Find your B-sides and flip them

Q: What do the following tracks have in common?

  • Rod Stewart — Maggie May 
  • The Smiths — How Soon is Now
  • The Beatles — Revolution
  • The Stone Roses — Fool’s Gold
  • The Rolling Stones — You Can’t Always Get What You Want

A: They all began life as B-sides.

Back in the day, record execs made a judgement call of: “Nice track but not quite good enough for the A-side”. In other words, a classic ‘ivory tower’ decision about how audiences would engage with content.

There’s a lot of similarity with B2B content planners in 2020.

Many are still making ‘best guess’ judgements on their content calendars; identifying the A-sides and stockpiling media budget behind the assumed winners.

But here’s the thing. Even with the most advanced predictive content planning tools, the truth is that it’s audiences — and not predictive algorithms — that determine success.

And over the long haul, your B-side content often produces a slow burn of chart success…

Try a simple experiment

Check your Google Analytics account for a simple ‘All Pages’ lookup for the past 24 months:

Alongside the obvious pages demonstrating high levels of engagement (Home page/About Us/Service/Careers etc.), you may spot something strange and surprising. A consistent anomaly discovered when we’ve conducted content audits for new clients: the B-side content is often the most popular over time.

Not the A-side. Not your proprietary research or disruptive piece of thought leadership.

But the solid support players. The spin-off blogs from gated content. The throwaway follow-up to an industry event. The quick listicle. Not exactly fillers, but not the Grammy nominees.

B-side content engagement is built from SEO gains. No cleverly engineered pillar and cluster strategy — in fact nothing beyond basic on-page optimisation.

So, what to do about it?

First of all — don’t jump on any false positives. In other words, don’t confuse SEO traffic with traffic of real commercial value.

A quick acid test to understand the commercial value of a content post’s traffic is a simple check of ‘time on page’ or page conversion rate. Bounce rate as a metric can be misleading. We all bounce, but sometimes we can bounce happily, with a warm and fuzzy brand experience after consuming content.

If everything looks promising, then perhaps it’s time to flip the post to the A-Side.

Flip it with budget

Relaunch an updated version of the post and put some new seed budget behind paid social and search. Or consider being upfront and repackaging it as a golden oldie release; ‘Our best content’.

Plug it into existing workflows and UX

Add it to your existing email and remarketing nurture sequences. Perhaps even promote it to ‘featured content’ for a while in the resources section of your website.

Do your due diligence and then prioritise it as a new organic search target

Carefully analyse the overall SEO coverage opportunity. If the topic area does show SEO traction for the holy grail of relevancy, attainability and volume, then opportunity knocks.

Make the topic a new strategic targeting opportunity

If you get really lucky you could uncover a niche topic area in your audience’s buying cycle that offers an opportunity for new psychometric targeting on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Quora (they demonstrate an interest in topic X — and it turns out topic X is also a Facebook interest or a hot Quora discussion.)

The most important task when looking at your B-sides?

Just asking why.

Looking up the overachieving performance of your B-sides throws up the question:

Why is our audience interested in this topic? 

Your entire content marketing strategy could be reinvigorated just by questioning what your audiences really care about.

Our tip? If you do decide to spend time soul searching, try ‘God Only Knows’ by the Beach Boys as your background soundtrack.

Yep, that began life as a B-side too.

Do you need a more sustainable pipeline?

Open to new approaches for lead generation and sales enablement?

Explore Contentology programmes

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