6 Content Marketing Myths Debunked

SMS Text

6 Content Marketing Myths Debunked

Content marketing has been all the rage this year. Some see it as a new way to market. Maybe it is to them, but content has been a key piece of marketing for as long as I’ve been in the business.

There have been dozens, no, hundreds of articles with tips and tricks for how to manage content marketing. Many of them are in agreement, but we even see conflicting advice between different articles and blog posts.

Rather than pile on another post of tips for how to market yourself using content, let’s take a different angle. You can attack content from a wide variety of angles and there is no blueprint for what will or will not work. The following are seven pieces of advice that many bloggers and marketers will tell you are fact. Come along as I dispel each of these myths.

Long-Form Content Doesn’t Work On The Web

Web visitors tend to scan first before deciding to read a full page of content. This is the main reason for breaking out content into subheads, using short, choppy sentences, and weaving in bullet points, images, and video.

The natural conclusion is that shorter pages and blog posts are better. After all, everyone is time strapped. No one has time to read a diatribe about anything anymore, right?

Wrong. I can tell you from experience that long form content works.

We have tested this extensively both on our own blog and on client sites. On the Return On Now blog, every one of our top 10 posts of 2013 has one of the following characteristics:

  1. The post is between 1,100 and 1,600 words long
  2. The post is based on research/data that is hard to find

That’s it. All of the shorter posts fall below the top 10.

The research excels because it is unique. For the longer posts, I’ve found that it takes 1,000 or more words to truly flesh out a topic. Meanwhile, industry group-think says to limit blog posts to 300-800 words. We’ve tried both, and long form is the best answer for us.

Every site is different. Test both approaches to see what works for you.

More Content, More Content, More Content

There are plenty of studies out there that show a connection between frequency of posting to a blog and volume of leads generated. In a perfect world, I agree wholeheartedly.

In the real world, however, most of us lack sufficient time or resources to post daily, let alone multiple times a day.

Enterprises and inbound marketing firms like HubSpot do not face the same challenges. They have full staffs for content generation, lead generation, and conversion testing. This allows them to drive content in volume, while promoting it, pursuing social shares and interactions, driving organic rankings, and sustaining top notch quality.

For the resource constrained, that much activity is untenable. We are better off publishing a single, killer content item each week than rushing out five mediocre blog posts.

Half-baked content marketing focuses only on frequency and is the equivalent of email SPAM campaigns. Unless you have something interesting to say, don’t do it just to say you’re practicing content marketing.

A High Bounce Rate Means You’re Failing

Most web marketers monitor website bounce rates obsessively. The typical goal is to drive multiple pages per visit and increased time on site. Clearly, if someone visits one page and leaves, then those two metrics will suffer.

This is absolutely the right way to look at the number for lead gen or eCommerce websites. But again, every website is different.

For websites that depend primarily on content to drive traffic, a higher bounce rate is not necessarily bad. Rather than blindly using the default definition of bounce rate, consider using an adjusted bounce rate instead.

For example, if you have a site heavy on how-to videos and other similar content, engagement may be more important than overall pageviews. As a proxy for engagement, adjust the bounce rate to remove visitors who stay on a page over a certain amount of time.

If you post a two-minute video on the page, don’t count visits in excess of two minutes as bounces. After all, they made it through the video, saw that your brand was behind it and found the answer to their question. They will remember you the next time they have a similar issue.

It’s All About the Blog

As marketers, we love our blogs. After all, we get to write, engage with other professionals, and raise our profile in the industry. It’s also the easiest way to generate content rapidly and can greatly help your SEO campaign grow.

Content is so much more than posts on a blog! Are you thinking about content holistically? There are several factors which you can mix and match when creating a well-rounded inventory of content assets.

  1. Medium: In what format will the content be produced? Is it written, visual, video, audio, or another format? How can we use similar topics across various media?
  2. Customer Life Cycle or Sales Funnel Stage: What target audience are we going after, with respect to knowledge of us and our products or services? Is this piece a high level overview of why a product like ours is needed (i.e. early funnel) or is it a comparison between us and other leading vendors (i.e. late funnel)?
  3. Web Personas: Which of our target audiences do we want to consume this content? Is it on the right topic and in the right voice for them?

Any content you create for prospects or customer consumption is part of your content marketing efforts. Don’t box yourself in and think you can only do content marketing on your blog.

Every Piece of Content Has To Be Remarkable

One of the hardest parts of this whole process is creating remarkable content. Of course, nearly every “how to” you read about content marketing says that’s what you should do.

How do you define remarkable content? If you ask anyone in the industry, they’ll bandy about terms such as unique, engaging, viral, emotionally charged, passionate, informational, original, timely, inspirational, and high quality. Got it? Now go write some remarkable content!

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed after reading all of this advice. Cut yourself some slack. Even the best hitters in baseball don’t park the ball in the outfield seats every time they swing a bat. But they keep coming to the plate, waiting for the right moment, and seizing the opportunity to mash when the time is right.

Some of your content will blow the roof off, but some of it may be “okay” to “very good”. Don’t let it get you down. Just be yourself, use a common voice, be adamant about the values your brand stands for, and build a story over time. With enough swings, your next home run will come sooner or later.

Content Marketing Is About Generating Leads

Going back to the point that frequent bloggers generate more leads, it is true that content marketing can be used to support lead generation. Content marketing is not only for generating leads.

When you think of content more holistically, as suggested above, you are empowered to influence much more than a simple conversion event. Content marketing encompasses the entire buyer’s journey, including everything from thought leadership and branding, to demand generation, to lead generation.

We have worked with clients who increased lead volumes just by building out the entire buyer’s journey on their website. One particular client told their whole story in the language of their target persona, written to focus only on the customer’s needs and wants. This is a great example of content marketing at the very core itself.

This client operates under the belief that conversion is a process and not an event. I generally concur. Yes, the actual conversion is an event, but it rarely happens by chance.

Frequent bloggers are often converting readers who have been following them for weeks or months. In these cases, the process of pushing a prospect to convert starts long before a form is submitted. The hard work is in building the list of subscribers and convincing them that you are the right solution to their problems. Once convinced, the conversion becomes much easier.

So content marketing is not about generating leads, per se. It is about positioning yourself as the best option, so your prospects want to convert when presented with your offer.


Content Marketing is a great buzz word, but don’t get caught up in all the hype. Read everything you can and filter out what doesn’t make sense to you, then test the options for yourself.

What other content marketing myths have you seen out there? Surely there are more than six, so please share them below and let’s discuss! Thanks for reading.

image credit: Shutterstock

Tommy Landry
Tommy Landry has 20 years of experience, with a deep understanding of Social SEO and Online Demand Generation. Operating out of Austin, TX, he consults... Read Full Bio
Tommy Landry
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • Hi Tommy,

    great post, but I fundamentally disagree with you when you say “Long-Form Content Doesn’t Work On The Web”
    It does work, and even Google reflects that by announcing the inclusion of in-depth articles in search results.

    Agreed, this is still in its infancy, but the trend and path for future expansion and inclusion of Long-Form Content
    to use your term or what Google calls ” in-depth articles ” is set, and will become more important as time goes by.
    Panda is the catalyst for the inclusion of in-depth articles in SERPs and thee is no way Google will backtrack.

  • Hi Tommy,

    Reading again I realized that I totally misunderstood, I was just flying over the text and misinterpreted your statement. I have an utterly red face but hope you forgive me. 
    I hope you accept my sincere apologies.

    • Hi Max,

      No harm done. Scanning is a reality with the internet as I mentioned in the content above. Perhaps it would have helped to add the following to each sub-head: “Myth #1”, “Myth #2”, etc.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,

  • @Tommy,

    I have to agree with you about people going content crazy. Own my own blog I only post about once per week, but I make sure I have something worthwhile to share before I post. While several of my clients churn out content daily, I like to keep is to 4-5 a month. Most of the time I also reach 750-1000 words. and find it works well so long as you have something of value as you mentioned.


    Shame of you for skimming this post!!

    • Absolutely – if you have enough downtime to churn out multiple posts / week of very high quality and engaging content, that is great. But quality always trumps quantity, so I’d rather invest 2-3 hours in a great piece of analysis than 30 minutes in puffery.

      We have had decent success with 800-1000 posts in the past, but always seem to land out with closer to 1200-1500 words of late.

      There’s also something to be said about spreading out posts so they aren’t coming out too fast. It allows for more sharing, discussion, and follow up on each piece of work. This fits very nicely in the idea of not creating content just because you should, but because it’s meant as a conversation starter.

      Thanks for the thoughtful input,

      • It’s more important to be consistent than to produce lots of content each week, too. If your readers expect content every other day, you need to keep that up, or they will think something is wrong. The same goes for weekly, or monthly new content. Nothing looks worse than a blog which goes through fits of activity then nothing for months.

        I hear you on the not enough hours in the day content, but ideally if a company takes its content marketing efforts seriously, they should either hire someone to produce the content they need, or work with an agency who does have the resources available. At a basic level, the more good content you have, the more pages you’ll have indexed, the more keywords you’ll cover, the more links you’ll get and the more traffic your website will generate. I would usually advise a company that they’re better getting a couple of good posts a week done, that solve their buyers problems, than to get 1 amazing piece done per month.

        The truly amazing pieces take a lot of time investment, and tend to be more impactful once you have already built up a blog and reach to ensure they go viral. Is anyone going to pay attention to a blog post full of data put together or uncovered by a company with no online presence?

  • Great Post! As we all know that content is the king . According to this article we must give an more importance to the quality content. And yes of course we need to have a kind of content which people really like it.

    • Agreed – We need more content strategy before content creation. If we think about the story we’re trying to tell, what our brand stands for, and what topics are of interest currently, that provides a great framework for improving quality strategically. Thanks for reading!

  • Mike Lowry

    Hi Tommy,
    Awesome post, i agree with some points but disagree with you on long form content.
    We have to put informative content to attract user and having long form content with appropriate topic on webpages always work.

    • Hi Mike, I believe you may have misunderstood. The first point is positing that it does work, but that it’s a myth to believe that it does not. Looks like we are actually in agreement. Thanks for commenting.

  • Great post, content marketing is definitely a trial and error job and as you learn the myths become quite obvious. I would agree with all of your debunkings. Thanks for sharing.

  • Great info. Thanks so much for sharing what you’ve gained from your own experience.

  • James Bull

    Thanks for talking about the elephants in the content marketing room.

    I haven’t done any research into this, but I suspect most of the “you should” advice about content marketing comes from people wit h a vested interest , such as content marketing companies and professional writers.

    The word count argument is interesting and your examples persuasive. The cynic in me wonders if Google’s “in-depth” articles will slow down the flood of shallow blog posts that regurgitate someone else’s ideas, or start a different flood of long articles about the SEO benefits of writing long articles.

    • Yes, it is true that content providers are definitely interested in seeing us all pay them to drive volumes of content. Content marketing does work, but there are too many misconceptions about how to approach it. Google keeps telling us to provide value and the rankings and traffic will come, so this should be no surprise to anyone with SEO knowledge.

      Interestingly, I finished and submitted this piece before Google announced the In-Depth Articles visibility in the rankings. I still have not figured out if that is the same as what I’m talking about here. Seems most of it is coming from very long form content, like deep dive research overviews. I’ll be watching to see how that plays out.

    • Great point James. I hate when several internet marketing articles today all are beginning to sound the same.

  • Charles

    Great post, Tommy. The question about writing long content is something about which I have mixed emotions. Sometimes, if I have something that I think will be useful to my readers, and can say it all in less than 1,000 words, I don’t try to use any fillers to make it over 1,000 words. Also, regarding the bounce rate, is is accurate to say that some readers will just pass over a site rather than read a long article? Maybe I’m wrong about this, but please correct me on this if i am.

    • I’m not suggesting that shorter forms of content don’t work, but rather, that we shouldn’t pigeonhole ourselves into believing it’s the only option. My research post from June 2012 still ranks very well, and it’s basically 600 or so words plus an image of the data.

      Much of the speculation about readers bouncing with long form content aligns with your concerns. But I can tell you from experience that delivering real value will keep them reading, even on very long posts.

      Case in point – this article is 1,491 words in length. Did you make it all the way through? I’d guess the answer is “Yes” since you stuck around and commented. I’ve found 1,500 words to be a “sweet spot” for blog and guest article content.

      Thanks for the thoughtful feedback.

  • You did mention a couple of things that I was completely misunderstanding. I know that content is the king but as you said, it is not only about the amount of posts but the quality. Thanks for this article, it was really useful.

    • You definitely got the main point. Which parts were confusing for you? Feedback is welcomed.

  • Totally agree with you, and totally agree with your point about old data being irrelevant, it simply becomes burried in an ocean of information, just like an old book at the bottom of a pile of books…

  • Thanks a lot Tommy for this wonderful post. Frankly speaking, I believed in 4 out of the 6 myths listed here before reading this article. I have bookmarked this page now. 🙂