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The song “Video Killed the Radio Star” debuted by the Buggles in 1980. The image above was published in 1987. Now it’s 30 years later, we’re still discussing the battle between the written and digital word, and the stakes are higher than ever. With the incredible rise of video content over IP, the cyber world is discussing the end of text content in earnest—but the written word may have a few tricks up its sleeve yet.

Battle of the Content: The World Weighs in

Last month, Facebook executive Nicola Mendelsohn made the offhand comment that she predicts Facebook will be “all video” within the next five years. In just a few flippant sentences, Mendelsohn foretold the end of thousands of years of written communication. To be fair, she was only speaking on behalf of Facebook—but as the executive of the number one social media platform worldwide, her statement has global implications.

In one of my previous posts, I discussed the prevalence of print advertising over digital. Many studies support the fact that the successful companies don’t only publish video/image content; they employ a mixture of text and visual. As you can tell, this subject is near and dear to my heart. I conduct extensive research to track current content trends for my job and in my personal life. I recently came across a study by Backlinko, a prominent SEO authority.

Backlinko analyzed one million Google search results to see which factors correlate with first-page search engine rankings. The company examined backlinks, site speed, and content—and discovered a few key things about text:

  • Content that covered a topic in depth significantly outperformed content that didn’t.
  • Longer content ranks higher on Google’s search results.
  • The average Google first-page result has 1,890 words.
  • Long-form content is best for SEO.

Pieces that contain a wealth of information on one topic consistently outmatch content with little to no written content. Even a site that uses keywords in the title tag and headings, an authoritative domain name, and good quality content didn’t outrank sites with long-form content on a particular subject. Longer content generates more social shares, and it boosts a website’s topical relevancy. You’ll find arguments from both sides of the battlefield—but who will come out ahead?

Take a Look at the Statistics

Since content marketing today is so data driven, I’ll jump right into the cold, hard numbers. Cisco predicts that by 2020, almost one million minutes of video content will cross the IP network per second. Globally, Cisco predicts that video traffic will make up 82% of all consumer IP traffic. Total consumer Internet video use will rise from 38,116 petabytes (PBs) per month to 109,907 PBs—or a whopping 109,907,000,000 gigabytes.

If you aren’t familiar with how to wrap your mind around gigabytes, this will help: one gigabyte is the equivalent of a pickup truck filled with paper or a movie at TV quality. So, according to Cisco, we’ll be streaming the video equivalent of about 110 billion movies at TV quality every single month. Let that sink in.

Visual content marketing has changed dramatically in the last couple of years. As video and photo technologies improve and social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat gain momentum, you can’t have a content marketing strategy that ignores the power of visual. A study by Xerox shows that color increases readers’ attention spans and recall by 82% and gains readership by 80%. A Kissmetrics study showed that content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without images.

While the numbers are consistently high for video/photo content wherever you go for stats, this doesn’t mean they’ve taken written content out of the game. Many different studies argue different sides of this battle, and the statistics change depending on whether you’re talking about advertising, social media, or website content. However, it’s apparent that while the numbers are in favor of video and photo content, the written word will never become obsolete.

Black and White and Read All Over

Video content will certainly improve your chances of success, however, business can’t live on video alone. Let me introduce something you’ve probably seen before, but it’s worth bringing up again—especially since you likely passed it by due to its complex appearance. The Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors:


You can spend hours perusing this “periodic table,” taking notes and gathering information on what you hope will be the most search-engine-optimized piece of art you can imagine—and I welcome you to do just that. However, the main point is in the teeny fine print on the bottom right-hand side. (Why is the most important information always in fine print?) It states, “All factors on the table are important.” This is the key takeaway here.

Just like you can’t snap a photo on your iPhone, embed it on your website, and suddenly shoot to the top of a Google search results page, you can’t throw 1,900 words about a topic on a page and expect your SEO ranking to change overnight. It takes systematic and strategic content marketing to combine the two mediums for the greatest impact. Even video content needs written text to come up in a search results page: a title, file name, description, and tags. Adding closed captioning to video improves the number of search hits even more.

Video content is undeniably a powerful medium to get your message across, attract new leads, and cinch more conversions. However, you can’t abandon content writing. Video content is the marketing world’s shiny new toy, but the written word is more than just a trend. Text content is here to stay and is more powerful than ever. In the words of Tim Carmody, tech writer, “If you bet against text, you will lose.” I’m placing my bet on the written word—a medium that’s withstood the tests of time, transformation, and technology.