As a writer, editor, and strategist for digital lifestyle brands over the past 20 years, I’ve spent most of that time trying to answer one question: What works?
It’s a question that only plunged me into other mysteries: What do our readers consistently want? Why exactly did they click on it? What content works at different times of the year? What never works no matter how many ways we spin it? What’s the limit to how long we can keep readers on the page? Why did this thing that we thought was going to tank end up being one of our top 10 traffic drivers, month after month? Why did the content package we poured our souls into get roundly ignored on social media?
All of these questions have kept me up at night, scratching through the data, designing A/B tests on article headlines and email subject lines. But three things have always brought me back to reality: Hair, Sex, and Chicken
Milking Every Data Point
At these lifestyle brands, when we analyzed traffic reports every week, month, and year, the same three categories featured the best traffic drivers. With an overwhelmingly female, age 18-49 audience, our Pregnancy, Relationships, and Food channels drew the most attention. But within those channels, Hair, Sex, and Chicken content outperformed all other topics, nearly every single time.
If you follow the 70-20-10 rule of content creation, 70 percent of all the content you create will be stuff that you know your audience loves and is sure to consume; 20 percent will be new ideas … those much-needed test cases; 10 percent will be promotional stuff like asking folks to sign up for a newsletter, follow you on social media, or enter a contest.
Hair, Sex, and Chicken easily accounted the majority of that 70 percent, go-to content. In epic, cookie-platter-fueled brainstorming meetings, we teased out every possible spin on these subjects.
Off the top of my head, we created content for: Hair types, products for each hair type, how pregnancy or menopause changes hair, hair trends to try or avoid, wigs, hair and nutrition, gray hair, natural hair, body hair, hair in the news. Sex at different ages, sex during pregnancy, sex after pregnancy, sexuality types, how to have difficult conversations about sex or sexuality, sex-positive products, sex taboos, sex advice, celebrity sex. Chicken recipes for all dietary needs, trends like Beer-Can Chicken and bone broth, what to do with leftovers, chicken recalls, sustainable chicken farming, backyard chickens, DIY chicken coops, and my favorite: chicken fashion shows. Got a cookie platter? I can do this for days.
Once you find your Hair-Sex-Chicken, you’ll have the proactive organizing principles of your digital content strategy. For branding purposes, you’ll have a richer story about how your content helps readers. For sales purposes, you’ll have a measurable story of what the editorial arm of your brand has to offer.
Your Hair-Sex-Chicken Is Your Brand Story
As your brand expands its content offering, identifying your Hair-Sex-Chicken is the key to a sustainable editorial effort. Looking at your traffic reports to see what works for you is the obvious first step, but the “sustainable” part is what’s so important. It takes time – a minimum of 6 months of traffic reports, preferably a year – but once you find your Hair-Sex-Chicken, you’ll have the proactive organizing principles of your digital content strategy. For branding purposes, you’ll have a richer story about how your content helps readers. For sales purposes, you’ll have a measurable story of what the editorial arm of your brand has to offer.
For you, beyond the bread and butter of reliable inbound traffic, it’s the thing that brings much-needed peace of mind to an effort that, let’s face it, often feels like a blindfolded game of darts. Over the past 20 years, one of the things I’ve accepted is that there is no such thing as “winning” or “breaking” the Internet. Oh, we content creators try and try of course! We’re all smart, creative, and full of energy, and sometimes we come up with something amazing and we crush it. Going viral is SO blissful! But the truth is, after a big win, business continues to grind forward, and the one thing that always promised our comforting slice of the Internet pie was our hard-earned, Hair, Sex, and Chicken content.
Find yours, and you can build a brand on it.