NOTE: The video above contains some strong language. If you are offended by that, or in some other Not Safe For F-Bombs Environment, don't press play!
It took a few years, but it finally happened. I read the worst content marketing article in the history of content marketing.
I'm not going to post it here, or shame anyone. This blog will never be about that. I will tell you that the subject of the article was something like "why it's important to write well in content marketing." This has almost ended content marketing for me. Almost.
I mean, who would ever argue the reverse?
But I understand why this article was written. I do. It was written because the mill demands grist. It was written because it would activate a tribe on the Interwebs that would share it with a "Hell, YEAH!" But the article was the rhetorical equivalent of "Why Water Is Important To Your Lake."
This article, and zillions like it, are part of the unfortunate reality that quantity works. So does quality, by the way--it's a false choice. But if you don't have quality, you can roll with quantity. Some, like my friends Jay Baer and Mark Schaefer, pull off the seemingly miraculous trick of providing both. But for the rest of us, we need to be comfortable with the fact that we have to expend our resources wisely: do we create a lot of content, or do we create a little great content?
Here's a way to think about this that might change your thinking, the next time you are about to hit "publish" on "Seven Ways To YOU WON'T BELIEVE THE THIRD WEIRD THING" or its analog for your business. Have you ever gotten a cold call? I get craptons of them. They don't work--at least on me. But people still do it, because it's a numbers game. Sales-driven organizations install vast phone rooms--called "boiler rooms"--where people dial for dollars every day, quickly moving past the 999 "Nos" to get to that single "Yes." The chance of any single call producing revenue is very slim. The chance of 1,000 calls producing revenue, however, is high. So boiler rooms operate, and will continue to.
Boiler rooms have a comforting math about them. Want to increase your sales? Increase your calls. Simple. But for every win a company puts on the board, it pisses off hundreds of "leads" who will never disassociate that "boiler room" image from that company again. Grab me at a conference some time and I'll recite my litany of shame for you--the companies that could deliver me nachos every day and I still wouldn't take their call.
That "boiler room" image is a little unseemly, right? Makes you feel a little queasy just thinking about it?
Companies that put out scads of scattershot listicles are the boiler room of marketing. Blogging for leads, not relationships. Will they get leads? Sure, as far as they define them. Some will convert. But many more won't.
And here is what I think these content "boiler rooms" don't consider fully: the non-response bias of the people this content doesn't convert. Because when I see a site or company pumping out this kind of content, the damage isn't that I simply don't become a lead. The damage is what I think about your company, its ethos, and its ability to solve my business problems, to be frank. It gives me the impression that this is not a company I want to be partners with. And for every lead "boiler room" content creates or converts, how many more walk away from those interactions feeling just as queasy about that brand as that clip above made you feel about stockbrokers?
Ultimately what I am getting at, as I often do, is the limits of clickstream data for things like this. Boiler Room content is very easy to quantify if you look at leads per post. But damage per post? Google Analytics won't tell you that.