Why Your Content is Facing an Uphill Battle

Content marketing is no longer optional for businesses – at least not if you care about being mountainvisible and reaching customers on the web. But a lot of people doing it are struggling to see the kind of results they want.

If you feel like you’ve been putting so much time, money, and energy into content marketing without seeing much response, it’s not just you. For anyone starting content marketing now, and even most of those who got started in the in past year or two, you’re facing a challenge on par with scaling a mountain.

Moz research found that the vast majority of content businesses are publishing never gets shared or linked to at all. In a lot of cases, that’s probably because the content’s not all that good to begin with. But that’s not necessarily the case across the board. In our era of content saturation, good content gets ignored too.

The odds really are stacked against the average joe business trying to get noticed on the web with content.

That’s because, right now, content marketing success primarily falls to two categories of businesses:

  • The early adopters

    These are the guys that started content marketing over five years ago, sometimes over ten. They were the first in their space (or close to it) and created some of the cornerstone, established content that people in their industry have been looking to for years.

    Other influencers in the industry (and Google) all see them as an authority already. They can keep doing what they’ve been doing and it will keep working for them, but if you try to do the same, you’re starting out much further behind.

  • The businesses with the most money to invest

    ViperChill recently published an eye-opening post on the companies that dominate search. They found that just 16 companies – behemoths like Hearst and Time – own the vast majority of websites that rank for a wide range of lucrative keywords. From software to food to health and pretty much everything else you can think of, these companies claim most of the top spots in Google.

Why It’s So Hard to Outrank These Guys

The initial thought that inspired this post came from working on a recent post on how writers choose what websites to link to, which gave me cause to really think about my own research process when working on a post.

When I go looking for examples, data, relevant extra info to back my points up – I go to Google. The stuff that’s already showing up on page one and two is the stuff I’m most likely to click on and read, and therefore the stuff I’m most likely to link to within a post of my own. Is it fair? No. But how much work would I have to do to find your awesome post – even if it’s better than the stuff on page one – if it’s sitting on page 13?

That creates a cycle. The content that’s already doing well in search is the stuff I’m most likely to find and link to, which keeps it high up in the search. And as the ViperChill article makes clear, since many companies are using their high-authority websites to link to their new websites, the new sites with the best chance of breaking that cycle are those that already have an unfair advantage.

What Can You About It?

It’s good to know what you’re up against to keep your expectations realistic, but that’s no reason to revel in doom and gloom. Plenty of adventurous people actually do manage to scale mountains – but only with the proper preparation and plan.

Content marketing is hard, much harder than it used to be. But that doesn’t mean your case is hopeless and it’s better not to try.

Commit, all the way.

First off, you can’t just throw up a blog, put together some haphazard content once a week, tweet here and there and think that’ll work for you. If you’re going to get anything out of content marketing you have to make a real commitment to doing it right.

That means:

  • Taking the time to understand your audience and develop a strategy based on what they care about and need.
  • Being consistent with your content production. Don’t overdo it in the beginning, get burned out, and let it dwindle to almost nothing. Figure out what you can do realistically and stick with that.
  • Don’t just produce content. That’s not all content marketing is. Do the work to get your content in front of people and stay connected with those people once they find you.

Promote.

Publishing relevant content was once enough for those early adopters, but if you don’t fall into that category, it’s not enough for you. You need to do the extra work of promoting your content to help get it in front of people.

At this point in the game, a lot of your best promotion options will mean spending some money or committing some serious time. That could mean buying social media ads, trying paid distribution platforms, or putting in the work (or hiring someone) to help you land some big guest posts that will get you attention.

You’ll have to do some testing to figure out what types of promotion work best for your content and audience. Whatever form it takes, promotion needs to be an important part of your content strategy.

Target and interact with influencers.

When you look at those early adopters, you shouldn’t just see the people that were lucky to get on the bandwagon early, you should see potential contacts that may be able to help you. Work to get on their radar.

Interact with them on social media. Comment on their blog. Go to conferences or networking events they may be at. Share their content.

One of the best ways to make the kinds of valuable connections online that lead to a larger reach and more links is to actually make connections with the people behind those websites and links. Don’t be creepy or demanding. But do let them know you’re paying attention to their work and appreciate it.

Over time, those interactions could lead to an actual relationship, a guest post on their blog that drives traffic to your website, or a tendency to share your stuff (now that they know it exists).

Expect to play the long game.

Even if you do everything right, it takes time to build up authority. Don’t expect any one thing you do to be the magic bullet that launches you to visibility online. You have to do a lot of different little things and keep doing them for a while.

Pay attention to what’s working as you go so you can tweak your strategy over time. And don’t get discouraged and drop everything when you don’t see results right away. You’ll just end up that much further behind when you decide in a year or five that actually you should have stuck with this content marketing thing after all. Better to stay on top of it now.

Don’t set all your store on Google.

Google matters in online visibility. Of course it does. But it shouldn’t be the end all be all of your marketing plans, if for no other reason than that, right now, it’s out of reach for a lot of businesses – at least if you’re interested in keywords that are at all competitive.

Focus on reaching people through whatever other channels you can find. As more people find and trust you through other places, over time you may find your authority in Google growing. But by then you won’t be dependent on Google anyway.

8 Ways to Lose a Link

Content marketing means creating content with a purpose. For every piece of how to lose linkscontent you create, you should have a specific goal (or usually, several) in mind that you want it to achieve.

If you care at all about SEO – and I’m not sure I’ve met a content marketer that doesn’t – then one important goal you should have for blog posts is earning links. While the factors Google uses to determine search rankings are complicated, backlinks (quality ones, in particular) are still arguably the most important factor.

And one of the biggest factors involved in earning links is appealing to writers. We’re the ones who do most of that linking.

Let me assure you that we’re not spending our days considering whether or not we’ll make or break brands in our decisions about what to link to in our articles. We’re just trying to write the best, most useful content for our clients and their readers.

We’re not thinking about you, but you can benefit from thinking about us and understanding what goes through our heads when we decide whether or not a piece of content we come across is worthy of that link.

Just like anyone, we have our standards and pet peeves – sins that will make us immediately click off a page and refuse to consider it a worthy authority for our readers. To help you avoid inadvertently losing out on a link, I surveyed a few colleagues to better understand what makes all of us tick and decide a link is not worthy of our love.

8 Sins to Avoid if You Care About Building Links

1.    A bad website design

If your website looks like it was built in 1999 and hasn’t had an update since, it won’t look authoritative to me (or any of your other visitors). I’m not the only one who feels this way, Content Strategist and Author Leah Levy told me “I wouldn’t link to a piece if the site looks spammy — that is, it has an outdated design.”

“Spammy” is about the last word you want people to use to describe your website or content. The quality of the content itself won’t matter much if it lives on a website that looks so cheap and old that no one can get past the design.

As Linda Dessau, the founder of Content Mastery Guide, put it “Since a link is an endorsement, I steer clear of sites that look outdated or unprofessional. I want to be associated with people and businesses that have a polished and professional image.”

2.    Sloppy writing

Part of our job is paying attention to things like spelling, word choice, and sentence structure. When we encounter something that’s sloppily written or riddled with typos, you can bet we notice.

Linking to something that clearly no one bothered to proofread would make me look bad. If you can’t be bothered to take the time to read over your blog posts (or hire someone to do so) to make sure they make sense and don’t include any embarrassing errors, then writers won’t bother to share or link to them.

And it’s not just about writers nitpicking, sloppy writing makes you look untrustworthy. Leah agrees, she told me, “I wouldn’t link to anything with clear spelling or grammatical errors (nor would I trust it).”

3.    Bad UX

A good website design isn’t just about making sure you don’t look stuck in the 90’s, you also want to make sure people find your site easy to navigate and pleasant to be on.

Unfortunately, many businesses are callously sacrificing good UX in attempts to get more email sign ups and clicks. Pretty much anyone you talk to will have their opinions on what makes for bad UX (although not everyone would know to call it that).

For me it includes pop ups that block out the text and blog posts split needlessly between several pages when they could all be on one (slideshow posts are notorious offenders). I’ll put up with a certain amount of that on sites that are established enough or if the content is really useful. Normally though, I click away and find something else.

Freelance writer Susan Johnston Taylor has her own list of UX dislikes: ““If a site is littered with Google ads, broken links or typos, it doesn’t seem very credible.

As does writer and editor Christine Moline of Jane Doe Ink, who told me, “I wouldn’t link to a poorly organized post or any pages cluttered with ads.”

Linda added a couple more issues to the list: “I screen for overly aggressive or annoying pop-ups, sites that are slow to load or aren’t mobile-friendly.”

All told, different descriptions of bad user experience accounted for the most common answer I received from writers.

Just to reiterate, the final list of UX issues that will make writers click away comes to:

  • Annoying pop ups
  • Articles split into too many pages
  • Lots of ads
  • Broken links
  • Slow loading times
  • Sites that aren’t mobile friendly

If you’re prioritizing getting email sign ups or ad money over the experience visitors will have on your website, know that may be costing you links.

4.    Overly promotional content

When you’re paying for content (or investing a lot of time in it), it’s hard to set aside the idea of promoting yourself. I get it. You want a direct payoff for what you put into it.

When you make your content all about you though, it makes it come off as less trustworthy.

I head from multiple writers that overly promotional content was a no-no in their linking choices, but writer and content maven Phaedra Hise had the most to say on the subject: “I don’t link to anything that’s too promotional. I’m really picky about that – if it’s too promotional I might even link to it as an example of what NOT to do, but usually I don’t even like to give that kind of publicity.”

I mean, links are nice, but you don’t want to get one by becoming a writer’s example of what not to do.

5.    A statistic without a link or citation

None of the other writers mentioned it, but this is one of my personal rules. If your article mentions a statistic without telling me where it’s from, you will immediately lose my trust.

The thing is, many of us think we know statistics we don’t. I’ve come across the same statistic casually mentioned in article after article that I’ve never been able to track down to a source.

Sometimes the source is a research report that costs hundreds of dollars, so I understand if not every statistic can be easily linked to. But make sure you let me know which report that costs hundreds of dollars it’s from so I’m willing to at least take your word that it’s real.

I can only speak for myself on this one, but if you ever want a link from me, make sure you cite your sources.

6.    Outdated information

A lot of industries move fast. If your blog post from three years ago says something that’s no longer true, then it’s losing value in the link economy.

Says Susan, “If a post is several years old or clearly references outdated information, I’d try to find a more recent post to make sure I’m linking to something that’s still current.”

That doesn’t mean your old posts are useless, just that you should make a project out of updating them now and then. In particular, any posts you have that are popular and bringing in traffic now should be revisited so you can see if there’s a good opportunity to update any of them for accuracy.

7.    Lack of authenticity

This relates somewhat back to overly promotional content, if you come off like you’re trying too hard or acting like something you’re not, people will notice.

Barry Feldman, founder of Feldman Creative put it at the top of his list of things he won’t link to: “Posts lacking personality. I think you can offer a lot of knowledge, but I’d rather not align my brand with yours if it’s boring. And that represents 90% of content marketers, sorry to say.“

The good news is that if 90% of marketers are doing it wrong, then bringing some real personality to your writing is a good way to differentiate yourself.

On a related note, Carol Tice, author of the recent ebook Small Blog Big Income and the blog Make a Living Writing , cited one of her biggest dealbreakers as when “the blog author is pretending to be an authority when they really just started doing the thing they write about.

There’s a definite value to positioning yourself as a thought leader or expert – but only if you have the knowledge and experience to back it up.

8.    Moral reputation

Carol had another big sin that she mentioned: “I won’t link to posts on the Huffington Post due to its policy of not paying writers, since I am an advocate for fair writer pay.”

She’s the only one of the writers I talked to that mentioned this particular point, but I suspect we’ve all shied away from visiting or linking to a website if we know the brand represents something we disagree with.

Be careful what you stand for and how you treat your employees and contractors. If you gain a reputation for being about something that many writers don’t agree with, they’ll be quick to find another resource to go with instead.

Conclusion

To summarize, the eight deadly sins that will lose you links are:

  • An outdated website
  • Sloppy writing and typos
  • A bad user experience
  • Being overly promotional
  • Not citing your sources
  • Letting your content become outdated
  • Not being authentic
  • A bad brand reputation

Avoiding these things obviously doesn’t guarantee you links. We’re still going to seek out the resources that are most valuable to our readers and relevant to the subject we’re talking about. That may be your links; it may be those of another business or publication. But if you’re guilty of one of these eight sins, then even if your content is useful, there’s a good chance we’ll look for another resource to use instead.

If you want to appeal to the people doing the writing, then take heed. Producing valuable content is one part of the puzzle, avoiding the errors on this list is another.

Should My Content Writer Be a Subject Specialist?

hire a content writer

Anyone that thought content marketing was a fad a few years ago is scrambling to catch up now. Businesses working to ramp up their content marketing efforts will inevitably need to hire someone for writing help, whether a full-time employee or a freelance content writer. Whichever route you take, you’ll find yourself faced with an important question: should you hire someone that’s an expert in your industry, or focus more on writing experience?

If you can find someone that has both, then you’ve hit the jackpot. But you may have a hard time finding that person, or find that once you do they’re either out of your price range or fully booked up.

If you do have to choose, which route should you take?

The Pros of Hiring a Content Writer That’s a Subject Specialist

When your hire someone who already has experience in your space, you’ll face less of a learning curve in getting them up to speed on the industry and audience.

They’re probably already following the top publications and blogs in your industry and will therefore have an easier time spotting trends and recognizing newsworthy topics than someone new to the space. They’re also likely to already have valuable contacts in your industry they can use as sources or contact about collaborative opportunities to strengthen your content and promotions.

And you know they’re interested in the subject. Someone who’s bored by what they’re writing about won’t be as likely to deliver good work as someone who actively cares about the industry or topic area.

The Pros of Hiring a Content Writer That’s a Generalist

If you find a content writer that’s written on a wide range of subjects, it doesn’t mean they’re not an expert on anything, it can mean they’re an expert at being a content writer. Most of the best content writers know how to dig in and do the research to learn about whatever topic they’re covering.

Those research skills are crucial to being a good writer at every stage in the process – even subject specialists need to know how to do research in order to produce quality content – generalists simply put them into use in overdrive in the first few months of working with a client in a new space. While a generalist content writer will never gain the level of expertise in a subject that, say, someone with a PhD or 10 years of experience would have, you’d be surprised at how quickly a good researcher can get up to speed on the main knowledge and topics needed to write content on the subject.

In addition, while a generalist content writer may be learning about your industry from scratch, they’ll likely already come to you with knowledge of writing in ways that are optimized for SEO and well formatted for the web, and come equipped with the adaptability required to learn about new subjects and audiences as they go. That adaptability also lends itself to staying on top of and responding to factors that shape trends in content marketing, like updates to the Google algorithm or new technologies that come onto the scene.

And sometimes a content writer that’s not a subject specialist will still have some experience or familiarity with the subject you need. Everyone’s got friends and family members that do different types of work than they do, and everyone has interests and knowledge that go beyond the things they do at work. Maybe a candidate has no clips related to elementary education, but it turns out their best friend is a 2nd-grade teacher so they have constant access to insights they wouldn’t get from a google search. You’d have to contact them first to find that out.

What to Look for in a Generalist Content Writer

Now that I’ve spent several paragraphs telling you all the great skills and knowledge a generalist content writer could have, I have to clarify that being a generalist doesn’t necessarily mean a content writer will be good at all those things. You have to do a little work yourself to figure out if a content writer you’re considering checks all the important boxes.

For a generalist to be a good content writer, they need to be:

How do you find out if someone you want to hire is all those things? To start, check their writing samples. You can get a feel for how much research goes into their work and how well they seem to know the various subjects they tackle.

Pay attention to the way they format things. Are their blog posts long lumps of text, or do they use ample white space and headings to make skimming easier? Do they turn lists into bullet points and link to relevant sources?

Finally, have an interview (over the phone is usually good enough). On your call, do they ask good questions? Do they pay attention to your answers and seem to get what you’re looking for? Ask them about their process and how they work on understanding the audiences they write for.

More Important: Find a Writer That’s a Good Fit

I’m writing about the question of subject specialist vs. generalist because it’s one that comes up a lot, but personally I don’t think it’s the right question. You should focus on finding someone that’s not only skilled as a content writer, but specifically a good fit for the way you work.

To do that, you first need to question yourself about what your work habits and preferences are:

  • Do you typically prefer to communicate by email or over the phone?
  • Do you usually plan things out well in advance (a month or more), or do you commonly need last-minute work?
  • Do you treat deadlines as set in stone, or are you ok with some flexibility?
  • Do you want someone that you can turn to for more than one type of work? For example, do you want someone who will run your social media profiles as well as write blog posts?
  • Do you want someone who brings their own strong voice to the work, or are you looking for a skilled ghostwriter who can write in the style of your executives?

If you’re a fly-by-your-seat kind of person and you hire a content writer that insists on a clear schedule in advance, then you’re going to have problems. If you prefer all your communication to be over the phone and you hire a writer who considers calls unproductive and insists on email, then you’re going to have problems.

Many potential problems you could have with a content writer can be avoided if you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for in advance and seek out someone that meets those needs. If they’re a good writer and you can establish a positive business relationship that works for both of you, a lot of the rest can be learned as you go.

Why Content Writing Requires Empathy

What are the most important skills a content writer needs? Some of the obvious answers that may first come to mind are:

content writing requires empathy

Image via recitethis.com

  • Knack for language
  • Ability to research
  • Understanding of how to format content for the web
  • Ability to write easy-to-read content
  • Ability to create a content calendar and stick with deadlines

The two answers that came up the most often when I asked content strategists what skills the best content writers possessed were creativity and curiosity.

All of that matters. Good content writing requires a pretty significant skillset. But nothing on that list would be enough to create compelling content that people want to read without the skill that’s arguably most important of all: empathy. You probably won’t see it show up on a resume or the list of qualifications in a job ad, but without empathy, nothing a content writer produces will resonate with the target audience.

The Case for Empathy in Content Marketing

Marketers talk a lot about how important empathy is, but often in other terms. How many times have you heard your marketing colleagues use the phrase “know your audience.” It’s an easy thing to say, but empathy can actually be really challenging. It’s not something that’s taught in school. Most businesses don’t exactly cover it in their training. Trying to truly understand what someone else is thinking and feeling is difficult.

Our default mode is to view our own perception of the world as the most obvious, natural way to see things. It’s just how we’re wired. Getting outside of our own heads in order to figure out the differences in how others see things takes effort and practice.

No one’s arguing against empathy in marketing, but not many organizations are putting it front and center. Probably in large part because it is so much harder than it looks. It’s easy enough to think you know your audience, but much harder to actually go the extra mile to really understand them.

How Can Someone Get Better At Empathy?

Image via Natalie CollinsThat poses the question: what can we actually do about it? First and foremost, read.

If there’s one main way to flex our brain’s empathy muscle, it’s to get inside the heads of other people through books, short stories, and articles. Fiction and non-fiction are both good for this. Through reading, you can take a ride through the mindset and perceptions of the writer or character and learn about the experiences of others.

Devoting more time to reading is great advice for anyone who cares about becoming empathetic (or becoming a better writer in any format). But there’s a whole set of other steps you can take to become more empathetic to your particular audience.

Find them online. Then just hang out and listen.

Look for forums, social media groups, and blog comment sections where your audience hangs out. There are so many spaces online today where people share their thoughts and feelings, if you can figure out where those spaces are for your audience then you’ll have an easy glimpse into the kinds of questions and concerns they have.

Talk to your salespeople and customer service reps.

There are people within your company working directly with your customers and prospects every day. Your salespeople and customer service representatives hear first hand what your target audience is thinking about, the issues they’re facing, the questions they commonly have and the kinds of problems they regularly deal with. All of that information can help you understand your audience better and craft your content calendar based on the topics they actually care about.

Look to your data.

Marketers have more data today than they ever have in the history of the profession. You likely already have at your fingertips loads of information on what your prospects are searching for, the terms they use, and the types of content they’re most commonly seeking out. Data can seem dry and impersonal, but with the proper analysis, it can provide content writers with important insights into the minds of your prospects.

Revisit and refine your personas semi-regularly.

Personas shouldn’t be a project you tackle once and then leave alone. You’re constantly learning more about your audience – what issues they care about, what types of content they respond to, what topics they’re discussing online – your new insights should make their way into the personas you have. Commit to revisiting your personas at least once or twice a year to improve upon them based on new information.

 

Empathy is a crucial skill to have as a content writer, but more importantly, it helps people to become better human beings. When you make an effort to understand what other people go through and how they feel, becoming better at communicating and treating people with greater compassion are natural side effects. The same skill that will make your content more relatable and successful will pay off in your life far beyond the effects it has on your work.

Content Marketing in 2016: 5 Trends to Keep On Your Radar

content-marketing-trends-2016At this point it’s old news to say that content marketing just keeps growing in influence. But it’s true this year, just like it was last year and the year before that. While a year or two ago, some businesses were still holding out, most have realized by now that content is an important part of any marketing plan. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute:

  • 88% of B2B organizations use content marketing
  • 76% plan to produce more in 2016
  • Content marketing gets an average of 28% of the marketing budget
  • And 51% say they expect that amount to increase in the coming year

While most businesses have started to at least dabble in creating content to drive new leads and sales, many are still struggling to figure out what that investment should look like. If you’re trying to figure out where best to spend your content marketing budget in 2016, here are some of the main trends shaping the content marketing industry this year.

1. Long-Form Content

It seems distant now, but there was a point in time when marketers were singing the praises of short content. People were convinced that busy people simply would not take the time to read anything long. The popularity of social media seemed ample evidence of the preference for keeping things short and fast.

Perhaps because people do get their fix for short content on social media, plenty of evidence in the past few years has shown that when it comes to written content, people will take the time to read long form. In fact, it typically performs better on many websites than shorter pieces.

And then, there’s Google. The deciding factor for many content marketers is how their content will influence their website’s SEO. Studies by SEO professionals have shown that long form tends to rule in the search engines for a large number of competitive keywords. So think about lengthening your blog posts (think more like 1,500-2,500 words rather than 500), and setting aside budgeting for other valuable long-form types of content like whitepapers, guides, and ebooks.

Always keep in mind that length isn’t necessarily an arbiter of quality. If you choose to make the investment in long form, make sure you deliver both.

2. Content Personalization

Content personalization has been on the scene for a while, particularly in its most common form – including a recipient’s name in the emails you send. As content management technology gets more and more sophisticated, marketers are able to take their personalization much further.

Technology can track user behavior on your website and tie individual actions back to subscribers and customers when relevant. When you have that much information on individual customers, you can deliver up content that’s specific to their user persona and their point in the buyer’s journey.

That’s powerful. Marketers who use content marketing technology that allows them to align the content they provide with specific personas typically see a 60% increase in how effective their content is at meeting their goals. Content personalization works, which means many businesses will either continue to refine their personalization efforts in 2016, or start to dip their toes in and try it for the first time this year.

3. Data, Data, Data

Effective content marketing relies on good data. You can’t know how well your content is working if you don’t track its success as you go. Like most industries, marketing has therefore seen an uptick in how much decision-making relies on collecting and analyzing all available data.

Businesses that effectively practice data-driven content marketing see big results – nearly five times as much revenue from their marketing efforts, according to one study.

Data-driven marketing can play out in a number of ways. Content personalization relies completely on data. By collecting data on how visitors and customers interact with your website and content, you gain a picture of which of your personas they match, what types of content they respond best to, and can provide them with the right content accordingly.

Data should also shape your larger marketing efforts. Even if you don’t have the technology to provide sophisticated content personalization, you do have access to Google Analytics and other tools to help you measure how well your larger audience responds to your content. You should always be analyzing what’s working and tweaking your content plan based on what types of content and subjects perform best with your audience.

4. Interactive Content

Engagement is one of those words marketers throw around with great regularity. It’s a term that manages to be vague, while also serving as a holy grail of sorts in the world of content marketing. We don’t want people passively hearing about our brand. That may have seemed like enough in the era of outbound, but now we want them to actively interact with us, show us there’s a real connection there.

So much of how we gauge and measure our marketing efforts is based on trying to demonstrate this idea of engagement. That’s why interactive content has become an especially attractive form of content to consider. It requires prospects to perform a more active form of engaging during the process of consuming it than other forms of content.

And it works. 93% of marketers have said they consider interactive content to be more effective at educating consumers than passive content.

From quizzes to games to interactive white papers, interactive content can take on many forms. Many of the content forms your team creates now could probably be tweaked to become interactive with a little creativity and the right technology.

A side benefit of interactive content is that it can often help with #3 – how your audience interacts with your content can provide valuable data on who they are, what they’re interested in, and how they think. You can use that when you’re refining your personas or determining what content to create in months to come.

5. Content Shock

In 2014, Mark Schaefer identified a problem that many content marketers were grappling with. Even those of us who fervently believe in how effective content marketing can be and are quick to proselytize to businesses that haven’t yet taken the plunge were starting to see that the recommendation should come with a caveat. For business getting into the game late, making a splash with content marketing gets harder and harder every day as markets grow more competitive and businesses (especially small and medium sized ones) have to do more and more to get anything from the content they produce.

Schaefer termed this idea content shock and it inspired a flurry of think pieces, rebuttals, and social media conversations in the marketing world. Content marketing does work, but it’s hard and requires playing the long game – and the more competitive it becomes, the less you can skimp.

 

Many of the trends we’ve covered so far in this piece are developing in response to content shock and demonstrate how important it is to make a significant investment in content marketing for it to pay off.

  • Long-form content takes longer to write and costs more if you’re hiring a freelance content writer to help.
  • Interactive content will usually require the work of several members of your team with different skills and the cost of the technology required to make your content interactive.
  • Data and content personalization both require the right technology to pull off, technology that can seem prohibitively expensive to smaller businesses.

 

No one likes to hear that doing content marketing well will mean spending more, but it wouldn’t be honest for professionals in the industry to suggest otherwise at this point. That can sound dispiriting, but it’s a business truth that’s long been true for most things a business bothers to invest in. Doing something well will always pay off more than trying to skimp.

It’s important to note that the takeaway from Schaefer’s argument isn’t that content shock means content marketing isn’t worth trying. If you want your business to be relevant and visible online, it’s pretty much a requirement at this point. Instead, it means businesses have to be careful to be strategic. Make content promotion a significant part of your marketing plan. Pay attention to how your content is performing so you can optimize your content strategy as you go. Use personas to make sure the content you create is targeted to the people you most want to reach.

In short, commit. Give your content marketing efforts the time, energy, and budget they require. That was important in 2015 and it’s even more important in 2016 as ever more businesses enter the content marketing landscape to vie for the attention of your audience. You can still reach the right people; you just can’t expect it to be easy.