Courtesy of evolving SEO
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule?
Known as the Pareto principle, the 80/20 rule is also known as the law of the vital few. First conceived by management consultant Joseph M Juran, it is attributed to 19th century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. The 80/20 rule essentially states that “80% of the effects came from 20% of the causes”.
In management and finance, the Pareto principle can be applied in many different scenarios.
Pareto’s own research showed that 20% of the people owned 80% of the wealth in Italy (see this article on wealth distribution). Quality guru Juran further identified that 20% of defects caused 80% of problems in factories. Project managers have also demonstrated that 20% of the work (the first 10% and last 10%) consume 80% of time and resources.
What about the world of digital marketing?
According to Smart Insights, the 80/20 rule is highly evident online. Some of these observations include the following:
Also known as the long tail distribution, the idea here is that you should focus your time, energy and money on the 20% (or less) of your content and products which yields the bulk of your online leads, sales or engagement.
In other words, rather than give equal weightage to everything you do, focus your resources on that which generates maximal outcome.
When it comes to content on social media, Derek Halpern of Social Triggers suggests that you should only create content 20% of the time. You should spend the remaining 80% of the time promoting what you have created.
Quoting from his blog:
“You can no longer pump out half-assed content and win. Now you’ve got to research GREAT content, and publish only the best.
Yes, this is harder, and it’s more time consuming, but the good news is this: You don’t need to create that much content.
I look at Social Triggers, and from March 2011 to April 2012, I averaged 2.54 blog posts per month… and I got almost 27,000 subscribers. All because I focused on creating great content… and then focused on getting that content into the hands of more people.”
What would constitute content promotion?
Well, activities like sharing one’s blog post on social media channels, advertising it (via Google Adwords, Facebook or Twitter), or working with affiliates and partners to share it on their websites or blogs.
What about Search Engine Optimization or SEO? Apparently, the 80/20 rule also applies here.
According to Evolving SEO, the 80/20 rule is observed when one screens through the various strategies and tactics used to improve one’s ranking on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). This may cover the following:
In a similar manner, you should focus on the “vital few” which matter and concentrate 80% of your efforts in optimizing those areas which yield the greatest return. For example, if a certain type of blog post appears to draw a much higher percentage of backlinks and organic search, you may want to produce more of those and less of others.
OK, now we know that we should prioritize our efforts on the 20% of content which matters to our targeted customers. What kind of content should this be?
Social Media Today offers some interesting advice on the balance of helpful versus sales-oriented content. According to them, the breakdown would be as follows:
As Steve Jobs would famously say, “Wait, there’s more.”
While there are strong supporters of the 80/20 Rule, the Pareto principle also has its detractors.
According to Open Topic, it is far more important to put the right message in front of the right audience – traditional, digital, or otherwise. Trying to get as many eyes on your content as possible is no more effective than having a random billboard on a freeway.
Quoting Heidi Cohen, “the information must be adopted and modified to meet the needs of each media entity.”
Because of the extra time and effort needed to create content which hits the spot, the content creation-distribution ratio is probably closer to 50/50 as opposed to 20/80 (ala Derek Halpern above).
Peering at it from a different lens, HR Marketer suggests that “dividing content that is pushed out by your brand into promotional and non-promotional is nonsense; just a semantic shell game. It’s all promotional.”
The author suggests instead that one should consider the 4 Ms of content balance: Mission, Message, Medium, and Market.
Finally, content marketing guru Mark Schaefer proposes that “spending 24 hours a week promoting my content is ludicrous.” While he agrees that a certain element of promotion is necessary, spending four times as much time in self-promotion versus value-creation may create spikes in visitor traffic but generate little reader loyalty.
Having heard all 50 shades of the Pareto principle (sorry I can’t help it!), what should you do?
I believe that the 80/20 rule is meant more as a guide rather than a rule. Honestly, there is no quick and dirty way to achieve success in content marketing, and it is fiendishly difficult to predict what may “go viral” or hit the social jackpot.
What’s important as a takeaway though is for us to focus on the vital few, ie:
Have you applied the 80/20 rule in your marketing efforts? What insights can you share from your experience? I’d love to hear your views.