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Why Content Marketing Doesn’t Work (And What Does)


Content marketing has been touted by marketers as the future of marketing for a while now. And it’s no wonder why- the stats passed around are remarkable. For instance, a study concluded that content marketing gets three times the leads per dollar spent than paid search. Or this one that found that small businesses with blogs get 126% more lead growth than small businesses without. But, is content marketing really the marketing superhero it’s been sold as? Well, in all truth, we don’t think so.

As a digital marketing agency that does a lot of work in content marketing both for our own brand and for others, this might sound strange, right? Don’t get us wrong- the results of content marketing can be amazing. But, it’s not content marketing that makes the difference, it’s really the content strategy. And, that’s the biggest problem. Too many businesses are ignoring the strategy side of content marketing and the results are less than inspiring.

Content Marketing vs. Content Strategy

While this survey from the Content Marketing Institute found that 91% of respondents used content marketing, only 20% found it very successful, and 4% extremely successful. Businesses are failing to achieve the desired outcomes that content marketing promises because they don’t have a strategy in place and are looking for a quick-fix. It’s become normal to publish a blog just for the sake of publishing a blog. No purpose or strategy behind it, just because “Google likes fresh content.” That may be true, but even more important, Google likes high-quality content that provides users value.

Quality vs. Quantity

Neon Sign spelling out high quality

As I’m writing this, it’s estimated that over 3 million blogs have already been written today- and it’s not even noon yet. And that number continues to increase by a few hundred nearly every second. With so many people and businesses blogging, it’s progressively harder to stand out. In order to gain engagement and drive traffic to your site, your content has to be high-quality, value-driven content. But, instead of placing more importance on quality than quantity, many businesses and marketers seem to be doing the opposite. And it’s not surprising why.

When you hear that companies that published 16+ blogs per month got almost 3.5X more traffic than companies that published between 0 – 4 monthly posts, it’s easy to forget about quality and worry that if you aren’t posting four new blogs a week, your business is going to get left behind. Or you think that if your blog post doesn’t reach at least 1,000 words, there isn’t a point.

All of this leads to the influx of poor, quickly-written, rarely edited content. But, these types of blog posts rarely lead to increases in traffic or leads. Instead, it’s important for businesses to focus on high-quality content that is posted on a consistent basis. Consistency is key! If you don’t have the resources to post a well-researched and well-written blog to your website twice a week, that’s okay. Determine how often you can post this type of content and create a schedule. If that’s twice a month, great! Just stick to it and focus on the quality, not the quantity.

Long-Term Goals and Strategies

Another problem with content marketing is that business owners and marketers expect it to drive traffic to their site in a matter of weeks. Content marketing isn’t a short-term solution though. Content marketing is all about the long game. You can’t start a blog, or begin creating some other form of content, and expect to gain 500 new visitors to your site in a week. That’s not how it works. But that is what many marketers and businesses expect. In reality, content marketing isn’t just ticking a box and saying that you’ve posted a blog that day. The first step to content marketing is actually determining what you are even trying to achieve.

Notebook with "Focus on the Long Term" written.

Strategies based on your specific business goals will inform what type of content you will create, what channels you will use, and what KPI’s you will use to measure your success. Maybe your goal is to gain more brand awareness. Or maybe it’s to increase conversions. Or it might even be to earn backlinks to improve your SEO. There are so many possible goals that your business may have for content marketing. And, the goals you choose are going to inform every piece of content your brand produces.

For example, if the reason you are wanting to produce content is to increase your brand awareness, you might want to focus more on video, or other forms of easily shareable content that you can spread across your social media platforms. This will help generate engagement and lead more people to your brand. But, if your goal is to earn backlinks, infographics may be your home run. Align every piece of content with your goal, giving it purpose and a method to measure success.

Focus on Content Strategy Not Content Marketing

So, go into content creation with a purpose in mind. Don’t just publish content to publish content. The more defined your goals and strategies are, the more successful your content marketing will be. Also, don’t forget that even if you produce quality content that lines up with your strategic plan, you probably won’t make significant progress overnight. Although sometimes businesses do produce one piece of amazing content that goes viral and blows up their brand awareness and sales, this is the exception, not the rule. Successful marketing always takes times. If you are ever promised otherwise, run in the opposite direction. Keep pushing, keep your eye on the ball, and eventually, you will get to where you want to be. And then you make new goals and set up a new strategy. It’s never-ending, but it’s always worth it.