Over the past decade, digital marketers have chanted the “content is king” mantra to the masses: Whatever problems have appeared on the digital marketing horizon, content was considered a solution to:
- Increasing your company’s search engine rankings
- Driving traffic
- Improving conversions
- Reducing customer churn
Since 2016, however, there has been a shift away from content due to the fact that many content marketing campaigns actually end in failure.
So, is content marketing dead? Or is content still king in 2017?
In two articles, I will explain why the “content is dead” movement is so powerful and argue that, although there are reasons for skepticism, content marketing still matters.
In fact, content can still produce amazing results in terms of traffic, links, conversions, customers, and revenue.
Yet, this does not mean that every company should do it, or has the potential to succeed at it. In this, the first of two articles, I will argue why companies should not treat content marketing as a cure-all due to the current environment of content saturation.
In this environment, companies must consider the level of competition and understand that even if they produce high-quality posts, their efforts may not succeed.
The Current State of Content Marketing: Content Shock
We currently live in a state of content saturation. As of 2017, 90 percent of companies engage in content marketing.
Consider the following statistics:
- 70 percent of users prefer to learn about companies, products, and services through organic content, not paid ads or any other form of advertising.
- 47 percent of B2B buyers consume three to five pieces of business-generated content before they choose to contact a salesperson or convert into leads.
- Users are more willing to convert into leads through in-depth, high-quality content pieces like white papers, ebooks, guides, and case studies.
- Since 2011, brands have increased the amount of content published on their blogs by 800 percent.
Companies realize the importance of creating and sharing content to attracts users, convert them into prospects, close them as customers, and nourish them as repeat buyers and loyal customers. In addition, users expect businesses to produce content.
However, content production alone is not enough to actually win the content marketing game. In 2017, companies produced so much content that even impressive, high-quality pieces can get lost in the mix.
Source: Smart Insights
As a result of the battle for attention from content,
- The cost of content marketing has increased
- Organic social shares dropped by 89 percent
- Only 5 percent of blog content leads to any meaningful engagement.
The volume of content leaves businesses at a crossroads.
In 2015, 38 percent of B2B marketers considered their content marketing a success. However, in 2016 only 30 percent of B2B and 38 percent of B2C marketers in North America reported that their organizations were effective at content marketing.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
To overcome content shock, businesses have a couple of options:
- Decrease content marketing efforts and blog only on an occasional basis for SEO purposes (e.g. add more pages, build links, diversify keywords)
- Adopt a publishers’ approach to content marketing. A publisher's approach entails scaling content efforts to create, share and promote useful and engaging pieces for their targeted audiences on a consistent basis. Quality alone no longer wins the game.
4 Content Marketing Challenges to Consider
Provided content marketing is done correctly, businesses can expect to:
Drive more traffic
- Generate more leads
- Increase thought leadership
- Build a community around the brand
- Increase awareness and exposure
- Improve revenue and ROI
In most cases, effective content marketing is only possible if you comply with the "quality-speed-volume-promotion" rule, meaning that you have to not only produce and share high-quality content, but also produce lots of it, and fast. Otherwise, it boils down to sheer luck (e.g. an industry guru may share your post on Twitter).
There are a number of methods that innovative and creative companies can utilize to worm their way to the top through content marketing. But that path will by no means be easy, as content marketing presents obvious challenges.
The four challenges listed below are what separate whether companies are able to achieve effective content marketing.
1. Content Production is Resource-Intensive
To establish a thriving web presence through content, you need to adopt a publisher's approach to content production and promotion: Produce content and efficiently share it across targeted funnels quickly and in great volumes.
However, only a small portion of companies can realistically do that. To produce and promote high-quality content in volume, brands may have to hire professional writers, which is extremely costly, especially for small and mid-sized companies.
Heavy cost is only one part of the problem. Even if a particular company has the budget to adopt a publisher’s strategy, they face a plethora of other challenges, including:
- Outpacing true publishers. Publishers produce great amounts of high-quality content and have powerful digital marketing teams behind them.
- Committing resources toward talent and maintaining a quality content program.
- Paid promotion. Even if your company’s content is nearly perfect, it needs exposure to produce returns for your company. Absent remarkable organic promotion, paid advertising through Google and Facebook are a standard part of an effective content strategy.
Ultimately, companies that want to create content marketing that will truly make a difference need to understand that they will have to work hard to outmaneuver and outproduce competitors.
2. The Impact of Content Is Hard to Measure
Tracking content-triggered leads or conversions is not simple and often depends on a company’s niche, business model, and products.
Let’s say you watch a basketball game. Player A catches and passes the ball to Player B, who advances it to Player C, who shoots the ball through the hoop and scores. In this case, you are adamant that it was Player A’s amazing catch that allowed Player C to score and win the game. The issue, as with content marketing, is how to measure Player A versus Player B’s contribution to the eventual score.
Digital marketers are equipped with countless analytics tools, but tracing desired users' or customers' actions back to “Player A” is never easy.
Since content can be hard to measure and unpredictable, businesses that lack the resources to support top-notch analytics tools and hire full-time digital marketers will have a hard time implementing a full-scale content marketing strategy. And, if they lack strategy, chances are their content efforts will end in failure.
3. Content ROI Is Low (In Most Cases)
Content will not garner immediate results. Your blog will not start driving traffic and valuable leads as soon as you have published a post or two.
Content is about long-term goals and benefits. You have to produce tons of content over time to get tangible results from your content marketing efforts.
However, this approach is not a viable strategy for every business. Only certain companies can afford to invest their hard-earned dollars in content for months without getting any positive payback.
The rule of thumb is that brands have to approach content marketing with caution. Content does not offer immediate gratification. To get positive results, you have to invest for years. And even if you choose that path, in the end, expenditures may outpace revenues.
For instance, only recently such innovative companies like Arrow and Johnson & Johnson have managed to generate enough revenue through content to outpace content expenses.
4. Valuable Content Has to Make a Difference
Last but not least, only cream-of-the-crop content can realistically support your bottom line and become a valuable asset.
Content quality standards are constantly rising. Today, well-organized and well-written pieces can easily fail to interest customers. They expect brands to produce “Wow!” content that is useful, valuable, and fun to consume.
Unfortunately, only a tiny fraction of content lives up to that high standard and generates meaningful traffic and attention.
Most businesses cannot afford the time or the money to go through lots of trial and error. Experimenting with content is too expensive, and doing so may tarnish a brand’s image rather than improving it.
Content Marketing Suits Businesses That Understand Its Challenges
Digital marketers have become used to treating content marketing as a silver bullet that can catapult a company to the next level. While this may be the case, content marketing presents numerous hurdles for a business.
For one thing, marketers have to fight their way through the current landscape of content saturation. Also, they must understand how resource-intensive content can be and how hard it is to produce high-quality content.
If your business does not possess the bandwidth, resources, or knowledge to overcome these obstacles, content marketing may not work for you.
About the Author
Sergey Grybniak is a serial entrepreneur and digital marketing expert. He has been providing digital marketing services for over 10 years, and has successfully completed more than 500 projects. With his vast experience in launching and promoting e-commerce platforms, Sergey helps small- and midsized businesses establish a thriving web presence. He is the founder of the digital marketing agency Clever-Solution and of the online B2B/B2C marketplace Opporty.