Content creation has reached critical mass. Content triggers further content in response. Searches and SERPs are in a constant state of flux. There’s conflicting arguments on everything. In this vast web of infinite stuff, it’s nigh-on impossible to know what actually works when it comes to growing your brand. But you can help yourself by changing your mindset on one key thing: content marketing blogs.
You see the same titles all the time: ‘5 Ways to Raise your Content in SERPs’, or ‘This HUGE Mistake costs SEOs Countless Conversions’. You may have read pieces like this. You may have even written them.
These are blogs designed to give you a ‘magic formula’ for content creation. You can almost hear the blog speaking to you from your desktop screen.
“Struggling to get higher in the SERP? Read this, and all your problems will be solved! You’ll probably forget about this little tactic by Monday anyway, but who cares?!”
We’re all very much aware that content creation isn’t an exact science, and that there’s no skeleton key for the door to success. You don’t really take these blogs as gospel, and maybe you try them a couple of times to see whether their advice works – no biggie.
There’s something deeper at work here, though, stopping your content from really excelling. And we’re going to get to the bottom of it.
The Self-Aware Blog
Why-oh-why do we still feel like there really is a magic formula for content creation? This anxiety has spawned a different kind of blog post. You know these ones too, and you definitely read them. They’re the ones that write about content creation problems and, instead of giving an actual answer, come to the obvious conclusion that there’s no ‘magic formula’.
It can be pretty frustrating to spend 5 or 10 minutes reading a blog expecting answers and it doesn’t really give any. It makes you feel like you’ve wasted time only to be right back where you started.
These blogs are well-intentioned. They want to help people. They want to be linked to and drive traffic and conversions – sure, that’s what we all want! Remember that time you suddenly woke up in the night, a cold sweat on your brow, from the nightmare in which you missed out on a coveted feature snippet? Yep, us too – it’s a content marketer’s rite of passage.
The self-aware blog capitalises on the content creator’s anxiety that what they’re doing is wrong. We all want a quick fix, there’s no shame in that. The problem is that the situation is made worse by the long-term nature of content marketing – results come with time and there’s not a lot we can do about that.
What we can do (and we at Zelst think we’re pretty good at it) is strategise effectively and use our expertise to make an informed decision based on each different circumstance. It’s a balancing act, as anything is, but you knew that already.
There are ways of going down the ‘it depends’ route that can be really fruitful. Check out Peter’s blog on the changes to metadescriptions in 2018, for instance. Rather than just leave it at ‘it depends’, there’s a clear parameter of 320ish characters to work with. Even a ballpark figure can make the difference between content that wildly misfires and content with more authority.
A lot of content marketing blogs take 1,000 words to essentially say “be creative, man”, but they can still be very useful. Neil Patel is the king of these kinds of posts, and his blog on avoiding keyword research has genuinely helpful points as well as being suitably provocative.
We wouldn’t be in favour of scrapping keywords, but we have known for some time about their changing significance. This doesn’t mean that they’re irrelevant – just that their role has changed.
In the current climate, keyword research helps you not only understand what people are thinking, but how people are thinking. We’ve written a piece looking at the changing face of content marketing in 2018, including key word research, so we’d recommend having a look at that.
Avoid Damaging your Content and Keep the Right Balance
Let’s stop and take stock for a second.
Content marketing blogs often have good advice, but it’s never massively precise. They often push content marketers to extremes: either “I must always do thorough keyword research and slave over my work” or “I’m going to just wing it and try to write well without restrictions”.
As always, the best course of action is somewhere in the middle. Doing keyword research is important to discover what people are actually searching for (otherwise, what’s the point?) and for establishing a contextual framework for your content. That data can then be used for creative thinking – the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Constantly worrying about fitting in a certain amount of keywords only leads to writer’s block – not to mention this is pretty outdated practice when considering the new query model. Equally, going about your writing completely free-rein can make your work feel structureless and less impactful.
Yes, we’re all ‘limited’ by Google’s algorithms. But as we know, Google’s AI is making SERPs read more and more like human responses to queries. So write like a human. Create like a human. This is one of few constants in the ever-changing world of content marketing.
A Closing Note of Some Significance; or, A Love Letter to Content Marketing Bloggers
But you’ll have noticed that I’ve essentially said that you should take every blog post and piece of advice on content marketing with a pinch of salt. And I’d say that’s the case for this blog too.
Why? Because blindly following advice is exactly what you shouldn’t do. It’s what stifles your ability to create great content because you’re too worked up about following someone else’s rules.
And I think this is why content marketing blogs come across as vague. It’s not because they’re being unhelpful, it’s because they don’t want to rein you in.
Content creation can feel like an absolute minefield, especially when you haven’t got the time to full immerse yourself in it. Give us at Zelst a call on 01423 701711 or drop us a quick note and we’ll be delighted to give you a hand.