Creating compelling, relevant content is difficult.
I know this, and yet every year when I attend Content Marketing World, I sit through several sessions, eating my orange candy, and hear how businesses will create more content than ever (again) and how they’ll spend more money on it than ever (again).
Most of these talks are run by industry experts who drive home how content marketers should tell relevant stories that connect with audiences. But when I walk out into the convention hall, it seems the conversation is forever focused on automation tools and measurement.
Of course, the boom of content has made room for plenty of gadgets and silver bullet claims. The staggering numbers from the forthcoming MarketingProfs/Content Marketing Institute study found that 76 percent of B2B organizations plan to produce more content in 2016 and 51 percent plan to spend more of their budget on content marketing.
This would all be fantastic for everyone involved in the content marketing food chain except for one sticky wicket: Only 30 percent of these marketers know that their content is effective.
Making matters worse, there is no strategy from the outset on most of this content – some 50 percent of marketers who claim to have a content strategy concede that they never got around to writing it down anywhere, and 15 percent admit they have no strategy at all – resulting in lots of irrelevant content that doesn’t meet audience expectations or help with anyone’s business goals.
It’s Not Tools or SEO, It’s Relevant Content
Before we get too much farther in, let’s agree that the inefficiency we’re discussing here is no one person’s fault. As more money is being poured in, marketers feel the pressure to get results – even though no strategy has been set for what the results should be – and are looking for that silver bullet. They are looking for SEO shortcuts and researching automation tools like Marketo and HubSpot. They are trying to create more content and push it through Buffer in hopes that maybe that next post is the one that goes viral. This leads to what I hear so often from companies I talk with: “I’m writing a post for Tuesday because that’s when we share our newest blog post.”
But wait. Why?
If you’re writing to follow a post date instead of a clear content strategy, does your audience care if you hit that deadline? Do you even have an audience?
This constant content push is a stress-inducing symptom of the greater disease of a results-now economy. But this rush to get things done is the very antithesis to good creative work, and it leaves little time to create a strategy.
But there’s the rub. Only good, relevant content that helps your audience will grow your business, and you cannot create that without a well-documented strategy that focuses on the problems you solve.
There are many students of search algorithms in the speaker set at Content Marketing World, and so far they’ve had their own visions of how Google and its lesser search competitors will change. But at the end of the day, they all admit that chasing the SEO rainbow is not the long-term solution. The search engines are all seeking a truth to share with the searcher. They exist to bring relevant answers (and ads, of course) to searcher questions, and they will continue to find ways to reward content that does that. Over the first two days of the event, no one put this better than search scientist Rand Fishkin, who said:
That means completion of your task, or search, with an answer. We can get into the more technical parts of how they measure this in an even longer (and far more boring) post, but the engine behind that science is built around machines trying to find out who has the best, most helpful answer for the person searching and delivering them to those posts. So while keywords matter and you should have the right tools to share your posts, nothing produces long-term results like relevant content.
Stop Writing and Start Strategizing
So if you’re creating content just to create content and throw it into some sharing tool, stop now. Stop wasting your resources. Don’t write a blog post because it’s Tuesday.
If you want to create impactful content, think about how you can help your customer/client/user. Start with the information you can provide them that they’re actively looking for. If you don’t know what that is, talk with your sales team about the value proposition they share when building new business (if they don’t know, you have a much bigger set of problems than losing time on your content marketing!).
If you are one of the many people who have no content strategy, here’s a starting point: Stop writing and measuring views and shares. Start thinking about how to create content that matters to the audience you want to reach. This will be a painful process the first time, but it’s the first step to content that will be successful. Let’s do this!