By Sarah Greesonbach published February 27, 2018

Slow Your Content Marketing Down


More than 86 million blog posts are published on WordPress every month.

86 million. Every month.

Even the most digital literate, attentive, and committed customer probably only has the bandwidth to scan about 10 headlines and read one to two articles a day – and that’s being generous.

Where does that leave the millions and millions of other “content opportunities”? Floating limply in random distribution channels and woven throughout thousands of lackluster company tweets?

Innovative marketers are embracing a solution – the slow content marketing movement. Much as the slow food movement argues less-but-better food will deliver improved health results, the slow content marketing movement insists less-but-better content will deliver improved marketing results.

“When I first came into content marketing, fast content marketing was the way to go,” says Margaret Magnarelli, senior director of marketing at Monster and Content Marketing World speaker. “But over time, it’s struck me that there’s more value in doing fewer things. A longer piece might get fewer finishes because of its length, but it might have a greater impact on someone who ends up spending more time with it and builds greater affinity with your brand.

“If you’re working in a B2B business where your aim is to drive leads, you don’t need to make more content – instead you need to make more effective content.”

If your aim is to drive leads, you don't need to make more #content, just more effective content. @mmagnarelli Click To Tweet

The argument for slow content marketing isn’t just anecdotal. The concept of quality over quantity is a long-held business truth as proven with research:

Over 90% of its blog leads came from old blog posts via @HubSpot. Click To Tweet
  • An American Marketing Association study found that brand marketers increased their publishing by 800% over five years only to find engagement per post declined by 89%.
Brand marketers increased publishing by 800% over 5 years. Engagement per post declined by 89%. @AMA_Marketing Click To Tweet
  • Orbit Media research revealed that content creators who spend longer on each post see stronger results. Publishing frequency was not a differentiator.
Content creators who spend longer on each post see stronger results via @orbiteers. #research Click To Tweet

It’s only a matter of time before every content marketing strategy goes slow to ensure that the quality of its content going out in the world is high.

#Contentmarketing strategies should go slow to ensure the quality of content going out is high. @AwYeahSarah Click To Tweet

How to do slow content marketing

Slowing your content marketing doesn’t mean just pulling back on the publishing schedule. Invest the time and resources you otherwise would have put into high-frequency writing into making each article the best possible version. Though how you do that will vary depending on market conditions, here are five ways to do slow aka quality content marketing.

1. Hire better writers

Treat your audience like the humans they are – humans who want to read clear thinking. Push the upper limits of your budget to hire the best writer you can afford – one who specializes in your industry niche and speaks keenly to your target customer.

“The quality of your ideas gives you the right to produce less,” says Mary Ellen Slayter, CEO of Rep Cap Media and founder of

The quality of your ideas gives you the right to produce less, says @MESlayter. Click To Tweet

Talented writers can generate and execute quality ideas. But better writers don’t just make for better text, they also:

  • Have the necessary industry context to avoid content that your competition is publishing, to feature the latest high-quality research, and to highlight your brand’s value proposition with minimal onboarding.
  • Have influence and authority in your industry, as your audience may be familiar with their other content. They also can amplify interest in the content through their well-developed industry networks.
  • Know the best format, length, publishing schedule, and outreach efforts for your content and your audience.
Talented writers know best format, length, schedule, & outreach for content & audience. @AwYeahSarah Click To Tweet

2. Treat titles like the bait they are

Clickbait is a negative term, and rightfully so. Headlines that use tricks or lies to manipulate people into clicking are wrong. But the term “bait” applies to all titles by their nature – a little taste of what the content offers to entice a potential reader. If you don’t put time into creating the most accurate and alluring title, you compromise the reach of the article.

If you don't put time into creating accurate & alluring titles, you compromise article reach. @AwYeahSarah Click To Tweet

“We’re playing a game of headlines,” Margaret says. “Display copy is the only way you can get your content to register with someone, so you almost have to create a wolf in sheep’s clothing and do what everyone else is doing title-wise. But when a reader finally gets to the piece, it’s got to be good.”

Treat your titles with interest-grabbing, “I-have-to-read-this-now” bait by making them as robust as they can be:

  • Use a modified version of Jeff Goin’s formula for catchy headlines: number or trigger word + adjective + topic or audience keyword + benefit. Or use James Scherer’s tip for influencer titles: How (Familiar Brand) Is Doing (Something) to Achieve (Positive Result).
  • Use CMI’s 10-point checklist or these headline-generator tools.
  • Split-test your headlines using a plug-in or app on your blog and use different versions on social media.

3. Make use of your archives

Don’t underestimate the power of your previously published content. As the HubSpot example shows, old content can be a powerful driving force for customers seeking to educate themselves about your product, service, or industry. Look at your archives and update content to make sure it’s working for your brand 24-7.

“For B2B customers, it’s not just, ‘I came to your site, I clicked, and now I’m going to buy real quick,’” says Mary Ellen. “The decisions they make require thought and money, and the customers need to know who they’re dealing with. It’s important to think of your content as what Jimmy Daly calls a library of information – one you can go back and update to build that trust rather than a paper of record where content that was published three years ago must stay where it is.”

4. Segment your audience (and segment it again)

One outreach method you may not have fully investigated is customizing outreach with your audience based on unique segmentations such as:

  • People who didn’t click the article (or people who did)
  • People who share the newsletter (or people who don’t)
  • People who have not been active in the last five campaigns
  • People based on job title, gender, location, or device
  • People who subscribed to your list based on how they signed up (i.e., trade show vs. gated content)

You also can customize your content outreach while still staying within your established distribution frequency such as:

  • Adding a link to footers or round-up posts
  • Running promotions for readers who share or comment
  • Featuring a new quote from the article in a different email
  • Rewriting the email introduction to the article based on industry, job title, or scenario
Customize your #content outreach for audience segments following same distribution frequency. @AwYeahSarah Click To Tweet

5. Sharpen your distribution strategy

One of the biggest benefits of putting more resources into a single article is that it increases your odds of creating the kind of original and editorially sound content that opens the doors to content syndication, potentially introducing your blog (and site and product) to flows of traffic from sites like MSN, USA Today, Yahoo, AOL/The Huffington Post, LinkedIn, and more.


“There’s a sea of terrible content out there because sometimes we content marketers have just had to feed the distribution beast,” Margaret says. “Investing in one piece of content and making something special that you can publish everywhere is a higher ROI strategy because when an editor or customer sees your name in their feed they’ll know it’s worth reading.”

Like every other part of your marketing strategy, the decision to embrace slow content marketing or keep up last year’s pace will depend on your sales goals, your customers, your industry, your niche, and a million other details. But every marketing manager will find it’s worth stopping to ask, “What if we slowed our content marketing this year?”

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Discover how a “slow” approach also includes knowing how to develop a structured framework for your content. Make plans today to attend Intelligent Content Conference March 20-22 in Las Vegas. Register using code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Sarah Greesonbach

Sarah Greesonbach is an HR, marketing, and technology writer. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things marketing and HR. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter @AwYeahSarah.

Other posts by Sarah Greesonbach

  • JL Faverio

    Hey Sarah, it’s funny, I’ve got your article open talking about slowing down content marketing, and the next tab I have open is from Marketing Insider Group saying to speed it up – or produce more.

    Is it fair to simply say, one should just produce quality content, as often as you want?

    • Sarah Greesonbach

      We are conspiring against you, haha!

      I agree with you. The key is, to quote the MIG article, to “‘Raise the height of our valleys’ through better content, and smarter distribution.”

      For most brands, the content marketing budget is static. If you spend more on one thing, you have to spend less on something else. You end up having to choose between quality and quantity. What I’m getting at is that if you have to make that choice, choose quality.

      If you don’t have to make that choice — if you’re a large brand that can just raise the bar across the board — then by all means go with better and more!

      • JL Faverio

        Agreed. Maybe I should just stick with Web and SEO and trust the rest of my team to perfect their strategies to help grow the agency. A reminder to myself: FOCUS! (but this industry is so fun and challenging it’s hard to focus ahhh!! LOL)

  • dmccaff

    Great article! Two thoughts:

    — The comment about moving toward less but “longer” content … Since when does “long” always translate to “good”? I’m all for generating less content — users are drowning in it at this point. But that doesn’t mean we have to force them to read a 3,000 word white paper when a well-written, on-point 800 word article will perform the same service.
    — Just a nit pick here, but do we really need to label “conclusions”? This isn’t a high school term paper, after all. (Again, just a nit pick … Somewhat of a pet peeve of mine when clients insist upon doing it.)

    • Sarah Greesonbach

      Agree on all points, dmccaff :).

  • Bonnie

    I appreciate that No. 1 on your list is “Hire better writers.” Good content writers understand strategy, advise their clients on smart approaches, and turn in quality work. And to do this takes time and talent. It’s a very different skill set than coming up with listibles cribbed from the Internet.

    • Sarah Greesonbach

      Absolutely! There’s a great Portlandia skit about this where a newspaper is bought out by a website and seasoned journalists are competing to write the best listicles/tweets. Good content makes people happy they clicked through!

  • Ann Handley

    HELL to the YES. Thanks for writing this, Sarah.

    I spoke about this very idea of Slow Marketing on the main stage at Content Marketing World in 2016 and I’ve been riffing on it since in a few Slow Marketing articles, which it seems to me is the broader application of a Slow Content mindset.

    The challenge for marketers is that the pressure to produce is great. The clip of business and social media is brisk.

    So what I’ve been focusing on (obsessed with) is identifying what, exactly, are the moments to slow down? And when should you speed up? When is Slow Content necessary? What’s a Slow Marketing Moment? And conversely, what isn’t? Because moving slowly isn’t the goal: Moving slowly at the right time is.

    Thanks so much for writing this, Sarah! (And I can tell you wrote it slowly. LOL)

    • Ben Putano

      There’s one moment that comes to mind that is good for slowing down, and that’s gathering research and sources. My most successful pieces have also taken the longest to research, whether that involved interviewing experts, conducting experiments, or doing deep research to draw new conclusions.

      Is this something you’ve seen as well?

      • Ann Handley

        Hey Ben — Yep! Researching your content is one of those times. So is researching your audience: Taking the time to understand who you are talking to, first. And then taking the time to adequately research what value you’re delivering to them.

    • Sarah Greesonbach

      Lol! Thank you, Ann!

  • Designatude

    Less is better these days. Quality over quantity when it comes to creating good content and marketing that content. I appreciate the article and feeling good about the direction I have taken for producing content focused on user intent.


    • Sarah Greesonbach

      Thank you Designatude — Do whatever it takes to always be putting your best foot forward!

  • Matthew Scot Schultz

    I wonder how much of the quantity first mindset flows out of the history of the blog as a personal (sun-culture) journal. The solution, in my mind, is to fully embrace the pillar (cornerstone) content model.

    This is particularly important when you are creating content for engineers (my focus).