The Cult of Content

Cara Bowles    By under Content Marketing.

Inbound marketing is not content marketing.

Neither is SEO.

We need to set this straight.

Let me start with the inspiration for this post. Rand Fishkin and his increasingly large beard recently posted a Whiteboard Friday at Moz entitled "6 Ways to Earn Higher Rankings Without Investing in Content Creation and Marketing." I was expecting an alternative to content marketing, but what I saw instead was this:

content cult 1

While I was pleased to see Rand diving back into the nitty gritty technical aspects of SEO, I was frustrated to find that I wasn't looking at an alternative to content marketing. I was merely looking at a way to make content marketing more SEO-friendly.

I get it. Content is cheap, it's "easy," and "anybody" can do it. It also happens to be my specialty, and it's working out quite well for me.

But our industry needs to get past the assumption that content is THE way to expand your reach, build an audience, and retain your customers.

It's not the only way.

Consumers Don't Spend All Day Reading Blogs

This is what they do:

content cult 2

As you can see, blogs and online radio, newspapers, and magazines take up a very small portion of most users' internet time. They spend more time gaming, watching videos, emailing, and networking. Most of this isn't what we traditionally call "content."

Granted, this might be good news for content marketers who get involved with video, but that's really missing the point of just how diverse online activity is.

It's never been exclusively about content.

According to Hitwise, these are the top 10 most popular sites on the web right now:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Yahoo!
  • Yahoo! Mail
  • Gmail
  • Bing
  • Yahoo! Search
  • msn
  • Windows Live Mail

These aren't content sites. They are interactive sites. The web isn't just a place to absorb information. It is a place filled with utilities, communities, and games. And if you operate under the assumption that the only way to reach consumers is with content, you are ignoring how most people spend most of their time online.

I'm not saying you need to get your content in people's social networks, email, and online games.

Granted, I'm a strong advocate of building up an email list, and social networks can certainly be a good place to pull traffic. But the real lesson here is that social networks, email, and games are more important to people than content in the first place, and if you want to earn some attention online, building an interactive platform of your own is almost certainly one of the best ways to do it.

Inbound marketing is about giving people a reason to come to your site. Content is one way to do that, certainly. Utilities, communities, and games are often a much more effective way to do that.

And if you want to talk SEO, nothing earns links better than an interactive platform.