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Going the distance – why content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint

We all want to succeed and cross the finish line – the sooner, the better. However, like most things in life, nothing comes at the snap of a finger. Patience, persistence and time is the key to achieving your goal, especially when it comes to content marketing.

Content marketing promises a lineup of exciting profits, but to see them we have to wait. Adverts, newsletters and other marketing tools get to the client immediately with specific offers, while content marketing works in the background. It’s a constant process that should be implemented into our overall strategy. Unfortunately, between our need of instant results and measurable profits, we often forget that it’s a long term investment that needs a commitment…

Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Here’s why.


Why doesn’t sprinting work?

It affects satisfaction, trust and loyalty.

Systematically building and creating a memorable brand experience is the key to achieving your content marketing success. It affects satisfaction, trust and loyalty, which means getting more attention and a stronger audience attachment. And it’s highly important because content marketing creates trust based on customer-brand relationships. Both in business and in life, gaining trust is a long process that takes a lot of patience and effort. If you start sprinting at the start, your stamina will drop. Don’t take that risk. Starting slow will benefit you, because the faith and loyalty of your audience will make a positive impact on your company’s income.

Unfortunately, in content marketing literally everything takes time. The strategy takes time. Getting to know our audience takes time. Creating content takes time. Finding the best sites to post on takes time. Finding out what works and what doesn’t takes time. Results take time.

So what does a content marathon runner’s road to success look like and why is it worth running so long?


Training and preparation

A marathon is a race with a distance of around 40 kilometers. No one just wakes up one day thinking, “Yup, I’m going to run a marathon today!” There might be a crazy person somewhere who could make a decision like that and just do it. But normally preparing for a marathon takes runners months of hard training, regular workouts, muscle building and improving their physical condition. As well as getting their body ready, marathoners also get their gear ready –  they invest in their success.

And just like preparing for a marathon, organization is the key to good content marketing. Before you start off, you should create a strategy. Apart from writing down the fundamental design of your brand’s communication, analyze your target audience. Find out who your readers are, what do they do and what do they like. Find the questions they need answers to. People search for things all the time and content marketing is a great way to offer solutions to customers’ needs. Even the weirdest ones…

The right tempo  

Every marathon runner knows that there is nothing worse than starting with the wrong tempo. That’s the recipe for giving in half way. The key to success is the skillful management of your energy. Distribute it evenly throughout the run to minimize fatigue.

Don’t expect your content to take off in five minutes, and don’t expect it to go viral on social media in the next five. First of all, scrupulously prepare a promoting schedule. You have to remember that distributing the content is time- and energy-consuming. Don’t pitch everyone on your list at a clip – start with those who have the biggest potential to be interested in your piece.

Secondly, a fast link increase in SEO terms could be dangerous and risky. Search engines are sensitive to the sudden growth of backlinks which suggest illegal, black hat tactics. And you definitely don’t want to be on Google’s penalty list, do you?

Of course there are exceptions to these rules. If you’re lucky, your content might get picked up by other media outlets who will organically promote it. Google is quite good at determining whether or not traffic grows naturally or is manipulated in any way.

Moment of doubt

This is the worst feeling for an athlete. The moment when you’ve finally found the right tempo, you’re getting closer and closer to the finish line and then suddenly, you feel like you’ve hit a wall (mentally and physically). Your legs refuse to listen to your brain and every step becomes torture. Gravity pulls you lower and lower and you know you have to stop. This is the time when you ask yourself, “What the hell am I doing here?! I could have slept in today!”

Having a crisis is almost inevitable. It usually comes when we don’t immediately see the effects of our work. During every project, every creative campaign, there comes a moment of doubt and a lack of ideas. You have to be aware that optimizing and promoting content won’t always bring the same effects. There are just too many factors that affect a campaign and there is no one great scheme or rule to keep to. Both content marketing and SEO evolve too dynamically. What worked in the past, won’t work today. Google may implement a new algorithm that will turn your work around 180 degrees.

But it doesn’t always have to be bad though. Think of these changes as new possibilities and use them to your advantage. Re-analyze your actions and determine whether you’ve optimized the right pages, used the right keywords, created the right content that resonated with your audience.  

Wind in your sails

As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. During a marathon it’s the moment when you suddenly get double the power to plow on. You forget about the pain and how  exhausted you actually are. The extra motivation can be brought on by a friend or family member rooting for you in the crowd or focusing on your goal – to beat your weaknesses or your charity pledge goals.

You can’t plan for this type of extra power boost in content marketing, but you can make sure your content gains a second life with extra promotion and finding new ways of distribution. Sometimes, a small update is enough, adding an extra infographic or image. Sometimes our content comes to life after an influencer shares it which brings in an avalanche of links and traffic. Don’t overlook it and always be switched on – you never know when your content will get a second wind.

Constant hydration

When we sweat, we lose not only calories, but also up to four liters of water from our bodies. That’s why hydration points at a marathon are usually placed every five kilometers. Even though only a few might be thirsty at first, it’s better to use all the water stops. Two small gulps might have great importance to later stages of the run. During a marathon, you must never get to the point of feeling thirsty.


Articles are the metaphorical water for your blog. You must hydrate your blog with articles to keep it alive. Every time you create a new and original post, you form a new possibility of obtaining new links, sharing your article on social media and making your brand more visible and easy to find. Google loves blogs that are regularly posted on (but only if they are high quality). For the content to succeed it has to be valuable and give the reader real benefits. It’s important to produce as many articles with up to date information as evergreen – always relevant posts.

The finish line

Running a marathon isn’t an easy task. It takes a lot of strength and sacrifice. And crossing the finish line means different things to different people. Some see it as pushing their boundaries, others as a test of their strength – completing the marathon is what really counts, not the place you take. However, there are also people who find the gold medal most important.  

All marketers set different goals as well (increasing page views, increasing organic traffic, making a one-off viral, building trust, increasing sales) and each goal takes a different amount of time to achieve. It may take a couple of weeks to see an increase in traffic on your website, a few months to notice the first user interactions and up to a year to notice an increase in sales.

Remember that you don’t always have to cross the finish line first. Succeed by taking small steps, fulfilling all of your set tasks. If your content doesn’t bring you sales, but increases user engagement on your webpage and social media, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed.  Treat it as a success- you’ve reached two smaller goals that will ultimately lead to your most important target – sales. Your goals should be complimentary, the smaller, easier ones to achieve should support your main objective. That’s why making a schedule is so important.


A marathon in numbers

As we know, there is no formula for planning when exactly content marketing will start profiting, but we can more or less predict if we look at some of the key reference points.

The first results of on-page actions should be visible in about six months, and in the next six months you should see the results of off-page actions. The schedule looks more or less like this:

1-3 months

First of all, you must organize (train). Besides preparing a schedule, you should configure Google Analytics in order to properly track traffic and conversions. Work on content (both new and old posts) starts around the second and third month.

2-5 months

This is when Google notices your existence. It happens due to regular, consistent posting and promoting content. Before introducing content marketing, websites are usually relatively static (they have old and irrelevant content), which makes them unattractive to search engines. Sometimes a little tweak here and there, an update of information or choosing better keywords is enough to make a page more appealing. And that’s exactly what we want, because Google will then index your website faster and more often, which translates to your page popping up higher in the search results.

Besides Google, your efforts will also be noticed by your target audience and people from your industry. By obtaining valuable links, you will not only increase your website traffic and build brand recognition, but your page and domain authority will go up too.

6-7 months

After six months you will finally get your first satisfying report. It’ll show you that your efforts had a positive influence on your site traffic, time spent on the website and a higher conversion rate. All in all, content marketing isn’t just used to build engagement and trust, but to generate sales as well. Unfortunately, to see serious results in sales, you will have to wait at least a year.


And if you are still contemplating taking part in the run…

…remember that 11% of internet users, across 615 million devices, use ad blocking software. The annual increase in ad opponents is about 30%. Despite spending more and more money on digital ads, companies are not getting the results they want due to “banner blindness”. Users don’t just avoid clicking ads, they don’t even notice them anymore! They choose what they want to read on the site and easily ignore the rest.

The solution to this problem is content marketing. It looks as if it’s the best answer, because amidst all the chaos of the internet it seems to be natural and authentic and draws in the users’ attention. Information is extremely valuable to customers, they feel important and cared for because of it. One day your audience will return the favor, but you must be patient and constantly push towards your goal.

So are you ready to run?

  • 08 March 2018

See all articles by Aleksandra Skalska

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