I can’t quite figure out the flurry of articles and blog posts that have been posted in the last few weeks either telling us that 2014 is the “Year of Content,” or heralding its “death.” The fact is that marketing has always been about content. From the time the fur traders sat around the campfire at the local fort and tried to sell their pelts (and I’m sure even before that) we have tried to spin stories that helped us sell the goods and services we possessed to people who we believed could use those goods and services. Those stories – whether told around a campfire, written on a leaflet, published in a newspaper or emblazoned on the side of peddler’s wagon – were content.
The Internet changed the way content was published – at first on websites and via email. Social networks changed it again, as people can now interact with the content. (Actually, have we just come full circle from the days of the campfire?)
Today, we post blogs, write online articles, Tweet and Facebook. And we are told not to be as blatant as we once were. Today, it is about getting people interested enough to buy from us – or at least comment on and/or share what we post. We are not to overtly “sell” to them. But in the land of buying and selling, content is content, and whatever the tactics used and venues chosen, the bottom line is that we are still trying to tell people why they should consider buying our products or services.
Anyone who had a website in the early 1990’s, remembers that it was not terribly difficult to get high rank on search engines. There was just not that much competition. Back then, Google didn’t exist, and the term SEO had not been coined. Today, most companies have at least one website, and with over 1 billion published web pages on the “net,” it is definitely a little harder to get noticed. What makes it even more challenging is that search engines have changed the rules (and continue to change them). Google has made no secret about its algorithm upgrades that punish even some of the “white hat” SEO tactics. However, even with all of the competition and rule changes, most companies are not abandoning their websites.
Google and other search engines have admitted that they are constantly tweaking their algorithms and that at this point, content and social signals (meaning content published on Social Sites) are their high value targets. Google has added a “reader” to distinguish keyword loaded gibberish from good content, and notices when a piece of content has been shared or has comments. Smart companies have been adding blogs and newsletters, publishing online articles, adding more information and more pages to their websites and have been participating in Social Sites as never before. This makes the Internet even more crowded.
However, just because more people are getting on board the “content marketing train,” doesn’t mean that any of us should jump off.
Instead, we should all work very hard to add value to our audience. We all have great stories to tell. We should tell those stories in a way that informs, entertains and educates our audience. Today, it is okay to slice and dice content. We can publish 6 second videos and run day-long webinars. We can post 140 character tweets and 1,000 word white papers. We can even get our point across with a great image. Content isn’t dead – and as long as there are buyers and sellers in the world, it will remain alive and healthy.