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What Can Content Marketing Learn from Gold Mining?

I must confess. I love gold mining shows on TV. What I love even more is that the same logic that yields success for mining gold will yield success in content marketing. How? Let’s take a look at gold mining.
Written Nov 20, 2012, read 1030 times since then.


I have a confession. I love the gold mining shows on TV. They appeal to me because it shows that a bit of vision, smart planning and hard work, tossed in with a touch of luck, can produce rewards. What I love even more is that the same logic that yields success for mining gold will yield success in content marketing. How? Let’s look at some principles of gold mining.

To get to the content gold, you need to test

When evaluating a prospective claim, the first thing you do is drill. Gold miners drill in a pattern to determine if or how far down the layer of gold—called paydirt—resides. Developing the right content strategy is similar. Understanding the location of your audience, and what it will take to reach them is critical.

Reaching your audience or your interest community is crucial. What keywords or phrases drive the conversations and searches? What are the topics? Where do the conversations take place? Social media, blog comments, or even in real life? Knowing where that paydirt sits means you can get down to it and start mining the gold.

Equipment makes the difference

Knowing where the paydirt is located may be step one, but getting down to it is the big challenge. Excavators, bulldozers, wash plants, pumps, pans, and shovels all play their role. The right equipment can mean the difference between getting “just enough,” and really hitting the mother lode.

Having the right tools and equipment is just as important for content marketing. It starts with the right website. Whether powered with a content management system or a dedicated blogging platform, being able to pump out fresh content quickly and with little frustration means a greater chance of success. But function isn’t the whole story…

Any content marketer (or miner) who’s grabbed just “any old tool” will tell you—effective tools don’t just function well—they’re designed well. The layout of your content also impacts how well it’s delivered. A sharp graphic, smooth flow of text, and effective user experience are all elements that need to work together to be successful.

Other smart “equipment” for your content efforts should include a toolbox full of social media sharing, a heavy-duty email marketing system, and imagery with horsepower. Yet tools left unused are useless tools. Don’t leave any of these tools sitting around gathering dust, or you won’t bring home the gold.

It’s all about running pay dirt

Harvesting the gold isn’t like the movies, where the lucky miner grabs handfuls of pure gold from solid veins. It comes from buckets and cubic yards of paydirt. It comes from pouring loads and loads of paydirt into the wash plant, and sifting out the dirt from the gold. A good content strategy is not much different. Getting down to solid leads, sales, and documented results means sifting through a lot of material in a concentrated effort to pump out solid gold content.

Moving a steady stream of content paydirt means more than just writing a deluge of articles, FAQ’s, case studies, and tips. It is also about sifting and curating great content. Don’t be afraid to share articles, invite guest bloggers, and comment on industry developments. Keeping the content hoppers full means your site continues to develop a reputation for great materials. A great reputation is worth its weight in gold.

A note about content paydirt—quantity does not equate to quality. Don’t rush content to your site just for the sake of pumping out more content. Just like dumping poor quality dirt into your wash plant, you won’t get enough gold to even cover the costs of keeping the generators on. A lack of content planning or smart content execution could turn away interested web visitors that might have become paying customers. For miners, this is the equivalent of washing captured gold out from the sluice boxes.

The weigh-in is all that counts

After running paydirt through your wash plant, the true measure of results comes from collecting the gold. From trommels and sluice boxes to miner’s moss and old-fashioned panning, gold miners use every tool possible to gather the smallest flake or dust of gold. For content marketing, the gold comes in two forms—metrics and conversions.

Metrics are the measurable data points collected from your website or blog. How many visitors? How long are they staying? Are they clicking on links or ads? How many pages or articles are they reading? Also critical to know is how visitors reached your website or blog. Search engines? Ads? Social media? Knowing where your audience is coming from is the same as knowing if you are digging where the gold is. See how important that “test drilling” becomes?

Just like miners, you don’t really know how much gold you’ve got until you clean out your wash plant. Checking on your metrics is the same as cleaning out the wash plant. Miners follow strict procedures to ensure every speck of gold is recovered, and that it isn’t tainted with other pollutants. The same should be true for reviewing your metrics. Know how you are collecting data, know what is good versus what is garbage, and know how to turn that data into useful information for your business.

Conversions occur when a site visitor follows all the way through, and either makes a purchase, contacts you, or even requests a meeting. Conversions are the big gold nuggets of content marketing! When conversions come, you admire them, pat yourself on the back, and dream about the next big strike. Conversions give you gold fever.

However, like gold fever, don’t lose sight of keeping that humble paydirt flowing into the wash plant, and your equipment well oiled and sharp. Keep creating and curating your content. Don’t stop the machine to admire the shiny new conversion. Keep the paydirt flowing. Keep the content coming.

Always be looking for the next claim

Just as there is only so much dirt that can be run at a claim, there is only so much you can do in a specific market segment. Always be researching on how to extend your reach. Content marketing is very cyclical—just as you’re seeing success in one “claim,” you should be test drilling your next market segment. As you see a fall-off in one market segment, another will be coming online. This keeps traffic—your website or blog’s form of paydirt—flowing.

Just as every mining claim will be slightly different, every market segment will be unique. What worked in one area may not work in the next sector. Make sure you don’t get too rigid in your process, or stay too long working a mine that’s run dry. Staying nimble and keeping an open mind will mean a world of difference towards achieving your goals.

Online content success snowballs. The more good material you put out, the more people will read and share. Metrics and conversions are a numbers game. The more quality paydirt you run, the better your cleanout will be. As soon as effectiveness falls in one market segment, the next one should be coming online. Managing your content marketing like one would manage a gold mine will, with luck and hard work, bring you the mother lode of success.

Learn more about the author, Matthew B. Olson.

Comment on this article

  • Professional Organizer & Life Coach 
Los Altos, California 
Mary E.  Rossow
    Posted by Mary E. Rossow, Los Altos, California | Nov 29, 2012

    ... golden article, Matthew! Due to my own similar interest, I have been living in the heart of this issue for the past 37+ years.

    In the early 1970's, while living in Old Deerfield, MA, I read a historical novel "Calico Palace" about the 1849 California gold rush.

    I was so moved by it that I packed up and headed to San Francisco, albeit by Greyhound Bus vs. a covered wagon.

    All of what you say is true about testing, equipment/tools, harvesting, next claim, etc. It so applies to our businesses.

    Thanks for the excellent reminder!

    Warm San Francisco Socks, Rossow

  • President 
Delavan, Wisconsin 
Matthew B. Olson
    Posted by Matthew B. Olson, Delavan, Wisconsin | Nov 29, 2012

    Thank you for the compliments—and the insight! Here's hoping you strike it rich with what comes next!