Editors Note: Back in December I tweeted about how 'The "inbound" is better argument was one of the biggest fallacies of the last decade in marketing.'
The core thesis was that it created an artificial divide on inbound vs outbound - Hubspot did a great job at Inbound which is heavily based on content but now we're in the place where Content is driven by SEO [core to inbound] and the internet is full of me too / bad content for the sake of SEO [sometimes even factually incorrect]
What is a better way? I *think* it should brands & people taking a strong stance or having an opinion - not all content should be purely SEO plays. To create differentiated content - you have to have a point of view.
Below is an essay that is written by Carolyn Dilks that dives into that a little more. This is a bit of a new approach I am trying out, I’d absolutely LOVE your feedback on it.
When was the last time you actually gleaned valuable insight or a new perspective from a content source that you consumed?
I’m sure it doesn’t happen often. For every “good” piece of content you digest, you probably sifted through 10 other useless ones that your Google search yielded. Did they all sound the same? Reference the same mundane ideas and keywords with very little actual meaningful takeaways? I’m guessing the answer is a resounding “yes”.
Therein lies the rub: when content is created purely for purposes of ranking in search, we end up with junk. And, in a world that’s now completely saturated with content, we’re not seeing enough of the “good stuff” and are subsequently seeing far too much of the crappy stuff that’s serving very little purpose.
We can thank HubSpot for that. As brilliant as they were in pioneering the content marketing industry, they’ve created an entire ecosystem of marketers who think they’ve nailed the content marketing game by simply churning out healthy doses of content with the simple goal of ranking in search. Big mistake.
The rise of HubSpot’s content marketing playbook
It took HubSpot years to create and execute on this notion of the content marketing industry. At the time, they were trying to differentiate themselves as a marketing automation platform, and as a result created a whole inbound marketing “market” that has paved the way for what we’re seeing quite literally every brand doing today.
This was, in my opinion, one of the biggest and most impactful marketing strategies. Brilliant on HubSpot’s part as they’re a billion dollar company today. The result was that Hubspot’s playbook ultimately created a false dichotomy between content and SEO that we’ve come to see today. It created the mentality of “create content and your customers will come”.
And, at that time, it sort of worked. HubSpot created an incredibly powerful inbound marketing playbook that performed exceptionally well for keywords.
The fallout of what HubSpot built has been an exceptionally crowded online ecosystem of content that’s all been created for the sake of creating content. And it’s everywhere, with very little differentiation and little value. Content everywhere now looks and sounds the same.
Content is not SEO
Any good marketer will know that content should not be created for the sole purpose of SEO.
What we’re seeing happening with this overwhelming shift away from outbound marketing to content marketing is that businesses, small and large, have become so hyper-focused on creating content that prioritizes keywords only sort of tangentially related to their industry. Businesses have lost sight of delivering content with actual value relatable to their business.
The content creation process has become cyclical and predictable: do the research, evaluate what the competitors are creating, and then regurgitate that with a slightly different angle. Rinse and repeat.
Think about it. How often do you do a Google search and actually find value-driven content that’s not a recycled version of the last thing you read?
Marketers and content teams have become obsessed with creating content for traffic, and the consequence is that their content has become disconnected from their product/service offering and more focused on packing in as many keywords as possible.
Two very important things to consider: Just because content lives on and is consumed on the web, doesn’t mean it’s SEO. Secondly, more traffic isn’t always quality traffic.
Now, I’m not discrediting the value or effectiveness of content marketing. If you’re not doing content, you’re really not in the marketing game at all. Content that’s executed thoughtfully can generate traffic, high-quality backlinks from credible sources (which means you’re more likely to rank higher in search), and sales for months to come.
Content and SEO should absolutely intersect, however, great marketers will know that they are designed to achieve different goals. The two should go hand-in-hand and work together to fuel your overall marketing strategy. Without high-quality content, you can’t fully realize the benefits of SEO, as relevant and useful content can and will motivate your visitors to stay on your site longer, and will positively impact your search rankings.
Inbound is not always better
In my opinion, HubSpot’s “inbound is better” argument has been one of the biggest fallacies of the last decade in marketing.
Inbound marketing, or content for SEO, only truly works (albeit it’s still super competitive) if you’re selling in SMB, where people are already searching in relatively high volumes. However, if you’re selling to enterprise or a small total addressable market, then inbound simply isn’t the best approach.
Inbound is not necessarily “better or worse” than outbound, it simply depends on your market and your product.
If your marketing team is leveraging inbound marketing, have you actually taken the time to evaluate how it’s impacting your business? Does it deliver value? What are your analytics telling you? Is your traffic flat? Have your content efforts actually resulted in actual qualified leads that are converting into paying customers?
Few businesses have actually won the whole search and keyword game through content, and many will learn it’s a hard and long slog to stand out (if they haven’t already).
The content marketing industry is headed in a direction that will require marketing teams to pause and really audit their inbound/content strategies. What we’re likely to see is actually far less content about “stuff” that’s merely pandering for keywords, and more bolder claims being staked in an effort to stand apart from all of the noise.
Remember: there are 829,394,293 versions of content that all say the same thing, so unless you’re analyzing and optimizing your efforts, your content is probably serving little to no purpose at all.
The bottom line? For folks that are playing the content game, I cannot emphasize enough the need for more groundbreaking opinions, thought-provoking ideas, and material that’s fortified with deep insight and expertise.
I’m curious to watch and see how the content marketing ecosystem evolves. We’ve reached a critical point now where marketers need to rethink their strategies and place less of an emphasis on their search rankings and find creative, impactful ways to reach new audiences.