There’s too much noise on the Internet. Turn it off, silence it so you can focus on your stuff, not everyone else’s sales pitches. I’ve come to realize that I spend hours every day wasting time sorting through emails I don’t need – newsletters filled with the same old garbage, emails from people trying to sell me stuff I don’t need, repurposed blog posts I’ve read a hundred times before.
There’s SO much content pouring into my inbox, and 98% of it is crap I don’t need. It’s wasting my time. I just went through the painstaking process of unsubscribing from about 20+ emails, and I kept one –just one – source of content that I actually find valuable.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ― Confucius
Why is there so much crap out there? Because digital marketing “experts” having been shoving it down your throat that you need to produce content to compete in the uber-competitive world wide web. They’re beating you over the head with it, screaming “Content is king!” And I admit, I’ve fallen victim, too. I’ve said it. I believed it. And I encouraged my clients to produce content – more content, as much as they could manage.
But here’s the difference… I told them to create useful, interesting, valuable content. BIG DIFFERENCE.
What is Quality Content?
The simplest way I can convey this is to tell you to sit back, read what you’ve written, and then ask yourself (objectively):
- Does this help me in any way?
- Did I learn something useful?
- Did I have any sort of emotional reaction?
The key is to be objective. If you can’t be objective, have someone else read it for you. You’re doing yourself a disservice (and wasting readers’ time) if you convince yourself something has value when it doesn’t.
What’s the Value in this Piece?
Glad you asked. My hope is that you find this short post useful for a couple of reasons:
- I hope it helps you understand why your crappy conent isn’t performing well — and when I say performing well, I mean in terms of its ability to drive traffic and compel readers to engage and share it.
- I hope it helps you understand the difference between quality content (helpful and entertaining content) and crappy content (puff pieces that clutter the web).
- I hope it validates your argument (either to your boss, client or inner voice) that you should STOP producing content for the sake of producing content, and start producing information that people need and want.
That’s great, but how do I know what people want?
Seriously, it’s that simple. Sure, you can read up on how to analyze your data, perform in-depth keyword research, and spend thousands on A/B testing. Or you can ask your audience what they want and need. Let’s get back to basics. When you’re deciding what to make for dinner, do you review all the past dinners you’ve made, analyze how many “mmm” sounds it earned? Do you spend the next month testing one dinner against another until there’s a clear preference? No. You ask what everyone wants for dinner.
Just because the techie side of the Internet is complex and mysterious, doesn’t mean you have to over analyze the simple stuff. Just because you can analyze, doesn’t mean you should. And just because there’s a long, complicated way of doing something doesn’t mean you should do that either.
Don’t Let Fear Drive Your Strategy
My theory is that we, as digital marketers, think that complicated equals impressive in the eyes of our clients (or boss). It justifies our fees (or salary). And I believe this comes from fear.
It doesn’t have to be complex. The courageous genius moves in the opposite direction.Because the internet is so saturated with self-proclaimed experts, we feel the need to stand out, to be better than everyone else. That’s job justification and it’s a valid feeling. But it’s driven by fear — that you’ll lose your job and/or your clients. Unfortunately, what happens is that your content strategy now becomes a battle of one-upness whereby you’re trying to out perform your colleagues rather than serving your clients or simply doing your job.
What I’m finding is that the more complicated my strategies became, the less impressed my clients were … because they no longer understood what the hell we were doing. And that’s critical! If your clients don’t understand what you’re doing, they’re not going to pay you to do it. Period. So stop over complicating simple tasks because you think it makes you look smarter. Stop it. Get back to basics.
Less is more. If you’re going to generate content, find out what your readers want, then give it to them. Let that drive your strategy — frequency and topics. Don’t add to the noise. The way to stand out today is to actually say something worth saying.