In 2020, content is key. According to research by HubSpot, a whopping 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing, and 24% of them plan to increase spending. Clearly, content is effective—but at what cost? It depends on your goals. Great content can help boost customer trust, build brand authority, increase SEO, generate leads, and supplement your inbound marketing strategy. Unfortunately, not all content is great.
The truth is that it’s hard to grab consumer attention. In 2017, only 27% of people claimed they “thoroughly” consumed blog posts. The majority—about 73% of people—owned up to skimming through, and our collective attention spans haven’t gotten any greater. A lot of this has to do with the content’s value, and content that isn’t valuable to readers won’t be valuable to your brand.
Though the average adult spends 11 hours a day consuming media, they’re inundated with 4,000-10,000 marketing messages a day—way more than any single human being can process. But great content sticks out, and in a best-case scenario, it’s even shared, which puts more eyes on your work and your business.
If you’re not seeing returns on your content marketing or SEO strategy, there’s a fair chance that you’re unknowingly producing low-quality content. So, how do you know? Consider the following:
Cool It with The Sales Pitch
The goal of content marketing is obviously to sell something, even if it’s in a round-about way by boosting brand trust through helpful, thought-leadership content. If you’re finding that your posts are lacking shares or facing sinking metrics, it could be because you’re trying a bit too hard to sell yourself.
Consumers don’t want to feel like they’re reading an ad disguised as an article. Again, they already see upwards of 10,000 ads per day. Still, they’re generally receptive when content is helpful and informative first and an advertisement second. That’s the whole concept behind sponsored posts, but if it’s not hitting the mark, try toning down the sales-speak.
It should be noted that this is a fine line. You can also miss out on lead generation if your sales content isn’t salesy enough. Remember to include a call to action if you’re trying to advertise a specific product. Keep it short and sweet.
Your Content Is Too Short But Also Too Wordy
Article length has become an increasingly important metric in SERP (Search Engine Results Page) rankings. Yes, Google’s John Mueller admitted in a Reddit thread that the search engine doesn’t use word count as a ranking factor, but article length can directly correlate to the metrics that do rank. Higher word counts can help you prove your expertise and authority by allowing you to create content that’s in-depth and informative rather than cursory.
Research has shown that evergreen, long-form pieces between 2,250 and 2,500 words receive the most organic traffic, and articles with over 2,500 words get the most social shares. Still, it’s not a hard-and-fast rule, and shorter content between 500 and 1,500 words can still be extremely valuable. Like Meuller said, you should never write words for the sake of the word count. The best strategy is to make sure the word count is natural. Aim for lengthier articles with great storytelling, but always cut the filler.
Are You Procrastinating?
Over the years, blog writing has only become more time-consuming. In 2014, blog posts took an average of two hours and 24 minutes to write, but by 2019, that figure was resting at nearly four hours. A lot of this has to do with competition and market saturation. You need your blog posts to be better researched, impeccably linked, and stuffed with a wealth of insight to please Google’s algorithm. But will you have time for that if you spend half of your workday flipping through Instagram for inspiration?
Procrastination may not seem like the hallmark of bad content, but the more time you spend avoiding your work, the less time you’ll have to perfect it—and readers will notice. The best way to avoid procrastinating is by creating a well-researched content calendar.
Your Content Is Old News
Great content carefully balances timely and timeless. Evergreen content generates more views over time, but timely content—like a brand new research study or a fresh perspective on some breaking news—collects more shares and interactions upfront. The best content does both: it has a fresh spin on some new information but can be useful if referenced down the line.
Consider Google’s Algorithm
What matters most is how valuable your content is to potential consumers. But Google also has its own guidelines that help users identify what the search engine considers low-quality content. These guidelines are used for SEO, but they overlap with what consumers consider low-quality, too. As a rule, Google values three things:
A site’s score can be docked for seemingly minor infractions. For example, you never want content to feel deceptive. This means a sensational or shocking headline—even if technically accurate—could lower your score. Nobody likes clickbait. Similarly, content that’s too short with not enough information may solicit a lower score than similar posts that offer greater insight.
At its heart, Google wants to make sure that your content is providing valuable information rather than just making a spammy sales pitch. That’s what readers—and potential customers—want, too!
Guest post by Ryan Gould
Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services, ElevationB2B
From legacy Fortune 100 institutions to inventive start-ups, Ryan brings extensive experience with a wide range of B2B clients. He skillfully architects and manages the delivery of integrated marketing programs and believes strongly in strategy, not just tactics, that effectively aligns sales and marketing teams within organizations.