If you want to stay relevant in the field of content marketing, you need to constantly refine and update your strategy. “Successful” content needs to fulfill a number of conditions in different areas, all of which are influenced by external variables and change over time. For example, your content should be SEO-friendly, but Google’s standards for search ranking are always evolving. Your content should be valuable to your audience, but your audience’s tastes change with the times.
Accordingly, some “best practices” for content marketing serve as fundamental, unchanging pillars, while others phase in and out of relevance. Topics, formatting, and syndication methods are all significantly affected by these changes, but one of the most important areas are broad “types” of content. These are points of exceptional vulnerability because many marketers and webmasters end up relying on one type of content for the bulk of their campaigns — and if that type is no longer relevant, it could compromise your entire strategy.
Thankfully, broad categories of content don’t fade out of relevance quickly or often, but these five types of content should be firmly out of circulation in your campaign:
1. General information articles. First, there are what I call “general information articles.” These are forms of written content designed to educate an audience on the basics of a given topic; for example, you might define an industry term in an article like “What Is Content Marketing?” or you might cover the basics of a cultural institution like a film or book. However, you don’t go into detail or examine the subject from any niche angle — instead, you focus on general descriptors. This type of content is practically irrelevant for two main reasons. First, content marketing is mature enough that almost all of these articles have already been written; many by Wikipedia, which is probably never going to be outdone in terms of search positioning preference by Google. You can’t stand out by writing “What Is Content Marketing” for the millionth time. Second, new technologies are making it easier for audiences to find this type of information directly, such as the Google Knowledge Graph, further reducing the impact your posts could have.
2. Super short content. There was a time when short content was thought to be advantageous. Every new post you created was a new page that could be indexed in Google, with new keyword optimization opportunities and a bigger web presence, so keeping your posts short (less than 500 words, and sometimes less than 300) seemed like an easy way to reduce your efforts and maximize results. However, these short-form articles pale in comparison with their long-form counterparts; as a general rule, posts 1,000 words or longer generate far more links and shares than short-form entries. That being said, there’s still a place for short-form content — but it should still cover a topic in sufficient depth, or should at least cover a subject that only warrants brief coverage.
3. Re-published or recycled material. This is a slightly older form of content, but it surprises me how much I see it still being used today. The idea here is to take a post that already exists elsewhere — maybe on a competitor’s blog, or maybe an older post from your own work — and rewrite it slightly so it can pass for new material. Today, the content marketing world is too competitive for this stunt to fly. The only possible exception here is newsjacking, the art of taking a news story and covering it in your own way; this tactic can still be useful as long as you find an original spin or angle with the news story so it remains unique to your brand.
4. Clickbait. Though in some ways, clickbait is still a present and active force in the content marketing world, it’s dying a gradual death. Clickbait refers to articles — or specifically, headlines — designed to grab users’ attention quickly, then bring them into a site for content that may not match the hype generated by the premise. These tactics have been historically profitable for practitioners, but a mix of growing user disinterest, crackdowns by publishers and social media platforms, and the possibility to develop a negative reputation are making clickbait less profitable and more dangerous by the day. You can and should still write strong headlines — just don’t resort to gimmicks.
5. Fluff content of any kind. The term “fluff” is general, so I kept this entry for last. When I say fluff, I’m referring to any kind of content generated to fill space, rather than to address a specific subject. Basically, you produced content to fulfill a numbers quota rather than to achieve a certain goal. These days, only the best, most original content has a chance of standing out (with appropriate promotion strategies), so don’t waste your time with meaningless filler.
A Note on Diversity
After reading this article, you should be better informed about which types of content should be avoided in your modern content strategy and which types you should be pursuing. However, you also need to keep in mind that the biggest vulnerability here comes from repetition — relying on one or only a few types of content for the bulk of your campaign could be a structural weakness if those types of content experience a major change.
Therefore, one of the best approaches in content marketing is diversification — relying on multiple formats, approaches, and strategies to make up your overall campaign. This is a way of hedging your bets, and should protect you against the volatility in the content marketing field to come.