Are you unwittingly creating "content noise"? If your content marketing efforts are continually getting lost in the shuffle after publication, there's a good chance that you are.
Before answering that question, it's important for marketers to understand just how vast that amount of content is on the internet. Competing for attention when taking the entire worldwide web into account is actually a lot more difficult than it might seem.
Just how vast is the internet?
The ACI Information Group conducted a study in 2014 that found out just how massive content generation is on the internet. Their research and infographic breaks down the amount of content that is posted online every 60 seconds.
On social media, especially, the speed at which content is shared and created is astronomical. In the span of just one minute, Facebook users share 2.5 million pieces of content, Twitter users send out nearly 300,000 tweets, YouTube users upload 72 hours of video content, and Instagram users post almost 220,000 photos.
But how much of that new information is actually worth paying attention to? And does the speed with which content is created actually help internet users -- or simply overwhelm them?
Most likely, the answers are "not much" and probably the latter rather than the former. Getting users to focus on your content in the vast sea of their Facebook and Twitter feeds can be next to impossible if you haven't added anything new to this seemingly infinite conversation.
So what exactly is "content noise"?
Marcel Digital, a marketing agency in Chicago, recently posed this question to several experts in the SEO and content creation fields. What they received was a diverse set of answers that ranged from "fluff" to, essentially, bad marketing. The experts also explained how they know when they've seen such content noise -- and it's not difficult.
Neil Patel, of QuickSprout and other online ventures, explained that content noise can be pretty easy to spot because they don't leave the reader with any kind of valuable information. "You know when you see it because these content pieces aren’t well written and don’t go into much depth," he said.
For Moz.com founder Rand Fishkin, the answer simply comes down to making an impression on the web. "The flood of content to which web-connected people are exposed on a daily basis has risen exponentially in the last 10 years," Fishkin explained. "Our brains are rewiring to keep up, but part of that process means filtering out an ever-growing percent of what we see."
Essentially, if readers or viewers won't remember your content or brand name, then it's probably just background noise in their day. And remember: all of that content being published to the web by the minute is your competition, even if it's not directly related to your business.
How are content and SEO linked?
Barry Schwartz, founder of Search Engine Roundtable, gave some practical advice for businesses that are trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to content. "To me, content noise is content developed by rehashing what other content producers have put out on the web," he said. "This is without adding any new insights, data or other value." Creating this thin, probably plagiarized content is a bad move, Schwartz explained, because it actually gets businesses penalized in Google.
In fact, that's a big reason to avoid adding low-quality content to your website. Google's Panda algorithm punishes websites with poor quality content. Similarly, if that content is spammy or keyword-stuffed, then it's also likely to get a thumbs down from the world's most popular search engine. And if you've copied your information from other websites or used your own duplicate content, then you're also likely to face Google's wrath.
How can you avoid creating "content noise"?
While it can be tough to predict what internet audiences will and won't love, there are some can't-miss tips you can use to be consistent with your content.
1. Determine your audience and create for them -- not for search engines.
One of the pitfalls that many businesses face in their marketing campaigns is that they don't exactly know whom they're targeting. Yet figuring out, hypothetically, who would be using your services or buying your goods can actually help you figure out how to tailor your marketing campaigns, too.
Some businesses like to give those hypothetical clients names and personalities. If they market fine jewelry, for instance, then they might have one potential shopper who is a single woman in her forties; another target customer might include a man in his twenties or thirties buying an engagement ring for his girlfriend.
However, these specifics don't really matter as much as knowing exactly >why someone might need your products or services. Make sure you're clear on who your customers are and what their needs might be, and plan your content around that. That can include offering how-to's and easy D.I.Y. guides without trying to oversell (or directly market) your products. Give them something useful rather than something stuffed with keywords and written for Google.
2. Position yourself as an expert in your field.
To follow up that point, try to give your audience something that no other business can -- or more than your competitors may be offering.
Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, stated in Marcel Digital's survey that it's all about the "story" that businesses can tell. "The companies that fail to tell a different story will fail," he said, but "those that find a content niche where they can be the leading expert in the world, then develop a platform of consistent and useful content and build an opt-in audience, will succeed."
That "story" that Pulizzi refers to is anything that makes your business special. Why does your business exist? Why are your services so vital to consumers (or to other businesses if you're B2B)? Once you know what sets you apart from your competitors, you can take your specialized knowledge and apply it to your content.
Content that actually helps others rather than markets to them is especially popular now. D.I.Y. blog posts and videos, for example, can add value to a consumer experience when you explain how to get the most out of the products that you sell. If your business has conducted any studies or performed any market research, then white papers may be the way to show off what you know. Remember that content marketing isn't about advertising directly, but about providing useful information to consumers, thus building your brand's reputation among potential leads.
3. Align your content marketing campaign with your business goals.
Think about what you need to accomplish in order to make your business a success. Do you want to generate more leads? Are you breaking into an emerging market? Is your goal to increase brand awareness around the web? No matter what you're trying to do, the first step is to determine exactly what your company's goals are and how you can achieve them through marketing.
One thing that many businesses like to do is measure the return on investment that their marketing efforts bring them. Looking at metrics and analytics -- from social media follows to search engine rankings -- can give you a good idea of the success of your content marketing campaigns.
But John Hall, CEO of Influence and Co., tells Forbes that this isn't the only way businesses can determine their marketing campaign's success. Many companies, he says, are "starting to leverage content for their recruiting and talent acquisition efforts." In other words, gaining leads is fine -- even the raison d'etre for most businesses who use content creation in their advertising. Yet businesses shouldn't underestimate the other purposes that content can serve, as well.
4. Find the best spots on the web for your content.
Your company's website is just one of many places for your expertly crafted content to appear. Therefore, don't forget to use social media to disperse that content on the web.
LinkedIn is essential for any B2B companies on the hunt for clients; its subsidiary, SlideShare, works well for hosting webinars or other presentations and sharing them with diverse audiences. Businesses that sell consumer products and need to reach as broad of an audience as possible will want a healthy Facebook and Twitter presence, though these two platforms are go-tos for just about any company in the 21st century.
Yet don't underestimate the power of social media apps and platforms designed for specific types of businesses. Bars and restaurants may want to use Untappd if they offer a variety of craft beers or Yelp to see real customer reviews and interact with fans. Boutiques can benefit from shopping fave Pinterest or trendy apps like Instagram to display new products. Appealing to a broad audience is fine to make an impact and get your name out there, but don't underestimate cultivating a niche audience through social media, either.
How does your business break through the "noise" of content marketing? Feel free to weigh in below in the comments.
By: Jen Meli