As I approach the 10-year anniversary of Global Copywriting, I’m thinking back on what content marketing was like in October 2008. The GFC had just landed, although none of us had any idea what was about to unfold. (Honestly, would any of us have started a business if we knew?) The Content Marketing Institute was nearly two years away from launching. A few of us were banging the content drum but not very hard or very loud. We’ve learned a lot since then.
But that’s not what I want to talk about here.
I could labour for pages about the progress we’ve made in content marketing and the lessons I’ve learned along the way or share some of my success stories. I can’t help feeling most of that has been done, ad nauseum, or would be flat-out boring. (No one hangs around for chest thumping, right?)
Jumping off the bandwagon
What is interesting, on reflection, is all the things we’ve quit doing. Or the things a lot of us have quit doing. Here’s my list of content marketing activities I no longer do. They all used to feature heavily in my work but I’ve completely dropped them.
- SlideShare– It used to be one of the best platforms for marketers and a great lead generator. While SlideShare isn’t technically dead, a couple of acquisitions have left it comatose, especially for USA marketers. It’s a complete shame because when LinkedIn acquired SlideShare it looked like it might be going places. Once Microsoft acquired LinkedIn, the whole thing was sidelined.
- Google+– Earlier this month Google announced they were killing off Google+ for consumers and a silent cheer went up all over the world. The product was meant to be a Facebook coup but the consumer market didn’t love it. Google found a bug in their API, which made private data available, but claim they never experienced a security breach. It’s a convenient excuse for a product that inconvenienced a lot of marketers.
- Keyword density– Writing for SEO looked much different in 2008 than it does today. While keyword stuffing was more of a 2001 technique, a lot of it was still going on late into the first decade of the century. We used to worry about things like exact matches of keywords and phrases, too. Thankfully, those days are over. Check out Rand Fishkin’s rundown of the history of writing for SEO for a great explanation on how we’ve progressed.
- Always-on content marketing – In 2010, I nearly drove myself nuts. I stepped my blogging up to twice a week, wrote a newsletter, and was active on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn along with a number of smaller social sites. When Google+ launched in June 2011, it felt like I had no choice but to double down on that, too. All of this was before I’d done any customer work. Thankfully, we’ve moved away from the quantity model of content marketing after discovering wearing your audience out wasn’t a great way to gain influence.
- LinkedIn discussion groups – I’m not sure when it happened but LinkedIn discussion groups are no longer part of my marketing. In fact, it’s hard to find discussion groups on LinkedIn anymore as it appears they want you to publish articles on the LinkedIn Publishing platform.
- LinkedIn articles – While I still post the occasional article on LinkedIn, I’m certainly not getting the juice from it I once did. In the early days, I could expect hundreds of views of an article, if not thousands. I can’t remember when I last broke 100 views. I’m sticking to publishing on my blog and posting to LinkedIn.
- Long website copy – When developing websites, long copy was the norm in 2008. You wanted everything you had on the site with as many tabs as possible. With heavy infiltration of the smartphone and the big uptake of mobile devices, less copy is preferable. That’s a good thing.
- Short blog posts –While web copy has reduced in length, blog posts have gone the opposite way. 350 to 500 words was considered a good effort in 2008. (Maybe because we were suffering from ‘always-on’ content marketing.) Readers want more meat on their content bones and Google rewards original content that’s making an effort, too. 800 to 1200 words a post is the norm now and going for 2000 or 3000 words is perfectly acceptable if you have something to say.
- Blog posts without photos –It’s amazing to think back to 2008 and realise how few photos were required in content marketing. Social media was still mostly text-based updated with no visual element in the majority of posts. Blog posts didn’t have photos, let alone embedded media. While a lot of the items on my quit list make life a little easier for a busy marketer, this isn’t one of them. Without photos, you can’t expect to get reader attention or Google love, so it’s time to suck it up and start adding several to each post.
- Generic email –If you’re not personalising your email newsletter, you’re missing more than a few tricks. At the very least, you need to have a greeting using the person’s first and/or last name. The bar in content marketing is higher than ever before, so make sure you’re not losing customers with a lack of personalisation. You can hear my riff about how Expedia let me down with email personalisation during the On My Desk segment of episode 214 of the Brand Newsroom podcast.
Happy birthday to you!
Consider this quit list my gift to you. I don’t know a marketing professional today who isn’t bogged down with a long list of things to do. Business owners are doing it even harder. If we want to be truly great at marketing, I’m of the firm belief we need to start doing a whole lot less and focusing on doing a few things we enjoy a lot better.
Here’s what I’d like to know from you: what’s on your content marketing hit list? What’s quit working or is more effort than it’s worth? Leave a comment and give us all hope it’s possible to scale back.
If you want help determining what’s working and what’s not in your content marketing initiative, get in touch. I’d love to have a chat and see what you can quit doing so you can focus on getting better results for your business.