6 Ways to Run Content Experiments That Drive Growth

kids lab experiment showing content experiments
kids lab experiment showing content experiments

Want to give your content marketing a serious boost? You can do it with content experiments.

Today’s technology enables us to experiment with our content tactics in lots of ways: different audiences, content types, channels, timing — you name it. When you do this consistently over time, you can be confident it will show in your performance results.

In this article we’ll cover how you can get started with content experiments right away. You’ll learn more about discovering what works for your audience, making small tweaks to increase ROI, and ways to implement low-risk experiments to inform larger strategies.

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.

Quick Takeaways

  • Content experiments keep your strategy agile and enable continuous improvement.
  • You can minimize risk when trying new ideas by experimenting with sample audiences.
  • Experimenting with content is an effective way to capitalize on what’s working and eliminate what isn’t.
  • Brands can diversify their voice through experiments with content types, partnerships, and new distribution channels.
  • Content experiments help brands maintain data-driven strategies and make informed decisions.

What are content experiments and how are they valuable?

Content experiments allow you to test new ideas, tactics, and strategies to continually refine your content strategy.

If you’re a marketer, you know we live in a world of constant change. Much of what we thought was best practice 10 years ago (hello, keyword stuffing) is now considered poor form. New technologies, updated Google ranking factors, and the millions of other things that affect what consumers want all make it a tough job for marketers to always know the best approach.

Read: we don’t always know the best approach.

That’s why we need content experiments to help us figure it out. When you perform content experiments on a regular basis, you can figure out what works and what doesn’t — with low risk of affecting your larger strategy.

You can also identify what’s working best and do more of it, and find out what’s not working so you can either fix it or stop altogether.

Perhaps most importantly, content experiments keep your content strategy agile. They help you to identify issues, recognize new opportunities, pivot when needed, and apply what you’re learning as you go.

In his book The Lean Startup, Eric Ries says that at the core of any new startup is the ability to turn new ideas into products. For us, the product is content. When we look at it from The Learn Startup’s build-measure-learn perspective, we can see how content experiments allow us to continually get better:

The Lean Startup teaches a build-measure-learn approach to testing new ideas that can be applied to content experiments.

Image Source: Twitter

So when is it time to conduct a content experiment? How exactly do you do it? In the next section, we’ll walk through 6 reasons you should think about doing a content experiment and examples for how to execute.

6 Reasons (and Ways) to Run Content Experiments

Try new ideas

Trying new ideas — even when your content strategy is working — is the best way to keep your content fresh and exciting. The thing is, you don’t want to try everything at once, and you don’t want to go all in on an idea before you know it’s likely to work.

The solution: a content experiment.

Think about the new ideas your marketing team has come up with over the past few years. Maybe it was to try a new social media campaign, or change up the look of your branding, or integrate some interactive content into your emails and blogs.

The key to experimenting with new content ideas like these is to start small, then build out as you see success. Consider the interactive content idea again. Rather than add it into every email or blog post, it’s a better idea to choose a sample audience (like your most engaged subscribers) and test how they respond to the new content. Perhaps after that, you build it into an A/B test for a larger email blast.

If you keep seeing high engagement, you know it’s something to make part of your larger strategy. If not, no harm done.

Expand your audiences

As companies grow, they often expand to include additional target audiences. Perhaps you see an opportunity for your product to add value in a new industry. Maybe you’re offering new solutions that are relevant for larger audiences. Maybe your company is just growing, and it is ready for a larger customer base.

If any of these apply, you can use content experiments to test the waters with new audiences you plan to engage.

One of the best ways to do it is with niche content. Helping a new audience see exactly how your solutions can benefit them will pique their interest and establish your brand as an expert from their perspective.

An example from our experience at Marketing Insider Group is with SaaS agencies. For a long time, SaaS brands were known as slow adopters to content marketing. At MIG (like other content agencies), we saw the value of content marketing for SaaS, so we planned a series of blog posts around the topic.

We wrote about SEO for SaaS, Content Marketing for SaaS, and other topics to engage with this audience and show them how our services can be valuable to them.

Example of one of MIG's content experiments to engage new customers in the SaaS space.

Image Source: Marketing Insider Group

You can experiment with niche content like this for your own potential new audiences. Then, monitor how they respond and then dig deeper into what resonates most with them.

Blogs aren’t the only way to do it. Social media posts, videos, infographics, ebooks and more can all be used to experiment with engaging new audiences.

Capitalize on success

Doing more of what’s working seems like the obvious approach, but you can’t actually do it without insights to inform your decisions. Content experiments provide data that can give you the objective information you need to make the right strategy decisions for your content.

With content experiments, you can drill down into the specifics to optimize your content’s performance. You can optimize send time for emails or posting days for blog articles. You can test subject lines, HTML formats, CTAs and any number of other factors to determine what’s most successful for your brand and keep doing more of it.

Each of these seemingly small factors may not seem impactful on their own. But when you use content experiments to optimize them as a whole over time, you’re sure to see a boost in performance results.

Eliminate unsuccessful content

Similarly, content experiments can tell you when something is not going well. Data can help you spot issues early and pivot quickly to improve your content’s performance. You can also recognize when something is just not working and eliminate it before its negative impact is felt.

Consider, for example, that you’re launching a new email newsletter. If you’ve never done one before, you may be unsure about which types of content to include. You might have to figure out how to segment your audiences so that each one receives a newsletter that’s relevant to them.

If you intentionally experiment with content and lists, tracking important KPIs like open and click-through rates while performing A/B tests, you can quickly and continuously refine your email newsletter so that only the most engaging content stays in, and anything that gets no traction is removed.

Diversify your brand voice

Diversifying your brand voice by producing varied content, featuring guest contributors, and serving as guest contributors for other brands can significantly widen your reach. They’re also all great ways to conduct content experiments for increased brand awareness.

Again — you may be doing some of this already, but the key is to approach it as an experiment.

Some ideas for brand voice diversification:

  • Expand your content types beyond blogs. Try video, social media stories, infographics, or even podcasting.
  • Feature guest writers on your blog. Make them part of a series or regularly do one-off guest posts on various topics.
  • Contribute to other blogs or podcasts where your audience may be engaging. If you’ve already established your brand well, you may get requests to be a contributor. You can also reach out about potential partnerships to brands you want to connect with.
  • Try influencer marketing. Consumers trust influencers and buy products based on their recommendations.
  • Partner with brands on co-branding initiatives.

One of the ways Marketing Insider Group has experimented recently is with infographics. We’ve used them to create visuals that summarize some of our most important articles.

Here’s a portion of our infographic about how to write the perfect blog post:

A portion of MIG’s Perfect Blog Post infographic.

Image Source: Marketing Insider Group

By experimenting with different content types, partnerships, and distribution channels, you can find new ways to expand your audience, make your content more shareable, and ultimately drive more traffic to your website.

Uncover valuable insights

It’s worth noting again that one of the most critical reasons to regularly perform content experiments is to gain data-driven insights about your performance.

When you continuously and systematically collect data and analyze it to inform your strategy, you’re enabling your team to make informed, objective decisions. Over time, this will seriously boost your ability to engage and save you both time and money.

Read more creating a data-driven content strategy and how data plays a role in your content success.

We Can help You Run A Year’s Worth of Content Experiments

Content experiments (and your larger content marketing efforts) require the creation of a solid content strategy, lots of ideas, frequent, high-value content, and measurement to show results. Our team of SEO experts, writers, and client service managers can deliver you optimized, ready-to-publish content every week for one year (or more). And we help you to measure what works!

Ready to get started? Learn more about our SEO Blog Writing Service or schedule a quick consultation today.

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.