Content strategy takes serious time—but not every business has the luxury of waiting for that slow burn to start producing equally serious results. Fortunately, there are tons of ways to start developing a more data-driven content strategy approach that you can test out today.

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1. Test subject lines and blog headline formats on social.

Subject lines are one of the most popular starting points for content and creative testing. They are easy to implement and yield results almost instantly. But it can be intimidating to try new things with your hard-earned email marketing list or a well-established blog. Who wants to risk that pesky “unsubscribe” link?

So before you even hit that “A/B Split” button, try testing out your subject line or headline formulas on a smaller sample by using your existing social media accounts. Simply publish or tweet two versions of your content and see which is better received. (Just make sure you maintain a controlled test by scheduling your social tests on the same day of the week and time of day to reduce the amount of variables introduced to your test.)

Here are a few of the formulas we often test out in our own marketing.

SUBJECT LINES

  • Emoji vs. No Emoji. Everyone loves emojis. But whether or not they belong in your subject lines is really up to your audience (and the type of email providers they use).
  • Personalization vs. Localization. Does your audience respond better to being mentioned by their first name or a softer customization like the city they live in or business they work for?
  • Offer vs. Intrigue. Which is more powerful? Delightful, potentially mysterious copy or a straightforward “this is what you get” offer?

HEADLINES

  • Length. There’s already a huge body of research on how long blog headlines should be, but it’s always worth testing to see what your audience prefers.
  • Listicle vs. Narrative. You’re probably pretty tired of the “10 Ways to Write a Blog Post” format. (Heck, we used it for this one!) Your audience, however, might not be. Put this top contender to the test and try pitting it against something a little more narrative-driven like “How We Wrote a Blog 10 Different Ways.”
  • Headline 1 vs. Headline 2. Sometimes, you just have two great ideas. Why pick just one of them? Instead of picking favorites, let ’em duke it out.

Then, look for both quantitative data (e.g., number of comments or retweets) as well as qualitative data (e.g., audience feedback or reactions) to determine your test winner.

2. Refresh an existing blog post or article with timely cultural cues.

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Marketers sink a lot of time and effort into producing thought leadership content that stands the test of time. After all, evergreen content is the bread and butter of any great content marketer. But that doesn’t mean you have to set it and forget it after a first run.

Instead of republishing the same piece of content over and over again, you can test the continued efficacy of your evergreen content by making a few simple copy edits.

Update the headline with a timely cultural reference or event.

Pop culture has a certain way of shaping how marketers perceive and process communications strategies, making it a great source of inspiration when it comes to keeping content dynamic and fresh.

You’ve probably seen this before: “What [X Celebrity]’s Latest PR Blunder Can Teach You About Reputation Management” or “How [Y Trend] Can Make You A Better Marketer.” It’s a great way to generate new interest in your content!

Provide a history of updates when something newsworthy challenges or affirms your POV.

There’s something really powerful about watching an idea evolve, especially if it’s an idea that’s core to your business. So give your audience something new to chew on anytime your POV is challenged or strengthened by emerging trends by keeping “live updates” on major thought leadership content.

This will allow you to maintain a meaty, centralized hub for important information way more efficiently than developing new content every time your industry landscape changes. Over time, you should start to see a significant increase of time on site as well as return traffic.

Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose!

Try as we might, the humble link is a barrier to content. So instead of using internal links to recall existing content, try gleaning your top existing content for powerful sound bites or excerpts and serve them up as a big, bold drop quote in a new piece of content.

When you serve those excerpts in a new wrapper—like a new blog post, infographic or article—you’ll be able to clearly test the strength of your ideas against new variables like time, environment and audience.

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In the end, developing a healthy content marketing machine is often about making thoughtful small changes to how you produce and distribute content. These quick tips should be more than enough to get you moving in the meantime.