Why you need to obsess about content saturation

content saturation

By Mark Schaefer

Recently I wrote a post stating that the most important word in marketing is “maneuver.” Defining exactly where you have an opportunity to maneuver in a competitive marketplace more or less dictates your strategy, and when it comes to content marketing, information density is the primary consideration in maneuverability.

The only sustainable long-term content strategy is to find an unsaturated niche and overwhelm the web with so much quality content that search engines discover only you (or mostly you). The strategy is this simple:

  1. Find an unsaturated niche.
  2. Consistently produce a volume of quality, helpful material aimed at a relevant audience (or persona).
  3. Never stop producing content so Google sees fresh results over time and the authority of your site grows.

Dominating a niche early has extremely important long-term value because the search engines will continue to recognize and reward the authority your website accrues for a long time. To help my customers determine the information density of their market, we run an analysis that defines a niche as low, moderate, high, or complete content saturation. This provides guidance as to where you can best maneuver to create competitive advantage with your content.

Determining content saturation

Here’s an example. If you did a search for “dance instructor,” the number of search results is 25 million. This represents a completely saturated content niche. It would be extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to stand out in that information market.

However, if you narrow the search to “dance instructor in Tennessee,” the total is about 500,000, quite a bit better. The results narrow and you would have more room to maneuver. If you narrowed the keywords even more to “salsa dance instructor in Nashville,” the results become more manageable — a relatively uncrowded niche and an opportunity for you to dominate with useful and interesting content.

Here is a guide outlined by my friend Christopher Penn, using Google search results as an index for relative saturation levels.

  • If there are fewer than 10,000 pages of returned search results on a keyword, full speed ahead! There’s an opportunity for you since there is low content density.
  • Between 10,000 and 100,000 results, expect some resistance, but it’s surmountable with minimal investment, and exceptional content.
  • If there are between 100,000 and 1 million search results, expect significant resistance. Competing through content alone will be difficult. Applying Content Code strategies might be the primary means of rising above this level of saturation.
  • A result producing more than 1 million pages of content represents a thoroughly saturated niche. Unless the content becomes a product in its own right through significant investment, Content Shock exists in this niche and is likely to bury even exceptional content creation efforts. In this situation, you probably need to pivot: can you further differentiate by demographic audience? By social media platform? By distribution strategy? By content type?

Content saturation and strategy

In summary,

  • Content saturation profoundly determines your ability to maneuver and market in a niche.
  • Low content saturation represents a great opportunity for marketing maneuverability.
  • Moderate content saturation means that you can expect some resistance, but it’s surmountable with minimal investment, exceptional content, and distribution/promotion.
  • In a highly saturated content niche, expect significant resistance and in a completely saturated niche with millions of pieces of content, finding a way to cut through may be insurmountable unless the content becomes a product in its own right (like a movie).  In this case the business must seek new keywords.

Content saturation is one of the most important considerations in a marketing strategy today so it is essential that you know where you stand.

To learn more about this concept and discover your opportunities to maneuver even in crowded spaces, be sure to check out my book The Content Code: Six essential strategies to ignite your content, your marketing, and your business.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy of Flickr CC and Dvidshub

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