We are going to play devil’s advocate for a moment, as we ponder a bit of a conundrum in the ever-present question of content creation in the expanding world of inbound marketing.
According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound Report 2018, converting contacts and leads into customers is the number one priority for inbound marketing agencies and companies, with bottom of the funnel content seen as crucial. Second in that list is growing traffic to the company or agency website, and that too requires having the right content to attract visitors.
This follows on from the 2017 report that showed generating traffic and those all-important leads was the main priority for inbound marketers, and as this blog points out, it’s only going to get harder.
According to the 2017 report, 63% of respondents mentioned generating leads and increasing organic traffic as being their biggest challenge (with blog creation the top priority for 53%), and in 2018 that figure stays relatively constant at 61%, but the take on it is open to debate. The blog mentioned above states that ‘marketers are struggling with producing enough demand for their content’, but that to me sounds strange. We can’t produce demand any more than we can order consumers to use our services.
It’s more a question of producing the content that meets the demand already out there, or that we can reasonably expect to be out there in the future, in the format consumers want to see, and using the right platforms to get it in front of the people we want to see it. To repeat the old inbound mantra, content is king when it comes to generating leads and bringing them down the conversion path, but it needs the right tools and support in order to rule.
Unfortunately, we are increasingly entering into the world of paid for content and outright advertising in order to get our message out there and seen by the right people. Despite the fact that 30% of respondents to the 2018 report state that paid for advertising such as broadcasts, outdoor advertising and print are the biggest waste of expenditure, the way inbound is going, ‘organic’ content could potentially cost as much if we want it to have any chance of ranking well in search.
Sure, the content may not look like an ad, but that’s what it becomes, essentially. If organic content is not getting the results we want, we need to start investing in boosting, promoting and outright paying for the privilege of ranking well in search and getting our message out to all those potential customers. Whether that is through Facebook Ads, Google Adwords or any other platform, search engines and social media platforms have grown so powerful that they can dictate where your content ranks, and often this can come down to paying for it.
And when you are paying for it, that’s an ad.
If everybody has to start doing this, however, we can expect the costs associated with it to skyrocket (and we are seeing those increases already), and not every inbound agency or SME will be able to afford to compete with larger organisations, especially if they only have one or two people creating their content. (It also raises the debate over ad blocking, which we discussed here.)
This presents a conundrum, but there is another paradox at play too.
We all know by now that consumers read fewer blogs and want more videos, and so are advised to use visual formats and other types of content to increase traffic and leads in order to stand out from the crowd, and to boost SEO. However, apart from the fact that this is a completely different skillset to writing content, and requires investment in staff or training, there is also the problem that if everybody takes this advice on board and starts to produce visual content, won’t that leave us back where we started, competing on the same unlevel playing field for higher search rankings?
If you are the only agency effectively using innovative visual content, and promoting it through social media platforms, you are likely to see your traffic and lead generation increase, because you will be better at meeting the needs and preferences of modern consumers. But if every agency starts doing the same, you are likely to fall right back into the median from where you started.
It’s the same with other developments in inbound marketing and content creation we have seen lately. We have been told to stop focusing on keywords and to move towards pillar content and topic clusters. By doing this, we will see our search ranking improve. It truly does work, but what happens when everybody is doing it, and search engines have to take another look at their rankings? If we are all doing the same thing (and let’s assume we do it to an equal level of quality), how does one company or agency out-do another and appear on page 1 of Google instead of page 5?
In the end, does it all come back to who has the resources to put money behind the content they produce to see it rank higher than that of competitors?
Perhaps. But perhaps the solution for smaller agencies and companies the answer lies in getting there first with the great content your insights and analysis tell you will resonate with the audience. Storytelling has become a successful inbound marketing trend, for example, but insight and imagination can help you come up with ideas for the next winning formula. If your inbound marketing team is keyed into emerging trends, and can use them effectively before others take them on board, the chances are you are likely to outperform the competition. At least for a while.
By keeping an eye on those trends and constantly spotting and adopting new ones, you can stay one step ahead while the competition strives to catch up with what you have been doing. That is not always an easy thing to do, but the alternative approach of just continuing to do what you have always done may result in your business falling behind.
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