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I’ve written a lot about content strategy over the past decade. I’ve also highlighted various niche tactics that can help content creators to succeed, as well as plenty of examples of excellent content. But I haven’t created many visualisations, and recently I have been keen to do one.  

Surprisingly, nobody has yet created a periodic table for content marketing, so I thought I’d have a go. 

Before I introduce it, allow me to doff my hat at Dmitri Mendeleev, who first published the periodic table of elements. I’ll also nod in the direction of Danny Sullivan, who created one based around SEO success factors

Let me also say that I hope that this is helpful, as the world is awash with dubious infographics and I really didn’t want to produce something just for the sake of it.

The usual caveats apply: there will be obvious omissions, possibly duplicated symbols, and other schoolboy errors. I shall fix these things in a future iteration, so please raise a flag if you spot anything. 

Ok then, let’s take a look at the table, and I’ll explain my thinking along the way…

How to use the Periodic Table of Content Marketing

If you click the image a large screenshot should appear. I hope it is all reasonably self-explanatory. There are eight areas that I have focused on, as follows:

Strategy

The fundamental key to success. Planning and focus is essential. You need a clear strategy, mapped to your long-term business goals. If you don’t have one and need some outside guidance then we can help. We also have a very useful best practice guide on content strategy.

Format

Content comes in many different shapes and sizes. Note that you can use multiple formats for a single piece of content. Slice and dice! Right now, I’m writing a blog post to support a visualisation. Maybe I’ll produce a video or slideshow too.

Content Type

These are based on the common types of content that work well for our business. Many of them will work well for your brand too. Sometimes you’ll use multiple content types for a single piece of content. You could file this periodic table under a few different types.

Platform

These are content distribution platforms. You might own some of these (e.g. #59, your website). Others are social sites (your own, your network, third parties). All of these help spread the word about your content. 

Metrics

These help you to measure the performance of your content. For the purposes of brevity, I have largely grouped these metrics together (e.g. ‘acquisition metrics’). 

Goals

All content should support your primary business goals, whether that’s to generate lots of traffic, or to sell more, or to increase brand awareness. Laser-guided content will tick a few of these boxes.  

Sharing Triggers

This is largely inspired by Unruly Media’s triggers for sharing content. Think about the emotional drivers behind sharing, and make sure the content you create makes people feel something. 

Checklist

I will probably edit this post at least 10 times after publishing it, and no doubt the periodic table will need a tweak here or there. Errors need to be fixed, and all content should be properly optimised (for search, for social, and to support your business goals). Be diligent!

Here’s the embed code, should you wish to add this to your site:

<p><strong>The Periodic Table of Content Marketing, by Chris Lake.</strong><br /><br /><a href='https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0004/5832/The_Periodic_Table_of_Content_Marketing.png'><img src='https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0004/5832/The_Periodic_Table_of_Content_Marketing.png' alt='The Periodic Table of Content Marketing' width='615' border='0' /></a></p>

A few footnotes…

  • I have largely numbered the table vertically, rather than horizontally, as it makes more sense to me to do it that way.
  • There may be a little duplication here and there. Forgive me.
  • I haven’t included certain things, such as podcasts, pretty much because I don’t use them. They may be valuable for your business, so by all means add them (I’ve left a little space here and there).
  • I have included the likes of Hacker News because they appeal to our business. You may have your own alternatives.
  • Some elements could live in multiple categories. 
  • I designed this in Excel the day after a wine tasting event, so it is a little bit lo-fi. If there is any demand for wall charts or mouse mats then I shall hire a designer to polish it up. 

Anyway, I hope this is useful. Please leave your comments below or nudge me on Twitter to let me know what I’ve missed, or if there are any errors. 

Our Festival of Marketing event in November is a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more. 

Chris Lake

Published 18 March, 2014 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (62)

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Albie Attias

Albie Attias, Ecommerce Director at King of Servers Ltd

Awesome piece of work Chris! Hope it gets the coverage it deserves. It'd be interesting to see whether a second table could be produced dedicated exclusively to content strategy.

over 2 years ago

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Nic Newman

Really useful Chris

A few thoughts. Are email, apps, ebooks not distribution channel rather than a format - like social?

I'm also personally always confused by format and content type - there's a hierarchy there somewhere but it is complex. So an article is a parent of how to guide but it is also a type in its own right etc

over 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Albie - Thanks! I could bang on for hours about content strategy, and goals / metrics too, so I might do something else.

@Nic - I think there is definitely some overlap, and it can be hard to draw clear boundaries. Some things could live in two areas. My thinking, pretty much, is that 'formats' are the frame and canvas for the content. 'Types' are largely about how you present the subject matter, about what you paint and the way you choose to paint it. And 'Platforms' are the distribution channels that can amplify your content.

over 2 years ago

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Kathleen O'Shaughnessy

I've seen one of these before, created by Andy Crestodina, in his book Content Chemistry. It's a great book. Yours is nice too.

over 2 years ago

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Erika

Love this infographic-- gives an easily digestable way to start a conversation around content strategy. Great work!

over 2 years ago

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Tiffany

I absolutely love this! I do marketing in the life sciences industry and this will be perfect to show to the scientists and doctors around the lab! Haha! Thanks, and now I'm off to explore this site!

over 2 years ago

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wojtek

I love this. I have just googled out the book kathleen mentioned in her comment, and it's nothing compared to this infographic. Great job

over 2 years ago

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Greg Jarboe

Chris, this is an excellent start. (I might add press releases to the chart in the content type section, but that's a longer conversation for another time.) If you don't mind, I'd like to include this in a workshop that I'll be presenting next week on Content Marketing. This captures in a single image the complexity of the topic.

over 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Greg - Long time, hope you're well! Thanks... I added press releases under 'format' (12). I guess some of these things could / should duplicate. By all means use the chart, glad it is proving helpful.

@wojtek - Whenever I have a half-decent idea I typically find that somebody has already done it! I hope my version stands up for itself.

@Tiffany - Context and familiarity always helps with understanding... no doubt my vertical numbering approach will raise eyebrows. ; )

@Erica - I may yet do one entirely dedicated to content strategy. So much to say on that front.

@Kathleen - Hopefully there is room for more than one periodic table on content marketing!

over 2 years ago

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Nona Carson

The geek in me loves this; thank you, Chris! I agree that you might want to add podcasts and perhaps whitepapers as well? Also, it seems that you're focusing solely on created vs curated content, or might some of your content types be curated? Finally, thanks for the code; I've done a post on my blog and also included a link to this post.
(Where was this last week when I did a preso on content? Ha.)

over 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Nona - Glad you like it : ) I cannot believe that I left out whitepapers! Definitely one to add when I come to update this, and I'll think about podcasts. The focus is on created, curated, crowdsourced content... there's a place for it all. Many of my most popular posts are original, curated content. Thanks again for raising that flag about the whitepapers.

over 2 years ago

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Madison Jacobs

Oh, this is incredible! I love it!

over 2 years ago

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Sam Nicholls

This is beautiful.

over 2 years ago

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Vicky Smith, Consultant - Online, Responsible & Volunteer Tourism at Freelance

Chris, I was preparing to be disappointed after your intro and the endless meaningless infographics you mention. However, this knocks the socks off! Quite brilliant, and a really really useful referral tool for any content thinking. Thank you!

over 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Madison - Thank you, glad you like it.

@Vicky - Fear not, I wouldn't have released it if I didn't think it provided some kind of value. I am humbled by all of the positive feedback.

over 2 years ago

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christelle macri

This is great table... however I really think White Papers should be added to the Content Type section as, if produced correctly, they can have a great impact on your content marketing goals, especially for B2B companies :)
See this post for the effects white papers can have on your overall content strategy: http://searchengineland.com/white-papers-key-to-b2b-enterprise-seo-power-170986

over 2 years ago

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CCduarte

Looks very interesting! I'll explore it for sure. I always have the feeling I'm missing something :)

over 2 years ago

Mike Holland

Mike Holland, Director at Metrix Marketing

An excellent and useable checklist. But why have the 'goals' all the way over in the right hand column? Wouldn't it be better to start with the goals, then set the strategy, then work through the rest of the table (with some of the additions suggested by other comments)?

over 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Christelle - Yes, whitepapers was definitely an omission and will make it into the next iteration.

@Mike - Good point... it might work better that way as goals should certainly be aligned to strategy. However I imagined that you could read the table from right to left, as well as left to right, and I tried to emulate the original periodic table to some degree. The actual position of the eight areas, other than Content Strategy, is slightly arbitrary.

over 2 years ago

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alex abaz

Never thought anyone and I mean anyone would want to talk about the periodic table. You managed to put it in the mainstream.

over 2 years ago

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Sharon

Brilliant! Love it! Thanks so much for posting.

over 2 years ago

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Slvia B. Campbell

Hi Chris,

What a gem, and rather elegantly done. I'm a firm believer in well defined content strategy, this table does present a valuable visual guide.
Cheers!

over 2 years ago

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Amy Atkinson

Excellent work, Chris. I would put this with my copy of Brian Solis' "Conversation Prism." (I actually have a poster of it.) Social media "art" that you can study for awhile, enjoy and from which great ideas can flow. #geekart

over 2 years ago

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Kyle

Here's the link to @Crestodina's "Content Chemistry" book.

You two should collaborate!

http://www.orbitmedia.com/content-chemistry

over 2 years ago

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Julian Acosta

Well done Chris. You managed to put together my school days long-lost love for chemestry and my current love for digital marketing. This is just a Standout resourceful material. Even though one has the digital ecosystem in the head, your periodic table just rings to me in a very simplistic and "we all know how it works" way. Very creative. Thank you for sharing!

over 2 years ago

Matthew Dean

Matthew Dean, Email Marketing Manager at Office Spot

You've done a great job here Chris. Like I said on Twitter, I'm going to print this off, put it on my desk....hang on, a mouse mat you say?! Could it ever re-place my Oldham Athletic one? Maybe (that's high praise indeed Chris!)!

over 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Alex - Scientists all around the world will be slack-jawed with shock! (thanks!)

@Slvia B. - Thanks, though I'm actually planning a dedicated periodic table for content strategy, as there's much more to say. This one sits at a more tactical level for people working at the sharp end of content creation / curation.

@Amy Charmed to be among such esteemed company. Brian knows his stuff!

@Kyle - I wonder if Andy was also inspired by Breaking Bad? ; )

@Julian - Appreciate the feedback, and I'm glad that this is a usable resource.

@Matthew - Up the Lactics!

over 2 years ago

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Rodney Bowen

Thanks so much for the post! I really appreciate the time you took to create such a great reference tool, which I've already shared with my company's content curators.

I will definitely be referencing this in a future blog post as well.

All the best,
Rodney

over 2 years ago

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JD Chan, UX Designer at Minfos

This is utterly brilliant. Especially because it's so useful and self-explanatory, AND pretty and accessible-looking.

I'm sharing it with everyone I know.

It falls under the rare posts that leave me going, 'Oh my God, I want to work with this guy / for this company where they have people like this guy!'

over 2 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

I don't often see stuff that makes me say, "Shit. I wish we'd done that."

But, shit: I wish we'd done that.

Bravo!

over 2 years ago

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Joe Ainsworth

This is a great piece of work. I'm putting together a content and digital marketing strategy for my employer. You've achieved something which is a great visual reference, easy to dissect and can be used immediately!

over 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Rodney - Thanks, glad it is useful!

@JD - I'm pleased that it is self-explanatory, as I didn't want to make something pretty but meaningless. Now stop making me blush.

@Doug - I wish I'd done your 'Crap' slideshow! Mindblowingly popular.

@Joe - Appreciate the feedback, and I hope it comes in handy for you and your team.

over 2 years ago

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Lee Odden

These visuals are always fun and helpful, thanks Chris.

I do wonder if concepts beyond the tactics and promotion of content, especially those that identify target audiences and the role of content in the sales cycle might also belong. Examples: "customer segmentation", "personas", "marketing qualified leads".

over 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Lee - Thanks mate, all good points. This periodic table exists at a very tactical level. It should be primarily useful to those working on the front lines of content creation. I have another one underway on content strategy, which is the starting point (#1), and which covers off audience / buying cycle stuff. That will be aimed at CCOs / managers / planners. Lots to cover, and too much for this particular chart!

over 2 years ago

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Andy Crestodina

I'll admit, I was inspired by Breaking Bad...

over 2 years ago

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Krish TechnoLabs

I think that 2014 will see the rise of better measurement tools that don’t just track clicks and likes, but actual engagement in the form of discussion,

over 2 years ago

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Hollins Law

This is an extremely helpful chart.

over 2 years ago

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Celestino Gaitan

Congratulations!!!
Chris Lake, You've made an excellent job despite the wine test, your Periodic Table definitely I think it is modifiable and perfectible, more despite the impromptu however I think that it is extremely useful for ordinary people it is a structure that helps us to have a general overview of what represent the Internet, their sites and their functionality. Thank you for your important contribution to which I made a translation to Spanish, which I have reviewed in order to obtain the best conceptual clarity as possible, if you think it could be useful for you,will be ' available to you if you answer me to this message.
I remain at your friendly orders in that I can be useful.
Very trully yours.
Don CelesSs

over 2 years ago

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Lisa DeLau

wicked brilliant.

Loving how you think.

over 2 years ago

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parul

Great work!
I am saving this for my personal use.
Another thing I wanted to add... It is great when you take so much time to develop content. It tells me I have miles to go before I can dream of success.

Thx

over 2 years ago

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Carlos A Marchena

You're a GENIUS!!! Just a simple question: what is "Hivemind-based"? I'm just a simple lawyer interested in Content Strategy for my blog.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this, it's powerful and amazing!!!

over 2 years ago

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Kerryn Harding-Jones

Brilliant! This is a perfect tool to apply thought process to content marketing. Thank you. Future goals will be achieved using this CMPT.

over 2 years ago

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Adrian Harwood

Love the concept. The original Periodic Table is a masterpiece of clear thinking.

As the Atomic Number increases so does the instability of the atom and very often some of the heavier elements only exist for very short periods of time.

Could this be the case with the factors in this representation as well? Maybe someone can add some analytics to the numbers to show relative stability?

over 2 years ago

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Russell Steedman

I disagree about the 'lo-fi' design! I am a graphic designer and love the Helvetica and minimal layout.

over 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Andy - I'm onto season five, and have been watching three per evening. Amazing! And yes, inspirational...

@Krish - I agree, and there are plenty of tools out there already to help you do this. Definitely needs human interpretation though, and it very much depends on your key goals. Engagement, for me, is a big one, but sales / profits is way more interesting!

@Don - Thanks for the translation! Do let me know where I can find it, so I can point people in the right direction.

@Parul - It took me a day and a half, on and off, to create this. I don't think that's too long, and it's worth the time and effort. Really, it's about the idea, and I guess I executed the idea ok.

@Carlos - I can assure that I'm not a genius! 'Hivemind-based' is about mining the brains of the many. Sometimes it makes sense to ask your Twitter followers a question, and then collate the answers (with due credit) into a blog post. I should have probably labelled this 'crowdsourced' content.

@Adrian - No, it definitely doesn't mirror the original periodic table, which is brilliant. That would be too difficult, and what's important for one business may not be so much of a big deal for another. The only thing that is definitely correct is to put Content Strategy at #1. The rest is up for debate. More interesting perhaps to think about compounds! I simply used a visual framework that most people can identify with as a kind of quick mindmap / checklist for content marketing at a tactical level.

@Russell - I hear you! I love Helvetica too, and I didn't want to make it particularly fancy, just legible. I guess flat design is a trend! Excel is not typically used for drawings / design, but for years I have used it to wireframe web pages... it is based on a grid, after all!

over 2 years ago

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Pawas Gupta, Search Marketing Consultant at NCMborz

Hi Chris,

Awesome work. Your info-graphic is a great resource for search marketers like me trying to get used to content marketing after scary Google updates.

Just curious, how much time did you put in to produce it?

over 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Pawas - Appreciate the positive feedback. I spent about a day and a half, on and off.

over 2 years ago

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Vince Ferraro

Chris,

I love this post. I wrote about it on my blog with several backlinks to yours.

http://vincentferraro.com/2014/04/infographic-periodic-table-of-content-marketing/

over 2 years ago

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Marietta Szubski

I love this! Thank you for posting! This is a really fun graphic that does a great job of capturing and organizing a TON of info!

over 2 years ago

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Caroline Carey Finn

Very useful. Hope to take advantage of it for future blogging ideas.
Favorite button ( are they buttons?) is AW for cute( aw soooo cute!)

Now I am by no means being a critic but those two pale shades of aqua are a bit close for comfort. A different colour might be better.

over 2 years ago

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James Welch

here's a tool i made on the back of this excellent piece of work:
http://onlineventuresgroup.co.uk/content-marketing/ideas-generator

over 2 years ago

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Gary White

Hi,

Great infographic .. do you have a HiRes version ? This needs to go up on our wall !!

over 2 years ago

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sourabh rana

Hi chris lake,

Absolute marvellous piece of content you shared for content marketing. Frankly speaking you saved my tons of ours & brainstroming in wrong direction. I have very clear idea what to publish & how to publish & where to publish.

Great article Chris.

over 2 years ago

Jamie Lundgren

Jamie Lundgren, eBusiness at LV=Enterprise

Very impressive! I now have an A3 print out of this on my wall. Look forward to future iterations.

about 2 years ago

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Melissa Coombs, Assistant Marketing Wizard at Learning Everyday

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and especially liked how it combined science and marketing because marketing can sometimes be a science in itself. I was inspired to write a blog about the four key things to take away from this.It would be great if you could check it out and give me some feedback as I am new to content marketing and blogging in general. Head over to thecontentmarketingacademy.co.uk to check it out and see what we are up to!

about 2 years ago

Rajiv Mathew

Rajiv Mathew, Head of Marketing at Compassites

What a wonderful and useful post. Thanks a million!

about 2 years ago

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Katrina Douglas, Head of Marketing UK at 1&1 Internet Ltd

Hi Chris, this is great, just used it in a brainstorming session for our content marketing strategy. One question, please can you provide an example of a 'time saving' content type? Thanks

about 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Hey Katrina,

Anything that helps people get from A to B that bit quicker. Things like checklists and walkthroughs often help save people time. I think the key is to be useful and specific. Think personas, rather than audiences.

I'm sure there are tons of other examples!

Cheers,

c.

about 2 years ago

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Katrina Douglas, Head of Marketing UK at 1&1 Internet Ltd

Thanks Chris, we were debating examples with various points of view so figured it was best to come back to the source :-) this has definitely provided clarity.

Best,
Katrina

about 2 years ago

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Dave Vanz, The Fun-atical One at Soweo

Love this, can we add "VL - Value" to sharing triggers?

over 1 year ago

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andres venegas, Director at www.metalatam.com

Hello, thanks for sharing, i'm a culture engineering consultant and it really helped me on my digital literacy quest.
Again, thanks for sharing.

7 months ago

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Helen Forrest, Communications Manager at Innoval technology

As a Chemistry graduate now working in comms, I LOVE this! Thank you.

4 months ago

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