Change Conversations blog

4 min read

How to make your content work harder: Atomization

By Pat Heffernan on 7/13/17 10:00 AM



Yes, it takes a lot of work to create a stellar piece of content today. And there are no shortcuts. You need to develop the content strategy idea, do the topic research, do keyphrase research, check what your competitors are doing, write the piece, develop complementary graphics, refine, proof, optimize, publish, and promote your content. Phew! Rinse and repeat isn’t very appealing for any mission-driven organization right after such an effort. How can you make that epic content you worked so hard to produce work even harder?

Accept the quality content challenge

Change marketers everywhere are struggling to produce content that produces results. (Content marketing is all about results.) Recent research from Brightedge put the number at nearly three out of four reported less than half of their content is consumed.

marketers struggle to produce content

I don’t know about you, but understanding it is a challenge to produce high-performance content makes me value the quality pieces that are working well even more.

Identifying your quality content

Many terms have been used over the years to describe your hardest working content: cornerstone content, flagship content, evergreen articles, content pillars. The core concept is the same — a substantive, long-lasting and informative piece of content on a specific topic or theme that you want to be recognized for. Let’s look at how to squeeze out every drop of value you can from what you have that can be classified as your hardest working content.

What is content atomization?

Atomize” means “"reduce to atoms," or “to reduce to minute particles or to a fine spray”. (Love the old-style sci-fi image that comes to mind!)

 Content Atomization

Ideally, your content strategy includes planning for content atomization before you begin developing a major content piece. Your original outline would include notes on chapters or sections that will work well as a webinar, or a comparison table that can become an infographic, or a series of steps readily converted into a checklist.

After-the-fact content atomization

But many of you will be working backwards from an existing piece of pillar content. Think of the eBooks, reports, and guides in your content library. Perhaps an “ultimate” guide or white paper you’ve written can be broken down into chapters (or segmented in some other way) to create a series of blog posts around the umbrella topic.

Check out this research report and step-by-step guide from HubSpot for a deep dive into the concept of pillar content and topic clusters, [PDF] and why they are increasingly important for search engine optimization.

The key to a successful after-the-fact content atomization effort is to link each new stand-alone piece back to the core content piece, as well as each other, using the same keyphrase.

Repurposing versus atomization

While repurposing and atomization both help to make your content work harder, I see the two approaches as quite different. Repurposing takes essentially the same content and formats it for use in a different medium or channel. (Formatting a speech or presentation for use on SlideShare is the classic example.)

In contrast, when you atomize epic content, you break it down into discrete pieces, each of which stands alone in a different format or channel. The chapters in an eBook, for example, can become a series of blog posts.

Both approaches have value, but atomization adds the essential SEO value of multiple pieces linking to each other as well as a substantive core piece.

Atomization, pre-planned or not

Ask yourself, can you make your content work harder through atomization?


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The Change Conversations blog is where changemakers find inspiration and insights on the power of mission-driven communication to create the change you want to see.


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