By Andrew Dennis
05 Jun 2014

Content Marketing is (Really) Hard

Content Marketing     SEO Strategy


A while back I wrote a post here on Linkarati explaining why link building is (really) hard. As a pseudo-follow up to that post, I wanted to touch on another marketing strategy that is often associated with link building – content marketing.

Content Marketing is Hard image

Content marketing, when done right, can be a very effective marketing technique. However, I feel that we in the SEO industry often take for granted how truly difficult it is to implement successful content marketing.

Content Marketing is the Latest SEO Trend

Although content marketing has been around for quite some time, it seems that with the increasing difficulty of building useful links, it’s become widely popular within SEO.

Content marketing has become the latest flavor of the month and many have started touting it as the future of SEO. Some have even gone as far to suggest that content marketing should replace link building.

Replacing link building with content marketing doesn’t make sense - each strategy has unique goals and achieves different results. In fact, the two tactics are stronger when they work together.

Due to the fact that content marketing can be very powerful when done properly, I can understand why so many of us in the SEO industry are excited about it. However, I don’t think we really appreciate everything that goes into successful content marketing.

Content Marketing Requires a Content Team

To produce the types of high quality content necessary for effective content marketing, you need a fully developed content team.

An efficient content team must consist of a balanced group of highly talented people from a variety of backgrounds/expertise. Some important members of an effective content team include:

  • Writers/Editors
  • Videographers
  • Programmers/web designers
  • Graphic designers
  • Social media managers
  • Researchers/data analysts (case studies)

Effective content marketing possesses multiple types of content and you need to have a multifaceted team of skilled employees to serve the various functions required. For example, well-written content for a blog post can be diminished without graphic design help to add high-level imagery.

For your content marketing to be effective, you really have to invest in a well-rounded content team. Some of the attributes a strong content team needs include:

  • Creativity
  • Strategic thinking
  • Strong Writing
  • Marketing prowess
  • Technical SEO skills
  • Etc.

It is important to focus on creating a balanced team that can take advantage of a wide array of talents and expertise.

Content Creation is Very Difficult

Even with a highly-skilled team of professionals, content creation is still a very difficult and intricate process.

Some significant portions of the content creation process include:

  • Identify where content gaps/opportunities exist
  • Content ideation – research, vet and organize a list of ideas
  • Define buyer personas/target audience for content
  • Outline content objectives – drive traffic, generate leads, establish authority, etc.
  • Determine ideal medium/platform for content – blog post, eBook, infographic, video series, etc.
  • Pass content through proper channels of approval
  • Assign specific tasks for completion of content
  • Revise and edit content where necessary – ensure content is fully polished and ready for publishing
  • Decide best time/day to publish content – create and monitor deadlines throughout creation process

Content creation takes creativity, strategic planning and a host of other skills and traits – simply tasking an individual SEO to do this is preposterous.

Along with Content Creation, Content Marketing Requires Promotion

Simply creating high-quality content doesn’t guarantee content marketing success. Even stellar content still needs to be promoted to be effective.

In order for your content marketing to be successful you must develop a comprehensive promotion strategy. Again, this requires a team of professionals (ideally the same people that make up your content team), dedicated to implementing your promotion plan.

Some key elements to effective content promotion include:

  • Identifying buyer personas/target audience for content
  • Finding optimum promotion channels – social media, forums, other sites, etc.
  • Consider potential paid promotional options
  • Craft promotional messaging – announcement blog posts, forum posts, tweets, G+/Facebook posts, etc.
  • Building and leveraging relationships with influencers for increased amplification
  • Determining best times to promote – when will there be the most engagement
  • Identifying outreach opportunities – anyone you mention or reference in you writing
  • Interacting with audience after content has been published – respond to questions/comments, thank those who share your content, etc.
  • Determine how to track/gauge success of content – social shares, page views, inbound links, etc.

These are just some of the important - and time consuming - features of a content promotion strategy that must be taken into consideration. Not only is it extremely difficult to create outstanding content, it is also very challenging to effectively promote that content.

Well-thought-out promotion strategies are a necessity, and a portion of content marketing many SEOs neglect.

SEOs Typically Aren’t Good at Creating Content

After looking at everything that goes into effective content marketing, it becomes clear that it is silly to think we as SEOs can do all this ourselves.

It should be obvious by now that content marketing can’t be done by any single type of professional and rather, content marketing requires collaboration between a variety of individuals, one of which should be an SEO.

SEOs often underestimate what it takes to create and promote truly useful content – content that has been carefully crafted to solve a specific need for a specific audience that builds reader loyalty, trust and appreciation. It’s arrogant and misguided to think we SEOs can execute content marketing initiatives by ourselves without collaboration from a multifaceted team – SEO is only one piece of the puzzle.

Currently, SEOs are simply trying to wear too many hats and it’s unnecessary.

In a recent episode of The Backlink Show, Matt Roberts – co-founder of Linkdex, discussed this notion of where SEOs fit in with content marketing:

“I don’t know any brand that is able to dominate their sector without all of the different interactions between different departments functioning in an optimal way. This isn’t about cannibalizing each other’s professions, this is about collaboration. It’s about team work. It’s about knowing what game you’re playing and how you’re keeping score” – Matt Roberts

Matt emphasizes collaboration rather than trying to do each other’s jobs. SEOs should certainly be involved in the content marketing process, but they need to work in conjunction with the other members of the content team to yield effective content marketing. When SEOs decide they are suddenly content marketers and can serve all the necessary functions of content marketing, things turn out poorly.

However, SEOs should be part of the content marketing process and help guide decision making. In another quote from that same podcast, Matt had this to say about SEOs role in content marketing campaigns:

“If the business objective, that comes from the top, is to make sure that in that channel that everyone is saying “We must be there, when our customers search, we must be there. We want to be there with a voice, a brand building voice, a converting voice.” If that is the number one thing that c-level is saying must happen, then we need the content team to focus on that, and the people giving them the direction is not just the c-level, it’s the search people who have the insights and knowledge on how to direct that effort.” – Matt Roberts

Content marketing is a complex process that can’t be simplified to a single SEO producing content.


For those of you who felt this post was tl;dr – here are the main points again:

  • SEOs don’t need to become content creators or even content marketers
  • Content marketing is extremely difficult
  • Producing high level content requires that you have a fully developed content team comprised of members from various backgrounds with various skillsets
  • Content marketing consists of more than just content creation, it also requires content promotion which is both challenging and time consuming in and of itself
  • SEOs don’t inherently have the necessary skills for content creation and tend to undervalue what it takes to create a successful content marketing campaign, but should be part of the larger content marketing process
Andrew Dennis

Andrew Dennis is a Content Marketing Manager at Shopify. Andrew is an alumnus of the University of Idaho and consequently a lifelong Vandals fan. You can connect with Andrew on Twitter or LinkedIn.