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Content Marketing – Pros and Cons

Content Marketing has become incredibly popular. People talk about content marketing as the new way to do search engine optimization, as the best way to build brand recognition, and so on. This should be treated with caution.

Content Marketing is not bad at all, there are good reasons to look at your content strategy and ways to use content as leverage in your other marketing. But to only depend on content marketing and believe that it is a secure way forward, is not healthy. We’ll tell you why.

What is Content Marketing

Content Marketing mean creating great content that, by being great, draws attention to itself. In the long run, the goal is that it should lead to increased sales. By providing something interesting (where the one who is interested can find it), you build up an interest for your product.

This blog can be used as an example of content marketing. We share information about online marketing, search engine optimization, and some entrepreneurship as well, with the hope that you, the reader, will like our company.

Of course, it is not just about producing good content; a well implemented campaign within content marketing also requires that you reach out with the content. There are, of course, different ways to do that but I think an example will be helpful.

Example Content Marketing Campaign

You are running a web shop that sells wooden chairs and want to increase the interest for wooden chairs manufacturing (since you sell chairs of particularly good quality and want people to understand the difference). You contact 10 experts in chair manufacturing and tell them you’re planning to publish a long article on the opinions of the country’s leading experts about different kinds of wood in wooden chairs.

When you get hold of ten people that are willing to assess the wood, you send out a list to these people with 5 different types of wood you can use in wooden chair manufacturing. The experts will then evaluate mahogany against birch and make clever statements about the great benefits of pine legs. You compile this into an appealing article and publish it on your website.

Once it is published, contact the experts again, let them know where to find the article and mention that they are welcome to share it on Facebook or Twitter so it will be more widely spread. It is good for them because they get the expert label, which strengthens their name in the industry. This will ensure that the article gets plenty of readers. When shared, the experts’ friends and acquaintances will surely want to read it too.

This should then produce increased sales, though that is not at all guaranteed.

Problems with Content Marketing

There are many problems with content marketing. In my opinion, the biggest obstacle might be that once you start, you always have to stay interesting. A picture, an article, a clip, an infographic or whatever that can be produced from this kind of effort has a very limited lifetime. You may have a hit on Twitter for about a day, on Facebook a little longer. The next day, you are completely forgotten again. No one will remember your wooden chairs when they think about something to sit on just because you did a movie on mahogany vs balsa. They will do as they have always done, Google it and buy what is the cheapest or the coolest, or what looks the best.

Content Marketing is like a never-ending news cycle

That means that you constantly have to come up with something new to be top of mind, if you are going to get your potential customers to go directly to you without passing through Google, you need to be imprinted in their lizard brain. Which means a crazy number of interviews with a crazy number of experts. The problem is that when you’ve interviewed the experts once it is no longer interesting. Then you have to come up with something new.

Of course, you understand that if you always have to be interesting, you will end up covering mundane but attention-grabbing news, just to get that attention. Such is the online content game. If you constantly want to be up to date on Twitter, Google Plus or Facebook you need to sell your soul. In the same way as a B-list celebrity goes nude or gets married/divorced just to show up in the tabloids. No sensational news means no attention, and no attention means you are forgotten.

Content Marketing works in the exact same way. For example, if you want people to buy your popular music you have to name and shame yourself, all the time. It may of course be worth it, being a celebrity comes with some rewards. However, is it always good for your business?

Content Marketing does not always pay off

Another major problem with content marketing is that there is hardly any evidence that it is profitable. Its cousin, social media marketing, has proven to be extremely unprofitable, as it simply does not bring in customers. All forms of marketing – which of course includes content marketing – that do not provide customers, are fundamentally flawed. All marketing aims to increase sales. It is not marketing if it doesn’t achieve that – it is a hobby at best.

Marketing on Twitter and Facebook does not bring profits, the survey (the link in the last paragraph) speaks volumes. Search engine optimization, Pay Per Click, and email are way more effective at this.

Should You Engage in Content Marketing?

My answer is still: Yes. Content Marketing has potential that is not visible directly and that is very valuable. However, you should not directly go for Content Marketing. First, you should take control of the three most profitable online marketing disciplines, Search engine optimization, Pay Per Click and Email. Once you have them in place, content marketing is a brilliant supplement.

Content marketing can actually enhance the effects of the main three revenue generators. Don’t use content marketing to earn money, it will never happen. Use it in order to make the other three disciplines even more profitable.

It’s true that search engine optimization loves content marketing

Above all, search engine optimization can be supported by content marketing. These two are not the same thing, and nowadays people often get them mixed up. However, they can strengthen each other’s impact. Search engine optimization is helped by good content. There is no doubt about that, and a good content marketing campaign can provide both great content and great links to your site. It will indeed strengthen your search engine optimization. Content that also ranks well in the search results and provides answers to your customers’ questions can actually bring in new customers.

Content that solves problems for a person may provide sales. The search phrase ‘difference between birch and pine in wooden chair’ can undeniably generate a purchase of the better (wood) sort. You will also, with both disciplines, avoid the problem of always having to be up to date. The search results are persistent in a completely different way than a tweet or a Facebook update. You will reach the potential customer when the customer is ready for it. Instead of forcing yourself on the customer when he/she is talking to friends, you can tell about the benefits of your wooden chairs when the customer is thinking about chairs.

Content Marketing requires Outreach

For this to work there are several things that needs to be dealt with. Of course, the basic approach should be to publish content that works well in the search results and another detail, which I believe is overlooked by many: You need to get momentum on your content. No matter how good it is, you must show it to the webmasters, bloggers, or whoever that can help spread your content. I would even go so far as to say that if you don’t do the outreach, you don’t do content marketing, you only produce content and have completely forgotten the marketing part.

Outreach is often a time-consuming and quite boring job; it can also be complicated to get everything to work out. It is probably why so many people hesitate to do the outreach part of content marketing. In many ways, content marketing is marketing communication, and who would think it unreasonable to show that kind of material to a journalist? Or print an advertorial in the right trade magazine? However, in content marketing, this has in many ways been forgotten, and outreach is something the specialists deal with. Do you agree?

Conclusions About Content Marketing

To summarize, content marketing has received lots of hype. It will never, ever deliver what the hype promises, but that doesn’t mean it is worthless. For example, we have achieved very good results during many years of working with content marketing, as long as we used it as a support function for the kind of online marketing that generates revenue.

We also have our own small solution to the problem. We have a good partnership for content. We run many sites that constantly need content of different quality and part of this can be published. For the most important sites we normally use our own writers, but for news, product texts and translations it works just fine to use a partner (at least for us). If you are interested in a similar solution, please contact us and we can make sure you will be well taken care of.

Magnus Bråth


Magnus is one of the world's most prominent search marketing specialists and primarily works with management and strategy at his agency Brath AB.

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