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How the Contently Team Grew Its Readership 10 Fold in Less Than 1 Year

How the Contently Team Grew Its Readership 10 Fold in Less Than 1 Year Blog Feature

Ramona Sukhraj

Associate Director of Content, Strategized Initiatives That Increased IMPACT’s Website Traffic From ~45K to ~400K

June 10th, 2015 min read

how-the-contently-team-grew-its-readership-10-fold-in-less-than-1-year.jpgContent isn’t just a strategy, it’s a way of life.

At least that’s what most of the team at content marketing powerhouse and SaaS provider, Contently, would tell you.

Founded in 2010 to connect brands with talented freelance writers, Contently has grown from a humble group of 13 former journalists to a herd of 85 mammals (including the office dogs) and the industry standard in storytelling for big brands like GE, Walmart, and NBC Universal.


In a recent conversation with IMPACT’s John Bonini, Contently’s Editor in Chief, Joe Lazauskas, divulged how he and his team has approaches content strategy and has grown its readership from 20,000 to 200,000 in less than a year.

From that candid discussion, come these five inspirational secrets on how your organization can achieve similar success through your content.

1. Hold Yourself to a Higher Standard

When you first think of Contently as a Marketer, chances are what comes to mind is high-quality, original content -- and that is no happy accident.

With the saturation of the market today, Joe shares that he and his team have always set out to say something new and don’t hit the publish button unless what they’ve written is truly unique and up to their expectations for quality.

He remarks, “Writing the same story with the same basic blurb that AdWeek, AdAge, and The Drum are putting out isn’t really providing a lot of extra value out into the world...We try to bring something to our readers they’re not going to get anywhere else…”

They strive to be different and to surpass the status quo. A mediocre blog post is not going to do much for you in terms of search, acquiring email subscribers, or social, he explains. You have to give your readers a reason to choose you and your content over the proverbial blog next door.

What Can You Do? If you want to get noticed and stand out from all of the competition, you’ve got to hold yourself to a higher standard. Don’t just mindlessly create the same content that others are; Aim for something original and fresh.

To achieve this, pay close attention to these 3 areas:

  1. Your Topic
  2. Your Depth into the Topic
  3. Your Angle

When it comes to your content you want to make sure that you are discussing new and exciting topics. Even if you aren’t, you want to provide fresh perspective or depth or look upon them from a different angle.

Focusing on this will help give your content value that is unique to your organization and cannot be found anywhere else.

2. Don’t Neglect Your Analytics

“If you’re not being smart about content creation and [conversion rate] optimization, you’re playing with a huge handicap, ” Lazauskas warns.  

Today, just creating content isn’t enough. To ensure that your work is actually helping your business objectives, you have to create the right content for your audience.

“You can have your best guess at your content strategy, but like any good basketball coach, you need to be constantly crunching the data, looking at the advanced stats, ” Joe continues.

When planning content for the next week, the Contently editorial team takes a deep look at the performance of its posts to determine what types deliver the best results, then discuss ways to recreate that success.

By doing this, they can better allocate their writing time and effort and ultimately deliver the “delightful”, engaging content that we have come to expect from them.

What Can You Do? If you haven’t already, invest in a comprehensive analytics tool (like Contently or HubSpot) to track the performance of your content.

With this in hand, thoroughly analyze everything you publish and take note of what’s performing best, where it’s performing best, and as Joe says, “double down” on what’s delivering.

Some key metrics that Joe suggests comparing include:

  • The Quality of Traffic (indicated by on-screen time and conversion rate)
  • Social Shares
  • Email Sign Ups

3. Fine Tune Your Distribution Channels

Despite its already large audience and notable name, even Contently sometimes needs help expanding its reach and getting traffic to its posts.

Unlike many brands, however, the content giant doesn’t mindlessly blast posts on every channel the minute they are published. Rather, it investigates which are performing best (and with what topics) then strategically determines the best outlet for the content at hand.

The team’s most valuable channel, according to Joe, is undoubtedly its email list.

“...That’s the audience [we] have a direct line to,” he shares. “You don’t control the behavior of your audience on Facebook or Twitter or any network. That’s an audience you’re ultimately renting from those gatekeepers…” but your email list is a competitive advantage within your power.

Far too many brands abuse their email contacts with eCommerce offers and promotions, but at Contently, the team is dedicated to only delivering valuable, high-quality pieces that its audience will actually want to read.

What Can You Do? Follow Contently’s lead and pick your distribution channels carefully. Know your strengths and weaknesses on each one and use this knowledge to make sure that you are sharing content where, when, and how it is appropriate.

In terms of your email list, segment your contacts. With distinct, clearly-defined lists, you’ll be able to better target your emails and avoid “spamming” those who have trusted you with their inbox. Amongst other things, you can consider grouping your contacts by:

  • Job Title/Position
  • Location
  • Industry

Furthermore, don’t be afraid to supplement your effort with paid social advertising.

Reflecting on the success of a Promoted Update Contently once ran on Facebook, Joe advises, “If you’re spending $500 to create a piece of content and you think it’s really good, you might as well spend an extra 100 bucks to make sure 2-3x as many people see [it].”

Using social tools like this will help you get more eyes on your content and allow you to target your update specifically to your desired audience.

4. Try Different Things

Joe attributes a lot of Contently’s success to the risks it has taken for both itself and its clients in terms of mediums. “You need to try a lot of different things because you’re never quite sure what’s going to work,” he explains.  

From quizzes and comics to eBooks and videos, Contently has never been afraid to experiment and the result has been a diverse body of resources that attracts and engages its readers in a variety of memorable ways.

This adventurous approach not only keeps the company’s content new and exciting, it provides the team with more opportunities to be creative in how it attract its audience.

What Can You Do?

In Joe’s words:

“...[T]ry out new formats. Try out quizzes, comics, infographics, podcasts, short-form content on Vine, Snapchat, or Instagram. The most important thing is really to very closely track all of the different story types, lengths, topics, and different attributes that go into the content you’re creating…[That way you can] see what’s performing best...and then [invest in] what’s working.”

Overall, pay close attention to changes in your industry, audience, and the way they communicate and look for opportunities to join the conversation.

You will never know if the platform or medium will be a success for you unless you give it a try, so experiment with smaller campaigns and analyze its performance to determine if its worth investing in long term.

5. Never Be Satisfied

Despite all of his impressive accomplishments, Joe Lazauskas remains humble and confesses that he doesn’t feel like he’ll ever think he’s a “great writer.”

With success often comes complacency, but like all great companies, Joe and the team at Contently strive to reinvent themselves and constantly improve.

“If you want to get in this game,” he says, “you have to be hungry to keep getting better and never be really be satisfied with everything you’ve done.”

What Can You Do? Always be open to constructive criticism and look for opportunities to learn and grow. Read books, attend seminars and webinars, and network.

No matter how well your content or organization as a whole is performing, the bar for quality can always be raised with new insight and advice.

In the end, this quality is what drives your audience and makes them choose to subscribe, follow, and ultimately work with your organization over others.

If, like Contently, you set your standards high, devote time and energy to analyzing your analytics, choosing distribution channels, and exploring new mediums, your content will rise above that of your competitors and attract an eager and engaged audience it needs to achieve your goals.

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