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Content marketing has been a favorite strategy of entrepreneurs in practically all industries for the past decade or so. It has synergy with dozens of other online marketing tactics, including search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and email marketing, and offers one of the highest returns on investment (ROI) of any marketing strategy. Accordingly, it’s easy to see why content marketing has become so popular.
But these days, the online content world is downright saturated. There are millions of people all claiming to be “experts” in their chosen field. There are literally more than 600 million blogs. And it seems like everyone in the world has their own podcast.
So how did this happen, exactly? Why is the content world so saturated with redundant (and often bad) content, and how can you fight against it?
Google’s losing battle
First, we have to consider Google’s losing battle against low-quality content. Over the years, Google has applied increasingly strict standards to its search engine algorithm, weeding out low-effort content designed only to help a site rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). Updates like Panda helped to set new standards for content quality on the web, and updates like Hummingbird applied new “semantic search” capabilities to consider context, rather than keyword matches.
But despite these updates, it’s still possible for almost any site to reach rank one in Google for a given search, as long as they keep writing and publishing more content. Content is, understandably, the best way to increase search rankings, and search rankings remain the best way to get attention for your brand. So it makes sense that people would continue to find ways to manipulate the system in their favor.
The mutual benefit of dilemma
Complicating the matter, both authors and publishers stand to benefit from content production. Publishing sites are incentivized to feature a wide range of submissions from different authors, getting more content indexed and raising their domain authority. At the same time, authors are constantly looking for new publication outlets, where they can build their own authority and get more visibility for their content.
These two types of parties have created a kind of ecosystem where content publication and exchanges are free and easy. Although most publishers do have content standards, authors are practically incentivized to produce the lowest quality work that can still meet the expectations of publishers and platforms like Google.
These days, everyone claims to be an expert in something. Because people are often responsible for writing their own titles and bios, they have free reign to describe themselves however they like. They can call themselves a “serial entrepreneur” or a “tech consultant” without much demonstrable evidence and get away with writing on topics they only minimally understand. This practice has become pervasive and has compromised the ability of “real” experts to be discovered by people who need them.
Mimicry and replication
Content marketing is an environment ripe for mimicry and replication. When someone finds success in the content marketing world, other authors look to them as an example and attempt to recreate the process that led them to success. This eventually cultivates a self-sustaining environment where huge audiences replicate the same tactics over and over without adding much to the conversation. It’s a self-perpetuating problem.
Bots and automation
It doesn’t help that it’s becoming increasingly popular for content marketers to turn to the help of bots and automation to write new articles and syndicate their work. Although most content creation bots aren’t sophisticated enough to fool plagiarism checkers or Google’s algorithm yet, there may soon come a time where it’s difficult to distinguish the work of a robot from the work of a human. When that happens, this problem will only become worse.
How to beat the saturated market
So what steps can you take to overcome this saturation and help your content truly stand out?
- Offer new information. Try to volunteer unique anecdotes, original research or other forms of genuinely new information to your audience. Tell them something they’ve never heard before.
- Speak to a niche audience. Don’t try to capitalize on a general audience. Instead, speak to a very specific, focused demographic and distinguish yourself from your competitors.
- Directly connect with your readers. Don’t just produce content. Talk to your readers, and try to build a true community from the ground up.
- Weave together multiple strategies. Content marketing is just one strategy, so try to use it in coordination with a host of other strategies.
Content marketing is alive and well, but we owe it to ourselves and to our readers to write the best content we can — and avoid adding to the saturation problem. Prioritize quality and differentiation in your own material, and don’t fall into the traps that publishers, authors and search engines have set.
Originally appeared in Entrepreneur