Is content marketing losing its sheen?
One of those phases.
During a particular period of the year, you start coming across articles and blog posts evincing the end, or at least a steep decline, in your profession. It also happens in content marketing.
Yesterday I came across an article on Forbes telling how content marketing has overstretched itself and consequently, is killing itself. It also insinuates that many renowned content marketing companies are borderline scams.
Today I received a newsletter update from someone that conducts writers’ workshops and he says blogging seems to be on the wane.
My personal experience is the opposite.
The number of content writing queries from my website has almost doubled. I’m getting more queries from India, Malaysia, China and The Philippines. I’m even getting more queries from Europe and America.
Yes, the quality of the queries has changed. It has improved. People now understand what they want.
The Indian clients, or rather, the Asian clients, are the same: they cringe at the thought of having to pay to a lowly content writer, and they assume that most of the writing, no matter how well it is done, should be either provided free of cost, or dirt cheap.
But there has been a marked, a welcome change.
Once they have received a few documents, once they have experienced the quality, they are more or less, even if reluctantly, ready to pay what I ask. This didn’t happen before.
Not just my personal experience, this Forbes article says that 89% of B2B marketers and 86% of B2C marketers are using content marketing to increase their leads and branding.
One of the biggest companies, Coca-Cola, as totally turned its corporate website into the content publishing platform.
American Express uses its OPEN Forum content publishing platform to use content marketing to drive traffic to its website.
77% of Internet users read blogs in one way or another.
Why do some people think content marketing in general and blogging in particular are dying
It’s all about where you stand. I will tell you a story.
In the early 2000s I used to design websites. For some time I did great. There was a dot com boom and everybody wanted a website.
People weren’t aware of the concept of the phrase “content marketing” but there were some entrepreneurs, including yours truly, who were using articles and tutorials to promote themselves.
Anyway, just as everybody wanted a website, everybody started designing websites after a while.
If you live in India you must have come across poor tailors sitting at the roadsides, under shady trees if lucky, working with their sewing machines.
You could see web designers just like that, those days, there were so many. I mean, they were not sitting under trees by the roadsides like tailors, but you get my point.
Microsoft had launched a tool called Front Page, if I’m not forgetting, that would allow you to make websites using a GUI. It was notorious for generating junk code, but neither the clients cared, nor the designers who would charge Rs. 2500 for a 10-page website.
I used to hand code my websites. When I designed and developed websites, there was not a single line of code extra.
Naturally I couldn’t make websites for Rs. 2500. When I insisted on hand coding my websites, clients thought I was crazy. All the assignments dried up. I switched to promoting web hosting plans.
One day I was sitting in the front room that I used as my office and a person dropped by. It was 10 a.m., early March, if I’m not forgetting. His white shirt was torn at the seams, and was dirty. He was unshaven, sweaty, and with hair that hadn’t been combed or washed for a few days.
I thought he was some construction worker, or a sweeper, or some poor person who had stopped by to get a glass of water.
He wanted to design a website for me. He had come across my ad in the local newspaper. He collected addresses from the classifieds and then did door to door marketing for his web design business. He told me that he visited 30-40 business establishments every month and got 3-4 projects every month. He used Front Page to design websites. He charged Rs. 2500. He didn’t have a computer (laptops were mostly unheard of during those days). He used to design the websites in an Internet café.
I don’t remember now why I hadn’t published my website URL in the ad because I would never go into a business without having a website, being a web designer myself and having had 3-4 websites even by the early 2000’s. Anyway, I turned him away.
With my own experience and after having seen that person, I had the same feeling that web designing as a profession was dead, or at least, it was not a good way of making money.
Still, since then, I have come across, and I’m not exaggerating, hundreds of websites promoting web design services, doing great. They charge thousands of dollars and clients gladly pay them.
In fact, that was a time when most of the businesses didn’t even have websites, and now every business has a website and still, web design and web development companies charge a premium.
The problem was not with web design as a profession, the problem was the way I was promoting my service and the way I was targeting my clients. I wasn’t targeting the right clients. I was targeting clients who were okay with having Front Page websites. I wasn’t targeting clients who appreciated hand-coded websites. There were many, and they were ready to pay for the effort. I just didn’t look for them. Somehow I wasn’t able to reach out to clients who would gladly pay for quality.
Why am I telling this story?
It happens in every business.
Take for example the restaurant business. Does every restaurant owner get to start a franchisee? I’m pretty sure if 100 entrepreneurs start a restaurant business every year, 98 don’t succeed. It doesn’t mean the restaurant business is a dead business. Some people succeed, most don’t, and that’s fine. It happens in every business.
The same holds true for content marketing.
As it was bound to happen, when people started claiming great success with content marketing, everybody wanted a piece of the pie. And as it was bound to happen, there was a no holds barred rush to create and publish content.
So, why do some people believe that content marketing doesn’t work?
Because they don’t know how it works.
People to content marketing all wrong
You see, you have to understand what content is. Most think that content is a way to improve your search engine rankings.
Although there is nothing wrong in wanting to publish content to improve one’s search engine rankings – I get lots of business due to this approach – eventually, it is an improved level of engagement that does the trick. And this is why, some businesses are doing great with content marketing, but most don’t. Maybe the problem is with the “marketing” part. I don’t know.
Publishing content on your website or blog is all about helping people make a decision, and provide them timely help when they need it.
Even if you are able to generate lots of traffic from search engines by publishing “optimized” content, if people don’t feel motivated once they come to your website, they are not going to buy from you.
Do I mean to say you shouldn’t publish content for traffic? I don’t mean that. Every business needs traffic and content marketing is the best way of generating targeted traffic to your website.
In fact, a big reason why people use content marketing is because they don’t want to solely depend on search engine traffic. Search engines can be whimsical. If you are a serious business, you cannot afford to completely depend on search engines for qualified traffic. You need to create your own sources, and content marketing is the best way. You become known for your quality content and authoritative insights.
The problem is not with wanting to generate targeted traffic. The problem is using content marketing just for generating targeted traffic.
This sort of content marketing doesn’t work, it has never worked and it is never going to work.
Sure, you need to publish content to draw targeted traffic to your website. But the primary purpose of your content must be to provide quality information to your visitors so that they can make up their mind regarding doing business with you.
This is exactly why the newspaper industry is failing. There was a time when content – journalism – used to be the primary content. Now it is advertising. Journalism is almost dead. Mostly it is either propaganda or traffic-oriented content to earn advertising revenue.
The primary purpose of content marketing should be to become a valuable part of your customers’ and clients’ lives.
You need to become an information hub, and believe me, even if you are a very small business, you can become an information hub within your niche. Don’t think that only big businesses can become information hubs.
All the businesses who have understood this are doing great with content marketing. The ones who are just greedy for targeted traffic aren’t succeeding.
Why do people get trapped in the traffic trap? Because it’s easier to generate traffic than generate business. Content that gets you search engine traffic is very cheap. It is very easy to create such content. Hire a jobless writer or someone who simply wants to make a few extra bucks and isn’t bothered whether your business benefits or not, and you can get scores of blog posts and articles without even realizing you are spending money.
And when you are able to publish 50 articles or blog posts every month, the quantity reassures you. The traffic DOES begin to manifest and you begin to feel that eventually, this is going to lead to more business.
What gives you more business is the quality of your content, the meaningfulness, and the level of engagement it can generate.
Search engine traffic should be a byproduct. When people begin to understand this, content marketing will work wonders for them.