As the content marketing industry trends farther and farther away from disposable, outsourced articles, it’s easy to see why the future is in genuine, high quality content. As older generations become increasingly experienced at navigating the internet, and younger generations are growing up technologically adept, we as business owners and digital marketers need to become smarter about the messaging we present our audience. More and more, savvy internet users are able to quickly discern between a junky, throwaway piece of content meant to garner cheap clicks, and an article that offers real value.
Native Advertising & Quality Wars
There is always a temptation in marketing — and digital marketing, specifically — to go for quantity over quality. After all, when you distill your business’ results into nothing more than a dashboard with graphs and columns of data, it’s easy to forget that those data points represent actual people. When you over-rely on the quick and easy approach to content marketing, you may become seduced by the results you’re achieving… without ever considering the amount of traffic or sales you’re leaving on the table.
One huge reason you should care about quality in your content marketing approach is the fact that the writing is on the wall when it comes to the sea change happening in digital marketing spending. Although still powerful, PPC ad platforms such as Google AdWords are being forced to change longstanding format and placement characteristics to combat a shift in their perception. Once appearing to most searchers to be nearly indistinguishable from organic results, PPC ads are now instantly recognizable (especially for younger generations) as what they really are.
This fact has precipitated a big shift towards “native advertising,” in which “secular” content is presented side by side with sponsored content on a highly-trafficked publishing platform. Within native advertising, content can run the gamut from totally irrelevant and cheesy, to nearly indistinguishable from the other articles.
Yet, we also see that renewal rates for native ads in 2016 were a fairly abysmal 33%. The question to ask is, is this due to an inherent deficiency in the native advertising model itself; or, is it merely reflective of the way different advertisers choose to utilize that space? At Marketingism, we argue it’s the latter. We’ve all seen those horrible ads at the bottom of Yahoo! or CNN.com that are visually presented as additional news stories, but actually link to scammy offers and pop-up laden garbage sites. Those ads are scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of click quality, and it doesn’t take long for a halfway-aware internet user to tune them out entirely.
But, what about native advertising that actually offers value? What if the piece is written by someone with the skill to interweave the branding message with original, interesting content that is likely to be found genuinely useful to its target audience? The possibility of this utopian native advertising scenario seems realistic, given that despite the poor overall renewal rates, certain platforms such as The Atlantic have bucked that trend and seen nearly double the average.
The Thinking Consumer
Here at Marketingism, we’ve tried to structure our content marketing strategy for our clients towards what we call the “Thinking Consumer.” It’s a shift away from treating traffic as solely a big data problem, instead focusing on the increasingly discerning nature of the online consumer. In a way, it’s the idea that you don’t need to rely on the digital marketing equivalent of confidence tricks or condescending, low-quality articles in large numbers in order to get results.
Online consumers in 2017 respect when a brand doesn’t try to insult their intelligence with cheap, poorly constructed filler content. It’s getting easier and easier to curate your own online experience and the content that you digest. All it takes is a miscue or two, and a user can conveniently block or delete you from their entire online consciousness.
Instead, give your target demographic some value for free. As businesses, we instinctively want to guard our sources of value and the things that we know how to do better than others. And while you still shouldn’t give the farm away for free, there is something to be said for providing a user some free value in exchange for engendering brand trust, openness to receiving future content, and an affinity for your messaging and products that can last a lifetime.