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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Content Marketing – Hype & Hypocrisy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015
It’s been a decade since I started my career in the digital media. It’s an industry where Google rules and is everywhere and is in everything. With SEO hype come marketers. They have eyes bigger than their stomachs. The way they chase Google reminds me of Mickey Mouse cartoon of my childhood. And, I really mean it. 
From time to time they repackage their strategy and thus make a whopping business. Their biggest revenue comes from patented SEO tools/software they sell, that never guarantees anything beyond some insights. Different subscribers tell different stories while trying to decipher the anatomy of a website. This too reminds me of a folk tale of the blind men and the elephant. There is so much similarity, isn’t it? 

Two Sides of the Same Candle: Despite frequent changes in algorithm, however, Google’s effort to promote good information on the web has not yet proved to be a major success. The avalanche of articles, videos, audios, press releases, blogs, etc. is enough to bore anyone to their death. 
Frankly, I don’t believe in content marketing. In fact, such marketing does not exist, and it very much latches onto the hype. However, if they think content marketing is the secret sauce of all success, they are looking at the brighter side of a candle from one angle, but I wear a different spectacle to look through the candle burning at both ends. Be careful, the darkness is approaching very soon!

Content Factories’ Resistance Power: After Hummingbird, various content factories are believed to have died off. But some of them have developed resistance to the powerful “spray gun” of Google; and they are virtually alive. They think the usage of keywords in content is still very important to bait Google. I don’t remember when and how ‘keyword density’ has become a standard parameter to rank on Google, and why any sensible marketer should care for it today! Inevitably, their purpose of developing content reveals their “intention” for Gamification. If a site’s ranking is poor, they have a hunch that the site is not optimized and content is not great.
Can their theoretic recommendations to develop so-called "quality content" be worth considering? Blame my poor digestive system, I could puke! I’m sorry, but everyone knows the secret recipe and has tasted the sauce. Tell us, what next? 
We see a big chunk of content being produced on a daily basis; some are really great, while most are not. Further, I have also noticed that sometimes, great content does not spark any conversation or controversy, nor do users ‘like’ and ‘share’ them. May be what I think as great, other think as substandard and vice versa. It is very subjective to measure the ‘quality’, while a quantitative measurement does not prove a content to be good or bad. Regret how the dirt across digital media buries some amazing content of lesser known people.  Thanks to Google for retiring ‘Author Rank’, else it would have been f##### off. 

Use or Misuse! Everyone in the industry is made to believe that ‘content is king’. They always produce so much, which is beyond one’s digestion capacity. Every hour, every day, every week and every month they create, with the hope of getting into the golden triangle of Google. They also syndicate and distribute across different channels including Facebook, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. I pity LinkedIn in particular, about how it is professionally being abused with promotional emails/loads of execrable content. Jeff, wake up! 
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Wikipedia is another example which is full of rich content and quality information. It has dominated Google search results for a long time, but now it is seeing a sharp decline in traffic from the search engine. Reason - change in algorithm, or a direct answer to a query? At this point of time, any reason that I mention looks a like a theory, but intuitively we all know why Wikipedia is losing traffic from Google, don’t we?  
Address My Questions: Those who believe, content is a gateway to all success, I have a few questions to which I would like an answer:
Q 1: If the content, they produce, is expected to get them the desired results, then why email open and click rate are not going up beyond 25-30% and 3-4% respectively across verticals. Why is the subscriber’s growth always a concern for any marketer? Don’t say they don’t produce great content!

Q 2: How do you measure the success of great content? Using any standard KPIs, Bounce rate or page views? For God sake, don’t say you use “website engagement” metrics! May be, ranking on Google is a “great” measure to consider great content, but is it?  

Content Marketing – A Gimmick! The hype behind content marketing is nothing but a marketing gimmick. Rarely do I think engagement, lead generation and brand awareness are the core objectives for many search marketers. A simple app, for example, could be a darling of millions of users. So, I’d rather vote for some key metrics that matter such as users’ experience, convenience, friendly usage and ability to address their needs. 

These are a few ingredients required to make a tasty sauce, and trust me there is no secret about it. There are many who keep asking -how Google measures user experience as a ranking signal. Dan-Petrovic has debunked the mystery and elucidated in detail –how does a search engine interpret user experience.  
To my understanding, users experience is a behavioral data, which is on Google’s key objective to rank a website, not content with a bunch of keywords. Digitally, users are scanners, not readers.  
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How Much Is Too Much? Relying on the old way and repackaging the same tactic appears to be shallow. I believe, these gimmicks will settle soon, because informed users know how to separate the sheep from the goats. Producing a ton of content and recycling the same will never let anyone to be on the top of minds forever. By the way, how much content do you think is too much for content marketing?   

Conclusion: In my opinion, what works today are– brand value, uniqueness of a product, enhanced digital persuasion, great architecture of a website/an app, etc. I’m not saying you need to reinvent the wheel, but there is no point too to repackaging the old wheel with an optimistic belief that it is sustainable. Nothing is sustainable for a very simple reason - the law of the diminishing marginal returns. 
Content for all marketing promotions is needed, but it is important ONLY if it addresses the users’ needs, rather than the algorithm of some lifeless bots! May be, ranking gets you all smiles, but it’s not necessary that your customers will smile too. So, rack your brains logically than being hooked on to content creation and content marketing for ranking hunch.  


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