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Is Content Still King?

author image Written by: Alex Greening           Categories - SEO Tips>Content Marketing

When it Comes to Content Marketing, Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

A few years back, a certain phrase started popping up more and more frequently: “Content is king!” Back in 2016, many businesses shifted towards content marketing as a way to reach their audiences. Where blogs were once just a way to get much-needed keyword recognition, content has now become all-encompassing. It got big—but quantity is never a substitute for quality.

So, is content still king?

It’s a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, there’s still a lot of superficial content out there, and content that’s not working for your brand—a missed opportunity. But at the same time, high-quality content attempts to attract, inform, engage, and delight audiences, borrowing from the inbound strategy. It can feel like the content landscape has stagnated as marketers constantly jockey for coveted positions on search engines. Frequently, this means focusing first and foremost on what Google wants, even when Google explicitly says they want sites and content that focus on user experience.

In short, yes, content is still king—but the kingdom might need a little TLC.

This disconnect all too often causes marketers to push the quantity, mistaking volume for quality. How do you avoid this all too common pitfall?

animation of a small castle transforming into a large castle
GIF by Casper Aarup Rasmussen

Rethinking your approach to content means shifting away from the tactics you’ve used in the past and getting outside the box.

The State of Content

Content these days seeks to attract, inform, engage, and delight audiences. It’s no longer just a way to pack in high-volume keywords, and now offers lasting value to users. Where content was once superficial, a flag in the ground to stake a claim on rankings, it’s now frequently highly detailed and heavily researched. That doesn’t mean that some of these tactics and approaches have stayed, fresh, though. A quick google search for “content marketing” reveals a wealth of organic topics that really cover a lot of the same ground: content marketing Google search results We see a lot of similar stuff because we’ve got a pretty broad search term (“what is content marketing”) and, of course, Wikipedia is a top result. That’s not to say these results lack value, but because of how we’re tailoring our search, it’s broad and very generic stuff. Diving into these results, we see plenty of query-based headlines and subheadings. These are designed to target common user searches. If you were to try to rank for these terms, you’d need to create content that’s at least ten times better. This is basically an uphill battle! You would need to move far beyond superficial guides and checklists and dive into something users could really sink their teeth into. If you were looking for a quick-and-easy way to beef up your content strategy, we’ve got some bad news for you: you’re going to have to spend time on crafting long-form, high-quality content.

Building Better Long-Form Content

Let’s get back to the main argument here: content is king, but the kingdom might’ve seen better days. Part of the reason for this is that many organizations rely on content tactics as opposed to a long-term strategy. This is completely understandable; strategy is, after all, the big picture, and tactics remain the on-the-ground approach. But the problem is that these tactical approaches don’t always serve a broader strategy. They’re designed to get results and move the needle, but by definition, they are short-term solutions.

animation of a chest being transformed into a royal chest
GIF by Supremus

A long-term content strategy should focus on long-form content, creating valuable resources you can build off of, repurpose, and redeploy as needed. Instead of focusing on churning out regular, short-term updates, investing in the time to create longer pieces can help you create a valuable library of content assets with a longer shelf life. Basically, don’t skim the surface of your topic. Invest time in the research process to develop real-world examples, cite (or run) studies, and take the time to cover your topic in greater detail. Remember the SERPs up above? The Wikipedia article clocks in at around 2,500 words. The Neil Patel article, meanwhile, is closer to 5,000. While both take a different approach to the topic, they’re both heavily researched (and aren’t afraid to show their resources) and go beyond scratching the surface. If you’re truly looking to outrank top-performing pages, you’ve got to put in the effort and back it up with reliable information.

Revising and Refining Your Content

Chances are, if you’re looking at ways to improve your content game further, you’ve already got a wealth of content to draw upon. You might even have considered the evergreen approach, updating content with fresh additions and republishing content to improve your offerings. There are definitely big benefits to reworking your existing assets and getting them in line with your existing strategy, but what if you took it a step further? What if you took an evergreen approach to every aspect of your content, providing a greater focus on structured data as you do so?

animation of a laptop and iPhone on Google's search engine

This approach is half technical SEO, half content marketing, but it can work wonders for your brand.   This approach looks at the overlap between what Google is looking for and what users are looking for, adding schema.org, microdata, JSON, and rich snippet targeting to your site’s backend as you prep and update your site content. Start with a complete content audit. What do you have, and how is it performing? You may be forced to confront the idea that your site has plenty of filler, and that it doesn’t necessarily serve a direct purpose with your current strategy. Identify your struggling pages, your strong pages, and dive deep on the data you’ve gathered to gather insights. From there, it’s time to research and prioritize updates. Watch for:

  • Reduced metric performance—what’s the bounce rate like? Average time on-page? Do you have any heatmapping in place to show you where users are looking?
  • A gradual decline in performance—steady downward trends are a clear indicator something’s got to change.
  • Less value over time—how long are users sticking around and clicking through to other pages or taking an action?

Remember, this isn’t all about blogs. On-page content, such as that for services or products, are great opportunities to expand on and revise your content offerings. FAQs in particular—especially those that include opportunities for users to answer questions—are a huge opportunity to create valuable content on pages that otherwise not have a lot going on.

Use Content to Build Your Brand

As much as you might be searching for those perfect evergreen opportunities, remember: quality over quantity. If you want to truly stand out from the crowd with content that truly earns its crown, then you’ve got to get out of the mindset that more=more. Yes, regular content updates are vital, but low-level, low-effort content has minimal impact on your brand. Let’s face it, no one really wants to link to a listicle, they want to link to something that gets them thinking. There are any number of agencies, organizations, and businesses that will gladly dominate searches for tips, tricks, and advice. Keeping up and competing is time- and money-consuming, and you’re better off investing your time in high-quality, brand-building content that captures attention with a story. Remember the inbound approach: attract, engage, delight, and repeat! This content takes more time, more effort, and more thought, but trust us – it pays off in the long run! Content is king, so give it the royal treatment, and take the time to take care of your kingdom.

Alex Greening

What You Need to Know About Content Marketing That Sells a Story

06/20/2017

How Brand Storytelling Captures Your Audience’s Attention and Demands Engagement

As author Philip Pullman once said, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” It’s a big statement, but one that rings true. Storytelling engages with people, and invites them to partake, identify, and enjoy. We see ourselves in the stories we engage with—quite literally, in fact. All well and good, but what’s that got to do with branding and content marketing? In short… everything.

Your Brain on Stories

The human brain displays intense activity when telling or listening to a story, and our minds seek out stories.
Brain activity lights up when telling or listening to a story.
Storytelling gets our brains working in a process called neural coupling, wherein our minds start to relate the story we’re hearing to information and experiences we already have. In fact, MRI scans of a storyteller and the person they were telling their story to showed brain activity that was startlingly similar. Our brains get fired up when we listen to a story. We crave them! A business or brand that’s telling a story as part of a broader marketing campaign can find massive success by integrating that story into their content strategy. But there’s a catch…

Do’s and Don’ts of Storytelling in Marketing

Content marketing without storytelling is like having a sports car but no license or insurance. It looks great, sounds great, and generally is great, but you can’t do much with it, can you? Storytelling can provide cohesion and unity to branding. It’s the thing that can help tie your message together, and help you stand out from the crowd. It’s the license to thrill, if you’ll bear with us for a second! That said, compelling copy and content relies on a few key factors to really sell the message to your audience. You need to:

Storytelling in content marketing shouldn't be complicated, as you run the risk of losing your audience's interest.
Your audience, probably.

  • Catch their attention—be memorable, and not boring!
  • Keep it simple—your audience will likely only remember 3 to 5 things you tell them in one go.
  • Avoid technical stuff—it’s good to have now and then, but you’re not writing a textbook.
  • Be authentic—honesty goes a long way, so tell the truth and stick to what can be measured. Your audience will find out if you’re not.

Audience Engagement

This is the big one. Your content marketing strategy has take into account how audiences will engage with your brand, and adapt accordingly. Consider the following findings:

  • 700,000 Google searches are performed every minute;
  • Each year, over 5.3 trillion ads are shown to online users; and
  • The average consumer reads 100,500 digital words on a daily basis.

Considering the amount of stuff that an audience is bombarded with, it’s no wonder they’re going to scan things quickly. Thankfully, storytelling and compelling messages that encourage engagement can cut through the average person’s filter. Videos on social media are a great way to do this. Video is growing massively, and is an effortless way to tell a story. Ads, too, should provide a quick snapshot of what your brand is all about and what it has to offer. Consider microstories (pieces of content, advertising, or design work) that convey a message in a short amount of time. Which brings us to…

Why You Need Brand Storytelling

Even if your product is The Best There Ever Was®, you’ve still got to get people using it. Tell a story! It can be as simple as showing how consumers can make use of your product. Maybe it’s a new cleaning solution that can take the headache out of cleaning up after the kids, or maybe it’s a new food product that makes weeknight family dinners a breeze.

Brand storytelling and content marketing are a natural fit.
Why should your brand tell a story? See above.
You’ve probably seen ads and heard stories about these things. It sounds so incredibly simple, and yet it’s easily one of the most powerful marketing tools out there. There’s a reason car commercials focus on selling an experience alongside car features, after all. GoPro, for example, has a fantastic approach to selling an experience. Their videos are almost entirely user-created, showing the inventive ways people make use of the cameras. These videos are short stories that sell an experience and a lifestyle that GoPro associates with. Content marketing and storytelling go hand-in-hand. Stories are powerful tools that help us connect and engage, after all. We identify with the story, even if it’s simple and to the point—our brains love these stories! We see how these things could benefit us, and it drives our decisions. And then we tell our friends and family about it.

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