How to create a winning strategy with crappy content

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It’s not often that you see a blog post that makes you think, discuss, and maybe even a little sick to your stomach but that’s what Steve Rayson of BuzzSumo achieved with his controversial post “The Future is More Content.”

Steve has put out some thorough, well-developed thought leadership pieces over the years and this post is among his finest because he brings up an ugly topic we choose to ignore — that swarming the web with content — maybe even crappy content — is a legitimate strategy.

It’s a topic I’ve covered in The Content Code book and in a recent podcast episode — when you get it down to it, the best content marketing strategy is to create “Content Shock” for your competition by finding an unsaturated topical niche and then thoroughly dominating it to the point that you attract most of the Google juice. If you don’t believe me, try competing with Hubspot in the content space.

In a follow-up post, Chad Pollitt of Relevance goes a step further to explain that Google actually encourages quantity over quality. Perhaps their algorithm is hurting their own customers!

Steve Rayson’s article points to several examples where the “quantity” strategy is occurring. He points to the Washington Post strategy of increasing their publishing rate to attract more views. He furthers his argument by noting that cost of content is coming down which will rapidly enable a “quantity” strategy. We’ll soon have computer algorithms creating loads of crappy content for us at very low cost.

In fact, it is already happening. Steve mentioned to me that companies like Automated Insights are offering to produce 1,000 blog posts for $250. Are the posts any good? Maybe they don’t have to be. Steve argues that the future of content marketing is quantity, not quality.

Of course this goes against the conventional wisdom of almost every content marketing guru around these parts, but here’s the truth — Steve has only revealed the dirty little content marketing secret everybody knows but doesn’t want to acknowledge: quantity can beat quality.

At least in some cases …

Quality still matters, mostly

When you have a business model that depends on “eyeballs on ads” then driving page views at any cost may make sense.

But if you are a business (like mine) that is trying to attract loyal customers who stick around and actually do something, then the quality  model is probably the way to go.

Let’s use Steve Rayson’s posts as an example. I never miss his articles because he always delivers in-depth, data-driven content. And he usually writes long posts — but not too often — so I can keep up with them.

If Steve started posting 250 posts a week, the first reader he would lose is me, and that would be a shame because through his content, I have become friends and a collaborator with Steve … which is how content marketing is supposed to work when you are trying to establish thought leadership.

When I get people unsubscribing from my blog (it DOES happen!), the reason most often provided is “too many updates,” and I only publish 3-4 times a week. Even if I pushed that to 6-7 posts a week, I know I would lose a LOT of readers … even though I might get a lot more “views” because the sheer volume is going up.

Viewers versus readers

There is one other very important dynamic here. When people do click through to a corporate site, the average time on a piece of content is 15 seconds. So do you really want views … or readers?

Nevertheless, Steve is mostly correct in his analysis and I think the only ones who protest the truth of what he is writing either skimmed the post or are in denial.

In fact, in the near future most content marketing may be turned over to the machines. I have this image in my head of those swarming bots in the The Matrix Trilogy hunting down unsaturated long-tail niches and then overwhelming the little opening with thousands of pieces of content. Of course this will happen. Rather depressing to think about, isn’t it?

I suppose at the end of the day the only “Neo” hero we have in the content marketing world is either to be the content curator or to be the brand trusted above all others. If we can create content that is un-missable, unmistakable, and un-copy-able we might have a chance … but let’s explore this idea a little more, shall we?

Tom Webster and I dive over the crappy content waterfall in our latest Marketing Companion episode. We punch holes in the quantity versus quality debate as well as revive our plans for CompanionStorm, a listener conference featuring Kanye West (kind of). You’ll have to hear it to believe it!

If you can’t access the edition above, click on this link to listen to Episode 85

Please support our extraordinary sponsors. Our content is free because of their generosity.

Many thanks to our friend Scott Monty for the awesome show intro. Be sure to check out his amazing newsletter The Full Monty and his new podcast available here:,

BuzzSumoBuzzSumo is the world’s best way to discover, analyze and amplify your content. Run over to BuzzSumo today for a 14 day free trial. Beyond data, BuzzSumo offers priceless insights into content discovery, monitoring, influencers and outreach, content research and planning, and competitor research. Find out why so many Marketing Companion fans are now hooked on Buzzsumo. Check out BuzzSumo’s powerful technology to look at the hottest content trends down to the hour!

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Affinio is now offering a FREE eBook co-authored with Mark Schaefer called How to Identify, Understand and Grow Your Ideal Content Audience. Check it out, as well as their new free audience Discovery tool. Affinio is an advanced marketing intelligence platform that leverages the interest graph to understand today’s consumers. Affinio believes that if we can understand individuals at a deeper and richer level, then we can fundamentally change the way people relate to one another. By understanding the interests and cultural DNA of key audience segments, marketers are empowered to take an audience-first approach to making meaningful connections with ideal consumers. Find out how at

SXSW 2016 3Mark 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 Flickr CC and Robin Zebrowski

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