Successful Content Marketing is the Logic Result of Algorithmic Systems
The easiest way to become a heretic in Marketing today is by voicing doubt about Content Marketing. Today I feel like being a heretic!
People selling you Content Marketing told you to produce great content five years ago. Today it must be at least awsome content and next year probably only truly amazing content (which can be found nowhere else) will be, what Marketing Agencies will try to sell you as your need and the sure shortcoming of your business in providing it.
In a way this is their storyline, the content Marketing Agencies sell you today. It kind of reads like this:
”In the fairytale-come-true-age of Online Marketing the best Marketers discovered that the most successful tool in their arsenal were great stories around products, services and brands. That content ideally gets moved through all communication channels via a Corporate Content Management System which includes full feature Analytics integration for success tracking and optimization of future content waves in an omni-channel environment.”
About now you as a client know, that your marketing budget will have to triple in order to pay for all you need according to the sales-storylines of Marketing Agencies (unless that latest “Five Secrets of Successful Content Marketing” Tweet you got this morning is the magical saviour).
Now, please let the heretic inside me suggest an alternate storyline to you, about why we all try Content Marketing these days.
In short Content Marketing is similar to a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
You know, predictions made, which later on are accepted as truths or correct assumptions because everybody acted according to the words of the prophecy thus turning it true in reality? They happen all the time. Intel and others developed computer chips based on one for half a century!
In the case of Content Marketing the Prophecy are the result pages of search engines claiming to deliver to you the most relevant results for your search query. Frankly only Google survived the battle of the Search Engines and did so with an algorithm that indeed (back then when you had several platforms to compare) gave you more relevant results. Alta Vista, Lycos, Infoseek, Fireball (developed at my German university) and so many others gave you less relevant or irrelevant results, because their algorithms could be tricked into displaying them on the first pages or even the top. Google was a league of its own.
They had something that could be tricked only much harder. Among the best “tricks” by Google to keep it that way was to explain to those who want to see their results at the top or who want to bring customers there, that Google’s secret algorithm was looking for original, helpful, relevant content which clearly relates to a search query. Relevant keywords, relevant page descriptions and then relevant page content was what people worked on. See where this is leading?
With people only clicking on the top results and hardly ever looking onto page two or three let alone page 25 of what can theoretically be thousands of relevant pages, the activity that got you the best result was writing content that Google placed on top, for it got automatically clicked by people, for it had to be relevant, since it was Google and not the crappy competition you were using.
Yes, top listed results get clicked automatically and studies suggested already years ago that many people click on the top ads in Google without even understanding that they click on an ad. The size of the screen and the browser window did their own contribution and so only what Google considered great content had the chance to be clicked upon — if it was so amazing and outstanding that it made the Top 3!
Have I welcomed you already among the heretics? ;-)
Many will remember articles about whether one should “write for the machine” in order to get ranked high or at the top or should write “for the user” in order to keep them on the respective page in order to make them interact with you.
Google’s improved algorithms solved this debate in favour of the user. So now what got even more clicks (with people hardly ever looking at the full top ten results) was the Content that had been improved to please the user according to the pleasures defined by the Google Algo.
The past success of Content Marketing is nothing but the result of pleasing Google’s algorithmic definition of what relevant content looks like for a certain search query.
What we talk about is not a relationship between content and people or content, the algorithm(s) and people! We talk about Content Marketing evolving from a whole system of stakeholders with varying interests relating their behavior completely to the visible results of one or more data-crawling and data-analysis algorithms designed by a single company and totally unknown to them in detail.
All pages other algorithms can find are optimized for the thinking of Google’s engineers on how to implement the needs of people — expressed in a search query — into a results- or solution-presenting algorithmic system. Whatever relevance others try to find and display, it is simply not offered to those systems the way they have their content optimized for Google.
Please note, that I have stated at no point that users are unhappy with what Google finds them (personally, I often wonder why I never get what I am looking for). I also have not stated that Content Marketing does not get you more clicks, more involvement than you had before or until someone in the rat-race for a topic overtook you.
Indeed Content Marketing has to work for the very same reasons I stated above: Because it serves the Googleverse.
And no, just because of additional channels to place content in, like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and so may more, my heretic approach does not sink in the swamp!
Since all Social Channels which use algorithms basically mimic what Google did with webpages, just that they do it with video, pictures and people’s social output, the content marketing there is still algorithm based.
Indeed you will find that the most prominent non-algorithm-based Social Cnannel fails to grow and make money: Twitter!
For this reason they recently introduced an optional algorithmic timeline. It seems like having none others can seek to exploit puts their business at a disadvantage in their eyes, much more than the 140 characters limit for a Tweet.
With all other ones, the logic is the same: The more time people spend with content within them, the better. They do some Content spreading work for you and you (and them) hope their Linkfarming-Slaves will do the rest of the work (read this heretic article to understand why social channels are link farms with volunteering slaves). It’s like Google keeping its reputation for providing you the search result with which you spend the most time, just with content.
As the story goes, with everybody or at least more people practicing Content Marketing with great content, your content has to become better. Marketing Agencies have finally a storyline of continuous improvement (Kaizen) to sell to customers. Soon you need to become outstandingly amazing to remain a successful data-provider to algorithms!
So what awaits you beyond outstandingly marvelous unique content in an omni-channel marketing environment?
The heretic inside me today feels like saying AI, Artificial Intelligence.
Will that really blow Content Marketing? Well yes, it will do so wherever content got blown out of the window in sheer panic of being irrelevant in the (zero) moment of truth. Just like the ever evolving sophistication of search algorithms put content ahead of page optimization, because the latter was just not reaching far enough from the beginning.
Google taking its understanding of web content to AI makes all the more sense as this could for the first time comprise the activities of stakeholders in what Google does consider relevant when asked something. AI can assess so much more than just the written word by putting all process stakeholders and their behaviour into account.
Doing so will not mean that you no longer have to provide explicit good content relevant to interaction with your company, brand, product or services. But you will no longer do it to fit an algorithm’s demands. You will do it to provide an overall realistic (I am a heretic when it comes to the use of the word “authentic”) display of interest to be at service — real time of course!
In all of this “online business” is not different from the 1950s shop-owner turning around the sign in the shop-window to spell “Open” at 9am. Just that your theoretic reach is global and broken down into the digits “0" and “1" — including your breathtakingly unique, innovative and interactive real-time amazement dubbed content.