Content marketing is a big waste of your organization’s time and money. We’re a content marketing agency. What a stupid statement…. but it’s true. Content marketing has become an outrageously expensive strategy to get results with. That’s flipped content marketing’s ROI on its head.

As a content marketer, why would I say that? I have to. It’s all in the data. Can content marketing be effective? Yes, and it’s proven to be so. It’s not, however a cheap and easy fix. There is so much content in nearly every vertical now, that even the best can be buried and never seen.

Sources indicate there are between 450 and 600 million blogs online today. Talk about a needle in a haystack! That doesn’t even include regularly updated websites that aren’t strictly blogs, but compete for eyeballs.

Why is content marketing so expensive, and how can you make it work? The Results Are In

There are many reasons, but first, there is so much high quality content available now that audiences don’t have to settle for mediocre any longer. If you want your audience to consume yours and see you as an authority, it had better be really good, if not great. That’s just scratching the surface, though.

Content Survey Says…

Andy Crestodina (Follow him on Twitter @crestodina) of Orbit Media just published an extensive survey about what content marketers found most effective. The results further illustrate why content marketing is not for the faint of budget.

1) Great (Those that work) Posts Take Time. Blog posts taking 6+ hours to create were 55% more likely to achieve “strong results” than those taking 2,3,4 or 5 hours to craft. No more just banging out a quick post and having it do the job. Time is money though.

2) Volume is Vital. Organizations that post several times weekly are nearly 3 times as likely to have “strong results” than those posting only once a month. Those posting daily or more do better still. 47% more organizations that reached the daily threshold reported “strong results” than those publishing several times per week. Frequency matters, but it’s also resource intensive.

3) Editors Work. Twice as many organizations (24%) now use professional editors for their blogs now compared to only 4 years ago.

There’s a reason for that; those using a formal editing process with professional editors are 59% more likely to achieve strong results than those editing their own work. Professional editors command something from the ole bank though. Glassdoor says online content editors average about $59K annually in Seattle, but top out at nearly $100K.

4) Successful posts include media. The survey illustrates an opportunity here. While 45% of organizations say including audio delivers excellent results, only 4% are doing so. Compare that to using multiple images or the current media darling, video. 54% of organizations include multiple images, and 19% include video, despite the fact that they don’t achieve the results that audio does. It’s a good idea to start including audio in your organization’s content. You can repurpose it as a podcast. Podcasts are trending upwards now. The problem? You guessed it; multimedia production that doesn’t look like your kid’s 6th grade project cost time and money.

5) Include Original Research. That is 290% more likely to deliver as posts that don’t include any. Now you know why Orbit Media did the survey! Your organization may have plenty of original research just laying around though. Check any studies, surveys or questionnaires you’ve done. The same goes for case studies, which can be a terrific place to find new insight.

It’s painfully obvious why effective content marketing is so expensive now. Organizations could once be successful by posting some well written content on analytics indicated subjects 4 or 5 times monthly. That doesn’t really move the needle anymore, though. You’ll likely get some results, but even that level requires a major resource commitment.

The current environment dictates long, complex posts using multiple media types, and overseen by professional editors. These need to be created daily, because the results are significantly better by doing so. That’s a recipe for significant investment. Many organizations won’t be up to that, haven’t seen the value in it, or think the ROI isn’t there…. Maybe all three.

If your org isn’t ready for that commitment scale, publishing excellent pieces only several times a year will have to stand in. There’s no reason to go half way. Either go all the way to where content marketing will really work for you, or be extremely strategic on a few carefully selected pieces.

See Your Content: Pay Me Now

The above is manly production oriented and ignores that distribution has changed over the past few years. It is now much more expensive. Is organic reach still in play? Sure, but even that is more difficult to achieve, especially if you’re not established.

Brands must now look at paid distribution if they’re to maximize their best eyes (and ears) on content. Paid social (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, IG, Snap, etc) and content distribution platforms like Outbrain, Adblade, and Taboola are now a virtual must for bands to get their full money’s worth from content. Paid distribution is an additional resource requirement that adds new meaning to “Go Big”.

That’s not to say that strategic social engagement, SEO, and influencers will not deliver significant attention to your brand’s content. They will, but to borrow an old sales phrase, you’re leaving eyes on the table.

Social Butterfly

Many organizations have shifted a large part of their content resources to social. Some have added resources to reach their social media marketing goals, while still creating blog posts and website content. It makes sense. Social is where much of their audience is. This hits the root of the issue and marketing’s number one rule: “Be where your target audience is”. It depends on the market and the audience. Some live on social and rarely dig deeper.

Others are on social, but need more problem solving and enlightenment than 280 characters and a GIF can provide. Those people are more likely to visit your online content for the in-depth information about your brand, products and processes.

NOTE: Don’t forget to include brand-agnostic info include info that helps them identify, define and solve their problem. A common content mistake we see is organizations being too brand and product focused. Come at it from the other direction; your customers’ point of view. Be customer focused, Help them identify and solve their problem, then use position your solution.

While social is a content marketing strategy in itself, it’s also a promotional avenue for more traditional content platforms that hold your long-form content and media.

Your social efforts amplify your content, but also require many additional resources themselves. Many of the same tasks required to be successful with long content are there for social media too. You’re not getting off that easy.

  • Strategy formulation
  • Creating or repurposing content
  • Monitoring analytics
  • Connecting with influencers
  • Scheduling
  • Adjusting based on current events and analytics

Diversify your content and social presence. There is a big risk associated with relying on a platform you don’t own and have no control over. Ask anyone who had a large Google Plus presence or watched their brand’s organic Facebook reach wither and die.

Brands do well distributing their content across multiple platforms. Optimize it for a particular platform, but largely repurpose it. It still resonates with your audience, so maximize your ROI by taking it to your audience wherever they are. Make it easy for them to consume, and many prefer different modalities (audio, print, video).

Distributing beyond your brand’s website or blog grows audience and engagement with just an incremental resource requirement. That spells larger ROI from your content investment.

If you’re doing the “all in” thing with long-form content, make it more successful by taking it farther. Here are some other distribution avenues you should be going down when it matches your brand’s content strategy:

  • Medium
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Reddit (Be careful and step lightly. Reddit is a fickle beast.)
  • Email (existing customers and prospect list… and those should be separate) Email often has the highest ROI of your digital marketing processes, but requires, you guessed it, content.
  • YouTube – You’re making video as part of your brand’s content strategy; you should have an actual YouTube channel, optimized for search.

What’s It All Mean for Your Brand’s Content Marketing?

So, here’s where the schiester hits the rotary air transport device, and sticks to the wall. If your brand is using content marketing, seeing a high ROI requires a big commitment. If you’re not prepared to craft a solid content marketing strategy and support it, just craft some really good stuff 6-10 times a year, go hard core with your distribution, and call it good. There’s no middle ground anymore.

Tell me why I’m wrong…..