The Definition of Insanity: How to Break the Content Creation Cycle of Doom

By Ashley Taylor Anderson, Ceros

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

There’s a lot of debate around who first said these words, but regardless of their originator, they remain incredibly true.

And yet…

It’s all too easy to let the momentum of everyday work life drag us into rinse-and-repeat mode. We get into a rhythm of content creation. Sometimes, that rhythm means that everything is running smoothly. Sometimes, it means our program is on autopilot.

When this happens, it can be hard to break the cycle — even if the results of your efforts appear to be flatlining or diminishing. There doesn’t seem to be enough time to stop, evaluate and carefully consider what we should be doing differently.

But if we want to succeed, we have to make time to get back on track. These 5 steps can help you gain clarity around your content creation efforts and help you determine what new approaches you should be testing.

Step 1: Look at Your Content Performance Metrics

Yes, content marketers are word people. We don’t necessarily get excited about number crunching and pivot tables. But there’s no excuse for investing a bunch of time and effort into a piece of content and then not evaluating how it performed.

There are tons of metrics you can look at to discern whether a piece was successful, but here are a few of the key ones:

  • Page Views: How many people did your content touch, and what channels did they come through to find it?
  • Time Spent: Yes, time is just a proxy for interest, but it’s one of the best we have.
  • Scroll Depth: If you have a plugin to track this (SumoMe has an affordable one), you can see how far down the page someone scrolls and what the average completion rate is on a piece of web content.
  • Social Shares: If someone takes the time to share your piece, they’re into it.
  • Bounce Rate: If a content piece has a high bounce rate, then you may need to rethink your user experience  and calls to action to improve the pathway.
  • Conversions: Does your content make people want to give you their information? If you’re creating assets for lead gen, let’s hope so.

Step 2: Learn from Your Failures

Once you have a sense of what content hasn’t worked for your program, the next step is to understand why. A number of factors could be contributing to underwhelming performance:

  • Poor Distribution: Sometimes, you’re so focused on getting a piece finished that your content distribution efforts aren’t as thoughtful as they should be.
  • Audience Misalignment: Your piece may be good but focused on a topic that doesn’t quite resonate with your target audience.
  • Bait and Switch: Clickbait titles might get people to click on your article, but if the content you create isn’t what they expected, they’ll bounce out pretty quickly.
  • Missing Angle: If your content doesn’t have a unique angle that’s educational, inspirational or amusing, viewers are more likely to get bored and leave.
  • Lackluster Execution: If your copywriting, design, graphics and user experience execution aren’t quality, it won’t take long for users to jump ship.

Step 3: Be Brave and Take Risks

Human nature dictates that once you’ve failed a few times, you become more risk-averse. It takes a conscious effort to push yourself to keep trying new things.

In content marketing, bravery is an absolute must. You’ll never be able to push your program to the heights you want to achieve without trying out some crazy things.

This has been true of our content program here at Ceros. Following a traditional B2B content marketing approach with our blog, we were able to grow traffic moderately and see some decent traction with our subscriber base. But moderate results weren’t what we wanted. Instead, we kept pushing and pivoted our strategy to invest in fewer articles that were more editorial in approach and coverage, appealing to a broader creative audience.

It’s still early on in our experiment, but after a couple of months, we’ve seen a 140% increase in unique pageviews and a 12% increase in average session length. If we’d stuck with what was comfortable, we likely would have seen flat results month-over-month.

Step 4: Invest in the Luxury of Time

It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the rat race of deadlines, changing priorities and the huge backlog of requests from different teams. Unfortunately, the fast pace of business is not at all conducive to quality, thoughtful content creation.

If you’re starting to spiral into the content creation cycle of doom, the best thing you can do is give yourself time to escape it. Stop creating new content. Take a break and revisit your strategy. Then dial back the cadence of your content output for a couple of weeks while you experiment with a different approach.

Even if, at the end of the day, you revisit your content strategy and find that it’s still on point, taking time to slow down your process and really dive deep into a couple of pieces can be hugely beneficial. With time and space, your creativity can breathe. You can mull your ideas over and give them more time to sink in before you commit to publication.

The Bottom Line

Doing the same thing over and over is not just a huge waste of time and money — it’s a huge waste of creative effort. By stopping to analyze your work, take risks and give yourself the time and brainspace to sit with your strategy and content development process, you’ll be able to break the cycle of mediocrity and improve the business efficacy and creative output of your program.


332f291Ashley Taylor Anderson is Director of Product Marketing at Ceros, an interactive content marketing software startup. She’s a writer and marketer who’s spent her career knee-deep in the B2B technology space. In previous professional lives, she worked as a science textbook editor, interactive media producer and pastry chef. When she’s not in front of a computer typing, you can usually find her nose-deep in a book, strolling a museum or cursing at her sewing machine.