Is content marketing worthwhile?
We at t2informatik have been doing content marketing for several years. So we believe in the sense and success of content marketing. With that you can stop reading this article.
This is only partly true. Because just because we believe and do something doesn’t mean that you should do it in and for your organisation as well. Yes, we regularly publish blog posts, and yes, with “Smartpedia” we also run an online glossary. And? Should you do the same? Does content marketing pay off for you? At least I hope it is worthwhile to continue reading the article! 😉
What many consultants say about content marketing
Imagine you ask a football coach about the best sport. What do you think he’ll say? What does a podcaster think is the best format to impart knowledge? And how does a YouTuber like videos?
It’s not surprising that consultants with a focus on content marketing are convinced of content marketing. Podcasters will rave about the benefits of podcasts and YouTuber will promote YouTube as the second largest search engine in the world (but hardly ever mention if that’s relevant to you). The hard part in conversations or presentations is when you hear sentences like: “With content marketing …
- … you can stand out from the competition.”
- … you put your target group in the centre of attention.”
- … increase your reach and awareness.”
True. You can. You might. Possibly. Eventually. Or maybe never, or hardly anyone ever finds out.
What else do counselors say, for example? They advise you to search for keywords from your environment. “Long tail keywords are especially important because people are looking for ‘car red berlin’. These people want to win you over. Of course, the number of searches for exactly this term is much smaller than for ‘car’, but this means that you will find exactly those people who are looking for a red car in Berlin.” Cool. Problem detected. Text written. And? Nothing happens! “Hey, I stand out from the competition. I put the target audience first. How come nothing’s happening?”
One answer to that question is “Holistics.” Holistics is derived from holism – the science of the whole. It is the idea that natural systems and their properties should be seen as a whole and not just as a composition of their parts.¹ To put it simply, it is not enough to publish something about red cars for once. And that is a good thing. After all, it prevents companies that have built up a position and reputation on the Internet over a long period of time from disappearing from the rankings again tomorrow, just because 100 new articles about wonderfully red cars happen to appear, with which young families in the Berlin area can take nice trips.
What consultants don’t say about content marketing
It is interesting what consultants do not say about content marketing. Some years ago it was already known that 60 percent of the clicks on Google land on the first link. 60 percent! 6 out of 10 clicks get the first link. Whoever is in 2nd place on Google – and that is very difficult with many keywords – is the first loser. Sorry, that sounds hard. 2nd place fights for the remaining 40 percent. But this is not even the bad news for all fans of content marketing!
A few weeks ago it became public that more than 30 percent of Google search queries now do not lead to a click at all. 100 people search, and at least 30 of them click on no result. This is due to Google, because the platform now presents a lot of information so prominently that questions are answered without a click. Google puts the searchers in the center and that very consistently. If I search for “Bundespräsident” (the German “Federal President”) as an example, I get an information box as part of my individual search result:
With the exception of the name of the German Federal President, so much information is presented directly that at least 30 out of 100 people do not look any further. In this case it might even be considerably more. And – to see how good Google is – there is the option to give feedback and correct mistakes. At some point, Google will also offer the option of adding missing information such as the name of the German President. Wikipedia sends its regards.
If 30 percent of searchers click on no links at all, 70 percent will remain. Of those, 60 percent click on the first link. In other words: if you don’t rank first, you are competing with your content for 28 out of 100 searchers. Of course, you could now object that the entire calculation is based solely on “hearsay”. True. Maybe it’s even worse!
But: this is still not the worst news for the friends of content marketing. What is the first link on Google? Often the first four links are ads. Bought positions. After the four ads Google Maps appears with local providers. It is not rare that the first organic link – i.e. the one with the “best” content matching the search query – appears only at position 8. Have fun fighting for position 8.
Paid Traffic versus Organic Traffic
“Content marketing is a marketing technique that aims to address the target group with informative, advisory and entertaining content in order to convince them of your company and its range of services or your own brand and to win or retain them as customers.”² Is there an alternative for addressing target groups with your content? Paid Traffic maybe?
Paid Traffic is the attempt to entice searchers to visit your website via a purchased position in the ranking. Paid Traffic is the opposite of Organic Traffic. Organic Traffic is based on an organic position, which you receive through the quality of your content. Among other things, because ranking is also based on a brand factor; not every Wikipedia article is better than the content on the following pages, but Wikipedia enjoys a high reputation, so that Google likes to list corresponding content at position 1.
Paid traffic is obtained by inserting coins. You buy the position per keyword with highest bids and daily limits. It is a shortcut to make searchers aware of your content and offers. Is this shortcut worthwhile? Is it cheaper than content marketing?
To compare Paid Traffic with Organic Traffic you could try to calculate “employee x hourly rate x number of hours” to find out the cost of “a piece of content”. Unfortunately this is a milkmaid calculation, because one essential aspect is missing: I call it ranking time. Just because a text is produced on a topic, this text does not rank. Whoever wants to do content marketing needs patience. A lot of patience. The disadvantage of content marketing is the time it takes for the content to “work”, i.e. it ranks and attracts visitors. This is exactly where the advantage of paid traffic comes into play. With Paid Traffic you don’t have to wait weeks or months for a slow rise in the Google ranking. You cheat the ranking time. Sounds good, right? At least at first sight.
For a second look, it is worthwhile to take a look at Paid Traffic. In Google Adwords you can check what a click on a paid link costs. Depending on the keyword the costs vary. The more competitors try to get a keyword, the higher the price. Supply and demand. For example, if a click costs 5 Euro, then 10 clicks cost 50 Euro and 20 clicks 100 Euro. If you want to get 20 clicks per day for a specific keyword (of course always provided that there are also 20 searches for the desired keyword per day) and this every day of the month, you have to invest 3,000 Euro per month. And here you can see the big disadvantage of paid traffic. In the example it is 3,000 Euro per month for one keyword. If it costs 10 Euro per click, it would already be 6,000 Euro. Maybe you will now argue that a keyword does not have to cost 5 or 10 Euro. True. There are many keywords that cost considerably more than 100 Euro per click. Ouch.
It is obvious that the cost of paid traffic is the main disadvantage compared to organic traffic. But from my point of view there are some more aspects that speak against paid traffic as an alternative to organic traffic or content marketing:
- The number of keywords. Hardly any company has only one keyword in focus. At t2informatik we currently monitor 458 keywords. We rank with 6.991 keywords. Many of the rankings have a value that corresponds to the costs we would have to spend to buy the corresponding position. Interestingly, this idea is often overlooked when considering content marketing. Content marketing not only generates reach and awareness, but also value.
- Most companies do not even have the means to generate maximum reach for a single keyword. They lack the appropriate funds. No wonder: If a keyword is searched for 5,000 times a month and a click costs 5 Euro, that would be 25,000 Euro per month. Who can afford such a thing?
- And last but not least: Paid Traffic is finite. If you do not throw in any monetary units, the traffic will dry up.
These considerations alone lead to some conclusions:
- Paid traffic can only ever be a complement to organic traffic.
- The more expensive a click per keyword becomes, the more content marketing pays off.
- The more keywords you want to occupy, the more content marketing pays off.
And what does this mean for you and your content marketing?
Your concrete situation
“Is content marketing worthwhile?” is a relatively general question. Let’s try to be a little more specific: If you asked me if it was worth your while to start a new blog, I don’t know what I would say. I would probably ask some questions to understand your context and your possibilities:
- Why do you want to run a blog? What do you expect and hope for from it?
- How much time can you invest in writing new articles? (Caution: if you are not practiced, it takes much longer for individual articles than it seems. And: even with practiced scribblers it can take a long time.)
- How many articles could you write per year?
Just these few questions or the answers to them alone provide a lot of information for discussion. Therefore in a nutshell: Let’s say you want to set up a blog because it’s an excellent way to share practical experiences and you can invest one day per week.
If you would work at my speed, you could publish one such post per week. Even if you have written the article in perfection in 4 hours, laid out, structured and provided with graphics, enriched with meta information, paid attention to a recommended keyword density, and used synonymous terms, you have not promoted the article yet.³ Without promotion, a blog hardly works at all, especially at the beginning.
Mathematically, a blog post per week results in 52 posts per year. Due to holidays and public holidays, there will hardly be more than 40 in reality. 40 posts on your topics – that is a great achievement. Respect, if you succeed. But unfortunately it is only 40 posts. There are many good blogs of lone fighters with over 500 posts. There are blogs with daily new contributions. And despite your writing genius: why would Google be interested in your weekly contribution? With each of your posts, you’re competing with all the other posts on the same topic. With posts that are almost certainly published on sites that have a higher reputation by comparison. Oops. Who said content marketing was easy?!
There are several ways out of this dilemma. Probably nobody is asking you to run a blog. You can publish good content, opinions, experiences in different ways. You can build up reach far away from your website or use the reach of others. You can write books in the classic way, offer PDFs or slides as downloads in portals, you can comment articles on other websites, or publish guest articles. You can participate in webinars and conferences or be interviewed in podcasts. In fact, there are endless options to communicate your information and views. And the better, more informative, more entertaining, even valuable your content is, the faster you will reach your goals and ideas.
Content Marketing …
I have one last thought for you: Google’s ranking delivers a truth. I do not want to make my happiness dependent on it. In fact the ranking is based on many factors. You should consider the important factors and optimise your content accordingly over time. The beauty of content marketing is something else for me personally: with content marketing you are able to achieve a position for individual terms that people might not even think you and your organisation are capable of. It’s a great feeling to be listed with your information in front of the content of global players. For many larger organisations, content marketing does not play a major role. This can easily be recognised from the outside by the quality of text and content. Content marketing is the chance to “be better” than everyone else in a specific area. And one thing is clear: Content Marketing is worthwhile!
 Holismus: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holismus
 Content Marketing: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content-Marketing
 Some consultants may point out the difference between seeding – as free distribution of content on the internet – and promotion – as a paid version of seeding – but I would not attach much importance to such references.
Michael Schenkel has published further articles in the t2informatik blog, including
Head of Marketing, t2informatik GmbH
Michael Schenkel is a graduate business economist and is passionate about marketing. He has a certificate for excellent hiking characteristics, Odenwaldtour in classes 6a/6b and since 1984 the Seahorse. He likes to blog about requirements engineering, project management, stakeholders and marketing. And he will certainly be delighted if you meet him in the real world for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake or for a virtual get-together.