The Great Content Marketing Debate

At Michael Bell One we’re big believers in the power of great quality content, and Google has quite openly stated that this is the key to ranking well on their Search Engine Results Page (SERP). We’ve covered the importance of having great quality written articles before on our blog, and we’re strong believers in this ethos, however there is an ongoing debate in world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) professionals over whether the glut of content marketing is becoming detrimental to everyone’s overall success. Big names in SEO such Moz have weighed in on this on a few occasions, and usually if a big name like Moz is involved and dedicating time in their Whiteboard Friday (cool name by the way guys), you know that the issue is a hot topic. So in this Blackboard Monday we’re going to delve into why content marketing is coming under fire, and dispel a few myths while we’re at it.

The Good – Always Eat Your Crufts

Blackboard BreadAlmost every website has a dirty little secret when it comes to content, and we don’t mean the Ashley Madison kind. Unless you are extremely diligent somewhere, on your website there will likely be some low quality content that has somehow sneaked past you, and there it sits, unnoticed and lazily not pulling its weight in your SEO efforts. The always lovely Rand Fishkin eloquently terms this as The Cruft. A knee jerk reaction to the Panda 4.2 Refresh was to make sure that your Crufts were gone before Mama Google came along and found them, and this has lead to a glut of content creation as a minor panic ensued and people turned to various professionals to fix this issue and make sure that their website didn’t get chewed out by Google’s Panda. However this can be seen to have caused an issue. Before we delve into this issue it’s important to understand how the way that we consume media has changed over recent years.

Internet Killed the Radio Star… and Television… and Print Media…

Dead TVWhen we crawled out of the primordial ooze of communications technology, the way that we shared information moved forwards towards exponentially more streamlined and convenient methods, but you don’t have to look too far back in time to see what it was like in the land before the internet. Back in this time when we called each other rather than instant messaged, there were three clear pillars of the media world; Print Media, Radio and Television. Each had their own angle on how they shared their content, but these avenues were very heavily controlled by only a handful of companies, meaning that what you received was limited by the delivery system itself. Whether you see it as a positive change or not, when the internet came along it opened the floodgates for everyone to share their content, and this started to slowly chip away at the influence of the media giants. The sharing of internet based media continues to decimate the stock value of these once dominant media companies:

  • 21st Century Fox experienced their last big stock peak back in 2000, and over the last 15 years they have experienced a wobbly decline that they likely won’t recover from.
  • Time Warner hit their stride between 1998 and 2001, and since then they haven’t seen anywhere near the same levels of success.
  • Viacom is one of the few big media companies that seem to have survived the onslaught of the internet’s popularity, but even now they are experiencing lows not felt since 2011.

If it hasn’t already killed them, the internet is at the very least killing the radio, TV and print media stars. We live in an age where anyone can have a voice that has the potential to compete with the Rupert Murdoch Empire. As long as net neutrality doesn’t collapse we’re no longer limited to an outlet that is controlled by a handful of people, and provided that enough people back what you’re saying; your message can be heard over these media giants, no matter how much money they throw at making their voice louder. With the freedom to create and share content that the internet has introduced, we now face a new problem; there’s too much of it.

The Bad – Too Much of a Good Thing

Over SaturationWhatever industry you’re in and whatever your product or service is, when you offer your product or service to the public there is always the chance that if you’re successful you’ll eventually reach a saturation point. This is the point at which either you as a company or your industry as a whole are over producing product or service ‘x’, and your clients feel overwhelmed by the choice and unable to find the high quality product that they want, or they simply are unable to consume the volume of product or service ‘x’ that is being offered. If you’re picturing yourself saying no to desert after a particular filling meal that requires you to loosen your belt, then you’re on the right track. Online content has this very same problem, if there is too much out there it can be difficult, and in some cases nearly impossible to track down the article that you want. This is why we all rely so heavily on services such as Google and websites that provide content curation to find what we want. As we said in our opening statement; there are those in the industry who feel that this glut of media is going to, or already is causing an issue. Phrases such as content fatigue and content shock are being readily thrown around as part of this ongoing debate, with the main issues being articles that whilst of high quality are being produced, they just aren’t reaching a large enough audience. For example in the Moz article entitled ‘Content, Shares, and Links: Insights from Analysing 1 Million Articles’ a study showed that 75% of the articles they analysed had no external links and over 50% only had 2 or fewer interactions on social media sites such as Facebook. This is somewhat dire, and it means that the articles that these websites are producing are having little to no penetration of their prospective audience, and they will continue to fail to do so because these articles aren’t being shared. Sharing links has been the way to get noticed online since this whole idea of interconnected networked pages began, and whilst the way that websites like Google use link sharing as a metric have changed, the ideology is still the same: Content that is widely shared is deemed as being more relevant and therefore important than content that is not. But there are ways to succeed, and part of this requires maintaining your coveted high quality content, listening to Uncle Fishkin and getting rid of your Cruft, and the hardest part of all; hard work and spending money.

The Ugly – Spend Money & Work Hard

This is the tough part, but the issue of content glut isn’t going to go away any time soon, in fact it will likely only get worse as internet adoption rates in the UK and around the world increase both as the adoption of the required technology and the population increases. The solution to shouting louder than your competitor and getting your message heard is relatively straightforward; either work hard, or work hard and spend lots of money. By working hard we mean producing high quality articles and then market it like it’s the gospel. There are a few methods that you can use to increase the impact of your platform:

  1. If You’re Called David; Stand on Goliath’s Shoulders
    A great tactic to marketing your content is to use the momentum a bigger brand has garnered to benefit your campaign. If done correctly you can easily siphon off some link juice from a well known brand for your own benefit. This in turn will be beneficial to your symbiotic relationship with the cool kid, so don’t worry too much about treading on their toes, unless they actively ask you to stop bothering them.
  2. Expand Your Horizons & Market Clever
    Some marketing folk can get caught up in a safe and comfortable pattern of trying to target the same audience over and over again, but sometimes it pays to take the risk and rock the boat a bit. Try to approach the way that you convey your message from an entirely new angle, using something that your current audience isn’t expecting. By doing this you are in position to target a brand new audience and engage them with your product or service.
  3. Be a Beautiful Unique Snowflake
    Try not to produce content that is completely in line with your competitors. Whilst it’s understandable to use point 1 and go after the bigger kids link juice, you want to do it in a way that is unique to you, so that you add value to the work that they have done, otherwise you offer no incentive for your prospective audience to engage with your output over the more popular alternative.
  4. Keep Your Finger on the Pulse
    We don’t necessarily mean LinkedIn’s very own news app; Pulse, although utilising that is a great example, but you need to know what is happening in your circles. This means getting active on social media, following the right people on Twitter, Google+ and even Facebook to keep ahead of the curve and break news before your competition does.
  5. Encourage Others to Share Your Content
    This fits in with your social media efforts, and believe it or not all of the online networking that you have been doing isn’t just to bolster your virtual rolodex. If you engage with your audience and encourage them to help you may find a new way to get your articles shared, but ensure that you do this correctly. There’s no harm in joining in a conversation that relates to your article by sharing your thoughts and then casually mentioning that you have already written a piece on the topic on your website, but play it cool and make sure that it’s natural to the conversation. If you play your cards right people will want to share and cite your content of their own accord.

The ugly truth of the world that we live in is that money gets things done, and whilst when it comes to content marketing money isn’t the only factor that can get your work noticed, it certainly can help. Big companies invest a lot of money into getting their message in front of the right people, and whilst you don’t necessarily need to invest thousands of pounds into a PPC budget to do better than the big players, investing your money wisely can help. Spending money on social media advertising can be quite effective as it promotes the work that you’re already putting in and reaches a larger audience. How effective this is depends on the quality of the work that you’re already doing and how much you’re willing to spend on your marketing campaign. We all know that time is money, and because of this you need to keep in mind how much time you are willing to invest into content creation and marketing. As with most endeavours more is usually better, so it’s important to strategise how much time and resources it will take to push your message to a point that you receive a satisfactory return on your investment.

Find an Expert Who Can Help

The debate about how content marketing is reaching a bursting point is all too real, but with the right strategy and being vigilant and proactive issues such as content shock and fatigue can be overcome. One of the best approaches to this is to utilise a company that already knows the ropes and are in a position to provide their expertise to you. At Michael Bell One we are proud to be in a position to offer our leading Web Marketing services that can help make sure that you’re on the right side of the great content marketing debate. If you want to find out more about how we can help you, then please get in touch and we can discuss your requirements. You can contact me (Jake Judd) or David Park using our online contact form, by sending an email to hello@juddassoc.com or by calling our Lewes office on 01273 478822, and we’ll be more than happy to discuss how the team at Michael Bell One can help you.