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Is Content Marketing A Scam?

Do We Really Need Content Marketing?

This is a bit of a Meta post. It’s a blog post on content marketing.

Some people might consider this post content marketing.

I’m going to take an ironic contrarian view: even though I’ve set a target for myself to post five 500+ word blog posts a week (which some may consider content marketing), I’ve been getting this sinking feeling that all content marketing is a scam. It’s just the latest scam to get people to spend time on and make money from, even though there may be quicker ways to get the results you want.

Content marketers out there: don’t hate the messenger. You’ve fallen into the trap as well.

Let’s think about a little history.

When the web first began, it was pretty small. You got found when someone linked to you from Yahoo! or AOL. Or you were spidered by Alta Vista or other search engines. But then the web grew and there really were only two ways to be discovered, you either used SEO techniques to try to rise up higher in the search engines or paid for top placement via something like AdWords. Eventually, the engines got smart to this and SEO morphed into content marketing. Today there is really only one engine of note (Google) and businesses literally live or die by their rankings on Google. So we have to kowtow to the Google gods and do what they want in order to be ranked highly.

And what do the Google gods want? Relevant content. So what do we do? We generate reams and reams and reams of what we think is “relevant content” for the Google gods to consume. Then we hope and pray that the Google gods find our snacks (short posts) and meals (long form posts like this) delicious enough to be featured.

The problem is that takes forever, and we have to generate tons of “relevant content” in order to be featured. I went to a seminar once by a semi-famous blogger who told me that it took him 3 years and over 4000 blog posts before he got placed in a reasonable enough section of Google results in order to make enough money from the AdWords he posted on his site to make it worthwhile.

I’m suggesting that we all take a step back and think about your end result. What are you really trying to do? Is it drive sales? Is it make money from ads? How much time do you have? What’s your runway? If you are a typical startup, I doubt if you have a three-year runway in which to build a following via content marketing. You simply don’t have the time – there are better and faster ways to be noticed.

Content marketing is a long game. Sometimes I think it’s also a bit of a cheat – as a lot of the time, I’m reading these articles which seem to simply end up as bait for something else. The internet is starting to get overwhelmed with bait. Sure the bait is there to lead you to the fish, which you should be paying for, but it’s taking more and more effort to generate bait that works. Eventually, even this bait won’t work.

If you ask me, we should be spending time creating great fish, not more bait.

— image Tim Murphy

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8 years ago

What the real scam is is content marketing companies paying creatives low pages while holding them to a high standard. Content mills are a scam. Pennies per word? Give me a break. If you want high-quality content, you need to pay for it. Too many of these companies are running on high margins and paying their writers squat. I truly hope this internet marketing bubble bursts and all these people doing this pay for it dearly.

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