Having worked in digital marketing for over a decade, I’ve experienced the profound changes that have occurred over that time firsthand. During this time, content marketing has become the bedrock of digital marketing strategies all over the world as digital and print advertising continue their steady decline into oblivion.
Technology has completely transformed the field of marketing and continues to do so on a more and more frequent basis.
But, even with all these new opportunities provided by a boom in digital technology, is content marketing getting harder?
It’s an interesting question, and one that I ask myself regularly having worked in this field for the last decade.
I remember a time, not so long ago, when you could almost guarantee thousands of readers for every blog post, easily achieve first page rankings for web content, and build subscriber lists of tens of thousands with relative ease.
I also remember a time when conversion rates hit double figures, More than 1 person in a thousand clicked on ads, and a Facebook update would get seen by thousands, if not, millions.
Whilst it’s still possible to achieve big numbers and engage a large audience online, it’s not guaranteed and it’s certainly not easy.
In fairness, it was never easy.
But in my opinion, it is now harder than ever before to win the attention of your target market and run a successful content marketing strategy.
In this article I will explain why I believe content marketing, and digital marketing in general, is more difficult now than it has ever been.
It’s getting noisy out there
Since marketing departments, and businesses in general, discovered that the web is a pretty good tool to grow a customer base with, over the years we’ve seen more and more of them enter the content marketing arena.
It seems these days that everyone has a website, a blog, a YouTube channel, an app, and a tendency to publish as much as they can on the various social media platforms available to them.
This is a problem for businesses.
A content marketer’s goal is to earn attention, and the reality is, we’re all operating within an attention economy now.
This means that to win the attention of our target market, we’re competing with a huge number of other web entities that are looking to win the attention of the same people.
Once upon a time, there were a large number of people starved of quality content on the web and as a result, the demand for content was huge.
Whilst there is still huge demand for content, the supply of content has increased exponentially. This means that it is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to be heard above the noise.
You’ve no doubt seen this for yourself. Email inboxes packed to the rafters. Facebook and Twitter feeds so clogged up with content you don’t know where to look, RSS readers filled with hundreds of various blog subscriptions.
We live in an age of content overload.
As a marketer, if you look solely at the competition for the attention you need to earn, it can seem like a horrifically daunting task. And for many it is.
If you look at the competition angle of this question, it’s easy to conclude that content is certainly getting harder.
And this has presented another problem
Social networks, particularly Facebook, have had to tackle the issue of content overload head on.
Where businesses used to enjoy a huge amount of organic reach when posting content on Facebook, now, Facebook have introduced an algorithm that gives priority to content posted by friends and family.
Obviously, this has also been implemented to boost Facebook’s advertising business, but, in the early days people were extremely click happy when it came to liking Facebook pages and, as a result, content overload affected engagement with Facebook by it’s users.
And it isn’t only Facebook that are making significant changes.
Recently Instagram, Twitter and YouTube have introduced similar changes to their algorithms that mean, even if somebody is following or subscribed to you, the chances of them ever seeing your content has been greatly reduced.
Because of this, more and more of content marketing budgets are being eaten up by the need to amplify the exposure of the content brands are producing. This means that social media, when once considered a marketer’s holy grail, is becoming another drain on precious resources.
But with so many platforms and tools available, surely it’s easier to spread the word than ever before, no?
It’s true that delivering a message is easier than ever before.
Smartphones have ensured that in our pockets we now have the ability to communicate with virtually anyone on the planet at any time and allow us to publish just about any form of content quickly and easily to the world.
We can even broadcast ourselves live.
However, the democratisation of the media landscape means that instead of only competing with large organisations for column inches in glossy magazines and air time on TV, we’re now competing with anyone publishing content online. Whether that be a social media post, a blog article, a video, a piece of music, or just about anything you can think of.
The means to create and deliver content has certainly become easier, but it has also removed the barriers to entry. We’re all publishers now and this is something that content marketers need to recognise.
This is why many marketers are tearing their hair out. The challenge keeps growing and will continue to do so.
So what does this mean for content marketing in general?
So we’ve established that content marketing is getting harder, but what does this mean for content marketers?
The truth is, you need to up your game.
To stand out and cut through the noise, your content needs to be of the highest quality, and really needs to sing to your target audience.
Whether you’re creating the content yourself or outsourcing to content production agencies, mediocre content will no longer cut it in this environment.
You also need to be willing to throw resources at this. With digital ad performance plummeting, it’s time to eat into that sacred advertising budget and allocate some funds to the creation and promotion of high quality content.
The data shows that content is far more effective and it now needs to be viewed as more than a buzzword or a tick in the box.