You need so much more than blogs in 2019.
Content marketing has changed drastically. In 2010 or so, even a mediocre blog could get you an audience, rankings, and traffic. There was a bit of a bandwagon rush to write blogs by the numbers, spammed with keywords, and just a couple hundred words long.
A few Google algorithm updates later, that doesn’t cut the mustard.
Rand Fishkin of Sparktoro insists blog readership is on the decline. Content aggregation on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and other platforms has changed the way users find and digest content. Google’s Featured Snippet has resulted in less clicks on the SERP, which means less traffic.
An Ahrefs study of 1 billion webpages showed that 90.88% of content gets zero traffic from Google. The common ingredient in the little-to-no-traffic content is little-to-no backlinks, and topics with low search potential.
As a content creator and blogger, I wondered if it may be time to throw in the towel.
Is Content Marketing Dead?
Content Marketing is not dead. It’s just morphing into an abstract entity. It’s a bit like Obi-Wan Kenobi getting struck with Darth Vader’s lightsaber, only to become more powerful than he could ever imagine.
In 2008, Seth Godin said, “Content marketing is the only marketing left.”
A bold statement! This was the harbinger of doom for traditional marketing, and the onset of a strange new era of content overload. Everyone developed a personal brand. Hundreds of millions of blogs have been written.
How could any content creator hope to succeed in a cold and uncaring universe of content?
Should marketers give up on blogging and content marketing altogether? Absolutely not.
Content marketing is still the most cost-effective, ethical, and immersive way to earn trust in your brand. The catch: in an extremely saturated internet, it’s much, much harder to be top-dog. You have to make ridiculously good content if you want to be competitive. You need to do something extraordinary that other content creators simply can’t compete with.
Here’s how to make content that actually gets traffic:
1. Stop Writing Lame Blogs.
Easier said than done. Bad content doesn’t get read, and if it does, it hurts your brand’s reputation. 300 words saying exactly what every other blogger in your industry is saying isn’t interesting to anyone. Users bounce. Unsubscribes happen. No linkbacks given. Your content will spend its entire existence floating through the unseen depths of Google search results, like an untethered astronaut silently seeping deeper into the void.
Provide a unique point of view. Show your expertise on your topic. Sneak some humor in there. Ask yourself if the blog you’re writing is valuable to your target, be it educational, entertaining, gorgeous, emotionally stirring, or powerful. If it adds nothing of value, it’s just another collection of letters and spaces. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.
You’ll notice that most high-ranking blogs are longer than 500 words. A lot of SEOs recommend 2,000 words, but that guideline has led plenty of bloggers to stretch a good blog into an over-stuffed slog.
A blog is not an AP English essay; it’s meant to be read by people. A well-written, and captivating 1000 words will beat a boring 2000 words any day of the week.
The best blogs synthesize information into an irresistible, authoritative, and palatable presentation. This means plenty of personality in the writer’s voice, graphics that enhance the user experience, readability, hard data, and actionable advice. Take more time to write a better blog, or hire a writer. Spend some serious time editing. Optimize your content for your target audience. Make a product you aren’t ashamed to put your name on.
The best blogs are worthy of the audience’s bookmarks bar. Write accordingly.
2. Establish a Niche, then Build a Community
Making a good thing isn’t enough. You have to amplify it.
One of the hardest (and most important) parts of content marketing is getting just the right content to just the right people, at just the right time. Attempting to broadcast general content to the general population will please almost nobody.
You need to define who you’re making content for, and what sort of content they want. You need to define what expertise you bring to the table. What is that special goodness that makes you stand out? Feed your intended audience that special goodness, in a special content format that resonates with them.
There are plenty of avenues to build a community. Here are a few ways:
- Find active, relevant forums, and engage regularly
- Gain subscribers, and send newsletters to them
- Make a specialized Facebook Group dedicated to your specialty
- Engage with influencers (and micro-influencers) on blogs and social media
- Consider promoting your content with paid ads
It may be discouraging at first, but consistent and high-quality interaction will get a humble audience started. Never stop cultivating this community, and never stop giving them outstanding, valuable content.
3. Expand to Video, Social-Specific Media, Podcasts, and Beyond!
The internet of 2019 looks very different than it did in 2010. The most apparent difference: videos everywhere!
The mass adoption of smartphones has democratized video, and multimedia. You no longer need to lug a bazooka-sized video camera to film in high definition, and even major film studios have given up physical film, in favor of digital video footage.
Video has become a fixture of Facebook, Instagram, homepages, and blogs. Cisco has projected that more than 80% of all Internet traffic will be video by 2021, and 90% of customers say video helps them make buying decisions. Video gets more shares, engagement, and attention.
Bloggers may feel like they’ve bet on the wrong racehorse, so to speak.
Before you deactivate your blog, consider this: Content can be retooled into different media. You’ve already done the research and composed it into a cohesive format. Make a film version of your blog, or expand your existing blog with video content. There are plenty of ways to incorporate video into your marketing strategy, and it definitely pays off.
Why stop at video? The same retooling and expansion applies to podcasts, Facebook live, infographics, and beyond. Expanding your content into a multi-dimensional exploration of the topic may be just what you need to conquer the competition.
4. There is No Such Thing as “Good Enough.”
Ever wonder why the most prolific artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs go crazy? Usually, it has to do with their obsession with their craft. Perfectionism means nothing is ever good enough, and it enables these masters to be outliers in their fields. For content marketers, you can learn a thing or two from maniacs like Stanley Kubrick or Nikola Tesla.
If you think you can whip out a piece of 10X content in three hours, you’re entering a world of pain. To rank, get backlinks, perform on social, and grow your authority, you need to create something truly remarkable. To make content that rises above the competition, you need that essential spark of perfectionist madness.
You need to raise your standards to a ridiculous level if you want to be competitive.
Tips for Better Content:
- Use internal data to make case studies, and illustrate that data.
If you aren’t using Google Analytics, it’s time to start. There are several data analytics platforms to monitor your success, and organizing that data into relevant case studies is a great way to create original, unique marketing data.
By making case studies, you become an original resource, and not just a data-sharer. Since digital marketing is a new and unprecedented industry, there’s a good chance your case study is uncharted territory. Find an exciting topic, collect a strong set of data, and make a strong claim from this data. Make sure it’s accurate, air-tight, and presented well. Even if users and marketers disagree with your data, it will drive engagements.
A blog with original data beats shared data, any day of the week.
- High-quality graphics and video make your content stand out.
Perhaps I’m biased, as the digital media guy at an agency, but I can’t overstate the value of delightful graphics and video.
In today’s instant-gratification culture, folks are “scanning” more than they are reading. Heatmap data shows that users are reading a few sentences, scrolling, looking at a graphic, scrolling, reading another few sentences, scrolling, and on and on. Graphics and video are the most arresting way to stop the idle scanning.
Blogs with embedded video and optimized graphics get a huge boost to dwell time, which is an important behavioral cue. To keep users’ eyes on your content, visuals are absolutely essential.
- Know your audience.
All too often, a great piece of content is wasted on the wrong crowd.
Imagine giving your grandma a critically acclaimed avant-garde post-rock/noise album for Christmas. Or buying your cultured, world-traveling nephew a cookbook by Guy Fieri. Or tickets to a Nickelback concert for any sane person.
Even the best content isn’t for everybody. You need to identify who you intended audience is before you start writing, or your content will delight nobody.
Google Analytics and Google Trends are great free tools for finding which demographics are searching for certain topics. Study and analyze the results of your amplification process, and hone in on the tactics that are getting results.
Catering your content to a specific crowd increases engagement, immersion, and delight. Always keep the target user in mind!
- Start with WHY.
With some rare exceptions, people aren’t typing random keywords into Google willy-nilly. People are accomplishing tasks, and exploring options.
What do you do when you don’t know how to make eggs benedict? Or when you’re considering buying a new truck, and need very specific features? Or you forgot how to tie a tie? (I’m guilty.)
Put yourselves in the user’s shoes: They aren’t experts in your area of expertise. They’re confused, and don’t want to look like idiots. They’re Googling solutions to their problems.
Start your content with common questions in your field. Google a couple of long-form questions, and look at the content users are finding. If there’s nothing valuable for any of those queries, that’s a golden opportunity to solve some problems, and deliver delicious content. Boom.
User task accomplishment is one of the most important behavioral cues to Google. Help users accomplish tasks, and Google will be most pleased.
- Earn trust with authenticity.
Isn’t it uncanny how you can instantly spot a stock photo? No matter how “natural” they try to make them, you can always tell a stock photo. It’s the exact same thing with blog content.
If you’re faking expertise, or writing blogs by the numbers, readers can tell. If the readers can tell, Google’s RankBrain can tell. Keyword stuffing and thin content went out of style somewhere around 2011, but a surprisingly large number of marketers still churn out useless content by the barrel full.
Use your actual voice, use real world experience, and don’t be afraid to inject flavor into your content. The less in common your content has with content-farm drivel, the better your blog will perform.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help:
Content creation is a pursued interest. I believe anyone can be an effective content marketer, but not the first attempt. It’s a steep learning curve, but the benefits are undeniable. Content marketing is the undeniable future of digital marketing, and it’s never too late to get in, hone your craft, and make a big splash for your brand.
If you need help with content strategy, optimization, promotion, topics, or anything else, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.