8 Myths of the Zombie Content Apocalypse

Image of zombies

You’ve seen the conversation and heard the wild conjecture about the content apocalypse.

Let’s be honest. Marketing zombies caused this problem.

That’s right, you heard me. Marketing zombies.

Their undead shuffling has spammed the world with a ceaseless stream of bad posts, bad emails, bad white papers, and bad videos. Perfectly good marketers and writers have been bitten, turning into undead content machines, oozing black goop all over the interwebs.

You can see their moans all over Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

But the content apocalypse is just a cautionary horror story shared by marketers who are sick and tired of seeing their friends turn into zombies.

Here are eight of the most common myths shared by the zombie-fearing, spam-coated digerati:

1. People are sick of content

Myth: The undead shuffle will turn people away from the horror show, forever swearing off all content.

Research shows that increasing smartphone and tablet use is translating into demand for more media viewing choices. People want new, fresh content developed specifically for the evolving media devices they are using. (Hat tip to Shel Holtz.)

2. Google will punish all content creators

Myth: The mighty anti-venom created by Google in the form of Penguin and Panda updates will become so strong that all blogs will die!

Far from it.

The more natural and unique your content is, the more likely normal people will enjoy it. And as a result, so will Google.

Many of Google’s updates seek to reward well-referred, natural content while eliminating link schemes and duplicate content.

3. We can’t get away from content zombies

Myth: The plague of marketing zombies will forever clog our Internet pipes. There’s no way we can send magic clubs into the ethernet and hit them all in the head!

The Copyblogger team (and extended family of writers) never subscribes to violence. We do, however, encourage unsubscribing from content marketing zombies. Try it, you might find your social network experiences are more enjoyable.

4. The zombie moans are too loud

Myth: Our content can’t ever beat out the noise created by the marketing zombies!

Some of this is caused by people who have had success, but are no longer being read. Others perpetuate this myth after a short attempt at creating content.

The content zombies have attacked and are moaning out the same content! It’s time to fight back and differentiate!

Differentiating content that stands out requires a few distinct skill sets:

  • Creative approaches to media production
  • Strong headline writing
  • New takes on topics
  • Experience-based usefulness

These all work to make content special.

5. Only a superhero can beat the zombies

Myth: Without a well-known social personality producing content, we can’t rise above the moans!

Ok, this one’s definitely not true.

Influencer myths would have you believe that without a well-known blogger or established personality, you cannot create new content that will be read. Or, if you have one and they depart, you will sink into the zombie ooze.

In reality, readerships tend to be blood loyal to useful and entertaining content presented with undying consistency.

Readers share content and socially validate it with their friends and with search engines. If you have an established readership and you continue to produce great quality content without X personality, your content will still rise to the top.

In one case, I have a client who lost a well-known personality last year. We continued with blue chip writers who delivered pragmatic, useful intelligence week in and week out. Over the course of one calendar year, traffic literally quintupled.

Don’t believe the hype … you can beat the content zombies!

6. You have to pay to exterminate content zombies

Myth: Native advertising is the only way to rise above the content noise.

Native advertising seems to be the way most corporate types move so they can become heard above the zombie din. In truth, consumers are confused by sponsored content.

When it comes down to determining effectiveness, one study shows that sponsored content only works when it has context for the reader. Paying doesn’t get you more results unless the content is specifically engineered to serve the reader.

By the way, content that is not native advertising also falls to the wayside if it is not entertaining or useful. Notice the pattern that is emerging?

Bad content fails, sponsored or not.

7. The black ooze prevents content from producing results

Myth: Customers won’t use our content to buy because they don’t trust it … thanks to all of the free black zombie ooze on the interwebs!

The more strategic your marketing program is in its design, from usefulness to value, the more impact it will have. Create “Rainmaker content” and your business will see outcomes. Create “me too” content, like spammy blog posts, and watch the black ooze pour out of your social media accounts while the red ink seeps from the bottom line.

8. Once a zombie, always a zombie

Myth: Once you become a content zombie, you are forever infected and can never come back to humanity.

Whether it was Mark Schaefer’s originating content shock post, Shel Holtz’s passionate defense of content marketing, or our own Sonia Simone’s measured response, everyone focused on encouraging content creators to develop stronger, more differentiated products.

It’s never too late to improve content quality and stand out.

Are you running from the ooze, too? Let us know in the comments …

Image credit: Zombie Walk by Ciao Schiavo.

About the Author: Geoff Livingston is an author, public speaker and strategist who helps companies and nonprofits develop outstanding marketing programs. He brings people together, virtually and physically for business and change.

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Comments

  1. This post makes me excited for the Walking Dead to come back from midseason break…

    Anyway great post Geoff. What really resonated with me was the fact that you *don’t* have to be a superstar in order to write content that people enjoy. I think that if you write great content and market it properly, that you will eventually be able to attract engagement and drive behavior.

    You’ll also be able to survive the content apocalypse!

  2. I absolutely agree with your Geoff — although I love social celebrities like you appearing on my blog recently. I built my blog from scratch and I was pretty much an unknown when I started (since I’m an academic weenie). But, you’re right. Good content wins and gets attention. And, my site, Hausman Marketing Letter, is now PR 4 and under 100,000 Alexa, which shows there are rewards for consistently creating great content.

    Instead of Google punishing good content, I think it’s clear that EVERY update rewards good content. So, let’s keep out the zombies!

    • I agree with that, good content does work well. I have my issues with Google updates of late (wholesale kills on guest posts like this one, for example), but in general, I agree, they are working to achieve success. Congrats on all of your successes! Wow!

  3. “Bad content fails, sponsored or not.”

    Great point. Just because you paid for it that doesn’t make it good or worthwhile to your audience. Great content gets attention, bad content does not. It’s really as simple as that.

  4. I always hate to toot my own success horn because I’m convinced that the second I do it’ll all come crumbling down. But the reality is this – I’m a copyblogger devotee. I’ve been following your advice basically from day 1 and that, combined with a bit of luck, has resulted in a blog that reached over 1.5 M people last year.

    I’m a SAHM and managed to get there on a scant few hours a week. I don’t have celebrity blogger friends, I’ve never paid for advertising, and I’ve never guest posted anywhere (that last part is not a strategy, just the result of no time – I’m actually very pro guest blogging).

    So 1,000 yes to everything here. The zombies aren’t going to eat your brains. Stick to the high ground where they can’t get you :)

  5. Love this post! So much truth here. Thanks for debunking some of the unspoken myths shambling around the Internet.

  6. Just read about marketing zombies curating content on the content marketing institute blog – http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2014/01/curating-content-marketing-zombies/

    Interesting to see the zombie perspective on content creating.

  7. Google has definitely raised the content bar over the last few years, especially in 2013. That’s good for quality content creators to break through the noise and capture attention.

    This is an ongoing interesting debate in the industry with experts on both sides of the content shock fence.

    Shel Holtz’s post was a rebuttal to another post by Mark Schaefer. Mitch Joel brings them together to discuss the “Content Shock” or, in Mitch and Shel’s view, the lack thereof.

    Don’t usually post links (spam-me-not) but readers of this post will find Mitch’s podcast from this past Sat both interesting and informative. Plus, its fun to hear what some of the authors you follow online and whose content you share actually sound like :)

    http://www.twistimage.com/podcast/archives/spos-393—content-shock-with-shel-holtz-and-mark-w-schaefer/

  8. “By the way, content that is not native advertising also falls to the wayside if it is not entertaining or useful.”

    I just read a great entertaining post on someone’s blog about spam. It made me laugh, as he posted spammy comments he’s received on his posts. If you want to read it, here it is: http://www.black68.com/spam-spam-glorious-spam/

    Although our content does need to be useful to someone, it does help to have some entertaining content as well. Sometimes we just need a good laugh.

    Thanks, Geoff, for the reminder to keep creating unique content to avoid turning into a content zombie!

  9. I love this post, Geoff! (Admittedly, I’m a sucker for zombie analogies). As always, it comes down to creating great content. Maybe if more marketers focused on that, instead of stressing about what everyone else is or isn’t doing, they’d have more success! Food for thought!

  10. Hey Geoff,

    Always enjoyable to read informative posts with humor … got me thinking … plenty of people can write article type posts but the blog style is where the personality can be shared openly … making it uniquely your style. There are a lot of training courses for marketing out there where “everyone should have a blog” but most of these guys a researching a little and regurgitating material from 2 or 3 pieces of content – literally – thereby being Zombies. I personally like point 8 (not that I AM a content zombie!!) – If you love writing – improve your craft and you will enjoy immunization. Hey, that turned into a short novella – sorry! Cheers Lyn

  11. Love the bit about “Native” Advertising. I agree that people are confused about promoted content. It seems like this same concept gets re-cycled with a different name every few years or so to keep the advertorial concept pumping money into the publishers.

    As far as the content apocalypse is concerned, I think you’re safe as long as your goal for creating content isn’t: “I would like two do-follow links.”

    • I agree. When links become the primary driver behind content instead of the actual reader, there is an immediate problem that will almost always undermine the whole initiative.

  12. To me, nothing of what you’re writing here is new. I appreciate the fact that you wrote it, Geoff, but the fact of the matter is that it’s troubling you HAVE to, that people honestly think that quality content won’t stand the test of time.

    It’s like saying Shakespeare’s works or Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird are going to be lost to history and never seen again. Right. Sure.

  13. Geoff, this is a fantastic post! I’m definitely sharing this!

    I really like what you said in #6. Most people think that by paying for sponsorship, they’ll rise above the “noise,” but like you said, bad content is still bad content whether you paid for its placement or not.

    Very well said!

  14. Great post Geoff! (as many of your posts are….)
    There are two factors that are more important than numbers of readers or numbers of comments: bounce rate and subscriptions.

    Here’s why readers and comments are NOT that important: There are marketers who say they get X numbers of comments–but the comments are mostly spam comments. They “trick” (more or less) unsuspecting, unknowing clients by simply showing them the comments and playing up the numbers. LIkewise with reader numbers. A whole lot of people can come to a blog but not really read it…

    And that’s where bounce rate and subscriptions comes in. Bounce rate shows you effectiveness of your content. Are people coming to your blog and actually reading? or are they bouncing out? If you end up getting traffic on random weird search terms and no one stays to read, your content isn’t effective–although there are, again, unscrupulous marketers and unknowing clients that think big numbers are what it’s about.

    Not if they’re not reading.

    Subscriptions too tell more than comments. When people subscribe, it means they’re coming back. And they like you. Comments are great when they’re not spam, but there’s always more spam than actual comments. Subscriptions don’t lie about what they like.

    We have a whole lot more specialized niches now with all the new, specialized social sites, so reaching the people you want to reach has to be a well-thought out strategy, leveraging great visual and search-friendly headline content. But trying to get clients to understand that hitting a bullseye with the right arrow is better than the BB gun approach is another thing entirely.

  15. Rick Grimes here. You can never have too many content walkers :-)

  16. What a great piece! There are so many important points that were touched in this blog post that can ought to be further elaborated on in more blog posts or even a book.

    Two of the more important myths, in my opinion, is #4: The zombie moans are too loud and #5: Only a superhero can beat the zombies.

    Myth #4 addresses the need to create quality content while Myth #5 addresses the abuse of “influencers.” Myths #4 and #5 prove that being a quality content creator results in real influence; which also means that being a poor content creator will also demote credibility.

    In my opinion, even if any individual (such as a politician or celebrity) is extremely “influential,” if he or she promotes poor content or abuses his or her “influential status”, the audience will eventually realize that their attention is better spent on other things.

  17. Too funny and too true! Good post.

  18. LOVE this. And aren’t we ALL superheroes, in one way or another??

  19. This week’s posts on Copyblogger were all sensational. This was no exception.

    My own (very personal and subjective) metric for the evaluation of a blog is COMMENTS. Not the sheer number as much as the quality. And not even the weight of one particularly insightful (or incite-full) poster, but the conversation.

    This blogger, this blog, and this community truly amazes me. How can anyone doubt the strong heart beat present here?

    Thanks, Geoff.

  20. You rise to superhero status, Geoff, with this thoughtful, insightful piece.

    This post should strike fear in the un-beating hearts of marketing zombies but give a much-needed boost to anyone who thinks “quality” is more than an ooze-filled buzzword.

    Excellence distinguishes itself. Always.