Why Your Content Isn’t King Any More

content isn't king

“Content is king” has been a very common phrase in the marketing field for years. This mantra has certainly become part of our language, maybe even part of our DNA.

But I think this is one of those common phrases that we take for granted that may actually be meaningless. You probably know it, somewhere deep inside. I think something else is the king.

Let’s unwrap that today.

First let me say that I am addressing this subject on a very high level for a diverse global audience. Some people may chime in and argue, “well what about ???” … and I will say, “of course.” There are lots of exceptions. But let’s look at the big picture and the over-arching trend.

The reality check

To put things in perspective, please oblige me in a thought exercise.

Think of every product you’ve purchased in the past two weeks. This might include food, clothing, a car wash, house plants, insurance, medicine, office supplies, toys, books … anything at all.

Now, consider this list and determine: How many of these purchases were directly or indirectly influenced by a piece of company content?

If you’re like me, the answer is zero. Branded content has no impact on 99.999 percent of consumer purchasing decisions. We don’t see this company content, and if we see it, we probably don’t believe it … let alone subscribe to any of it.

For most companies looking to connect to consumers, content is certainly not king. It’s not queen, or prince, or even jester. It lands somewhere below an in-store coupon. Not everything good and great in marketing starts with a new company YouTube channel or a blog.

I think this famous quote from Seth Godin is dramatically overstated. “People don’t buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic.”

Seth needs to make a trip to Walmart.

But what about SEO?

Well, you’re probably thinking that I’m missing the main point here. A primary goal of content is SEO and many of the products we buy are based on a Google search. And of course, you’d be right.


The pandemic era has created an enormous surge in eCommerce. We’re now seeing holiday-like purchase levels every month.

But if you’re like me, you go to Amazon and fill your cart. Or maybe another big site like Etsy or eBay. Or maybe you order from a local grocery store for curbside pick-up.

Research shows that search volume has increased dramatically during the pandemic but nearly all of that volume has been coronavirus-related. This supports my point that much of the eCommerce surge is not necessarily SEO-driven because we’re buying commodities and brands that we already know and love.

I also covered in another article why search is benefiting fewer and fewer companies because Google is keeping more than half of all search traffic to themselves.

Content is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for search. But I wonder if search is having a diminishing impact on at least some business success? As I noted at the beginning of this post, it depends.

Bottom line, content might have been king five years ago when it was more of a novelty and actually contributed to SEO benefits to a much greater degree than it does today.

Where do we turn now?

Infinite media

I’ve been learning how to paint with watercolors and have been taking online lessons from a wonderful artist named Eric Yi Lin. In his tutorial, Eric mentions the materials he uses. So I bought those. Why mess around? I don’t have time to experiment. Let’s get going with it. < and I click on Amazon to place an order>

This is how most marketing occurs today. We don’t believe ads or company content. We believe each other. For me, Eric is an influencer.

Content isn’t king any more. User-Generated Content is King and it has been for some time.

As Mathew Sweezey points out in his excellent book The Context Marketing Revolution, on June 24, 2009, something significant occurred. For the first time, the amount of content being published by real people exceeded the amount being published by corporations and media companies.

We then entered an era of “infinite media” which led to Content Shock and the ongoing war for attention that preoccupies every marketer on earth today. Company content has been left behind. The content created by our friends and the influencers we admire is much more interesting, relevant, and believable.

And that’s the content that makes us buy stuff.

All Hail UGC!

“User-generated content is social media’s greatest gift to marketing.” — Ad Age magazine.

User-Generated Content makes the marketing world work these days. A key idea in my book Marketing Rebellion (and this comes from McKinsey) is that two-thirds of our marketing is occurring without us. Our stories are being carried forward by our customers.

The customers are the marketers.

The content they’re creating is doing our marketing job … much better than us.

As soon as you accept that fact, you’ll also come to terms with this idea that our content is not king … their content is king. So the focus of marketing must pivot dramatically. How do we spend less effort on our stories and more effort on their stories? How do we get invited to our customer’s conversations?

I’m suggesting that content marketing requires an entirely different mindset to be successful.

All hail the new king, UGC.

.Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of several best-selling digital marketing books and 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.

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