In marketing, as in travel, less is quite often more.
(Bear with me here…)
If given the option, which would you choose?
On one hand, a week luxuriating on a sun-soaked beach, or a long weekend exploring the markets, cafés and romantic back streets of a sleepy Mediterranean city.
On the other, a whistle-stop tour of ten or more big cities in seven days; a week spent struggling to catch your breath in a blur of guided tours, identical local museums, and tourist-trap diners.
Pejoratives aside, I think we’d all pick option one.
And just as feverish package holidays have been replaced for younger generations by boutique city breaks and Airbnb adventures, so too has the world of digital marketing finally come to adopt ‘quality over quantity’ as one of the core tenets of their content strategies.
If a tree falls in the woods…
Less is more, quality over quantity, jack of all trades and master of none, inch deep but a mile wide – whatever idiom you want to use, the idea of doing one thing and doing it well is deeply ingrained in the way we all now think.
In years past, many brands and their associated marketing agencies thought the opposite – churning out vast quantities of content each day, with one eye on their list of keywords and another keenly tracking their place on the SERPs.
Like an analytics stock market, teams of eagle-eyed marketers watched page rankings track up and down, hurriedly bashing out content to suit the topic du jour in an eager bid to out-blog their competitors.
And like the characters of Wolf of Wall Street, those same marketers soon found that their successes came at a price, with Google (instead of the Feds in this analogy) clamping down on, and penalising, the practice of ‘content for content’s sake’ in favour of websites that offer the public content that they might actually want to read (heaven forbid!)
If you publish a blog post, thought Google, and no one ever reads it, should it really benefit your website?
Produce content that your customers want to see
And so, thankfully, the age of purely SEO content seems to be coming to an end.
SEO and keywords are still a consideration in content marketing, and will continue to be whilst Google operates the way it does, but with more weight being given to visitor satisfaction than ever before, the dark days of keyword-rich, information-poor websites are behind us.
Increasingly, brands are breaking free of their keyword shackles, and being given space to express themselves, and to produce content that does nothing more than entertain, engage, and inform – and customers are responding well.
Instead of 50 blog posts written solely to draw clicks from Google search results, brands are opting for fewer pieces of long-form or interactive content to grab and retain customer attention and loyalty in the crowded digital world.
Today, marketers know that they have far more to gain from how-to videos and infographics, ‘evergreen’ PDF guides and sharable opinion pieces than they ever did from purely SEO-centric content. From social shares and blog comments, to YouTube views and even a shot at the ever-illusive trending hashtag, marketing success is today counted in audience engagement, something old-style content could never achieve.
But don’t forget, short and sweet still sells
That’s not to say that only long-form content has a place on today’s internet.
In fact, the enormous success of Twitter and other social media sites flies in the face of the assumption that producing less but longer content is the way forward. In reality, long-form and short-form content work hand-in-hand, with the most successful digital brands making good use of both.
The trick is using the right tool for the job – using plenty of short, engaging social posts to direct people to fewer but longer content pieces. Less is more applies in both instances, just in opposite ways.
Advertisers have been using minimalism in adverts for a long time to great success – one great example is the recent tourism campaign for Oregon. Experienced ad men and women know that grabbing attention is only half the battle, and that short snappy ads have to be followed up by a campaign with substance – use a one-line advert to sell a dream, then use a 50-page brochure to shore up the deal.
The lesson to take away from all of this is that you should be producing the sort of content that you would like to read yourself.
When you’re flicking through Facebook on your phone, chances are you’ll skip over the long essay-like statuses to watch a funny video or gif.
If you’re researching a product you want to buy, or reading up on something you saw on the news, you’ll probably rather want to read one well-produced piece than have to flick between five or six similar articles to get the answers you’re looking for.
Want your customers to read your content? Write something they’ll enjoy. It really is that simple.