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Time to Change the Way We Do Content Marketing

As technology has evolved over the years, it’s made it possible for users to find and consume content when and where we like, and in response, we have adapted to filter out the content that’s too bent on sales or seems to be speaking to somebody else — or in other words, we tend to ignore content that puts search engines and brands before our own needs and wants. 

In essence, we are demanding with our active searches and clicks that we (the customers) be placed back in our rightful thrones as the whole focus of every brand we do business with.

Yet, despite all of the data and signs pointing to how consumer behavior has changed, here we are as marketers still following that same playbook that serves keywords and internal agendas first, which looks something like this diagram where all content originates with the blog:

Thought-Leadeship-Deck_OldWay2Here we’ll look at how we got here and why this outdated madness has to change.

The Content Engine

The blog is currently the center of everything. Everything starts there. Advanced content (downloadable PDFs, ebooks, whitepapers, etc.) is used as a CTA to convert site visitors into leads. When more leads are needed, more conversions are the answer. That means more traffic is needed, which means more content is needed. KPIs get tied to content numbers related to volume, velocity, and search ranking. This is where “churn and burn” comes into play. It’s a relentless cycle: the constant demand to produce more and more, and better and better (and don’t forget higher ranking!).

This emphasis on high-volume production and expectation for high quality inevitably kicked off the quantity versus quality debate: specifically, which is better? And while you’ll still easily find reputable content — like blog posts — on both sides of the equation, you will also find that the answer today has largely become that both are equally important and essential.

Blog-Centric Strategy

Many topics are decided through a combination of what the leaders within the business want to say and the results of keyword research. Ideally, these topics should align with the company’s overall marketing strategy and goals. Based on these factors, chosen topics are broken into blog posts and put into a content calendar. The content creator — or if the business is lucky, the content team — is then tasked with cranking out the blog posts, quite often as many as 3-5 blogs per week or more. 

That includes writing the post, adding in images, quotes, and video and audio clips where you can, then linking to other valuable content, and making sure you tag it with the most likely keywords that potential customers will be using to search. Then you publish the post, and any additional content will be based on this cornerstone blog. 

But it’s a guessing game when you start off this way. Considering that only 20% of readers make it past the headline and read the post, or that on average, blog conversion rates are around 0.5% to 1.5%, it’s not a particularly effective method. You might know what your brand wants to say, but you don’t know if that’s what your audience wants to hear. 

So to increase the odds that your content gets to the right audience (and converts!), you need more content in more channels. 

Advanced Content

In addition to the blog, there’s also other content, like whitepapers, guides, and ebooks, which are often gated (the idea is to gather data that sales or marketing could use later). These sometimes come before the blog posts and end up fueling blog content. Other times, they come after — the result of combining several posts or taking a different angle on them. 

Social Media

We can’t forget social media content, which is — and should be — the curation of many different sources but is often one of the most logical conduits for blog promotion. We blog, share it on social media, then repeat. 

Email and SMS

While email newsletters are a natural place to share that trusty blog content, B2B brands haven’t found a captivating way to leverage text messaging in relation to content. It makes sense for B2C brands to share coupons and sales with their audiences via text, but we doubt anyone would be very excited to get a text about a company’s new blog post. 

Enter Rich Content, Stage Left

Over time, as this content engine was growing and evolving, rich content became possible. You could embed short videos in your blogs and host webinars on your website.  Then, a few years ago, audiences started demanding more modern and relevant media, like videos and podcasts. And because the audiences wanted it, the algorithms were adjusted to favor this kind of content. And then what happened? You guessed it: Content teams were pushed to keep the content engine roaring while also building auxiliary stacks of ever-richer content. 

And that brings us to today: marketers continuously stoke the fires of SEO content with their blogs and keep leads coming through with gated content, all while managing video series and podcasts (because who needs sleep, right?).

This traditional content strategy is a recipe for disaster, or at the very least, total burnout and ultimate inefficiency. Why? Because very rarely does the rich content work to fuel the other more traditional content. Instead, they all work independently, in silos, until the rich content can’t prove ROI. Again, why? Because users don’t convert directly from listening to a podcast or watching a video, and it’s not easy to track the throughline from a podcast to a blog post to an ebook to a conversion. Thus, the C-suite interprets the rich content as a failure and removes it from the budget altogether. 

Content Marketers' Lament

This kind of content performance conundrum results in a tireless and constant struggle for more content that is also better at helping the brand rank with Google and generate millions of fans to binge every piece and prove that it all makes it easier for Sales to directly close deals. 

This is no small order, and it is exhausting. The marketer is basically tasked with Mission Impossible, which inevitably leaves them feeling defeated, irrelevant, undervalued, and beyond frustrated. And because it never ends, they keep producing more and more to appease the Google monster — all to rank higher and higher. And the cycle repeats ad infinitum.

One can start to feel like a lab rat on a treadmill that never stops. And on the mind of every content marketer/lab rat? Rank for search terms. Own the SERPs. Generate the traffic. Convert the traffic to leads. Nurture the leads with more marketing content. Create MQLs, which Sales will inevitably hate because the entire engine is made to serve Google versus the actual audience (who are, ironically, the people most likely to convert).

And on that note: There lies the divide between Sales and Marketing. Marketing is under so much pressure to produce more, rank higher, and convert that they aren’t delivering what Sales needs. The disconnect is real, and it runs deep.

And it’s time to change.

If you’d like to learn more about how a new kind of content marketing can help you reach your audience with meaningful impact, check out the Amplified Marketing Playbook: The Next Generation of Content Marketing.