Yes, I’m being cheeky with the linkbait headline, and for good reason. It seems like lately everywhere you look you see a “X ways to blah blah” post full of BS on every topic imaginable. Sadly, with more and more businesses catching on to the content marketing trend, the “content” part of it somehow got lost along the way and we’re left with catchy headlines that lead to articles filled with spam.
Content marketing has become spam
How did we get to this point? The marketing world went from having this great “Eureka!” moment of figuring out that good content is good for search engines and for website visitors, to writing useless copy stuffed with keywords. Sadly, I think that as marketers, we did it to ourselves. With every “content marketing is so hot right now” and “7 ways to fool your customers into clicking” blog post, we snowballed this tactic into a spam monster. Some marketers just rolled their eyes and didn’t succumb to spamming their customers, but many other just didn’t know better or didn’t see the harm. The result? A lot of silly, useless stuff on the web that breeds other silly, useless stuff.
Why does this matter?
[pullquote]Good content marketing doesn’t just drive visits – it drives engagement. Spam may get people to your site, but that’s it. It’s a waste of a click.[/pullquote]Content marketing didn’t take off because it got people to the website. It took off because it got people to the website and it got them to take action. This action could be downloading information, reading other content, buying a service or a product or a number of any other things. The point is, good content marketing doesn’t just drive visits – it drives engagement. Spam may get people to your site, but that’s it. It’s a waste of a click.
As marketers, our job isn’t just to get someone to our site. Our goal is to engage them in a way that meets the goal of that site, be it content consumption (i.e. download an ebook), product trial or any other action that we’ve defined as important. We can’t do it with spam, but we can do it with good content marketing.
How to turn your spam back into content marketing
Just as we snowballed into this problem, we’re going to have to snowball out of it. It’s up to marketers to stop creating spam and start creating content again. And we can do it by following these three simple rules.
1. Write content that’s relevant
This rule should be a no brainer, but it’s probably the first reason why content marketing turned into spam in the first place. It’s easy to do keyword research and target less competitive keywords with new content. It gets the visitor to the site and that’s where things go wrong because what they read when they land is not always relevant.
Let’s take one of my clients, Brideside, for example. The keyword “buy last minute bridesmaid dress” has very little competition so theoretically it’d be a good one to target for an online bridesmaid dress retailer. Only Brideside doesn’t offer last minute bridesmaid dresses. If they had content for that keyword and drove visitors to their site, those visitors would be quite disappointed. Not only would they not engage with the site because they didn’t find what they were looking for, but they would be left with a negative impression of Brideside. So no, we won’t be targeting that keyword even though it would be pretty easy to do.
Focus your content marketing on what’s relevant to your prospective customers so that you bring them to the site and engage them in a relevant way once they’re there.
2. Write content that’s useful
Don’t write content for content’s sake. Make it so that it answers a need that your reader may have.
For example, if someone searches for “watch cat videos” and end up on a blog post that simply talks about the existence of cat videos and states the fact that you can watch them online, that’s useless. The person searching already knows this. Their intention is clearly to watch some cat videos so if your landing page doesn’t have cat videos, it’s absolutely useless to them. They will get to your page and then leave right away. That’s a fail for both of you.
3. Stay on brand
Your content marketing efforts should be subject to the same rules that your other brand assets are subject to. A brand check is a key quality check. The rest of your site has to meet the brand standard so why should this be any different? It represents you and your brand just as much as the rest of your site. You’ve worked hard to build your brand and you should protect it in all its representations.
A quick way to check content marketing for brand compliance is to ask yourself the following question: Would I be proud to link to this article from my homepage? If the answer is no, it’s probably not up to scratch yet.
What about SEO?
Writing relevant, useful, on-brand content doesn’t mean you should forego SEO. You should still select your keywords strategically and utilize them in copy. You should still distribute your content in all the places that make sense. The rules above don’t trump SEO. It’s the opposite. By making your content less spammy (i.e., better by being more relevant and useful), your readers will enjoy it more which means your organic distribution and the SEO benefits it brings will at worse stay the same, but hopefully they will actually improve. See? Everyone wins!
What about those linkbait headlines? They do work…
They do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. People respond to certain wording and as marketers we utilize that knowledge. Numbered lists, questions and provocative statements get readers’ attention and get them to click. Why mess with what works, right? What you should do is 1) apply the three principles outlined above to your headlines as well so that they, too, are useful, relevant and on-brand, and 2) make sure the content they click-through to is good content, not spammy, keyword stuffed copy.
Do you agree with my three rules? Or are there others you also apply? I’d love to hear how you keep your content from becoming spam.