“Content is king” is one of the most repeated phrases in the world of digital marketing, and also one of the most widely misunderstood. Used as an excuse to churn out poor quality, keyword-stuffed blog articles or micro-targeted 30-second videos, the “content is king” mantra is used as an excuse for poor content marketing practice across a huge range of platforms.

Poor content marketing practice can be the result of a range of things, from a lack of planning and strategy to confusion over brand tone of voice – but almost always boils down to a simple fact: you don’t know why you’re doing it, or what you should be doing. Everyone knows that content is incredibly important for SEO, for brand presentation online, and for customer interaction, but these are just over-arching justifications for producing content rather than a guideline for what you should be doing.

Without investing the time to properly explore content marketing and what your approach should be, we end up with trend-chasing or overly advertorial content based on keyword volume – content as an exercise in box ticking (“Well we need it to boost our keyword ranking!”) rather than an attempt to provide anything of value for the end user, or give them a reason to engage with the brand.

Trend-chasing brands lose where they could have won.

This can be particularly obvious in video content, which can be much easier to get in front of users and for them to interact with (and video is becoming more and more important every year – Cisco suggests that by 2022, online video will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic), where trend-chasing or keyword-focused content can end up demonstrating that a brand does not particularly understand either it’s user base or why (and how) they would interact with certain concepts. A particularly good example of this is the 2017 Pepsi ‘protest’ advert which, in trying to keep up with the emergence of protest movements across the world and the trend toward much greater political consciousness in young people, fell incredibly flat.

Pepsi protest ad failed to hit the mark

Stand-out becomes the norm.

The need for relevant, regular content that drives traffic (or engagement, or conversions) can lead to the push for short-term “quick wins” (and so the overuse of trend chasing and so on) that excludes the production of evergreen material, and so ends up falling into the trap of homogenisation (and falling engagement). We can see this particularly starkly on social media platforms like Twitter, where the success of a new type of voice & strategy (see: Wendys) results in its wide-spread adoption by competitors and a rapid normalisation of a previously stand-out feature.

Wendys Twitter Roast with McDonalds popular content

Brands that fall into these content traps in the drive for “king content” also reduce the expectation for measurement – your content should provide you with benefits as well as the user, and quality content provides measurable results that can drive growth and your marketing ability. Quick wins, homogenised voices and keyword chasing can provide great vanity metrics like likes or page views post-by-post – but if that’s all that’s being measured, and no long-term view is being utilised, then your content will suffer.

The struggle within.

The struggle at the heart of content marketing, and hidden within the phrase “Content is King”, is for relevance; to new users, existing customers, and to your brand. This naturally requires a combination strategy, using shorter term media (including reactions to relevant trends) as well as evergreen content that will be of benefit to users for much longer than the lifetime of a tweet or Facebook post.

Your content does not need to appeal to everyone, just as your brand is unlikely to be designed with everyone in mind – and in an overcrowded market, trying to be everything to everyone can easily result in irrelevance.

By producing content with a mixture of intentions and lifespan, you can more easily establish a full strategy that incorporates brand voice and social responsibilities whilst also providing long-term benefits to your users – and thus capturing that important SEO improvement.

Content is king. But that content must be worthy of the crown! 

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