gold_flickr_digitalmoneyworld_180x180For the past few years, the leading edge of online marketing has been “content marketing”. As advertising becomes increasingly ineffective at driving sales, and as most lead generation tends to come via search engines, marketers have figured out how to produce content that ranks well in search, which brings traffic, which converts to sales/revenue/whatever.

The problem is that as more and more people buy into this, there has been a subtle change. Now the industry is engaging in “marketing content” rather than “content marketing”. The result is a flood of low quality content. Ten thousand blogs, all rehashing the same information in slightly different ways. So much duplication and plagiarism that it’s impossible to tell who had an original idea, if anyone.

Some people are beginning to notice this (see Crap: the Biggest Threat to B2B Content Marketing). Content marketers, including the author of that presentation, talk about content as a way to get prospects to lower their “marketing defense systems”. That phrase contains the essence of the problem. Good content isn’t something anyone can do. That’s the point. It’s not “hey, look at all this content we have, want to buy our stuff?” It’s more “this content demonstrates that we know what we’re talking about, and if you happen to be looking for what we do, we’d probably be a good choice.” This is also known as “marketing is not sales”. Marketing drives sales — that’s what it’s there for — but marketing is not selling. Really, marketers of content are talking about getting prospects to lower their “sales defense systems”. It just doesn’t work that way. What prospects really have is “bullshit defense systems”, and no amount of slick derivative content is going to get past that.

The good news is that Content is King. That phrase was first coined by online marketers more than fifteen years ago. It was true then, it’s true now, and it will remain true in the future. Good content will always move to the top. As the net gets flooded with derivative and content-free e-books and vacuous infographics, search engines will develop ways of differentiating the good stuff from the crap. The good stuff will be there on the first page of search results, and the crap will be relegated to the same oblivion that “content farms” went to after Google’s “Panda” update.

The reason why great content works in marketing is because it’s not easy to create great content. Great content requires expertise, innovation, invention, and the ability to communicate. So we’ll see content marketing adopt the quality label — “quality content marketing” — without actually changing anything. Meanwhile, the businesses and individuals who actually know what they’re doing, those who create good, original content, will continue to rank well in search, get traffic, engage visitors, and drive conversions. When the “we can put lipstick on a pig” marketers pile on, they’ll probably call it “substance marketing”. This cycle is going to wash, rinse, and repeat again and again, each time with a different label, but nothing will change: good quality content is and will forever remain king.