A prevalent concern that seems to come up quite a bit when we’re talking about content is repeating yourself. We’ve even talked about it a few times before – which should probably clue you in to the approach I’ll be taking to the question.
But I don’t want to assume you’ve read everything I’ve written here. Hell, I don’t remember with crystal clarity everything I’ve written in this blog. I can’t expect that everyone who reads the latest post has reviewed the close to 240-thousand words I’ve written in the past 3 years, not to mention the rest of the posts since we started Grow the Dream 20+ years ago.
Which is, of course part of today’s discussion. In case I haven’t made it clear, repeating yourself is completely fine – and often required. For example, I try to end every blog with approximately the same call to action and catch-phrase, for lack of a better term. One thing you should absolutely be repeating always and often, is your branding story. Every chance you get to repeat your narrative should be taken.
Always Be Growing
Just as I indicated above – you can’t assume that all of the readers who encounter the article you’re about to post have read the previous articles. Or even that people who have been reading your posts for a while have read or remember each post.
There’s an old saying, attributed to countless folks that I mentioned a few posts back. “First you tell people what you’re going to teach them, then teach them, then tell them what you just taught them.” I’m not in favor of treating your readers and potential customers like children, but the fact is repetition does build knowledge. Even people who claim to have photographic memories don’t recall everything, especially since we know that the majority of people do more skimming than reading.
But even more so, if your content blog is doing what it’s supposed to do – building your audience and your ranking on search engines – you will always have more and newer people coming to your blog. And even returning to it. So it never hurts to repeat the key lessons or points of your content.
Just don’t do it too often. While there are several minor points I repeat in the majority of our articles – like you need to think strategically about your marketing – I don’t post the same articles week after week. I’m always looking for a new way to present the information or explain a concept that may resonate with someone differently.
So, yes, you can repeat, you should repeat, because your audience should be ever expanding.
Call of the Wild Action
As I alluded to earlier, one of the primary places you should repeat yourself is your call to action.
Psychologists tell us that our brains automatically scan material for themes and patterns. That’s why you get nervous at certain points when you’re watching a horror film, or you suddenly realize what’s about to happen, moments before the characters on screen come to that conclusion. Director Wes Craven even developed camera moves and audio cues that cause the audience to feel the dread coming. Even without knowing why, your brain “picks up on” subtle clues in sound, lighting and physical tension that guide you to a conclusion.
It’s a learning tool and a defense mechanism. It’s programmed into our consciousness to look for repetition, because it helps us learn and process things quicker. In the past, it was a way to protect ourselves, even going back to the cavemen. They told stories – live and in pictures – to teach people what to expect. And our brains learned to realize and react quickly to survive, say a lion attack. Just like our fight or flight reactions, it’s a core part of us.
In recent years, that tendency has been manipulated by everyone from salesmen to politicians to the news media to further their ends. There’s a reason we’re prone to look for ways to label or compartmentalize people. Your subconscious brain doesn’t delineate between using patterns and repetition positively or negatively – it just looks for them.
By repeating and reinforcing certain phrases and points, you can guide readers towards your call to action even before you state it. And, of course, repeating it, more or less verbatim, plants that call to action in their mind. Each article moves them closer to that “Big Yes” that you’re hoping for.
One of the things that comes naturally once you’ve done the strategic work to figure out and target your ideal customer is developing a taste for the kinds of posts they’re going to be looking for. You know what they’re typically searching for and, often times even when they’re most likely to search for certain aspects of the product or service you provide.
So it’s easy to transfer those persistent, important topics into a calendar schedule. It’s one way to make things easier to sustain by essentially automating the selection of some of your topics. This solves part of the “what do I write” problem many small business owners face.
I’ll say it once more – you don’t want to repeat yourself too often. But if you know your best or most searched for topics, you can add those into your calendar at the appropriate times, or maybe once every couple of months.
Again, the schedule depends on your ideal customers. I can’t offer a one-size fits all solution, because the best strategic marketing is specific to your target customers. But there’s no reason you can’t discuss the same topic several times over the course of a year, let alone the life of your business.
There is a productivity principle you might have heard about in certain business circles. The DRY principle – standing for “Don’t Repeat Yourself” – was developed by computer programmers. It’s an elegant solution to make sure you’re not doing excess work and leaving more potential for mistakes to occur.
Many small business owners “waste” time – more than they realize. Often they’re doing the same thing repeatedly, whether it’s rewriting the same emails over and over again, or spending hours on repeat operational admin tasks.
While this seems, on its face, to stand in opposition to the point I’m making here, the DRY idea is to minimize repetitive tasks, whether they’re mindless, or drain your energy because they’re not your keying on the areas of your passion and excellence. I’m actually going to be addressing that more specifically next week. Looking at how you can streamline aspects of your business – whether through automation or outsourcing. Allowing you to do your best work by taking advantage of other people’s skills and talents.
So while we here at Grow the Dream absolutely embrace the DRY principle, it doesn’t exactly apply here. At least, not in reference to the subject matter of content blog posts.
Resurrect & Refresh
The final thing I’ll talk about is not just repeating yourself, but finding ways to boost your existing articles. Because we’ve been talking about and teaching strategic marketing principles for a couple of decades, there are a variety of articles, going all the way back to our days as Epiphany Marketing, that still have value.
Not to toot our own horn, but the lessons we taught 20 years ago are not only just as pertinent now, in many cases, they’re even more relevant. Especially as Google refines their algorithm. So I will often link to those articles within new articles. It adds value and credibility to what I’m writing today, and at the same time increases those older articles’ relevance on the search engines.
The other technique you can apply is to go back periodically and update information. Or you can add more content to an existing article. If you’ve been consistent with your content, publishing every week or two, the Google bots know to audit your site on that periodic basis. When they do come by, they will note and update the information for your site. This will usually cause a slight bump in the Google rankings for those articles and your site.
The best way to choose which articles to update and refresh is to look not only at your strategic work, but also at Google analytics. Any article that’s more than a year or two old that’s still getting lots of traffic is fair game for this technique.
Not to Repeat Myself…
So to recap – repetition is fine – in moderation. And it should definitely be a part of your ongoing strategic digital marketing efforts, especially your brand story. Use it, repeat it, shout it from the rooftops – it’s what’s going to make your business unique and successful.
If you’d like help identifying or targeting your ideal customer – or creating content for them that delivers – please reach out. We’d love to help however we can. We’ve built our business helping small businesses and entrepreneurs succeed and expand.
Let’s Grow the Dream together!