Don’t Be a Content Cookie Cutter

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Cookie Cutter Content

Anyone who closely follows internet publishting trends will be well aware that web content production is in a golden age. The number of tools available to content publishers of all skill levels has exploded and users have responded with enthusiasm. But is the content being produced or encouraged by the internet marketing community valuable, or just more clutter?

Why we Internet Marketers are to blame

As an Internet Marketing Consultant I accept that I’m part of an industry that encourages the proliferation of web content. We tell our clients that fresh, original content on their websites is key to attracting both human and search engine attention, and it is. However the amount of content that is a reiteration of existing material has grown exponentially.

Yes, publishing in print and on the web is often built upon existing material, however the current trends seem to be that if someone sees an interesting article or blog post, they simply rewrite it on their own website. You can bet that many people who engage in this practice will proclaim thought leadership as one of their many skills in their social media bios. Yeah, right.

One of the main reasons that internet marketers shoulder some of the blame for these practices is the high emphasis we often place on constant updates to blogs, social media accounts and elsewhere. This practice serves two main purposes: 1.) it keeps your brand prevalent in social media platforms and 2.) it supports your search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts (I’ll touch on this more later). To satisfy this demand it is far easier for most people to give into temptation and ….ahem, copy someone else’s ideas and present them as your own. DON’T give in though! We need you to be original – a real thought leader even.

Keep this ethos in mind: publish when you should, not because you can.

In a recent article in Digital Marketing Magazine titled Creating More Content Is Not The Answer, Mark Masters suggested that businesses ‘need to consider content first and the media second’. Being omnipresent is worthwhile only if it makes sense. Otherwise, you are just being noisy, perhaps even irritating.

Participatory culture needs original content

Most media students will be familiar with media scholar Henry Jenkins and his insights into participatory culture. In one of his widely hailed blog posts on the subject titled Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century Jenkins, in talking about web user publishing, states that “Not every member must contribute, but all must believe they are free to contribute when ready and that what they contribute will be appropriately valued.” For the sake of this discussion we can take this to mean that while we are always welcome to contribute, it is not in any way mandatory. But when we do contribute something, we should make our contributions estimable if we expect them to be valued.

Being original needs a little more thought but it isn’t difficult. If you want to take someone else’s idea further then great, go for it! Contribute to the collective knowledge. But if you are inspired by existing content or have taken a lead from elsewhere then credit your source. On the web this can be as simple as linking back to the document, page, image etc.

Be a good web citizen. As Seth Godin reiterates in his hugely influential book Tribes – ‘we need you’.

Temper your SEO demands

One of the reasons internet marketing consultants will encourage regular content output is to meet the demands of our dear old friend, SEO. Content production is important to SEO however you don’t need to compete with the rate of output seen on a news agency website. Not even close. I’d suggest you post when you have something worthwhile to contribute. Hopefully you can do this a couple times a week but if you can’t, then don’t.

Set your own pace. Just make sure that when you post new content and set out to tell the world about it on social media, that it is worth someone’s time to take a look.

This is the way to create link-bait – content that attracts natural (non-paid or coerced) links back to your website (backlinks). These links are almost always more valuable than their unnatural cousins.

Conclusion

I hope I have inspired you to rethink your approach to content production and the process you go through when deciding what, when and where to publish online. Leave your thoughts in the comments below if you have some ideas on this topic. You may completely disagree and if so I’d love to see your constructive response in the comments too.