Why Most of Content Marketing Doesn't Work

on under Content Marketing.

Apparently, most of the content that gets published on the web goes to waste. According to a recent study by InboundWriter, 90 percent of most sites' web traffic comes from 10 to 20 percent of the content. From this data they claim that most of the content these sites are publishing is a waste of resources.

They're probably right, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Don't get me wrong, the news that InboundWriter is announcing is appealing to somebody like me. They've discovered a statistically significant correlation between their automated pre-publication "content score" and traffic generated after publication. We could use more tools like this in the marketing industry.

Unfortunately, I think a basic premise here is flawed, and it's a common one. They're talking traffic, but traffic does not equal dollar signs. Worse, the data is only coming from organic search engine traffic. I don't buy into the concept that content is a waste if it doesn't pull organic traffic. This content can be valuable in many other ways:

  • It gives new visitors something else to look at after they get pulled onto the site. This further immerses them into the brand experience.
  • It gives repeat users a reason to keep coming back.
  • It can spread through social networks.
  • It reassures visitors that your site is kept up to date, that it's current, and that you actually care about it.
  • The content that has the strongest appeal to your most relevant visitors won't necessarily pull the most traffic.

I'm certainly not claiming that most blogs are just fine or that most content marketing strategies are successful. All I'm saying is that studies like these don't tell us what the problems are, because they're asking the wrong questions.

Want to know why most content marketing doesn't work?

  • They're measuring the wrong things: traffic, Facebook likes, and the final source or piece of content a user looked at before making a purchase. Instead, they should be measuring which pieces of content offer the most contribution to lifetime value, and even more importantly, which strategies are contributing most to lifetime value.
  • They aren't doing content marketing in the first place. SEO is not content marketing. Social media is not content marketing. Content marketing is about building a rabid repeat audience made up of people who can't wait to see what you'll come up with next. SEO and social play off of content marketing. They are not content marketing.
  • They are not prolific enough. While quality over quantity applies to an extent, quality is, in large part, a result of quantity. I'm not claiming that if you just public enough garbage something good will eventually pop out. I'm saying that most successful people are prolific, and that this is nothing new. No keyword pulls more email traffic and fewer unsubscribes than "Daily."
  • They're quality standards are too low. Most of what gets published does not offer unique value, actionable advice, personality, or emotional impact. While I look forward to the day when a machine learning algorithm is capable of helping content marketers produce content like this, I don't believe we're anywhere near that point.

While content marketing is full of intricacies, it's really a mastery of the basics that separates amateurs from professionals.

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