Bill Gates nailed it in his 1996 essay when he declared “Content is King.”
Across virtually all industries, content marketing has proven to be one of the most valuable and effective components of any digital marketing strategy.
That doesn’t mean all content is created equal.
You’ve no doubt read blogs (or listened to promotional podcasts, or watched marketing videos, etc.) that left you hoping whoever decided to hire someone to create that particular piece of content was able to get their money back.
It’s become increasingly clear that perhaps Bill Gates should have been more specific in his prediction by clarifying that “Strong Content is King.”
Your business absolutely should prioritize content marketing.
However, there’s an argument to be made that weak content is more harmful to your success than no content whatsoever.
This brief overview will cover why that is, and what you can do to ensure your content stands out in the right way.
Google uses a variety of factors to calculate your site’s domain authority. The history of your domain, the strength of your titles and descriptions, and the navigation structure all play small roles. What matters most to your domain authority is the quality of your content.
If your site is stuffed with keywords or content that was obviously written by a non-native English speaker, you can guarantee yourself a pitifully low domain authority.
The higher the quality of your content, the higher your domain authority will be—it’s almost a one-to-one correlation. And the higher your domain authority is, the higher you’re going to rank.
If your content isn’t worth linking to, your inbound links will be sporadic and few—even if people stumble by your site on accident, if they see you have low-quality content, there’s no way they’ll link to you on their external sites.
Or, at the very least, you’ll be less likely to gain any new ones. A big part of growing and cultivating a strong social media following is engaging with individual users on the social platforms themselves, but it’s just as important to attract and retain followers through the syndication of strong onsite content.
If you start posting links to low-quality pieces on your site, or if your followers explore your site to get a better idea of your brand and find low-quality material, you’re going to lose followers. The fewer followers you have, the less impact your content will have and the lower your domain authority will sink.
This is a given if your site is full of low-quality content. Any visitor who enters your site has a much higher likelihood of leaving after visiting only one or two pages.
This means any traffic you receive—whether that’s from search engines, social platforms, external sources, or direct visits—is practically dead in the water.
Without strong content to anchor those incoming visitors, you might as well not have any visitors at all.
The most effective and impressive content for one brand may not be ideal for another. For example, the content you’d publish if your business is targeting hip young teenagers probably wouldn’t be appropriate for a B2B company serving engineering firms.
In general, though, your content is a reflection of your brand. While it can serve many purposes, content often establishes your brand as an authority in your field.
Perhaps you’re trying to grow a law firm. One way you can do so is to hire a freelancer or agency to write regular blog posts covering various legal topics.
In this scenario, the information in the blogs needs to be accurate. You don’t want to drive away clients with content that suggests you learned everything you know about being an attorney from Law & Order.
It’s also crucial that your blog’s language sounds relatively professional. No, it shouldn’t sound as though a robot who’s doing a bad job of convincing the world they’re human wrote it, but it should give a reader the impression that you’re an intelligent person who thoroughly understands your field. The goal is to ensure any readers who find your blog get the sense that they can trust you to handle their case with a certain degree of professionalism and expertise.
A strong blog (or a similar form of content, like a video series) can give them this impression. Will an absence of content have the same effect? Probably not, but at least it won’t give the wrong impression.
If your blog was riddled with inaccuracies, grammatical errors, and the kind of sloppy organization you’d expect from a college student who wrote an essay five minutes before it was due, your content will send a clear message to those reading it: This person isn’t qualified to represent me. They’ll likely give their business to one of your competitors as a result.
That’s just one example. The main point to remember is that your content will represent your brand to potential leads and customers. It’s better to make no impression at all than it is to make the wrong impression.
Content serves as a hub for multiple other marketing channels—you can use whitepapers to attract potential buyers with banner ads, blog posts to add value to an email marketing newsletter, and guest posts to improve your onsite authority. If your content is weak, you’ll have virtually no chance at succeeding in any of these peripheral marketing efforts. Content is a type of mortar that will hold your marketing structures together—if it isn’t reliable, your entire building could collapse.
The “shareable” quality of online content is one of many traits that makes content such a valuable component of digital marketing. When you publish strong content, others may share it on social media or through email, essentially marketing your business for you.
For the most part, they’re unlikely to share weak content. However, there are instances when content is so poor that people will share it for entertainment purposes.
Have you ever seen an embarrassingly low-quality commercial for a local business? The kind that looks like the owner of the business hired their kids to shoot it on an iPhone over the course of a single frustrating afternoon? Even if you can’t relate to this exact reaction, many people who come across such remarkably poor content feel the urge to share it with others online. As a result, content that was meant to grow a business instead makes said business the punchline of a joke.
Your content is nearly out of your control when you publish it online. Until you delete it, others can and may share it. You need to make sure that the people with whom they share it are impressed with what they see. If you publish weak content and others share it before you have a chance to delete it, your reputation will suffer.
Again, this isn’t meant to discourage you from prioritizing content marketing. It’s instead meant to remind you that emphasizing the importance of strong content will pay off in the long run.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, your visitors have no chance of converting, and without any reliable conversions, your site isn’t going to make money and your online marketing strategy will fail. High-quality content is your best shot at improving conversion rates; it can strike an immediate impression with new visitors, keep them on the page long enough to read other pages, and give them action-based instructions to proceed to the next steps of the process. If your content can’t perform, your users won’t convert.
Content doesn’t need to be filled with inaccuracies or errors to be “weak.” Sometimes, weak content is simply content that’s not particularly relevant or valuable for your target audience.
Let’s return to the example above. You’re trying to grow a law firm. No matter what media you choose for your content (and, ideally, you shouldn’t restrict yourself to just one), the content you publish should cover the kinds of topics potential clients would be interested in. If your firm specializes in handling workers’ compensation cases in New York State, for example, you might publish blogs explaining the claims process or highlighting case studies that illustrate the benefits of hiring an attorney when seeking compensation after a workplace accident.
That’s the type of content leads are searching for when they engage with your blogs, videos, and any other content you may publish.
Now, imagine a lead arrives at your site to find a blog with entries on such random subjects as “The Best Restaurants in New York State” or “Why I Love New York.” You might think this content is valuable because it focuses on the part of the country where your target audience is based. The problem is, that’s the only way in which your blog is even vaguely relevant to your audience’s interests in this context.
Potential clients may see content like that and wonder why you bothered to waste your time and money writing it (or hiring someone else to write). Quite simply, the type of content you bother to publish is a reflection of your judgment. Regardless of your industry, you want to prove to leads that you know how to make smart decisions in all areas of your business. They won’t trust that you’re capable of serving their needs if you’re not even capable of serving your own when implementing a content marketing strategy.
Remember, there’s no universal standard for “strong” content. The type of content that’s right for your needs will depend on the nature of your business and target audience.
That said, all business owners should be willing to spend some money to hire content creators they can trust to deliver quality results. True, you have to stick to a reasonable budget when hiring content creators, but you shouldn’t settle for subpar work in the name of savings if you don’t have to.
Spending money on weak content is the same as wasting money when you consider the negative effects such content can have on your business’ growth. While it may seem more financially prudent to cut corners, if you’re willing to spend money hiring genuine experts now, you’ll eventually enjoy the benefits of doing so in the form of business growth.
This is a simple point. However, it’s one that many forget to consider when developing a content marketing strategy.
Always prioritize delivering some form of value to your target audience. Specifically, consider what your audience is looking for when deciding what type of content to publish.
Different audiences are interested in different types of content, of course. Once more, if you’re growing a law firm with SEO, your leads want information on relevant legal subjects. If you’re promoting a social app aimed at a young audience, your content may deliver value in the form of entertaining comedy sketches featuring the app. If you’re marketing a line of kitchen products, your audience will likely be interested in cooking videos which focus on delicious and/or simple recipes while also demonstrating how to use your products.
It will always be important to publish content that seems relatively professional and high-quality. That said, if you provide your audience with genuine value, you can compensate for some minimal quality issues. An informational video should ideally look like you hired an expert to film it, but even if it looks cheaply made, it may still make the right impression on leads if the actual information it provides is truly helpful.
Weak content is often the result of vague goals. Yes, “growing my business” is your primary goal when you design and implement a content marketing strategy, but if you want your content to deliver a strong return on investment (ROI), you need to set more specific and measurable goals.
Let’s continue with the law firm example. If you have a blog, most entries would probably end with a call to action urging readers to schedule a consultation. Your goal when publishing blog entries may be to attract more clients for specific types of cases.
You would thus regularly monitor your relevant metrics to determine if your blog has successfully boosted conversions. If more people are scheduling consultations after reading entries, your content is doing its job. If they aren’t, you need to re-strategize. Either way, by setting a measurable goal, you’ll avoid wasting time and money publishing content that doesn’t help your business in any concrete way.
One way to ensure you’re generating content that resonates with potential customers is to consistently read blogs like this one to learn about changes in SEO best practices and customer behavior. Content that may otherwise be strong and valuable won’t deliver much value for your business if you present it in a way that doesn’t align with customer preferences.
For example, mobile browsing is becoming more popular than desktop browsing. This trend is likely to continue.
That’s worth remembering when publishing blogs and similar types of content. If a lead visits your blog on their smartphone, you don’t want to bombard them with a wall of text that looks like an email they’d get from someone who still hasn’t figured out that paragraphs exist for a reason. That type of formatting is simply too difficult to read on a small screen.
Instead, you should keep paragraphs somewhat short and break the content up into chunks to make it easier to “scan” on a smartphone.
This won’t just create a more satisfying experience for your readers. It will also make readers more inclined to read a blog the whole way through. The more time they spend on a page, the more Google’s algorithm will prioritize that page when users perform relevant searches.
It’s also smart to understand which media your customers find most appealing. For instance, while there’s always a place for blogs and other forms of text-based content, it’s worth noting that video content is becoming increasingly popular. You’re doing your own business a disservice by ignoring such trends.
Just be aware that generating and publishing strong content doesn’t need to be a time-consuming task. You don’t have to create content yourself. If you don’t necessarily have the skills required to write/film/record/etc. strong content on your own, generating content yourself might actually be the wrong approach.
You can instead coordinate with experts. By having a clear idea of the type of content your audience is looking for, and by working with pros qualified to turn your ideas into a reality, you’ll drive business growth naturally and efficiently.