CONTENT MARKETING is what WE think the end customer wants.
The truth is that any channel or medium will have larger goals outside the brands that it features. For the most part, these are aligned to enable a given business model, but business models can change. This is why there is a problem when we confuse the medium for the message.
This becomes painfully clear when we consider the impact of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on marketing. Given Google’s position as a common entry point to the internet, marketers have continuously created content in accordance with their perception of Google’s understanding of what the user wants and NOT their own. 10 years ago, this often meant writing stilted content with a fixed keyword density based on search volumes and competition identified on Google Adwords Tools. Today, it means writing 101 content to feature in rich snippets and other SERP text.
But it also meant that we were continuously aligning our entire CONTENT and therefore USER strategy to Google’s end users and not our own.
This worked. For a time.
But SEO is not a standalone strategy and what is therapeutic for the goose may kill the gander. Adding an FAQ section may get you featured in a top link as a featured snippet but it may also reduce CTR once people find what they need on the SERP itself. Writing page text based on Google’s search volume may dilute your inherent value proposition specially since most agencies recommending “keywords” rarely understand your business, leave alone your customers.
And trying to stay on top of ranks may blind you to the opportunity cost of revising and modifying meta description on 37 pages. This includes the cost of building your own direct traffic or referral opportunities or, for that matter, ranking on Bing search pages(which by the way, require a completely different set of “how to” from Google… different TA, anybody?).
The thing is that marketing has seen the proliferation of increasingly specialized sub-disciplines and sub niches like Affiliate Marketing, Native Advertising, Content Promotion, Social Media Marketing, Reputation Management, Search Engine Marketing, and some more. In addition, there we have more consumer channels, not to mention individual media options within them. Then of course let’s not forget the added dimension of owned, paid, earned, paid but shown as earned…AND that of referred, direct, and of course organic. I once tried to Google some kind of table or matrix that could show all categories and sub categories in one clean image with common parameters… but no luck so far!
My point is that marketing has become needlessly complex. Against each one of the sub disciplines above we need people (or marketing automation software AND people to make sense of the software), measurement tools, reports, and an ability to arrive at a cohesive action plan week on week.
Most importantly, the “business” of marketing has become a highly complex machinery required to conceptualize, manufacture, test, implement, measure, modify, etc. … etc.
So much so that in small to mid-sized companies, we run the risk of marginalizing the one thing that was really important – the actual end -user value.
Is Content Marketing the answer? It’s a start, for sure.