Content Marketing: What Is It, Really?

Content Marketing: What Is It, Really?Rarely has a buzzword been so, well, buzzy.

The term “content marketing” is hot, hot, hot right now (check out what Google Trends has to say about it). “Content marketing is the new SEO” reads one headline. “Content marketing is the new go-to promotional strategy” reads another.

All you need to do, so the claim goes, is produce a ton of content, load it with keywords and links, and distribute it everywhere. No writing staff? No problem! Outsource your content overseas for dirt cheap. You can even “spin” it with software to get hundreds of variations on the same piece. Just have the intern manage it all!

And presto change-o, the search engines will happily send hundreds of customers your way. All you need to do after that is open your wallet and let the money pour in.

That’s the promise behind the hype, and frankly, it’s giving content marketing a terrible rep.

While the aforementioned approach might work, any success that it results in will be temporary. Companies that use cheap, badly written, or spun search engine bait will eventually be caught by Google. While they may generate some revenue, they’re really just one Panda or Penguin update away from having zero revenue.

Worse still, this kind of tactic typically only works for dodgy weight loss products or suspect pharmaceuticals, and even then it will only convert a tiny, tiny fraction of site visitors. That means that for every 100 visitors that a site gets, 99 will instantly recognize the cheap content for what it is, roll their eyes, and click away in a heartbeat. What you save in content production you will lose a thousand times over in direct revenue, branding, and reputation.

Does that mean that content marketing is a sham?

Far from it. The truth is that contenting marketing is actually one of the most successful marketing techniques around. In fact, it has been around for centuries.

That’s right: centuries.

Consider Deere & Company, home of the John Deere brand, which is one of the most famous agricultural companies in the world. They began producing a magazine with tips on how farmers could be more profitable in the late 1800s, called The Furrow. Nearly 120 years later, it’s still going strong.

Or what about the Michelin Guides? First published by the tire company in France in the 1900s, they became so popular that they are now a major media brand in their own right.

How about the Be-Ro Cookbook, a bible in British kitchens? The Lego magazine for kids? Heck, haven’t you ever wondered where the term “soap opera” comes from? Those compelling, addictive, serial radio and television programs were originally backed by soap companies, including major brands like Proctor & Gamble.

Content marketing is really just the latest name for a proven, solid strategy: giving your customers what they need or want.

Tweet: Real content marketing should provide value. It should educate, or entertain, or both.

It should be written by humans, not computers, and it should be written for humans, not just for search engines.

Still not sure about content marketing? Still on the fence as to whether you should take the easy road or even do it at all? Consider the companies I’ve mentioned above.

They weren’t big brands when they started, but they sure are now, aren’t they?

Image source: marekuliasz/Shutterstock.com

Inklyo's free ebook about business blogging.