Updated: Jan 28, 2020
In my A-Z of Content Marketing the letter 'B' has a lot of competition. Books, bylines, back in the day, baseline, business, backlink... Lots of words and all of them relevant and thought-provoking. As it turns out there are a whole lot of words in marketing and publishing which begin with a B. So, why did I choose backlist?
A backlist is the website equivalent of what is your catalogue, your inventory in the analogue world. As a publisher, it‘s the books you published before this year‘s list. And in magazines, it’s the chronological list of editorial features, the content topics you know work and which are consistently relevant.
In digital marketing you might call this kind of thing your evergreen content - the articles you write for your blogs, for your social media or your website that are not time-dependent.
I love this kind of catalogue work because as a content marketer, I find that the evergreen stories are often the content that people really want to read. So, it’s a good time to flex the writing muscles for the pure love of the words.
Planning a brand’s content takes the same approach as magazine editorial meetings: asking what balance we need and how to give a familiar story a new, topical perspective. Whatever your business it’s a tough jungle out there. More and more businesses are trying content marketing so consumers enjoy reading about them, but this isn’t memes for social media or even a social media strategy.
The backlist you have is your database, it’s your record of what you say about your businless. Every time you publish an article that fits with long-form SEO - the conversational searches that bring traffic to your website, not individual keywords - it grows this list. Evergreen content will probably make up a good percentage of the list because it is the content you can post more than once.
If you‘re not sure that you have a backlist, look through your blogs and identify recurring themes. And to identify what should be part of the backlist, pick out the content that is shared the most, or gets the most engagement from the channels that deliver the most traffic to your site.
In a crowded space with many brands fighting to be heard, creativity in content has never been more desirable. Backlist also work to fill in the blanks of your calendar - once you’ve noted key dates and scheduled content, your backlist should be the next place you look to when you plan the year - or month - ahead.
Planning means the basics are covered, which means you’re more likely to be responsive or reactive with spontaneous, newsy content. Again, this is a parallel between the newsroom and the content diary - interviews and profiles are great backlist stalwarts, as are the in-depth articles about issues that surround a sector or which readers always ask questions about. Magazine planning always includes this content because it can be scheduled, written and edited way ahead of the busy press week, keeping resources free for news and up-to-date diary and product reviews.
Your best stories
So, it turns out that content marketing is not so far away from journalism for me, after all... At the very core both disciplines are comms: good stories told well, to the right people at a time they want to read them.
The digital data is an extra chapter, but without the stories you won’t get the extra buzz from super interested readers - which is the really good data (and website traffic) your business needs. And without the historical legacy of a backlist...it’s impossible to test and measure your results. You may be on top of this and know your hot topics and the stories your customers love the best. If not, take a quick look through your archive and see what it shows you.
More on the relationship between journalism and content marketing to follow...