(And a humble solution)
At LinkLove in March, which is in short a gathering (which I hereby officially declare a serp) of SEOs*, the lovely Rand Fishkin opened with”F*!k Links: Content Marketing For The Win” telling us in short, that good content will get links – SEOs should focus their attention on better content, to get better results.
I strongly recommend the video which can be purchased from distilled, but here’s the presentation (TL;DR version below).
In a nutshell…
Link building is simple concept but a slow painful burn, then Google screws us over cause they realised links weren’t valid votes.
Now Google is smarter, and social signifies more authentic votes. To get this you have to be a better all round marketer – which will get lower your cost per acquisition, build your brand, have longevity and get you better links anyway.
We can all agree on that. Simples – make good content, links will follow. It’s a proven formula. But content marketing has created niggles that I can’t shake.
Problem Number One: Remarkable Becomes Necessity
The problems stem from positives – the scale and access of the interwebs. In content, it has created a perfect market – everyone has access to almost the same content-making resources, and either does output very similar stuff, or will do as their markets mature online.
So, with everyone trying to differentiate themselves as the experts with content marketing – there’s no differentiator. We’re already in the realm of marketing our marketing. How abstract can this get?
If you run a business – instead of investing in something that isn’t going to differentiate you, you’d probably want to invest in improving your value proposition by building a better product or service instead. If you had a better product – more people would buy it, right?
Of course they would. If your product was super-awesome (like awesome but it deserves a cape), and better than your competitors, etc. etc., then yes – you could probably cruise along and grow by leaning on other marketing pillars like branding, pricing, advertising, etc.
But you still have the problem of being found online. If you’re not visible in Google, the world’s biggest matchmaker – your competitor’s products might as well be dirty dancing with your customers while your products blush in the corner.
If you don’t do content marketing you’re invisible online – if you do and it’s not the best available in a crowded market – it will defeat its own purpose by not differentiating you.
Problem Number Two: Content Marketing Can Make Your Small Business Naked
If you don’t have the right knowledge, ideas processes or people in your business – content marketing will be harder for you than your competitors. If you’re creating, it’s going to be related to your area of expertise. And if you have less expertise than a competitor, your content probably wont be as good.
This is a good thing – again the internet gives consumers transparency they never had before (this is a good time to note that if you’re not doing content marketing and your competitors are, it could be assumed that you don’t know your industry, even if you do).
But something doesn’t feel right about this. I know that as a ‘digital citizen’ (blurgh), my attention is far harder to win now I am constantly distracted by consuming content marketing all the time. And that’s on and offline.
It’s not sustainable for smaller businesses to be content marketing so remarkably that they can stand up against shitloads of great content from every business that ever came before them.
Problem Number Three is a Bit Embarrassing Really
Who actually gets to absorb all this stuff? The truth is no one. Nobody can consume all the marketing that we’re marketing, say, in the digital marketing market (phew).
Do my competitors read all content everywhere? Do they even read their own? Do they read mine? The answer is of course no. We’re all busy executing the stuff that we skimmed last year.
But the feeling you’re left with at the end of every day is this: I didn’t learn as much today as I could have. There is so much I haven’t covered. It feels a bit like….every day that I don’t soak up someone else’s content marketing I get relatively dumber. And when you do keep up you just end up with more things to do. Content marketing is whelming me over. Pass the tissues.
I Think I Have a Humble Solution
So, what’s the answer? How do you differentiate yourself and help people get value from you without screwing up their work/life balance while promoting your brand, becoming more visible online and learning all at the same time?
I think the magic sauce is going to be in formats. Get in quick and find a way you can round the best content up (without plagiarizing) and package it in multiple, digestible summary types and formats – smartphone / tablet-ready, video, TL;DR versions, emails, short bulleted lists, etc. Simple.
One example of this in practice would be after Brighton SEO. I always read writeups after events. But even just clicking on one of them is a big commitment – I lost a day out of the office, I want something quick, right? So when Crafted Media sent, albeit a while later, this presentation format summary that is beautifully designed – I knew they weren’t going to waste my time. It was the only summary I read and shared.
Any advertiser works to communicate a value proposition in a short space of time. But content marketers need to deliver the actual value in not very much longer while also wrapping marketing messaging in to boot. As a b2b online marketer, it’s my challenge too, and I look forward to any comments or thoughts you may have on this below – you make have a better solution to the content paradoxes. If you decide to try my suggestion, please do let me know how it goes.
Akshully, I work for Twitter
Thanks for reading this post. I have actually been a content marketing volunteer for Twitter for several years as @1uella. If you found value in this, I would love a follow, tweet, comment, link, like, plus, digg, etc, etc. You know what to do. Karma will find you.