As stated in “Content Is King, But Distribution Is Queen and She Wears the Pants,” only 36 percent of content marketers feel they use their content effectively. This means the rest of them are not quite so confident that their content is doing what it’s supposed to. Why is this? It’s likely because most content marketers subscribe to many or all of the below six assumptions.
People who fall in line with the below are generally blind as to why their content is inadequate. The inadequacies arise from a brand’s lack of audience. Let’s face it: most brands don’t have much of an online audience and content marketing alone can take a long time to build one.
Below are the six assumptions marketers should avoid making.
1. Quality content drives website visitors
While it’s true that quality content can help drive visitors over time, it’s far from being a secret sauce. Great content gets published every day online without getting read. It’s likely that the exact same message could be poorly written and drive many more eyeballs if it’s published in front of the right audience.
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Most websites don’t have much of an audience to speak of—including many of the 64 percent of marketers who feel they’re not using their content effectively. Most of the time it’s an audience problem, not a quality problem. Audience drives visits.
2. Publishing frequently drives website visitors
In 2011, Google updated its Caffeine indexing system to reward the freshest and most recent content. Thus, the SEO community named it “Freshness.” This drove many SEOs and content marketers to crank up their content production to take advantage of this update.
While it can certainly help to drive some incremental traffic growth, it’s still not enough. If there’s no true audience to receive all of this fresh content, it will likely go unconsumed. As mentioned above, visitors are derived from an audience.
3. Good content marketing drives organic distribution—eyeballs are attracted naturally
Good content marketing can drive some organic distribution. However, it can be a very slow process: it can take 18 or more months to produce a positive impact on a brand’s bottom line. Many CMOs aren’t patient enough to wait that long for a return—their jobs are on the line.
It takes an engaged audience to help get content distributed organically. Audiences have to be built or tapped into to realize robust organic distribution.
4. Content marketing is the new SEO
Content marketing is a significant part of today’s SEO strategies. But without an audience to validate and link to the content, it can take a long time to realize impactful search relevance. According to Moz’s 2013 Search Engine Ranking Factors, the first 48 factors are all related to off-page (earned) signals.
Content marketing can certainly influence these off-page factors, but without an audience it’s unlikely to in an acceptable timeframe. Again, it takes a lot of time to build an audience.
5. Content marketing creates social engagement
Content marketing doesn’t create social engagement—audience creates social engagement. Some brands can broadcast its content via social media and drive significant traffic, but that’s because they already have an audience. Most brands don’t have the audience to substantially move the social needle with content. Content marketing can help drive social engagement; but just like SEO, it takes time.
6. It’s all about the owned media
If you build it, they will come. Well, not really, but that’s a great way to describe many content marketing mindsets. Most strategies focus exclusively on publishing content on an owned property like a blog, website or microsite. This siloed approach diminishes the role of earned and paid media.
The other two forms of media help content marketers build audience much more quickly than owned media alone by tapping directly into other, more established audiences. They can also show a return in a much shorter period of time—a quarter or less. That’s in stark contrast to an exclusively owned media strategy.
The content marketing assumptions above are inadequate if a sizeable enough online audience doesn’t already exist upon deployment. That’s the case for most marketers. However, those who fall into this category can expedite audience growth by leveraging PR, media relations, guest blogging, native advertising and advertorial strategies in conjunction with content marketing.
According to The Inbound Marketers Guide to Earned Media, digital PR drives content promotion, distribution and audience growth by exposing a brand’s content to other, more robust audiences. This same principle holds true for the paid channels mentioned above, albeit the returns aren’t as substantive as earned media in most cases.
Marketers without an existing audience who forgo the use of paid and earned channels to help promote owned efforts have a big mountain to climb. It’s hard to keep content contributors motivated when their content goes virtually unread for a year or more.
Image credit: Shane Kelly (ballinascreen.com)