For years, digital marketers have hailed content marketing as the “king” of digital marketing strategies. This makes a lot of sense; in addition to being low-cost, content development is an inbound strategy that works well with almost every other digital marketing strategy, including SEO, PPC ads, social media, and email marketing.
Still, it’s reasonable to define the early days of content marketing as “low-value” content marketing, when ineffective, problematic, and downright spammy pieces of content were commonplace. Today, low-value content marketing is practically dead.
So what comes next?
Defining Low-Value Content
Low-value content, or “bad” content, comes in many forms. It could be poorly researched, poorly worded, inappropriately positioned, misleading/inaccurate, overly promotional, or just obnoxious in its publication and distribution. There’s a bit of subjective analysis necessary here; one person’s low-value content could be another person’s high-value content. But for the most part, these thin, wispy fragments of content are easy to spot (and easy to agree on).
How did we get here? Well, the allure of content marketing’s accessibility made it a go-to strategy for countless hubristic entrepreneurs and marketing amateurs, who thought that writing lots of articles was a sure shot to the top of Google’s search results. It doesn’t help that content quantity has, historically, led to surprisingly decent SEO and content marketing results.
In any case, there’s an overabundance of low-value pieces of content online. By some estimates, there are billions of new blog posts every year – and you can bet most of them aren’t worth reading.
Why Low-Value Content Marketing Is Dead
So if low-value content marketing used to lead to acceptable results, what happened? Why are we calling low-value content marketing dead?
It’s hard to pin this to a specific breaking point. On some level, human readers are sick of spam and thin, poorly researched posts. Google, for its part, has stepped up efforts to detect and penalize bad content. And the rise of AI-written articles has exacerbated the problem further, making awful content even more abundant and noticeable.
To be fair, low-value content marketing isn’t truly “dead.” That’s because many stubborn marketers are still practicing it – and because it’s possible to get away with publishing this type of material. But the results you get from a modern iteration of low-value content marketing are going to be vastly inferior to the results you would have gotten, say, 10 years ago.
The Alternative: High-Value Content
What’s the alternative?
Content marketing itself is still not only viable, but extremely strong. If you produce content regularly and distribute it to a loyal audience, you can monetize it in countless ways. Whether you’re printing books, publishing blog posts, producing videos, or hosting a popular podcast, as long as you’re focused on quality and commitment to your audience, your high-value content strategy can work.
High-value content must achieve several things simultaneously. It needs to be original, thoughtful, useful for people, and well-researched. It also needs to communicate effectively and, preferably, in an entertaining (or at least tolerable) way.
That’s a tall order for people who have made careers out of producing or syndicating low-value content. But it’s a transition they’ll have to make if they’re going to thrive in the modern marketing world.
Key Tenets of High-Value Content Marketing
What are the key tenants of a high-value content marketing strategy?
· Quality over quantity. Ethical and effective content marketers have long emphasized the importance of quality over quantity in this field, but unfortunately, only few have heeded this warning. The prospect of content quality is simply too tempting. If you can create a new backlink with a new guest post article, and that backlink yields value for your brand, why not create as many guest posts as possible for as cheaply as possible? Today, this approach is no longer feasible; it’s harder to get guest posts published and, more importantly, users are less tolerant of thin pieces. It’s much better to spend extra time on a single post, rather than churning out endless streams of useless material.
· Niche specialization. You can increase your odds of success by specializing in a rare, focused niche. Rather than appealing to a general audience or covering a subject too broadly, you can become a true expert in a highly specialized field. In addition to minimizing competition, this allows you to show your true value and competence as a content creator.
· Originality and thought leadership. Don’t simply repeat what other content creators have done; instead, do something original. Rewriting someone else’s article in new words or compiling readily available information from other sources is no longer as valuable as it used to be. Instead, turn yourself into a thought leader; don’t be afraid to state your controversial opinions and create things that are truly original.
· Appropriate audience targeting. Your work will be much more effective if you employ appropriate audience targeting. Instead of writing for a generic everyman, work to understand who your target demographics are and how they think. What types of appeals are most compelling to them? What do they need that isn’t being provided to them by other creators?
· True engagement over manipulation. Don’t scheme or try to manipulate your audience. Instead, try to be as generally helpful as possible. Focus on optimizing your content for people – not for search engines or statistical data points. This human-centric approach naturally leads to more effective, readable material.
· Qualitative feedback in addition to quantitative. When analyzing your effectiveness, don’t exclusively focus on quantitative feedback. Gather qualitative feedback from comments and surveys to better understand how people respond to your work.
If you’ve historically accepted low-value content as part of your overall strategy, or if you’re feeling uncertain about the future of your content efforts, don’t worry; you’re not alone, and there’s a clear path forward. As long as you invest more time, effort, and strategy into your work, you can hypothetically make your content approach effective. The question is, are you willing to do it?
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.