There’s a serious quality problem in the content marketing world, and it’s only hurting marketers. Over the past several years, the value of content marketing has been heavily promoted and accepted, but people have come to misconstrue the tenets of a proper content strategy to emphasize content quantity over content quality. The reality is that both quantity and quality are important factors for generating ROI from your efforts, and successful content marketing involves combining them both:
Why creating more content isn’t always a good thing
The growing tendency for people to over-focus on content quantity has resulted in an unfavorable trend leading to an oversaturated market, in which users must wade through a flood of poorly written, unremarkable and mundane content to get to the real, substantive material actually worth reading. Some reports estimate that only one-fourth of all posted content receives any meaningful traction. Results from a recent study conducted by BuzzSumo and Moz analyzed the shares and links from over 1 million articles, and revealed some interesting insights:
But even without the statistics, most content marketers have anecdotally experienced the fact that users today have grown more selective, the content marketing landscape has become more competitive, and only the best of the best content is going to stand out moving forward.
What the data means for your content strategy
Your natural instinct might be to add more to your content—such as by supplementing videos, writing longer posts, or posting more frequently—but remember, a focus on quantity over quality is what led to this mess in the first place. Instead, take what you have and reduce it, narrow it, and hone it to a better sheen. Here are 7 proven reduction strategies to help you get more out of your content with less.
1. Choose one point for your topic
Long-form content is useful for a number of applications, from white papers and eBooks to extended opinion pieces and journalistic research. There’s one key weakness here: in an effort to fill that length (usually 10,000 words or more), most writers end up focusing on multiple points. They explore many facets of an extremely complicated issue, or try to make many arguments for many different positions. Some readers might appreciate this, but the overall coherence of the piece declines with this setup. Instead, choose one main point for your piece and stick to it. Feel free to explore that point, argue for it, and present different examples for and against it, but keep your focus on that point at all times.
2. Narrow your topic
One of the best solutions to the over-saturation problem is introducing more uniqueness to the market, and uniqueness goes hand in hand with specificity. Narrow your topic by making it more specific to a niche and more relevant to a narrower target audience. For example, “tips for traveling” can become “tips for traveling abroad,” then “tips for traveling to Peru,” then “food tips for traveling to Peru,” then “food tips for traveling to Peru on a budget.” Each instance gets a little more specific and a little more relevant to a target audience. It’s far better to have 100 people reading your piece than 1,000,000 people skimming past it like it’s white noise.
3. Make your key points sub-headers or section titles
This ties back to my tip on making sure your piece follows a single point. From that single point, come up with several smaller, supporting points. They can be arguments and counterarguments, examples, lists, ideas, or anything else you can think of. Make those supporting points your sub-headers and titles, and expand on them individually. This will prevent you from going off topic or exploring tangential subjects. Instead, your piece will only focus on the points you’ve already deemed most relevant to your main point.
4. Transform at least one section to a list
Bullet points are effective for a reason: they force you to make things shorter. The added benefits they have of drawing your readers’ eyes and making your article appear more organized are just icing on the cake. Take at least one of your sections and see if you can reduce it to the form of a list. Are your extended examples necessary? Do you spend several sentences communicating a point you could make clearly in the span of one? Chances are, the introduction of a bulleted list will make the section in question more concise and more compelling.
5. Use a metaphor to explain a complex concept
This is especially useful for fields like science, manufacturing, engineering, and other subjects that people have a hard time approaching or understanding, but it’s useful in almost any application. Use a colorful, potentially weird, abstract metaphor to explain your complex ideas rather than extended diatribes or technical explanations. For example, instead of explaining the molecular mechanics of solar cells, you could describe the action as “sunlight shaking up a bottle of soda (electrons), which explodes electrons into a stream that turns into usable electricity” (as long as your audience isn’t comprised of academics or industry professionals).
6. Cut sentences you don’t need
Do you need every sentence in your article? The answer is almost certainly no (even in meticulously scrubbed pieces). It’s unlikely you’ll be able to remove every unnecessary sentence (and the process is subjective anyway), but do what you can to cut the fluff before your article gets published. Brevity is your friend.
7. Eliminate anything that doesn’t answer a question
Whether your reader found your article while looking for a solution or they just happened across it in their social media feed, they’re interested in resolving an unknown. Your goal should be to answer all your readers’ questions, and therefore all of your sections, lists, and even sentences should be focused on answering some question. I’ll use this article as an example—in section five, sentence one answers the question “is this useful for everyone?” Sentence two answers “how would I use a metaphor.” And sentence three answers “what would an example look like?” These are the only things needed to satisfy most users’ curiosities.
These strategies all involve some form of reduction, either by modifying content you’ve already written or by increasing the precision of your overall focus. If the problem with content marketing is over-saturation, then the solution is refinement, and that refinement begins and ends with you. Instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing or how much more you can do, focus on taking what you’ve already done and making it the best you possibly can. With this approach, every piece you produce will carry weight, and your readers will notice the difference.
If you want to get 30 effective techniques to master content marketing along with valuable insights from 10+ influencers like Mark Schaefer, Rebecca Lieb, Lee Odden, Jason Miller or Ian Cleary, download our free eBook now!
Image by Scott Akerman