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The need for high quality content is causing many people to often speak poorly of scale, to disregard the ability to do anything repeatedly to effectiveness, and for many reasons, this thought process is often correct.

However, the need for quality content does not disregard the ability to scale quality – in fact, the best content is often an offshoot of scaled characteristics, because it is those scaled characteristics that allow a business to create incredible content at a cost that is still affordable to them – because those “scaled” characteristics were already factored in to the sunk cost of the product.

The content templates’ sunk content creation costs include things like the time to build a video setup, a great CMS, the design work to put together a beautiful, reusable image, or something else similar.  These sunk costs, though, are almost nothing compared to the benefit of being able to reuse this content repeatedly in the future.

When combined with a great idea, these content templates allow businesses to create incredible content at low cost. This multiplier effect creates incredibly effective content – content every business should think about investing in.

On board? Let’s look at 15 great examples of content templates in action.

1. Intro Clips for a Video Series

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Moz’s Whiteboard Friday is so well regarded Rand Fishkin has been quoted as saying that one of their paid members favorite parts of Moz is the free video series on the site. It’s a big part of Moz’s brand identity, and the quality is a big reason for it.

Every video starts with a beautiful dancing Roger frolicking on a Seattle skyline. No doubt, this video intro cost a pretty penny to produce. But once the intro was made, Moz, who knew it would be making WBF’s for eternity, would have a micro-content template that made the perceived quality of every subsequent video that much better. The sunk cost was well worth it. The same sunk cost will be worth it for your next video series as well.

Examples:

2. BuzzFeed-Style Image Posts

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BuzzFeed, to nobody’s surprise, has made a living off of their giant, humorous images, combined with the tried and true list model. By building a beautifully executed CMS (try and submit a post there), they make it easy for every content producer on their site to quickly replicate their frequently-used content type. They reduce friction on production, and because of it, they are able to put out this content at scale.

The CMS is not the point here, though. BuzzFeed’s model of content marketing has been used to excess in other places, and for good reason. This type of content (lists+high res images+humor+smart content angles) – has made for a rapidly viral method of content dissemination. Any business can do this at little cost – and it simply works.

Examples:

3. Branded Blog Post Icons

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Branded blog post icons – that is, the snapshots of your blog posts that frequently appear on the blog index and other social networks such as Facebook and Google Plus, are great ways of showing attention to detail.

All it takes is a very simple standard and some very basic photoshop work to create an icon that matches your brand aesthetic, and allows your “brand experience” to better live on other sites across the web – an important characteristic for any business that blogs frequently and has a site that features icon-sized snapshots of their blog posts.

As you can see above, Unbounce does a great job of creating a brand experience on their blog, using a very basic – but very well done – blog post icon to reiterate their strong brand identity.

Examples:

4. The Top Ten Content SlideShow

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Slideshows are a great way of highlighting images and lists in a unique way. Perfect for “reveal” type countdowns, the top ten list slideshow gives you a new take on traditional content that is easy to build and replicate once you’ve decided upon a given aesthetic for you blog.

The team at Movoto has done a great job of building slideshow posts like this and this to great effectiveness, using the “pride” factor on posts like “The 10 Best Cities in Oregon” and “The 10 Nerdiest Cities in America” to promote this content type easily and repeatedly.

Examples:

5. Branded In-Post Imagery

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Some people write blog posts that exist on a website. Others write blog posts that feel like they are a part of that website, one that you might have trouble differentiating from landing pages that exist in the navigation. This is because these sites have content standards that carry over to the images they build for that site. Graphs, charts, fun GIFs – they all follow certain basic color guidelines that “one-up” the brand because they sync with the other aesthetics on the site.

Conductor is a great example of this. If you read any of the posts on their blog, the images therein all have the familiar green/yellow aesthetic that is definitively Conductor. This improves the design perception – creating continuity with the site design, and giving the blog an extremely polished feel overall.

Example:

6. Repurposed Content on SlideShare

SlideShare makes repurposing posts a worthwhile process. Their promotion algorithm makes it relatively simple to get additional views after getting promoted to the homepage for any relatively popular presentation, which means that tailoring posts to be repurposed on the service can be a worthwhile endeavor.

Content Marketing Institute does a great job of this in particular, combining presentations with blog posts to make for an extremely efficient method of promotion, as their powerful blog quickly gets the presentation enough pageviews to go hot on the homepage.

If you create a template of your blog as CMI does, or repurpose an infographic, you can keep making these presentations pretty quickly without much pain – while also getting the added benefit that comes from being able to reach thousands more interested consumers.

Examples:

7. The Repeatable Video Series

Whiteboard Friday is no secret, and it’s no secret for a reason – it’s really effective. The concept of having a whiteboard and a high quality video set makes for a replicable content type that can be executed on in a small amount of time. The Whiteboard Friday videos tend to get more thumbs up than most posts on the Moz blog – and I’m sure they take less than half the creation time that a normal blog post does.

That speaks to the power of this content template – if you create a good looking video set, have a good concept, and a personality (with knowledge) that it makes sense for, you can continue to make content within that format until the end of time – and only with that initial sunk cost involved.

Examples:

8. Content Curation for Link Roundups

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Content curation is one of the most scalable methods of building content out there. By leaning on the expertise of others, and then using internal strengths in finding said content, making a beautiful post, and then marketing it, you can make effective content in less time than it really should take to build.

Let it be said, though – simply jamming 20 relevant posts in a roundup is not worth your time. People do it already. It’s lazy. The way to do this is with a clear path to adding value in a major way. If the goal is to simply “link to good posts every Friday”, you are wasting your time.

Search Engine Land’s Day in Search nicely recaps some of the best posts of the day, while also pointing to the many posts they put live that day as a great way of bringing people back to their own site. It has been a long-standing staple in Search Engine Land’s arsenal and no doubt a strong part of their success.

It works well because it is appropriately rationed against their own content while also driving people to it, it has a flywheel effect of building their email list, and it also builds positive rapport with the people who work and write about search. Your curation model should be just as strategic. It should not be 15 random blog posts.

Example:

9. Value-Adding Content Curation for Blog Posts

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As an agency, it can be very difficult to bring in unique vertical expertise to every new client. For example, I will never be a chef. But what I can be is someone with marketing skills, that also has a team with the ability to write well, curate, edit, and make a post beautiful.

Thanks to tools like Open Site Explorer and Topsy, it’s easy to determine the most popular posts in every single vertical. By finding those posts, pasting them together in a way that adds value, such as with image editing, great copywriting, or keyword research, you can have an extremely effective post type that isn’t too incredibly difficult to create. And once you get a process down of finding and editing this content, you can create a machine with these post types – as BuzzFeed can surely attest.

Examples:

10. The EgoBait Face Collage

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Egobait is tough to do well. It has been done a lot, and often done across many verticals – so when you do it, you have to stand out. One way of enhancing egobait is by making a beautiful – but easily made – post in the form of a visual collage.

This can done in many forms – expert interviews, top bloggers, Twitter lists, or anything else – but the act of visualizing the faces of your targets is a great way to enhance their vanity while also enhancing the post.

Examples:

11. Inexpensive and Effective Consumer Surveys

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The survey model is relatively easy to repeat over and over again. Thanks to great tools by companies like Google Consumer Surveys and SurveyMonkey, any company without an audience can ask interesting questions, and get unique data back that they can create great content with.

For as little as $50, you can have an incredibly effective piece of content that you can replicate over and over again with similar, branded graphs that nicely visualize the information. If you have an audience you can leverage on your site, you can also build repeatable year-over-year data that can make for some extremely interesting content, such as how Software Advice does it above.

Examples:

12. Branded Employee Profile Images

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I love the backgrounds that Distilled uses for their team. Using the Distilled colors, these images let you know who their team members are, even when they aren’t present on the site.

Their posts stand out vividly on the Moz blog, and when you experience them on the Distilled, they only enhance the branded experience that goes on there. The cost is little, but the net effect on the holistic brand experience that is “Distilled” is quite strong. Any business can do the same with their own aesthetic.

Example:

13. Branded Blog Post Header Images

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Somewhat in the same line as branded blog-post images, header images with a similar format allow you to create the perception of quality right when a user lands on a post – a very important moment for every piece of content.

Especially vital in visuals-focused industries, these header images with overlayed text create a jumping off point of pins and repins if the text is descriptive, and the image draws in the reader. Once you’ve established a certain format for these images, you can reuse it again and again, as long as you swap out a significant part of each image to keep the feel unique.

Example:

14. The Interactive and Reusable Checklist

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Checklists are relatively simple content types, but they still take some development work to get up and going. Once you’ve got it built, though, it’s a relatively easy to repeat piece of content that can be used again and again – either on the same blog, or on any other site with a similar CMS.

When we built our own interactive content marketing checklist, we had this idea in mind. Not only were we building something we needed, but we were also building a pretty useful content template that could be reused for our clients who also have WordPress as a CMS. Since the checklist is a universal concept, it can be used across many different industries to great effectiveness.

Example:

15. The Blog Post Twitter Timeline Image

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One of the newest tactics that should be in every content marketer’s arsenal is the use of timeline images on Twitter. Timeline images allow marketers to capture additional bandwidth in the Twitter timeline, attracting eyeballs, engagement, and clicks.

By building a template, you can easily create timeline images that add unique value to Twitter to announce your blog posts, such as how KISSmetrics does in the above image, or any of the other posts that they promote on their account.

Example:

Templates Enable Scalability for Content

You can’t fake high quality content. But you can use resources intelligently to make sure you are investing in a content template that is reusable, giving you a path towards repeatable success that is not extremely expensive for your business.

In 2014, we at Siege Media plan on investing heavily in content templates for our clients. If your business has any mind towards cost-efficiency in its work, you’ll do the same as well. Quality can scale – you just have to do it right.

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Comments

  • Nathan Safran

    Hey Ross,

    Great post. Thanks for citing the Conductor blog as a good design example. We think that presentation matters and have always strived to present our content with that in mind–we’re thrilled people have noticed 🙂

    Nathan Safran
    Conductor, Inc.

  • Thanks for including Litmus’ videos in this roundup! We have a ton of fun doing them, and they’ve become a repeatable, successful way to extend our content marketing efforts.

  • Brian Dean

    Rock on, Ross.

    I feel that most people think that you can either bootstrap content with text-only blog posts or go all out with a pricey infographic…with no in-between.

    I liked that you showed a ton of practical examples of how people can leverage a tiny amount of resources to make their content much, much more appealing.

    I especially like branded blog-post images. I notice a lot of great bloggers (like Francisco at Social Mouths) using these on 100% of his posts.

    • Salmaan Aslam

      Perhaps you should start adding them too 🙂

  • Mitch

    Great work! I will be discussing with our team some ways we can implement some of these suggestions.

  • Awesome templates, thanks for sharing them! Although I think top ten slideshows should be banned from the interwebs, especially if every other page element (incl. 10 ads) are being reloaded every time you click on “next” 😉

  • I really love this post very much. Every single thing in this article is just as I wanted it to be. It’s just so amazing. Keep up the awesome work, man. Cheers!
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  • Nice post Ross! I think free tools like Canva can make anyone look like a pro in terms of building a nice branded content template to adapt to all their blogs.