What marketers have come to know as “content marketing” has gone through several iterations, including the strategy of creating large quantities of articles of very marginal quality for use in posting on artificially created blogs that nobody reads for the purpose of gaming the search algorithm. That strategy continues today, and is the main cause of the frustratingly low quality of what’s on the Web. Results are always poor, but it’s a cheap strategy, and providers continue to offer it.
The idea of content marketing is not a new one. Before there was such a thing as content marketing, public relations agencies became skilled at creating thought leadership articles with original, fresh content, written to journalistic standards, and submitting them to industry publications relevant to their clients’ value.
There is considerable overlap and much confusion as to how we define content marketing, thought leadership marketing, brand journalism, SEO, influencer marketing, and traditional public relations. Depending on which descriptor the provider attaches to their website, they may insist that there is a difference and that theirs is the best solution. In fact, the definition of content marketing has changed rapidly, and today it incorporates elements of each of those sub-fields. Content marketing has become something quite transformational, if the right tactics are applied.
Abdullahi Muhammed, entrepreneur and CEO of content marketing company Oxygenmat, addressed some of the modern misconceptions of what content marketing is – or should be – about. “A lot of marketers have come to expect immediacy and a quick ROI,” said Muhammed. “And the proliferation of SEO scammers who offer low quality content have created an illusion of speed which doesn’t really exist in this market.” While there are some disreputable content marketing practitioners who promise dozens of backlinks in a week’s time and who sell them on a commodity basis like so many buckets of paint, more realistic and more effective providers recommend a six- to nine-month campaign to see meaningful, long-lasting results that have a real impact on brand visibility and sales.
“The biggest misconception is that content marketing is merely another type of SEO which can be executed mechanically by low-skilled providers,” said Muhammed. “In fact, there’s nothing mechanical about it, and it requires a highly-specialized provider with a unique combination of both journalistic and public relations skills. That’s essential, so that articles can stand on their own and will pass editorial muster, and that they can be placed where they will do the most good.”
New Rules for Content Marketing
Older content marketing tactics, such as cheap bulk content generation, submission to private blog networks and directories, and keyword-stuffing have long since proven to be ineffective and even harmful, and the Google algorithm has advanced to the point where these black-hat and grey-hat tactics are easily detected – and those marketers who use them are quickly punished with either a lower rank, or even worse, de-indexing. Muhammed shares with us four new rules for content marketing which have transformed this strategy into a more professional, and highly effective, segment of any marketing campaign.
- Content marketing must promote brand awareness. “Content marketing is not just about backlinks and SEO,” said Muhammed. “While those objectives are important, the bigger goal is to establish a higher level of brand awareness. Content marketing should put your brand in front of your target demographic – just putting links in front of the search engine is no longer enough. If you sell shoes online, having a mention and a backlink in an industry publication about process manufacturing isn’t going to help you.”
- Content marketing is not all about the numbers. “There are times when metrics get in the way of good results,” said Muhammed. “Too much of a focus on numbers of backlinks, domain authority, and dofollow/nofollow ratios can get in the way of the quality objective.” It is possible – and happens often – that a marketer achieves goals in terms of pure metrics, but still delivers very little in terms of actual growth.
- Use multiple content channels. If you’re doing content marketing, the first question is, “Where do you place the content?” The best strategy is to work with multiple channels and multiple publishers, including traditional, mainstream media, working with prominent bloggers and social influencers, and incorporating multiple media types including video or podcasts. In addition, content marketers must ensure that in addition to building content in third-party sites, their own sites are also populated with high-quality content. “The days of creating a thin website with a handful of affiliate links and no content are over,” said Muhammed. “An e-commerce website should also be an informational website.”
- Introduce brand journalism. Larger brands like Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Krogers are all creating sections on their websites, or completely separate domains, which offer entertaining and informational content and present it in the form of a journalistic endeavor. Those sites usually do not directly promote the brand, but rather, offer insights and news related to the interests of their customers. The purpose of those sites goes beyond simply trying to sell a product or establish backlinks, their primary purpose is to build a loyal audience by providing them with relevant content.
Marketers are only just beginning to change how they think about content marketing. Approaching it with a defined strategy and set of goals that go beyond simple backlink metrics will yield far better returns in the long run.