For most professionals in the realm of digital marketing, content marketing is ideally about providing value to clients by creating content that people want to share. Yet, there is a huge difference between what most people think content marketing is and what it actually is. Erez Zundy of IMCreator will show you the difference.
The majority of today’s content marketing “innovation” is driven by those who take the easy path, perpetuating the same stale ideas to boost traffic.
An entire cottage industry has emerged from the creation of slapdash blogs and "listicles" – hastily assembled content that is created not because it has something original to say, but specifically to serve as "clickbait" to boost search rankings.
And now that larger brands have keyed into this trend, websites that already have a strong online presence are able to further improve their already formidable rankings on popular topics like content marketing easily: especially when the "I-am-sharing-this-so-people-will-think-I’m-an-expert" marketers are helping them out by consistently sharing and curating the same stale content.
For these big websites, content marketing is more of a quick traffic boost tactic than a serious strategy. The content strategies all follow the same formula: Find a trend or topic people are talking about right now, write something of marginal value with a snappy headline, and then share it. The strength of the brand will do the rest.
Once a blog or a list of tips and tricks has been published by a popular website, it makes the rounds, and is endlessly proliferated and regurgitated by smaller online marketing bloggers until it is as dry as an old piece of bread. All of a sudden, an entire industry begins to sound like a broken record.
To save you hours of sifting through different blogs, here's what the vast majority of tips on content marketing boil down to:
What to write about:
- Run a blog and write about topics your users will be interested in
- Don’t know what to write about? Check your competitors
- Still don’t know? Use keyword research tools to understand what your users are looking for
- Still nothing? See what experts in your niche are writing about
- Wow, still blank? Go to your support team and find out what your users are asking about
What kind of content you should create:
- Create "evergreen" content
- People love listicles and "how-to" posts
- They love infographics even more
- Resource curation is important
- Interviews are amazing
How to promote your content:
- Share the posts on all your social platforms
- Don’t forget newsletters
- Use outbrain/taboola/keywee to promote the posts
- Contact bloggers and pitch your content
The “bonus tip:”
- Turn your posts into slideshares/infographics/videos and share those everywhere you can
And finally, the most vague tip of all:
- "Give value to your readers!" What does that even mean?
After mainstream online marketing blogs have once again re-posted these clichéd tips, it’s time for all the online marketing products and services to regurgitate them on their blogs. The funnel ends with many small business owners and online marketers trying to follow the tips they read even as they're hurrying to blog about it themselves. The result is most often a lackluster campaign, and a bunch of marketers with their hands thrown in the air, wondering where they’ve gone wrong.
The search for the "Promised Land"
For marketers, going viral is a light at the end of the tunnel that’s constantly lengthening, leaving that coveted goal often just out of their reach. Unfortunately, the quality of writing isn’t necessarily to blame.
Think about the amount of information you come across every single day. You probably read just a small fraction of it. Out of this small fraction, even a smaller amount of content is worth sharing. When you do the math, you’ll find that it’s almost impossible to go viral by intention (Mark Schaefer describes it well here). You might need to write 100 posts before you write the one that goes viral.
Even if you hire a copywriter and a content marketing expert (as you should if you are really serious about content marketing), this could be a long and very expensive project that, for most small businesses, is just too costly. Too many businesses end up spending thousands of dollars, only to wind up with zero results.
Content marketing is not for everyone
Since we’re all creating the same content and using the same tools to promote it, you have to be creative in your content creation process. This requires a lot of time to research, inside your company and around the web. For many, there are just more urgent things to do.
A proper content marketing campaign requires:
- Strategy: You’ll need to know...
- Who your target audiences are for your content
- What kind of content your audience expects you to provide
- Your content’s "voice" (whether it’s formal or personal, funny or serious)
- Planning: You’ll need to find out…
- What you should write about
- When you should post it
- How should produce it
- Producing the content: You’ll need to figure out...
- How you want to create each content piece (text, video, images, infographics, slides).
- How to work with copywriters and experts.
- How to produce content that accurately represents your brand, describes what you want it to describe, and if it’s simply good enough to post.
- Promoting the content: You’ll need to know how to…
- Share content on social media
- Pitch it to other blogs
- Buy traffic
- Recycle content to get the most out of it
- Participate in conversations about your content
- Following up: You need to make sure to…
- Analyze which content performs better, and why
- Re-plan based on analysis
- Inform your content writers about your findings, then guide them to improve.
I had to learn all this the hard way as my first "content marketing" project on the IMC blog just didn’t go the way I wanted to. It took me a while to realize that I was going the wrong way. These days I’m taking it more seriously and I’m in the process of creating a long-term content strategy.
I hope that the buzz around content marketing will settle down and we’ll stop seeing the same unoriginal tips over and over again. Most small businesses don’t have the resources needed to be able to run a "real" content marketing campaign and they are getting nothing from these tips.
If you are serious about getting into content marketing, I suggest you either hire an expert or search for resources that tell it like it really is. I personally like Content Marketing Institute, or CMI.
Content marketing is more than quick tips and miracle fixes, it is a dedicated, long-term process, one that requires careful planning and meticulous implementation, just like any other aspect of your business.