The Most Obvious Mistake Would-Be Content Marketers Make

Online marketing is shifting toward a content-driven model faster all the time. As new tools, techniques and best practices go mainstream, we’ll soon look back on the days when it was possible to market without producing content and wonder how that ever happened. But there are still a lot of folks doing it wrong. Horribly wrong.

Look, we get that you feel like you have to catch up. You see what others are doing because you read too many blogs and you wonder how in the world you’re going to keep up in what’s turning into a content arms race. The answer, however, is not to produce more bad content.

If you write it, and no one wants to read it, it doesn’t count.

Worse, bad content likely counts against you, and will hamper your future efforts to establish a reputation for quality. Google isn’t blind to quality anymore. Nor are consumers. A few years ago, Google could be fooled and readers could be compelled to spending time on a page they didn’t really want to visit just because it had enough inbound links to seem important. Now, however, if you’re attempting to build an online footprint by sowing worthless seeds on a barren patch of land, nothing’s going to grow.

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.

This is one of my favorite sayings. It’s applicable to content marketing because more often than not, there is no one piece of content that will suddenly drive traffic or otherwise help you meet your marketing goals– it takes time. Content marketing doesn’t work like advertising, which is both it’s strength and the reason people tend to do it wrong. You have to nurture a solid content plan over time before you get the benefits of it’s fruit. You can’t just get an article placed and watch the sales roll in. So, you probably wish you had started a while back. What good is a three inch sapling, after all?

If a three inch sapling is all you have though, there is no magic for short cutting it’s natural growth process. Living online as we do, we’re prone to fall for the allure of shortcuts and hacks. Sometimes they work. Often, they don’t. Farmers know that nature has it’s inviolable laws, like the need for sunlight, water and nutrients to support a healthy seed. If any of those pieces are missing, you just don’t get growth, not matter what kind of shortcuts you try to buy along the way. Content marketers are only just starting to learn their own natural laws.

The second best time to plant a tree is today.

So you don’t have much growth yet. So what? That realization puts you ahead of millions of people who are still oblivious to the tasks that lay ahead. And growing a healthy ecosystem of worthwhile content can be achieved in months, not years– if you stay away from the allure of cheap content and cheaper placements that won’t yield any fruit.

Maybe you need to scale your content production and, in effect, plant a whole tree farm instead. Great! That still doesn’t happen by cutting corners. That happens by doubling, tripling and quadrupling what really works.

Publish great content and they will come.

I’ve cultivated something of a green thumb over the years, both in my actual garden and as a content marketer online. In both cases, I’ve had to humble myself to the natural environment. I’ve had to recognize what is needed to make things grow.

Readers want great content. So publish it.

That’s really all there is to it. Yet somehow, as folks transition from a paradigm of cheap links and ads and landing pages that used to work, to a world in which they don’t anymore, they seem to think that cheap content can do the job instead. Buy why? Content is for consumption. It’s for readers to find useful, instructive, informative, entertaining and even sharable. If you’re attempting to publish stuff that doesn’t meet this simple requirement, stop.

Yes, I completely understand that you think highly of your own products and services. No, promoting your products and services does not make for great content. Simply turning an ad into a 600 word article doesn’t make it compelling to readers. You have to think about what readers want first. If your content doesn’t meet their needs, they won’t read it. There is just no point in producing content people don’t want.

Publishing bad content is like spreading seeds on asphalt and wondering why nothing happens. Seeds are meant to grow. Content is meant to be read. If you don’t treat it that way, you’re wasting your time.

Mike is Co-founder and CMO of Content BLVD, a marketplace where product companies and YouTubers meet to get more products into more videos. He's written for, been quoted in, and kicked out of many fine establishments.

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Posted in Creating Content, Writing Better Content

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