2012 was the year that mainstream businesses started to get it. They realized that content marketing is where they should be putting their time and energy.
And inevitably, when a particular term gets a lot of coverage, you’ll see a backlash. I’d start watching for “Content Marketing is Dead” posts around the first of next year, if not earlier.
And what will those misguided posts be pointing to?
They’ll point out that an awful lot of content is … how can I put this delicately?
It’s really, really bad.
The more “fashionable” content marketing becomes, the more bad content we’re going to see.
So today I want to talk about what makes bad content … and how you can turn that around and start creating something worth reading.
Let’s start with one of the biggest reasons so much content just doesn’t work …
You’re making the shape, you’re not doing the move
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m a kettlebell
freak enthusiast. My trainer recorded a video about the kettlebell swing — and why so many people get it wrong.
You can go see the video here: Do the Move! Don’t Just Make the Shape
Basically, the problem is that people see a swing on television or in a YouTube video, and they try to “make the shape.” They bend their knees, then they swing the kettlebell up with their arms.
That’s not a kettlebell swing. And it won’t get the results you want.
You need to understand the move, and all of its intricate little components, before you can really make the move. Swinging a bell around like you saw a celebrity trainer do it will just get somebody hurt.
In the same way, aspiring content publishers look at sites like Copyblogger or Content Marketing Institute and they see things like:
- Numbers in headlines
- Analogies used to communicate complex ideas
- Content that’s formatted to be reader-friendly
- Sensible SEO strategy
- Leveraging popular “trending topic” ideas to segue into your topic
All well and good. All smart tactics.
And then our hopeful marketer publishes a poorly written, thinly researched piece called “Dental and Gum Health: 12 Things Gangnam Style Can Teach You,” and they think that’s content marketing.
Yeah, well … not so much.
It still has to be good
Your post can have the most irresistible headline in the history of advertising. Your site design can be luscious. Your keywords can be masterfully researched.
If the actual content isn’t worth reading, none of this will help you.
There’s an important rule of thumb called Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of (nearly) everything sucks.
90% of fiction. 90% of advertising. 90% of apps. 90% of web content.
Guess what? You don’t have to be Malcolm Gladwell. You don’t have to be brilliant or perfect or a genius the world has never seen before.
You just have to not suck. You can handle that.
How to fix content that sucks
If you’re convinced that you need to start taking content marketing seriously, but this post is making you a little worried, you need to do one thing first and foremost.
Start with a writer. Start with a human being who’s already a little wacko about putting words together in a way that other humans find pleasing.
That writer might be you, or it might be another person. Only you know the answer to that.
Once you have a piece of writing (a post, an editorial, a video, a podcast, etc.) that someone wants to actually read, watch, or listen to, you’re ready for the marketing part.
Then you work your network to get the word out. Then you improve your social sharing strategy. Then you intelligently optimize for search engines.
Don’t try to cheap out or take shortcuts around this. Don’t fall for dumb tactics like “spinning” content. Don’t outsource your writing to people who can’t write well. That’s just a short cut to content that’s uglier than Bob Harper trying to do a Turkish Get-Up.
And don’t repeat silly statements like “content marketing is over” or “list posts don’t work.”
Bad content marketing and lame list posts never worked.
Understand the move — which means understanding what your audience gives a damn about. Turn a good writer loose on that. Then optimize.
It’s not particularly easy, but it’s also not rocket science.
And if you’re a writer, for the love of pete, learn about all of this optimization stuff. (You can start here.) Businesses are drowning in a sea of crap content out there.
Go forth and make something better. Your people need you.