On the road to properly scaling your online business, it’s essential to solve for a major business concern: the need for processes. This is true for all roles within an organization, but when it comes to content marketing, setting up strategies and processes is nuanced at best.

From SEO, for which Google and Bing almost exclusively control the algorithms, to consumer content consumption preferences including mobile, long form and infographics, content marketing is ever-changing. That said, it is still possible to implement a statistics-based strategy and plan ahead for events you know will drive traffic.

The best way to do this is by following the 45 Day Rule, a content publishing strategy that helps to ensure your content is seen by as many potential consumers as possible without the support of paid promotion.

The Science Behind the 45 Day Rule

The 45 Day Rule was derived by looking at the search behavior obtained from Google Trends for consumers around major U.S. holidays. The chart below shows the results of the research.

This chart shows the distribution of search traffic as it builds up to the holiday date. The data indicates events or promotions posted to websites the week of the event results in participation in 20% of the overall search traffic. Starting a week earlier gets you to roughly 50%. If you want to participate in over 90% of the search traffic, you need to post your content to websites at least 45 days in advance. Hence, the 45 Day Rule. Using this as a starting point for how you promote your events and promotions sets you and your business up for the maximum reach and maximum impact.

In addition to looking at the average curve, we also evaluated the holidays at both ends of the spectrum to see which events had the longest and shortest lead times. Not surprisingly, the Christmas holiday has the longest lead-time and Valentine’s Day the shortest.

The chart below shows the inverse view using the average for all holidays and the percent of search traffic captured by lead time and even suggests that for holidays with longer lead times, publishing content or your promotion 8 weeks ahead of the date can drive 100% participation in search traffic.

It’s also interesting to note how this curve might change for seasonal events where there is no one specific associated date. “Back to School” searches provide a good look at how these ongoing events differ from the specific date holidays.

The data below shows how the curve starts at roughly the same time –– 45 days in advance –– but the tail stays active for a longer period, indicating that you may want to hold a series of events or a longer term promotion around these holidays.

How to Use the 45 Day Rule

Put together an annual plan marking the most significant dates likely to impact your business and post your content at least 45 days in advance to your website and social media. Then, use the 45 Day Rule as your starting point to coordinate all other audience outreach.

A suggested timeline:

  • 45 Days in Advance: Post your promotion to your website calendar and post a save-the-date post on social media (including your email newsletter).
  • 7 Days in Advance: Post an upcoming events post to social media and via email and encourage other small businesses to share it with their followers.
  • 1 Day in Advance: Post a reminder event post via social media.

Following the 45 Day Rule for your marketing content and promotions will enable search engines to pick up your event in time to drive maximum traffic with the lowest amount of spend.

Photo: Flickr, Mike Hyde

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