How many times have you heard the term ‘Quality Content’? My bet is, if you’ve worked in digital marketing for more than five minutes then it’s probably around seven million times.
There is a plethora of blogs and articles telling marketers how important content is for SEO and engaging with your target audience. And that’s correct, it’s really important.
But why, with seemingly endless resources available and after years of being told ‘Content is King’ (shudder), are there still mountains of terrible content being produced every single day?
The Scale of the Problem
Bad content marketing is a real issue. Last year Gleanster and Kapost produced a report investigating how large the issue is. Below is the key finding:
“Poorly managed and cumbersome content management processes bloat bottom line costs, leading to an estimated $958M each year in inefficient and ineffective content marketing spend for mid-to large B2B organizations.”
Yes, you read that correctly. Nine hundred and fifty eight MILLION dollars wasted every year.
Other equally mind blowing figures from the report:
- B2B firms spend over $5.2B a year on content creation efforts.
- Companies with >250 employees allocate 55% of marketing budget on content.
- $0.25 of every dollar spent on content marketing in the average mid-to-large B2B firm is wasted on inefficient content operations.
Please consider that this research is only from mid to large B2B companies in the U.S. The true figure of the money wasted in content marketing is likely to be far more frightening.
Why is there so much Bad Content?
Like I mentioned before, it’s extremely well documented how important content is for marketing. Google themselves readily admit that content is still one of the most important ranking factors.
In fact, the same report that identifies problems in content marketing also shows that “Top Performing firms (beating revenue targets from 2014 by over 20%) produce 3x morecontent per year than the average B2B firm”.
But that same point highlights a key problem. It is solely focussed on quantity rather than quality.
So people know they need content, and content is easy to create. Blogs can be set up in minutes, live videos streamed without any complicated equipment and infographics made for only a few dollars.
But this all means nothing if there is no content strategy, which is the main problem. A huge amount of content is made just for content’s sake. Arjun Baju summed up the problem of content without strategy perfectly:
“Without strategy, content is just stuff, and the world has enough stuff”
It’s like setting off in a car for a cross country road trip, but not having a map or directions. You know where you want to end up, but have no actual plan of getting there. So you end up driving aimlessly in the wrong direction, which ends up being a waste of time and fuel (resources). You also probably end up falling out with the other half multiple times.
This issue, while annoying, is in one sense forgivable. People and companies are trying to do the right thing but just aren’t sure how. This next issue is what really grinds my gears.
The Other Problem – The Content Marketing Black Hat
Before the days of Panda, there was a mound of truly awful content out there. The internet was rife with horrendously spun articles, unashamed keyword stuffing and pieces solely written for search engines.
But of course with the Panda update, Google stamped this out. This made content marketers wake up and realise that they needed Quality Content in order to succeed in the SERPs.
Yet recently, I feel that content has slowly been putting its black hat back on.
This is what I’m talking about.
Horrible clickbait articles with barely any insightful content, that’s sole aim is to drive traffic to a site which then bombards you with pop ups, ads and redirects. The article above is a particularly awful example of this- blocking out the actual tweet, forcing you to click on the link which contains about four lines of text and a bunch of embedded tweets.
This is not quality content.
Sites likes these have built up huge followings on social media, which becomes their main source of traffic. This means they don’t have to play by the algorithmic rules. Content can be thin, unoriginal and stuffed with ads. With no consequences.
On a side note I’ve also got a problem with how these social profiles build up such a following. Take The LADBible for example, who have over 13 million Facebook followers. There are numerous articles (WARNING: This person expresses their anger with a fair amount of bad language) and reddit threads showing how LADBible have simply stolen content from YouTube or Reddit, then put it up on their channels, of course monetising it and making a profit in the process.
The Guest Blog
As this blog from Google’s Matt Cutts points out, Guest Blogging used to be a genuine, respectable way to earn links to your website.
But over time it has become spammier and spammier. In most circumstances has just become a different way to pay for a link. It has become so serious that Google recently started manually penalising bloggers who were giving links in exchange for free products or services from brands.
This could potentially affect a large demographic who rely on guest blogging as a main source of income. That is – the mummy/lifestyle blogger.
I don’t want to throw every person who belongs to this genre under a bus. There are some very good lifestyle bloggers and some who’ve made a very profitable career by producing unique, quality content.
But there is also a huge amount who will accept a guest blog for absolutely anything, as long as it’s paid for. And this post by self proclaimed ‘former mommy blogger’ highlights the shadiness and underhand tactics of the blogger world.
On the flipside, sending products to key influencers mirrors the age old concept of using celebrities to endorse and advertise your products, i.e. traditional PR and awareness-driven marketing. Many brands are now taking this to a digital level by engaging with the followings of influential bloggers.
Is it fair that Google could now potentially penalise the genuine bloggers who participate in these campaigns? Just because there’s a small percentage of digitally savvy “bloggers”, who are only in the game to squeeze as many freebies as they can out of brands and as much guest blogging cash out of online marketers as possible?
And that’s what frustrates me. The dishonesty that’s now so prevalent in content marketing. It’s no wonder that marketing can be sometimes considered a dirty word.
MAKE CONTENT GREAT AGAIN*
So this is a plea, maybe even a rallying call. Please stop producing rubbish content. Please don’t do content for content’s sake. Please don’t guest blog just to get a link. Please make content great again.
I’m aware that I haven’t provided any tips of how to make great content. This aim of this blog is to highlight what I feel are real problems within content marketing. But there are some great blogs out there which provide some great insight into what makes great content. A few of my favourites are here, here and here.
Primarily, as long as you keep the following three things in mind, you cannot go far wrong:
- Get to know your target personas and product content that resonates with them
- Create good quality, well-researched and engaging content that your target market can take something away from
- Make sure your content pieces fit into a larger content funnel and that each piece of content has a specific aim that fits into your overarching marketing strategy
And if you’re still struggling, then you may want to check out the super duper State of Digital content marketing course, with our very own Content Commander – Bas van den Beld.