Google loves fresh, relevant content and has been favoring websites that offer a steady stream of timely content since 2011 (read their post on the subject).
Your social media audience loves it as well, getting a significant percentage of their daily news from content shared by accounts they follow.
When I say timely content, I mean that it’s fresh (recent) and focused on current events or trends. “Timely” refers to relevance, in the moment, and if your content speaks to the current moment effectively. In contrast, evergreen content is the opposite, designed to attract more links over time (thereby increasing search rank) by providing value that doesn’t diminish over time (hence “evergreen”).
Where evergreen pieces tend to be long, dense, and time-consuming to create, timely content is easy to create by comparison and can gain attention quickly -though is unlikely to retain attention or position in search results (SERPs) long-term.
The key to producing effective timely content is to have your proverbial ear to the ground about your industry and the key trends where your offerings are most relevant. When the opportunity to generate awareness reveals itself, you need to be in-the-know, and agile enough to take advantage before the moment passes.
Identifying topics that are already trending is easy to do, but not terribly useful. Being able to act on emerging trends, before the competition has a chance, is a different matter entirely. Timing is everything. You need to be able to identify topics gathering momentum before they catch fire.
This approach only works with topics that evolve. There has to be new news to comment on; waxing philosophical about known knowns just doesn’t cut it. Compelling headlines are shocking, or concerning, or exciting. They’re definitely not rote or redundant.
The formula for success with this approach requires three ingredients, in equal measure:
- Advance knowledge (or the ability to predict) a future state of affairs.
- Credentials that demonstrate unquestionable authority in the subject matter at hand.
- A differentiated point of view that garners respect and raises the audience’s awareness of you (and the brand you represent).
That’s “it”. Simple, if you’re lucky enough to A) know something everyone else doesn’t, B) be an expert in the subject, and C) be able to produce a smart response that neither offends nor makes anyone feel stupid.
Leverage your brand’s mission to differentiate your message
Your unique point of view should be a function of your brand’s unique value proposition. This is a “kills two birds with one stone” situation because when you focus on topics you know intimately through personal experience, you have both inside information and the expertise to make use of it.
What does your brand do that the competition doesn’t (or doesn’t do as well)? These are your differentiators. Your organization has made a deliberate choice to be something, something specific, so look for opportunities to share this point of view when it can shed light on a timely topical issue.
Examining a real world example
I work for a company called MarketChorus which builds tools that help content marketers understand what their audiences are reading and sharing online. We want people to associate our brand with smart and cost-effective content marketing.
Our unique value proposition is a patented approach to finding people based on what they’re reading and sharing on social media.
We monitor industry news sites and blogs for new articles mentioning topics like “AI in content marketing”, “Facebook custom audiences”, or “contextual retargeting”; waiting for an opportunity to inject our brand’s unique perspective into a trending discussion.
We’re hoping to see a headline trending like “Why are Facebook Ads so damn expensive?!” so we can seize the opportunity to publish an article explaining our unique value proposition; finding people engaging very specific content on social media.
The right insights, from the right expert, at just the right time -this is the winning combination that gets people’s attention.
We took advantage of this opportunity to write an article explaining how the presidential election is driving up Facebook ad costs -and how to counter those rising costs.
In your industry, you’re the right expert, the trick is just knowing how to “time the market”, so to speak; riding waves of attention as trends in your industry ebb and flow.
How to monitor the news like a pro
Now you know how to position yourself as a thought leader in a way that will benefit your brand. All that remains is to find a way to predict which topics will become trends in the future. To assist you there, I’ll share my secret weapon…
(whispering) psst…it’s AI.
Who has time to actually read the news anymore? No one, which may be why so many of us get our news from social media timelines.
Of course, there’s still value in what’s being published, even if you can’t always spare the time to read it. Media monitoring solutions like Mention, BrandWatch, and others can help you spot trends, but a content intelligence solution like MarketChrous Resonance (get a free account) or SparkToro may provide more tactical insights.
Each monitoring solution works a little differently, some monitor for keywords (Mention, BrandWatch) and others for “topics”, using natural language processing technology to search contextually (MarketChorus) for related topics.
Monitor any relevant industry publications for opportunities to express the value of the way you do business. Then blog about it, contribute thought leadership content to industry publications, and supply quotes and interviews for reporters covering the topic.
4 Ways to distribute timely thought leadership
HARO emails come three times a day, loaded with questions on all kinds of subjects -and hopefully a few that you can answer…
An acronym for “Help A Reporter Out”, HARO is a mailing list of sorts, where subject matter experts can offer their opinions in the form of quotes to answer questions submitted by reporters in need of a source. When your quote is used, you’ll be sourced.
Even in situations where you don’t receive an explicit link (links most directly affect your rank in search), there is still value in contributing because Google recognizes high-quality brand mentions as an indirect ranking factor.
#2. Combination blog and email newsletter
Writing an extremely relevant blog post explaining your company’s position on a hot button issue and then having it sit there unread for weeks isn’t going to feel great -or accomplish anything. Timely content needs to be seen in the moment, so have a distribution plan, but don’t overthink it.
Which audience is most likely to appreciate (and share) your point of view?
Customers, subscribers -people who’ve given you their email address at some point in the past- are more likely to pay attention to you than folks with no prior exposure to your brand.
If you have an email list, use it! Send your unique perspective to your customers, partners, blog subscribers, etc as a way to remind them who you are and where you stand on the issue at hand.
#3. LinkedIn/Medium articles
Normally I’d suggest you syndicate rather than produce original content on platforms like LinkedIn and Medium but they were specifically designed for mass distribution of timely, trendy content, so it makes sense.
Save original evergreen content for your blog but don’t be afraid to spread your message out to these third-party platforms when the shelf-life of your content is temporary anyway. Even so, don’t pass up the opportunity to link to your blog from your LinkedIn or Medium article to take advantage of any inbound links your article attracts (no-follow links still have value).
Focus on attention-grabbing headlines and consider investing in paid social to drive eyes to your content before your awesome hot take goes cold. Urgency is the name of the game here…
#4. Contribute thought leadership to relevant industry publications
You’ll need existing relationships with publications that accept submissions and be able to produce content quickly to pull this off but this approach has the potential to get your content in front of the right audience very quickly.
Anticipate a delay between your submission and it being published and prioritize faster moving publications to make sure your timely commentary is still relevant by the time it reaches an audience.
The Forbes Councils program is a particularly strong channel to use for this strategy, if you qualify and can afford the membership fees. Forbes articles are published quickly and tend to receive a lot of visibility in search and social media.
There are many, many other suitable publications though, so don’t feel like you have to be a Forbes contributor to take advantage of this extremely effective tactic. There are almost certainly a number of publications specific to your industry which would be more than happy to publish your expert opinion.
Do your homework in advance. Research publications in your space that accept submissions with advanced Google searches like this:
“content marketing” OR or OR “martech” “become a contributor”
This search should provide many avenues for you to pursue for thought leadership with relatively little effort. Each site will have a set of contributor guidelines. Read them, follow them, and write for as many as you can make time for, because each article can contain a useful inbound link to your site. And when an opportunity presents itself, you’ll already have a host of relationships with the types of publications whose audiences will appreciate your expertise.
Publish the right mix of timely and evergreen content
As great as timely content can be, there’s no replacement for evergreen content, because it lives longer and can gather more links over time. The two strategies are both valid, and even necessary, but neither are a replacement for the other.
Blend timely content into your content calendar opportunistically. Focus your content strategy on evergreen topics but keep a watchful eye on the news looking for topics gathering steam and where you can provide a unique perspective.
Equip yourself with automation, so that you can monitor the news effectively, and without wasted time and effort. Tools like the ones I mentioned above can not only help you spot growing trends but can speed up research dramatically and help you keep an eye on the competition as well.
Finally, don’t forget to track your results and optimize future efforts. Use UTM links in your bylines and backlinks embedded in your articles. Leverage social analytics tools to reveal how many times your content is shared, liked, and so on.
Learn as you go and this strategy will continue to pay dividends again and again.