Your Content Marketing Sucks

Your Content Marketing Sucks.

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The idea of what makes for great content marketing and who’s good at it is evolving at an incredible pace. How fast? The amount Search Engine Optimization’s value shifted over the course of about five years seems about equal to what’s happened in content marketing in the last year.

And now our old friend Mark Schaefer has addressed that, and hard (hey Mark … are you paying attention to your own advice?).

Your Content Marketing Sucks

Just how bad is your content marketing? There’s no real answer. And that’s the point; content marketing isn’t only a convoluted idea, but the metrics that you’re likely using to measure the success of just how badly your content marketing sucks probably don’t lead to very useful information. That said, courtesy of Mr. Schaefer we know this:

Content marketing output has doubled, even as satisfaction with its results has halved.

Here, let me say that again: your content marketing sucks so badly that in just a year, content marketing output has doubled, while satisfaction with the results has halved. Want a really scary number? Just thirty percent of content marketers are satisfied with the results of their efforts.

This frightening statistic made me think of a piece we published here about eighteen months ago. Content Marketing Requires Clear Messages, and most content marketers have a really hard time figuring out what their clear messages are or how to communicate them. And there’s no panacea. Your content marketing sucks, and you have a problem.

Here’s the roundabout way my buddy Mark (and I) see this: Everything You Do Is Content Marketing

Emphasis on “everything“. Emphasis on what everything means. And then: emphasis on which everything you’re focused upon. For example: a phenomenon I’ve referred to for several years as the Divification of the Internet after Elegant Themes’ superb WordPress theme seems great; it’s incredibly easy to roll out a beautiful, professional-looking, functional website using Divi. But … uh-oh … EVERYONE is doing that, so everyone’s website looks the same and any advantage you had from being able to roll your own so quickly is gone.

Now let’s talk about “conversions”. I’ve had an issue with that word and the idea behind it for quite a while, not because the idea of having a goal for your content is unreasonable (it is not; in fact, it’s critical) but because everyone’s “conversion event” is different. If you’re in a media business and generating revenue from your content being consumed you might think a page view is a conversion, but if you need to make a sale the conversion event doesn’t happen until money changes hands. There are many jumping off points in between; for example, you might be trying to build an e-mail list and acquiring someone’s address could be your conversion event.

What if your content marketing goals aren’t even that direct or obvious? We live in a world where great digital talent is becoming harder and harder to find and as strange as it seems you might  be creating content to attract job applicants. Is your conversion event being contacted? Is it hiring a candidate? Or do you not consider conversion to have occurred until you’ve hired a candidate and figured out where they fit … and gotten them there?

And we haven’t even touched on the difference between being in the Q&A/FAQ business—where you tell people what you know what you hope they want to know versus being entertaining. Mark Schaefer likens this to being in the fashion business where you create conversations about things that people love even though the space is completely saturated.

I liken that to something else. The cure for “your content marketing sucks disease” is being certain that every piece of your content either entertains (best) educates (worst), or inspires (great, but requires more action).

Wait a second … “engagement” is a conversion event, too; the realities lurking behind that “requires more action” eventuality might be exactly what you’re looking for. So we’ve just added another variable to the equation.

Breaking Free of “Your Content Marketing Sucks”

At this point you might find yourself inspired; I’ll settle for entertained or educated. Nevertheless, we haven’t addressed the big question: what does it take to break free from the pack? The answer is simple, if in a complex way.

It’s likely you aren’t the “first mover” in your space, so you’re chasing one or more competitors. It’s also likely you’ll never be a first mover.

While that first-mover thing is a huge advantage, it isn’t insurmountable. But once your business space becomes saturated, so is the space in which your cry for attention and differentiation from all of your content marketing sucks competitors live. Bringing us the the variable that you need to use to stand out:


Blah, blah, blah. Even quality is a vague, where-the-heck-is-the-conversion-event kind of idea. But there you go; while you’re entertaining, inspiring, and educating your content needs to stand out as high-quality, too. And now this is where things really get to be fun.

Linked from Mark Schaefer’s article is his podcast on the subject. So here are a few thoughts:

  • Mark’s podcast isn’t very good. I did real-world radio for about five years; trust me
  • There’s no way for me to link you directly to that podcast
  • Everything interacts with everything, so the first two points are a problem

The point isn’t to pick on Mark Schaefer; the shoemaker’s children often have no shoes. What matters is that when you build a content marketing strategy you need to make it make sense, on every post, every link, and every opportunity you have to entertain, inspire, or educate. Bad radio chops make for bad audio and missing link opportunities deprive you of some of your chances to gets passed around—the holy grail of conversion. And this doesn’t even account for what Mark points out (education; good job, Mark) about the need for content marketing measurement to accompany content marketing production.

Mark points out that in 2016 an acceptable conversion rate, measurement-wise, is 2 (TWO!) interactions per thousand consumers of your content … and that superstar content marketers get to about ten. Sounds about right; getting people’s attention really has become that difficult. So here’s the final OH- HO! moment:

YouTube published the formula for maximizing your content marketing efforts almost three years ago

First—an unsurprising conclusion from a company that publishes video—it turns out that video is more engaging by a factor of 20x than the written word … even on so-called ultra-engaged platforms like Facebook (we actually said that here a year before YouTube did). But merely publishing video—even if it’s good—isn’t the be-all/end-all for “your content marketing sucks”. Remember our friends Entertainment, Education, and Inspiration? While you’re striving to always hit one or more of those you also need to be publishing content that falls into the Hero/Hub/Hygiene model

There’s a pretty decent article on the subject here, but what you really need to know is summed up in this simple graph:

hero hub hygiene youtube content marketing

Those Hero posts are the went-viral, got-passed-around-incessantly items that everyone strives for. There’s a reason they’re at the top of the pyramid and relatively smaller in volume than the other types; going viral is hard! But in the long haul the other two content types matter just as much. You also need to push out Hub content (evergreen stuff, like this article on Facebook’s Patent 7669123 or this one on Hubspot are Hub content for us), and you also also need Hygiene … maintenance content that you just … keep … publishing knowing it might never make a huge contribution.

A last point or two:

As you’ve likely guessed, the rules of YouTube’s Hero/Hub/Hygiene model for content apply to all kinds of content marketing, not just video. But video, especially published at YouTube, is easier to use to achieve great SEO results than regular words.

Need help? Still thinking your content marketing sucks? Just Click Here.

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