Much has changed since the “turn of the century.” (We can say that now, right?) The early 2000’s gave us USB jump drives, Bluetooth technology, camera phones, and iPods. The changes since then have continued to accelerate, shaping our online environment into one of the most dramatically different aspects of our culture, especially for marketing professionals. Nowadays, a quick Google search serves as the first touchpoint for how brands reach and secure customers. Still, with the constant evolution of online standards, requirements, and design aspects, a certain question seems to occasionally circle back into the conversation: Is content marketing dead?
With the rise of video, influencer marketing, and constantly evolving social platforms, every few years, we have seen many articles written with some variation of the title, "Content Marketing is Dead." Marketers, business owners, and bloggers all seem to agree that online writing has changed and is often outranked by other forms of marketing (video, podcasts, etc.). So, does content marketing still matter for businesses? The answer depends on how you define it because the right type of content marketing is not only alive and well, it's more relevant than ever before.
The Case for Content Marketing’s Death
In a 2017 Forbes article entitled "Content Marketing Is Dead! Long Live Marketing!", author and marketer John Ellett claims that content marketing would soon be, as the title proclaimed, “dead”. The piece defines “content marketing” as something that's seller-driven, and says it’s being replaced by buyer-driven content that matches the buyer’s journey and includes information that buyers would appreciate. He summarizes this theory by complaining about marketers who are "focused on what they want to publish and on pushing the content they want to promote.”
Ellett was not wrong… completely. In 2021, HubSpot reported that interest in blogs has dropped over the last five years, supplanted by searches for videos, podcasts, and other rich media. Still, HubSpot, and the marketing professionals they interviewed, still credit blogs as essential for securing web traffic and providing customers with the information they need to make a purchase. A 2020 study conducted by HubSpot found that 60% of individuals still read at least a blog a week. In other words, Google searches are built on blogs, so they’re not going away anytime soon.
In another 2017 Relevance article titled "9 Reasons Why Content Marketing is Dead, and Influencer Marketing is the Future" by digital marketing consultant Gaurav Sharma, Gaurav predicted that content marketing would be killed off due to the online market saturation of terrible content. He went on to project (unsurprisingly) that the online environment is moving towards “influencer marketing,” where brands would reach out to social media influencers to publicize their products. Of course, the importance of influencer marketing in 2021 continued to grow, with an increased focus on endorsements, user-generated content, and seamless shopping on any platform. But are these new developments really at odds with content marketing?
In summary, the early internet was jammed with poorly written content that wasn’t catered to the buyer’s journey. To be honest, who wouldn’t want to see that die? But now let’s check out the other side of the debate.
The Case for Content Marketing’s Survival
In a 2022 Rellify article chronicling the most recent trends for content marketing, author Laura Kraus confirms that, yes, crappy online content is dead (as it should be). However, content marketing is far from gone. It just needs to be approached with more nuance, strategy, and quality. For instance, instead of creating “clickbaity” content that shows up seemingly everywhere online, write solid content that is actually helpful to your buyers. Don’t try to get the most clicks online, try to get the most qualified clicks online. This requires catering to your audience.
The two articles mentioned earlier by Gaurav Sharma and John Ellett are not necessarily saying that content marketing would completely die, either. It would just evolve, and it has. What’s dead is content marketing that is solely seller-driven, one-way tirades of brand-heavy, salesy communication — where the seller pushes a ton of content on Google that is created solely for the purpose of getting their name out, regardless of how useless it may be to their potential buyers.
These days, the game is about quality and storytelling.
Now, we have both sides of the argument. The only question is, what’s the final say?
Content Marketing: Our Final Say
All parties cited in this article are correct: the content marketing of the early internet is dead. But, that doesn’t mean that quality content marketing is gone. In fact, when these marketers provide the response to its death, they typically describe a better way of content marketing without actually naming it: inbound marketing.
By focusing on the buyer’s journey and writing content that’s truly useful to the qualified buyers of your company’s product or service, you’ll be able to push past all the other content online and establish yourself, in Google’s and in your buyer’s eyes, as a content leader. Not only is content marketing alive and well, but it’s become even more important in how Google ranks content and in how consumers engage with businesses today.
Content Marketing Takes Many Forms
While the old form of content marketing may have died off, quality content marketing is at its zenith. Google rewards websites that continually produce helpful, rich, vibrant, engaging content and buyers appreciate the unbiased information to aid in the research process. Perhaps most notable is that this content doesn’t have to be in the form of a blog — quality content can come in the form of content pillars, podcasts, videos, well-built websites, and many other media options. When it comes to content marketing formats, the sky's the limit.
With content marketing alive and well, have some fun with it! Create videos, podcasts, long stories, and more — as long as it’s helpful to your customers.
Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published in 2018 and was updated in 2022.
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