellent blog posts to learn how to create links that are irresistible for your readers to click.
  • Decrease image file size – this is a quick and simple way to speed up load times.
  • Optimize your back-end code – while code optimization can take much longer to complete, unoptimized code is like a ball-and-chain on your site’s loading speed.
  • Create a mobile-friendly interface – with Google’s “mobile first index”, having a mobile-friendly website is more important than ever so ensure your users aren’t annoyed with your interface, or you’ll face consequences in mobile search.
Big Tip
We mentioned site speed frequently in the above bullet points. Why? “40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.”

There are other content marketing goals, such as developing an email list or a social media following, that work in tandem with all of these goals. No matter which set of goals you use to develop a profitable business, generating momentum will nonetheless take months.

Understanding Types of Content

A group of people brainstorming over a laptop and sheets of paper

The needs of your business will determine which type of content to incorporate into your marketing strategy.

There are really only two types of content, on-site and off-site. The type of content you’re marketing will shape the timeframe of your strategy.

On-site Content

Blogs

Websites that produce in-house blog posts are able to build trust with their customers by providing helpful information.

Blogging also gives people a reason to revisit your site from time to time as well as a supply of brand new content to search engine algorithms.

Evergreen content (material that stands the test of time regardless of when it’s viewed) is ideal for ramping up visitor traffic as it will always stay relevant and engages new users well after the initial posting. This type of content can take weeks to implement, but will continuously produce results throughout the entire length of your marketing strategy.

Hubspot found that 69% of businesses credit their blogging strategy with successful lead generation.

Finding that lead-generating audience will take time – several months at least.

The time it takes to create a quality blog post is highly dependent on the writing ability of your marketing team. Although, you can significantly reduce that time by outsourcing your blog content.

Big Tip
Your content should be in-depth and useful to the reader, regardless of length. Don’t equate longer content with higher rankings.

White Papers

The use of white papers in your content marketing strategy can help position you as a thought leader in your industry. However, the time investment to produce an authoritative, wide-ranging study is incredibly steep. As a result, a white paper may not be the most practical form of content to create, unless you have a solid strategy for marketing it and converting readers into leads.

With a well executed outreach strategy, white papers are lead magnets. Ideally, you’ve offered free, substantive information directly related to your target audience, in exchange for contact information. Conversion rates and sales won’t be far behind.

If you do have the time to invest in surveying and data collection, the ROI with this particular content marketing strategy is unrivalled.

Big Tip
Maximize your time by hiring an expert white paper writer and ensure you’re producing high-quality content.

Visual Content

The majority of us are are visual learners –  65% of us, to be exact – and the two most common types of visual content incorporated in these content marketing strategies are:

  • Video
  • Infographics
  • Memes

Video content, in particular, is a big gamble in terms of marketing. The time-to-ROI ratio doesn’t always make sense for smaller campaigns.

Content marketing with videos also relies heavily on having an established audience. If you don’t already have influence in the market, producing video content can be a waste of time and resources.

On the flip side, video marketing is on the rise, as videos are one of the most persuasive channels out there. Over 80% of people said watching video content convinced them to buy that brand’s product or service.

Infographics and memes take significantly less time to produce, although they require either outsourcing to a design studio or employing someone on your marketing team with a graphic design background.

It’s worth considering investing the sizeable time it takes to create visual content, if you have the resources or your brand is pivoting towards a more shareable, social media-focused marketing strategy.

Off-Site Content

Guest Posts

Contributing content through external channels feeds into Google’s desire to spread out search results across multiple domains.

The goal here is to build links, the benefits of which are twofold:

  1. They’ll funnel traffic back to your website and hopefully convert users.
  2. They’ll funnel “link equity” back to your website, increasing your keyword rankings.

One particular case study of a website found they gained a 20% increase in referral traffic in just 5 months after guest posting 44 articles on 41 different blogs.

The time sink associated with this type of content marketing can be difficult to gauge, because you have to factor in not only the time it takes to create the content, but also the back-and-forth communication with guest sites.

Guest posting is all about networking and building relationships – which takes time.

Social Media Accounts

In this day and age, social media content marketing is king.

Fostering a strong social media presence is hardly a quick endeavor. You’ll need to develop a lengthy outline before executing your social media content marketing strategy.

  • Which social media platforms should we target?
  • What is the voice of our brand?
  • Who is our audience?
  • What kind content should we publish?
  • When is the best time to publish our content?

The extensive pre-planning involved with this type of off-site content marketing means this strategy requires a substantial time commitment.

The Takeaway

A clock, a notebook and a smartphone on a white desk

Your content marketing strategy needs time to produce results – be patient.

Every content marketing strategy is going to be different, so it stands to reason that the timeframe for success will vary as well.

The time it takes for your individual strategy to take effect depends on targeting metrics that will define your campaign’s success, understanding what type of content your audience will respond to, and ensuring that that content is top-notch quality.

And of course, the main factor that will determine how fast your content marketing takes off is how much you’re willing and able to spend on it.

Remember that the path to a winning content marketing strategy is a marathon, not a sprint.

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