Content Marketing Isn’t A Good Marketing Strategy After All

The Fall and Rise of Content Marketing

For years we’ve been treated to the mantra, “Content is King!” and if you listen to all the predictions, it seems 2014 is to be the year of content marketing. Odd, considering content has been “king” for so many years already. Yet, as many other online marketing strategies are falling out of fad or losing value, the migration toward content to fill in the gaps continues to increase. In truth, there has probably never been a time that content matters more to online marketing than it does right now. But is content marketing truly a sustainable strategy for online marketers? Or will we see it abused and fall out of effectiveness over time, just as so many other web marketing tactics have?

If you’ve been paying attention, we’ve already seen the predictions of the demise of some often-used (and abused) content marketing strategies. Guest posting has all but been declared as spam by Matt Cutts, who heads up Google’s Webspam team. Well, depending on your motives, at least. What about our motives for our other content marketing strategies—shouldn’t those be suspect as well?

There could be a day when any content you write that links back to you could be considered spam. That may never happen, but it could, depending on what Google deems is necessary to keep their organic results free of manipulation. Either way, this possibility highlights the fact that “content marketing” in and of itself can be questionable, depending on Google’s algorithm of the day.

The Fall and Rise of Content Marketing

Content is The Means, Not The End

The web is a wonderful place for people looking for information. There is no shortage of content (both good and bad) that tells us how to perform a task, provides information we didn’t know, educates in new ways, or simply entertains us. For many searchers, this content is good content.

The other day I did some searches on how to clean the creosote from my wood burner. I read some step-by-step guides, watched some videos and then set out trying out different methods. Then I learned about the “top-down” method of building a fire. I’ve tried it. It works. I love it!

Yay for me, I’m learning new tricks.

While all the content I consumed on this topic served my purposes, did it serve the purpose of the sites that posted it? As helpful as that content was for me, did it meet the goals those sites set out to achieve? Maybe they were just in it for the ads (which I didn’t click on), or they offer products for my wood burner (which I didn’t buy). I honestly don’t know, because I was just there to get information I wanted and then I was gone.

Did any of those sites gain anything? Not from me. Heck, I don’t even know if I would recognize any of those sites if I were to land on them again.

If a Tree Falls in The Woods…

I suppose if I was a wood burner enthusiast, I would be more inclined to dig further into these sites. I might also spend some time reading comments and then comment myself after having tried out the different methods. I might look for sites where engagement is high, and I could bat ideas and thoughts back and forth about different wood burner tips, fire-building strategies, cleaning the pipes, etc. But that’s not me. I’m just a “get in, get the info, and get out” kind of guy.

If a tree falls in the woods, it still makes a sound. But if you put out content that people don’t engage with, the impact is missing. The point is, content alone only goes so far, especially for people like me. But for people like my wife, who is much more social than I am, content needs to come with the community as well. She is looking for a place to engage, interact and learn what others have to say about whatever content she just consumed.

For content to be effective it must be much more than just words on a page. Adding more content to your site is not a magic solution to success. But what does build success is creating a great user experience, and providing the right balance of information and customer engagement. You need content that gives visitors what they want and then propels them to whatever goals you have established. That is done by more than words alone!

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!, and President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading web presence optimization firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Follow him on Twitter: @StoneyD and @PolePositionMkg.
Stoney G deGeyter

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11 thoughts on “Content Marketing Isn’t A Good Marketing Strategy After All

  1. Contrary to your title, it sounds like you are saying that content marketing is super important! :)

  2. Communities are great, as I’ve witnessed on Google+, but it really depends on what your site is. Some businesses don’t have a chance there. Some things people just want to buy, not discuss. Like sandwiches. I guess you could try engaging people through competitions and the like, but it only works to a certain extent.

    1. I disagree Alex. I think you can build a community around anything. I don’t mean a Google+ type community, but a place where people can interact and engage. I can think of a hundred ways to do so with a sandwich shop. It’s all in the approach.

  3. Stoney, Thanks for writing the article its a good write up and the view’s expressed around content marketing have some solid points, I would however point out that the community over single content engagement proposition is a very old way of looking at the internet and how consumers interact both on line and with brands. In relation to real time engagement and search the rise of “served” over “searched” content is dramatic as most if not all news / real time relevant content is now severed through social networks both professionally and personally and not searched for by an individual (only when they are looking for a product do they search) and that’s the rub.

    In short platform’s like Facebook and LinkedIn and even blogs, YouTube and online mags are like TV sets they are not communities or places to build communities they are content share and consumption points and channels. (they are not “social media communities” they are the places where we the potential consumer choose to share a massively diverse amount content with our existing personal networks “serve it to others” under our personal brand) so I would advise not trying to compete with that as your not going to win! and for that reason trying to build a community is a tough call and something easily lost to your business in the long run.

    It is far to simple to say that creating a community is the answer and content just part of that answer when the individual (your potential customer) has limited time for communities unless they are personally their own and will choose to consume and / or engage in multiple ways namely on a served content basis.. because of who they are and who they interact with. Personally for me community building is an adoration of the 90’s and should be left there when it comes to social media.

    1. I’m not sure how you can be effective at social media without focusing on community building. That is the crux of social media in itself. And social is built with engaging content that is sharable, draws people in and facilitates conversation and further shares. Maybe I’m completely missing your point, but it seems you’ve made mine.

  4. Now a days from all the internet marketer or SEO professional we hear that content is king and there is no other strategy working fluently than a quality content though I’m not quite sure and have not much idea!! So how can we consider the simple link building process like blog comment, promoting on forum or social bookmark etc?? I mean still actually the simple link building strategy have any value or not??

    1. Link building still has value but earning links via content is probably the best way to do it in today’s environment. That’s where using your community really pays off.

  5. Great article, couldn’t agree more. Especially regarding Facebook, which is, after all, the book of faces – we must not forget the purpose it was created for. Content IS king; but the one that creates strong emotions and drives people to feel like they are part of a community.

  6. Great post. That oldest of analogies “if a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it”, is really the crux of the content marketing challenge IMHO. Content creation (good stuff anyway) is just about the most labor intensive and difficult to scale job in marketing. Add in the ongoing cost of maintaining a real community (or at least two way communication beyond a one way broadcast) and you’ve really fundamentally changed the paradigm of resource allocation and spending for marketing.

    Everybody “wants” to do this well, but everyone I know also hits a wall about 10% in when the stark realization of the true cost of content is + the amount of time it takes to pay off (Google noticing) leaves most content strategies I see orphaned far too early.

    I’m curious if you see this all unfolding as survival of the fittest, or do you think there is room for everyone to actually do it all well?