Why I don’t much like the phrase, “content marketing”.

by Nick Usborne on May 24, 2010

The phrase “content marketing” makes people think that every piece of content on a website should have a direct marketing function.

Not so.

Many moons ago I was speaking to a group of editors at Yahoo!

I put up a slide showing a page from their site, and commented on how 90% of the page was devoted to some really interesting and useful content, but about 10% was focused on marketing messages.

As a whole, the page didn’t really work. The content was great, but as a reader you got a mixed message, because of the sales messages.

The editors all rolled their eyes. They knew exactly what I meant, and agreed. (Synchronised eye-rolling?)

These people were focused on the content alone. But their marketing colleagues insisted on jumping in and making every page “pay”, by adding these marketing sales messages.

It wasn’t working, and the editors knew it.

That is one example of where content and marketing can get into conflict.

Another example can be drawn from the thousands of websites which get cheap content from so-called content mills.

They don’t worry too much about the quality of the content, because they are focused on marketing and sales. Put simply, each new page has the potential to make them money, either by attracting organic search traffic, and/or monetizing the page through advertising links or affiliate links.

Again, there is a conflict between the content and the marketing.

In both these cases, the value of the content is being compromised in the name of monetization.

You may be thinking, “Duh, grow up Nick. All content has to be a source of revenue, one way or another. It has to pay for itself.”

True. But that doesn’t mean you have to create second-rate or compromised content for your site.

Content shouldn’t be a marketing tool.

Content should be a reader engagement tool.

Forget adding marketing messages on every content page. Forget about trying to monetize every content page.

Instead, create top-rate content that attracts and truly engages your readers.

You’ll get more readers that way. And they will be a lot more likely to link to that page. (Who wants to link to a low-quality, marketing-oriented page?)

In addition, they will be a lot more likely to share that page through social media. (Again, who wants to tweet a sales page?)

The whole concept of “content marketing” puts downward pressure on the quality of the content. It becomes about quantity, instead of quality.

The job of content should be to attract, engage and delight your readers. That way, they’ll keep reading. And they’ll find your sales pages, because they were impressed by your content pages.

Let your content do that job, and that job alone.

Don’t think in terms of content marketing.

Think in terms of reader engagement.

Don’t think Return on Investment.

Think Return on Engagement.

You’ll ultimately make more money from delighted, engaged readers than you will from disappointed readers.

[NOTE: If you enjoyed this article, you’ll doubtless enjoy the daily content ideas I publish for Web Content Café members. Learn more about membership here...]

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