Five Things I Thought Content Marketing Was But Isn’t

Wrapping one’s head around the concept of content marketing takes quite a bit of time. I’ve been a content marketer for almost four years now and I still find new things to learn about content marketing. If you are a continuous learner like I am, you know there’s never any end to learning anything. Technology is constantly evolving and what you swore was the truth yesterday today isn’t. So I’ve decided to take a look back on my four years of content marketing, and six more of writing copy to dig up the myths about content marketing I had believed but turned out to be bull.

#1. Content Marketing is Advertising


You’ll forgive me for thinking content marketing was advertising. Although it can be argued that advertising is a form of content marketing, I had this notion that when you run a PPC campaign, you were conducting content marketing. It sounds odd now but back then, coming from a background of being a copy writer, I understood the important role content played in advertising. As such, I approached content marketing as a form of advertising. So, if that was a wrong view of content marketing, what is the right view? Content marketing augments advertising. Whereas advertising drives awareness and calls to action, content marketing builds and nurtures communities. Advertising is all about clicks, content marketing is all about shares, likes, re-tweets, etc.

#2. Content Marketing Generates Instant Results


This second myth had me in a panic more times than once. Whenever I took up a client, they’d be looking for the same results as advertising has from content marketing. It also did not help that I thought I could deliver advertising-level results using a content marketing campaign. So we’d develop a blog for the customer, custom content for their social media properties and some additional syndicated content such as press releases and infographics but the most they’d generate were a few likes and shares and then that was it. We’d look for actual conversions but nothing. In most cases, the client would feel content marketing failed and so move back to digital advertising such as PPC. In hindsight, I see the long-term benefits that content would have had on the client’s brand and image. If both the client and I had a more realistic picture of what content marketing is and the value of building long-term communities around your business, then we would have stuck it out. Today I start all my clients off with a summary of what content marketing is and what it isn’t. And providing instant results is one thing content marketing hardly will ever do.

#3. Content Marketing Is All About Creating Viral Content

Going hand in hand with number 2 above, I believed the marketers who could create viral content were the ones who had content marketing correct. You’d see a video released (Old Spice anyone?) and it would have millions of views in a matter of days. It therefore seemed that if your content marketing strategy were to work, you need to develop viral content that would take your client’s web traffic from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand in days. But this too has proven to be a myth. Viral content is a unicorn, an outlier in the universe of content marketing. The real winners in content marketing are those campaigns that have a long-term benefit to a target market. Let me repeat: it’s not about getting the most YouTube views or the most re-tweets on Twitter, it’s about delivering long-term value to your target market. Whether that content goes viral or not, it’s true success is measured by how much value it delivered and whether it helped cultivate your online community further.

#4. Content Marketing Is Creating Content For the Sake of Creating Content


Back in the wild west SEO days, when keyword stuffing was the in thing, people created content for the sake of creating content. In fact, I’ll wager to say that still happens today. This is because there’s this sense that the more content you develop the more leads you’ll get, or something along those lines. It was also a given that if you were conducting content marketing, no one expected you to provide any deep analytics or reports on how that content was performing. It was enough to just say X number of pieces of content were developed and published and that was it. You’d then look at your Google Analytics dashboard and hope the traffic bumps up. That was part of the myth I believed. Today, I look at a piece of content and it speaks to me. It tells me whether it’s optimized for a particular channel or not. It tells me whether it is useful or not. It tells me whether it is ready to be syndicated or not. Content marketing has become more of a science today and the technology to support this transition is rapidly emerging.

#5. Content Marketing Is About Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


Finally, and this is my favorite myth, is that content marketing is about search engine optimization. Remember those days when people didn’t matter and all that mattered were Google bots? Yes, those dark days. Well, I believed that lock, stock and key. If I undertook a content marketing project, I’d scour the web for all the information I could get on the latest Google search algorithms so that the content would obey its conventions. This could not be further from the truth. The truth is that content marketing is about people. It’s about helping people get the right information to help them solve their problems. It’s not about tricking search engine algorithms into ranking your site higher. It’s about being helpful. SEO is important and it does play a part but this part is rapidly shrinking as Google fine-tunes its algorithms to rank for usefulness and quality.  In a not-so-distant future, these algorithms will be able to correlate information like a human and this will weed out a whole bunch of content that may have been well developed but not useful.

So there are my five myths on content marketing debunked. Any myths you believed that turned out to not be true? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments below or on Twitter @wordmarketer