THE BLOG
12/13/2013 08:59 pm ET | Updated Feb 12, 2014

Five Hard Truths about Content Marketing for 2014

According to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends research report, 91 percent of marketers are using some form of content marketing. The numbers similar on the B2C side. According to the B2C report, 86 percent of marketers have turned to some form of content marketing to reach customers.

These numbers are a testament for the power of content marketing.

However, the reports also find that there's still uncertainty surrounding what tactics work best, and how to measure the ROI of content marketing. In this article, I'll debunk some of the myths of content marketing in order to help clarify what it is, how to execute it properly, and how to measure its effectiveness.

1. Content marketing is not link-building.

Prior to Google's Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, article marketing was a common SEO link-building tactic. Companies would write articles that they would submit to article directories for publication. Upon publication, at least one link would point to the company's website.

Many considered this tactic to be a form of content marketing. But Google proved otherwise when it released its Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, which effectively penalized article directories for publishing low-quality content, and websites to which article directories had outbound links, for engaging in manipulative link-building tactics. As a result, article marketing largely died.

However, article marketing seems to have reincarnated as what's considered "guest blogging" by many misguided "SEO professionals." In truth, there are different concepts of what constitutes guest blogging, but only one is a real, safe, legitimate form of content marketing: When the guest blog article provides significant value, is published on a highly-relevant website, and is not done with the sole intent of acquiring an inbound link.

In truth, the right form of guest blogging is a great content marketing strategy. Unfortunately, like every other hot SEO tactic throughout the years, guest blogging for links is now widely abused. People often post poorly-written content on unrelated websites, spammy websites and websites that accept payment to publish their posts. This isn't guest blogging; it's just a more expensive form of article marketing.

So, if you're going to engage in guest blogging as a tactic within your content marketing initiative, don't fall prey to the wrong form of it. Do it right. For help with that, see my article, "The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging."

2. Not all content is king.

If you search Google for the query "content marketing," it won't take long before you stumble across the old mantra: "Content is king." People recite it all the time to express how important content is to all facets of Internet marketing.

But too often, marketers misinterpret this phrase to simply mean more is better. It's true that more content is a good thing, but that content must be high-quality. Publishing low-quality content at the expense of quality can actually hurt your other marketing efforts.

So, what makes content high-quality? Darren Rowse of ProBlogger outlined his opinions that serve as a solid checklist for content creation.

-Does the opportunity support you brand values?
-Is the format appropriate?
-Does the content offer a doorway into your blog (site)?
-Is the content targeted to the audience?
-Does the content provide real value in and of itself?

3. There is more to content than the written word.

Marketers reported in both of the 2013 Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends reports that they use, on average, 12 different tactics as part of their content marketing strategy.

This might be surprising to those who think of content marketing as solely text-based. In truth, there are many ways to create content that will help you reach a variety of different audiences including:

-eNewsletters
-Case studies
-Videos
-Webinars
-White papers
-Research reports
-Microsites
-Infographics
-eBooks
-Mobile content
-Printed magazines
-Books
-Podcasts
-Mobile apps
-Digital magazines
-Print newsletters
-Games and gamification

4. Not everyone creates their own content.

While most successful businesses have authority and expertise within their industry, they can't claim to be experts at everything. Content creation is usually one area where companies don't have skilled resources.

Usually, content marketing campaigns start small, and the creation process is handled in-house. However, many companies soon find that outsourcing their content creation might be the best option. In fact, 54 percent of brands don't have a dedicated content director on-site, and 62 percent outsource their content marketing.

According to IDG Connect, 84 percent of companies plan to increase the amount of content they create and publish. As such, it's safe to assume that the market for content marketing companies is going to continue to grow rapidly.

New content creation companies are sprouting up quickly in response to this trend. TextBroker is well-known and has been around for years, but new players are emerging that aim to expand on TextBroker's success by offering new features and perks. ContentRunner is another I recently tested which is growing quickly and provided a unique, user-friendly experience.

5. Content marketing is nothing new.

Content marketing is not a new, hot trend. It has been effective since John Deere published The Furrow magazine in 1895, and long before that. The effectiveness of this campaign, however, is still seen today, as it currently has a circulation of 1.5 million readers in 12 different languages.

John Deere isn't the only company who has relied on content marketing to spread its message. Jell-O published a recipe book in 1904, and Sears took to the airwaves in 1922 with its World's Largest Store radio program. In 2006, Nike+, an app to measure and track the progress of runs, was released.

All of these examples are different forms of content marketing, and many more have been used by some of the most recognizable brands in the world.

Conclusion:

Effective content marketing starts with an understanding of what it is and how to properly execute it. If you're still wondering how to get started with your content marketing strategy, here are some resources I recommend:

How to Build a Kickass Content Strategy
The New Era of SEO: Content Strategy
How to Build Your First Content Marketing Strategy