Content Marketing Academy 90 day challenge: the big review!

Anne JohnstonBehind the lensLeave a Comment

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Earlier this year the Content Marketing Academy set its members a 90 day challenge to help us improve our businesses through content marketing. We’d set our own objectives, commit to the process for 90 days, support each other along the way and hopefully come out the other end relatively unscathed. Did I ace it or do I need to go suck eggs? Let’s jump in and find out.

Here’s the questions the CMA asked us to answer to review our progress.

1. Overall, how do you feel the 90 day challenge went for you?

I set myself a target of producing one wedding related blog a week to get me into the habit of weekly blogging and to help get eyeballs on my website, which I launched just in time for the start of the challenge. Thanks for the pre-challenge challenge, Vicky Beach Huts! Doing the website was a challenge in itself and wasn’t part of my 2017 goals at all but when I committed to the 90 day challenge I knew the time was right to develop a new website that would help support me in my goals.

I produced 12 blogs, 1 a week and mostly stuck to my objective of wedding blogs, going off-topic one week to talk about how I overcame my fear of public speaking. That was a massive personal achievement for me and I felt the need to share my story the very next day after a speaking gig.

To start with the challenge was relatively easy as I was sharing the real wedding stories of a few couples I’d photographed which was really enjoyable to write about. But once I decided to dig a bit deeper and tackle some of the questions I hear regularly I really felt the need to be much more thorough and one of my blogs was a mammoth piece: Am I allowed to print and share my wedding photos? Everything you need to know about wedding photography copyright and licences.

I definitely found that as the weeks went on the process became easier and I developed a workflow to help me be consistent with promoting my blogs too. Last year I wasn’t consistent with my blogging at all. I started off doing one a month, then one every couple of weeks and then one every whenever. There was no consistency there at all but now I feel I’ve developed that habit. It was just what I needed to give myself a kick up the ass.

2. What have been your 3 top main lessons from participating in the 90 day challenge?

My biggest lesson is that the more I write the easier it becomes. What used to take a whole working day I can now do in half that time. Part of that I think comes down to being more proficient with the technology I’m using… WordPress self hosted website for the win! But another part of that is having the confidence that I am helping people with my content, that they are reading it and they do take value from what I’m saying. Yes, folks, I have a voice and I’m not afraid to use it!

I’ve also learned that I need to challenge myself. Yip, committing to weekly blogs is great and all, but when I turn up to write I can make it easy for myself or I can choose to go deep on a Big 5 topic. It’s when I make the effort to go deeper on a question eg Why is wedding photography in Scotland so expensive? that I feel I’m doing something that will genuinely help prospective clients. And what’s the point of writing a blog if it’s not going to help anyway?

Another key takeaway for me is that there’s so many people in my industry that don’t understand content marketing. While I’m writing blogs aimed at brides I’ve got other wedding suppliers telling me that my blogs are helping them by saying everything they say to couples many times over. To me the answer to that is staring them in the face (write the content yourself) but if they don’t understand why I’m doing it and are happy to share my content it’s more eyeballs my way so I’m not going to object. Content marketing is the way forward for businesses and although I’m just a short way along my path I’m miles ahead of the people that haven’t taken their first steps yet. We’ve got to keep adapting and moving with the times.

3. Based on what you set out to achieve, did you meet your objectives?

Yes, I’m happy to say I met my objectives. I’ve created that habit now and I won’t be looking back. I had my weekly deadline and having the accountability of the other CMA members really made me want to do it for them too. Go squad! I was committed to the challenge and I was committed to the team and I didn’t want to let them down or myself. I set out to do this and knew there was no way I was quitting. I needed to make this work.

4. What are your key results from the challenge?

I compared the Google Analytics stats on my new website for the period from 6th March – 1st June 2017 with the 90 days before the challenge on my old website. Geek girl, here we go!

I’m pleased to say that I’ve had nearly double the amount of sessions (4,237 vs 2,156) and users (3,100 vs 1,756) on my new website and the average time people are spending on my website has gone up by 21 secs (from 1 minute 5 seconds to 1 minute 26 seconds).

The number of page views and pages per session has gone down but I expected that as my wedding galleries are on a separate dedicated site now. Another negative is the bounce rate (people only viewing one page) which has gone up by over 25% percent but that’s something to work on now that I have a new site with a good 12 weeks worth of content.

My top 3 performing blogs are:

441 views: Top 7 things your wedding photographer needs to know
440 views (such a close second!): I want to get married in Scotland. What paperwork do I need?
378 views: Real Weddings at the Glen Clova Hotel: Ailsa and Chris’ Valentine’s Day wedding

5. If you could participate in the challenge again, what do you think you would do differently?

If I was to start over again I would write myself a clear plan for 90 days and do a series of blogs that naturally lead on to each other or a series of blogs on one particular topic. Half the battle is knowing what to write about and while I have a content matrix of some sorts (post-it notes on big 5 topics) and I had a plan for the first month I do think I could do better and be more structured about it.

6. Now that the 90 day challenge is complete – what will you do next?

I have my weekly blogging habit now and I’d be doing this last 90 days a complete disservice if I stopped so I will be carrying on with it for sure. Yip, it’s in black and white right here, folks you lucky, lucky people! I now have a content log of all the content I’ve produced on my blog, Facebook Live and LinkedIn so I’m going to look at the stats more in-depth (Google Analytics is like my 2nd best friend!), see what I can do to optimise the content that hasn’t worked so well and carry on writing more of the good stuff…… and more Big 5 content. It’s all a learning game.

As for another challenge I can see that video is the direction I want to head in but not to the detriment of my weekly blog. I’ve already done the radio thing, maybe now is the time to take heed of what the experts are saying and get myself on camera instead of being behind it all the time!

7. What could we do to improve the experience of the 90 day challenge?

Although it was daunting seeing Chris give me feedback on my blogs live on our weekly call in front of everyone, I really felt having those tips helped me improve my blogs. I was also able to take on board advice he was giving to other CMA members too. I’d like to see more of this next time round so we can all improve together.

Other than that I wouldn’t change a thing. It was a great experience to be part of and so inspiring to see the other members of the CMA totally crushing it with their content. I can’t wait to see what everyone does next!

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