It’s time to step out of your content comfort zone. Columnist Andrea Lehr explains why exploring ideas outside of your core focus can be an effective content marketing strategy.
It’s a phrase my team loves — in large part because it’s typically used when we’re having a discussion about a viral hit — but we’ve found it’s something not a lot of people are familiar with, particularly clients.
So what is it?
If you’re in a niche vertical that doesn’t have wide appeal on its own, exploring ideas outside of your core focus is a surefire way to reach a much larger audience. The resulting content is considered tangential because it’s only slightly related to your product or service instead of being something more heavily branded — and this broad relevancy is what generates massive social shares and media mentions.
If you’ve exhausted your niche (and even if you haven’t), it’s time to consider a tangential content strategy — especially if you’re in a vertical that doesn’t typically see viral-level engagement. To help you better understand this strategy, let’s walk through some of the reasoning behind it and take a closer look at campaigns where this idea worked.
1. Not all verticals are created equal
Setting realistic expectations should be a priority when outlining any content marketing strategy, but with a little research you’ll discover that engagement levels are not the same across the board.
In an analysis of more than 300 content marketing campaigns, Moz and Fractl (my employer) discovered that while the average campaign received 90 placements and just over 11,800 social shares, these numbers varied significantly when the campaigns were grouped by vertical.
Health and fitness content, for instance, outperformed the benchmarks by more than double — with 195 average placements and roughly 62,600 social shares. More niche verticals like the automotive industry, for instance, didn’t fare as well — averaging less than 45 placements and a little more than 1,600 social shares.
Another vertical with lower engagement levels? Home and garden, which is why one of our clients, Abodo — a site used to locate apartments — stepped outside this vertical and connected a campaign to politics. The project looked at which areas around the country used the most prejudice and derogatory language — something that would interest renters but isn’t necessarily their top priority. By broadening the scope of their content into a more engaged vertical, the campaign generated more than 620 placements and 67,000 social shares.
2. Your niche may not be emotionally driven, but your content should be
Research shows a viral hit is triggered by an emotional response, so your content should make your audience feel something if you want to extend its reach beyond your niche.
One emotion guaranteed to generate a ton of engagement is surprise, and that feeling was at the core of our campaign for an online medical service. For “Perceptions of Perfection,” designers from 18 countries were asked to Photoshop a model’s body so that she was “beautiful” according to each culture. The resulting images were vastly different, which shocked a lot of viewers — driving nearly 600 stories and over 900,000 social shares.
3. Content with a broad appeal generates a healthy backlink portfolio
Another bonus of stepping outside your niche? Your content is likely to end up on some big-name publishers, and these high-authority links are what earn you a vote of confidence from Google. Diverse backlinks to your site signal to search engines that others vouch for your content, and this “healthy mix” is what helps boost your rankings.
To understand whether or not your backlink portfolio could be a bit more diverse, ask yourself these three questions:
- Do a lot of my links come from the same place? If you have a relationship with a publisher who will regularly share your content, that’s great. But if this is the only site that is sharing your links, it will start to look fishy — both to your audience and search engines.
- Where are my competitors earning links? Taking advantage of all opportunities to rank is one way to diversify your link portfolio, and keyword research is a great way to identify any chances you might have missed. Tools like Moz’s Open Site Explorer offer great insights into where your competitors are generating backlinks, which can help you identify new target sites.
- Can I pivot my current content to reach a much larger audience? Take a closer look at the specific verticals on a top-tier publisher’s site. Is there something you can add to your content that would make it a good fit? You can also reach out to editors within these verticals and ask for their opinion on what would make them want to publish your content.
A great example of content that boosted a site’s backlink portfolio was this project we worked on for Bulimia.com that reimagined superheroes with more realistic body types. Using Photoshop, designers replaced Iron Man’s bulging biceps with arms that were a little more representative of the everyday individual. The result? A site dedicated to those struggling with eating disorders found its way onto the likes of BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Fast Company and Mic.
4. Establish yourself as a thought leader
Stepping outside your niche is also a great way to increase your credibility with those who might be unfamiliar with what your brand offers. For example, by producing data-driven research that extended beyond the PR community, our client BuzzStream established themselves as an authoritative tool and resource among the digital community as a whole, thanks to placements on Entrepreneur, Adweek and The Next Web.
5. You’ll become more excited about your content again
As someone who has contributed hundreds of guest post over the last few years, I’ll be the first to admit that writer’s block is incredibly real. Creating content outside of your niche is a great way flex your creative muscles and keep your readers engaged by introducing them to new ideas outside of your industry.
When it comes to tangential content, what you lose in the ability to overbrand your content you’ll make up for in backlinks and social shares. Stepping outside your niche is a great way to improve your SEO results while getting your audience more engaged — two essential ingredients for any effective content marketing strategy.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.