Stop the Madness: Contentmania Must End

Content is king

For quite some time I’ve been besieged all manner of “content.” More companies and their PR firms are producing more content than ever before: infographics, reports, surveys, blog posts, contributed articles and so on. A very tiny percentage of it is good or useful; most of it is a waste.

I would argue the vast majority of content now is created for cynical or instrumental reasons. Very little of it is “authentic” or produced with a genuine objective to communicate its contents or to serve a real need.

The objective of most content is exposure or “coverage,” to “rank” or create “thought leadership” or for “branding” or lead generation purposes. And the continuous, mass production of content dilutes the value of any individual document, report or article.

I’m on the daily receiving end of dozens of reports, studies, infographics and other content-related pitches. There’s lots of duplication and redundancy in these pitches and reports — there were at least 50 Black Friday weekend reports last year — and most of the effort is in fact wasted.

A company may, for example, pay a firm like Forrester $25K+ to generate a short report on some consumer phenomenon, only to have it be ignored because its findings are either self-evident, superficial, redundant or otherwise not very interesting. Beyond that, the PR person on retainer is getting $5K per month to pitch the report. If the content buyer/purveyor is lucky maybe there’s an article or two that comes out of the process.

The current frenzy of content marketing may partly be traceable to Hubspot and its advocacy of “in-bound marketing.” Google SEO, however, is arguably the major driver of contentmania. Blogging and “content” are relentlessly mentioned as tools for “ranking.”

But much in the same way that old SEO “tricks” are now proving ineffective, cynically produced content will do little to advance the cause. My advice is: think about solving real problems, answering real questions and generally trying to serve customers with content strategy. Authenticity and sincerity matter.

Just as customers can tell the difference between good customer service and something perfunctory, content that offers real education or information will go much farther than a flurry of .pdfs generated to gain short term “coverage.” Volume should matter much less than quality.

Don’t create content to “rank.” Think about genuinely helping your audience or the end customer. That will be much more effective in the end.

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5 Responses to “Stop the Madness: Contentmania Must End”

  1. Mindful Marketing says at

    Could one argue that this blog qualifies as contentmania?  Because there are a ton more posts online on the same topic.  With that out of the way, I wholeheartedly agree with the general statement that there is just too much redundant, low-quality, and sometimes misinformed content that is primarily created by outsourced SEO agencies and marketing firms, who then outsource the work further. -makeitmindful

  2. Bob Misita says at

    Another excellent post Greg.  

    @makeitmindful – I would easily argue that this blog represents some of the most insightful and educated commentary in the industry – new and fresh material will likely not ever fall into the contentmania trap.

    I just did a presentation with this concept included this past Tuesday evening for our local Raleigh SEO Meetup group.  Direct quotes = “Don’t create content for the sake of content” and “Too many pages of thin content are bad rather than good”.  

    I find this concept is similar to your earlier post on local seo being replaced by local data optimization.  Content curation and aggregation has created a frenzy on the part of desperate marketers and brands.  

    The evolution of distributed search requires companies that want to be visible focus on reproducible methods that automatically generate high quality, fresh content that emulates user speech.  Think natural language / voice search becoming prominent in the coming years – and imagine how you build processes to live in that world.  Any manual content creation beyond simple product and service descriptions will be outdated even before it’s published. 

  3. Greg Sterling says at

    Thanks Bob for the nice words. I write daily on Search Engine Land/Marketing Land and I write over at the LSA blog — plus here. I just don’t have the energy to do it all anymore. Trying to figure out what I want to say here vs. the other places, which are more news driven. Quality matters. My post about the user experience today is another version of that same idea.

  4. Larissa says at

    This ‘content shock’ (thanks to Mark Schaefer for coining the term!) is real. Rising above the noise becomes more difficult every day (as a marketer) and finding quality content also becomes increasingly difficult (as a consumer). It seems that in every single niche, there is too much ‘competing’ content, and, frustratingly, great content won’t always rise to the top. Agree with Bob who notes that your blog is one of the most insightful in the industry.  

  5. Greg Sterling says at

    Thanks Larissa. It’s very frustrating for me as someone who is on the receiving end of lots of PR and as a writer trying to get my ideas out. It’s really not clear what the solution is except for the industry to decide that content is no longer worth the considerable investment it takes in terms of time and money.

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