Content marketing has become more popular than ever since its rise to prominence after Google’s “Panda” update back in 2011. Website content can be highly valuable, and crucial for many independent online marketing strategies, but some people have come to see content as purely a good thing.
In reality, the effectiveness and value of your content depends heavily on the type of content you’re creating, and how you’re implementing it. And the scale doesn’t start from zero, either; in fact, bad content can actually do more damage to your campaign than doing nothing at all.
So how can you tell if your website content is helping or hurting your campaign?
Why Content Matters
Let’s start by analyzing why content matters in the first place, and the different ways you can gain value from it:
- SEO fodder. First, content is necessary for a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. SEO is all about making your website as visible as possible in search engines, which means creating lots of pages that can be indexed and maximizing the value of those pages. Adding new content gives search engine crawlers more material to index, and can make your website more relevant for specific search queries.
- Reputation building. Content is also valuable for building your brand reputation and proving your expertise to new and recurring visitors; it’s your opportunity to impress people. High-quality content will make people appreciate, respect, or trust your brand, and the best content has the potential to go viral, attracting even more traffic to your site and earning links that boost your domain authority.
- Conversion attraction. Content is also an opportunity to convert your audience, or get them to take a desired action. If you’re writing about how to choose a bicycle to buy, for example, you can end your article with a link to your most popular bicycles. In this context, content serves as a traffic director that helps turn your visitors into paying customers.
Three Key Traps
In all three of these applications, content can be valuable, but people tend to fall into three major traps of thinking that prevent them from using content properly. These traps are influenced by biases and inexperienced understanding, and can cause you to unknowingly execute a content campaign that not only doesn’t help you; it actively works against you:
- Quantity matters more than quality. Because content has many benefits, some marketers unjustly assume that more content is always better, and then spend their efforts making as much content as possible—rather than making the best content possible. This “quantity over quality” mindset is counterproductive, since even one piece of bad content can damage your reputation.
- Content is a means to an end. Some marketers see content as a means to an end, viewing it solely as a vessel to get people to convert. They treat it like an advertising opportunity, rather than an opportunity to provide value or benefit to their audience. Doing so may betray your audience’s trust.
- Strategic mimicry achieves similar results. Other marketers see similar brands that have been successful with content marketing and attempt to duplicate their strategies. While in theory, this seems like a sound approach, in reality, it cheapens the content you produce because it means your content lacks originality—and it’s rare to capture the essence that made the original strategy successful in the first place.
How Content Can Hurt
So how can content actively hurt your campaign, rather than improving it or letting it simmer?
- Thin content and reputation. “Thin” content is content that doesn’t have value for readers; it might be devoid of details or meaningful information, it might be woefully short, or it might be surface-level, repetitive, or a derivative of other works. If a reader encounters this content on your website, they might leave thinking less of your brand, or seeing you as amateurs, rather than experts.
- Thin content and SEO rankings. Thin content is also bad for your SEO rankings. Google’s algorithm detects the qualitative value of content based on many different factors(which aren’t publicly available), and if it determines that one of your pages is low-quality, you could suffer a mild penalty throughout your entire site.
- Marketing spam and distrust. If readers think your content has been contrived for the sole purpose of attracting more visitors, or for earning more conversions, they’ll come to see you as a spammer, and may distrust any content you publish in the future. Remember, your primary goal in content marketing is to provide value for your audience.
- Improperly targeted content and alienation. If your content isn’t targeted to the right audience, you could end up attracting the wrong types of people—and pushing away the readers you need the most. You might see decent traffic figures, but your conversion rates and profitability will be way off from where they could be.
What’s the best way to make sure your content never works actively against your campaign? The short answer is: make it as good as it can possibly be. Content you put genuine effort into will almost never work against you, and will, in most cases, provide a substantial benefit.
If you want to make your content campaign as valuable as possible, commit to making ongoing improvements; get to know your target audience better, do more research, and pack your content full of as many details, facts, and unique perspectives as you can. Only your best work should ever make it to your blog. For more help developing and executing a content marketing campaign, see The Definitive Guide to Content Marketing.