Is Your Content King or Just The Court Jester?
Every marketer, SEO practitioner and armchair expert insists that “content is king,” but somewhere along the line, the king was overthrown and the court jester has since taken the throne.
The biggest mistake marketers have made in the past decade is embracing the content marketing revolution without a strategy. Despite the overwhelming buzz and an endless stream of practitioners offering content marketing services, in most cases, content marketing just doesn’t live up to its promise.
Content marketing is a worthwhile concept, but unfortunately, it’s usually not done right, and content marketers are leaving a lot of value on the table, when articles they produce are the online equivalent of the giant inflatable gorillas that sit in front of the used car lot.
As it exists in most forms, content marketing is simply a mechanistic process that creates large volumes of articles with thin content and backlinks meant to be placed in blogs and websites that were created for the purpose of SEO.
Related: The 4 Laws of Content Marketing
Very few of these articles would withstand the traditional editorial review processes that legitimate publications read by real people, such as your potential customers. The numbers-driven approach to content marketing may generate backlinks, but it doesn’t do much for actual brand awareness and customer engagement.
Here's the problem with the 15-minute feature article.
The SEO gurus tell you that the first thing to do is go on Fiverr, or any other low-budget provider platform, and hire some content providers to create articles for you. And that's where SEO experts miss the mark. Content providers are not writers. They are not journalists.
Yet many companies rely on these providers because to them, it’s a volume business. Most content providers will tell you they will crank out an article in 15 minutes or less, and they keep the prices low. Marketers with small budgets like the sound of that because they can buy a dozen articles for the same price as a single feature written by a real writer.
SEO experts tell you that it’s all about the backlinks, and they are dead wrong.
Yes, you can get 100 articles published with backlinks and brand mentions at $10 a pop or less, but what happens if actual people - possibly potential customers -- see spammy content from your company brand? SEO marketers and content providers stop short in their strategy, and ignore that reality.
Those articles should be designed to make you look good. They should highlight your unique value, thought leadership about your industry and go beyond the generic wisdom and obvious platitudes that are so common in SEO articles. And the articles need to do all of this while still being vendor-neutral and maintaining a sense of journalistic integrity.
Content’s real purpose isn’t to create backlinks. The links are there, and they serve a purpose, but they are secondary to the article’s true purpose, which is to position you as a thought leader and to help you to engage with your target audience. You can’t produce an article like that in 15 minutes, and you’re not going to get it for $10 from an anonymous provider on the Internet.
What do you do when your content makes you look like a fool?
SEO practitioners run a volume business. Because the links are more important to content marketers than the actual content, the articles they write tend to land on websites nobody reads.
When a content provider says, “I can get an article about you published,” they’re telling the truth, but it’s meaningless.
There are hundreds of websites that these practitioners use. Typically, there is no editorial review process, and anybody can sign up for an account to submit articles for immediate publication.
Content marketing requires more thought. Do you really want an article that somebody, who knows nothing about you or company, wrote in 15 minutes, floating around the Internet?
The fact is that it’s easy to get published on some sites, but the reality of marketing is that you really don’t want to be in a publication that accepts everybody who wants to be published.
Publishing by nature is exclusive. Old fashioned? Yes, a little. But even today, legitimate publications that are read by real people have an editorial review process.
A lot of people want to be published on Entrepreneur, for example, but you have to show the editors that you have some journalistic chops and some real talent before they’ll accept you. And even then, every article is reviewed by an actual editor, and sometimes, if you’re off the mark, they’ll send it back. I speak from experience. This is the way it should be.
Go from a court jester to a market leader.
Returning the crown jewels to content is the first step toward real marketing results. Have a look at those spammy SEO websites. Do you see major brands being mentioned in the articles there? Probably not. That’s because they understand that content really is king after all, but in order to be effective, it has to look and act like a king first.
Dan Blacharski is a thought leader and PR counsel to several Internet startups. He is author of the book "Born in the Cloud Marketing: Transformative Strategies for the Next Generation of Cloud-Based Businesses."