Can we? (RE We Can Do Better Than This)

I’ll be honest with you, I rarely write blog posts for the industry. I tend to write blog posts for my targeted audience, so this is one of those rare occasions where I’ll try to actually throw in a few lines of text into our industry’s pile of knowledge.

Two days ago, Jonathan Colman wrote a blog post called “We Can Do Better Than This“. In the post Jonathan asks some very important questions about the future of our (SEO, inbound marketing and / or content marketing) industry. He asks if we’re doing it wrong, if we’re heading into the right direction.

It’s a supper long post, so there’s a lot of things in there and I can’t comment on each and every point in there or I’ll get old by the time I finish this post.

Is Jonathan’s post kind of hypocritical?

I know haters gonna hate me for this title above, but, Jonathan encouraged us to start writing actual content, asking actual questions and have an open mind about other people’s opinions.

Why do I think it’s kind of hypocritical? Because one of the main points it writes about are crazy little things that we as an industry do to attract more views and social shares than our content actually deserves.

Which trick did his article use? I give you the trick called:

Unnecessary amount of content.

Here’s a picture of what is apparently the world’s largest pumpkin, shared on FLickr by a user named “Loozrboy” (LOL) under creative commons licence. I’ll keep putting more images in here that don’t actually add much value to the article just so my article would appear longer, thus making you think it’s worth of being shared.

In the world of shitty, low value content we live in, writing the biggest article about any topic, no matter the quality of the article is guaranteed to get you a lot of shares. Why? Because people don’t read, people will see that the topic is covered extensively and share it without reading. It’s kind of like a software licence…. or a bible… we just click “I agree” a.k.a. “Like”, “Tweet” or “+1” in our world.

Now, I’m sure Jonathan knew this trick, and I can see by the writing style that his entire article wouldn’t lose much if it was covered in half the words he used. Does this mean Jonathan’s 2,747 word article (yes I checked the word count, I’m crazy, I know) is a shitty piece of content? Hell no!

He did use a trick to get more shares, but we all do, I did it in this article (although not as much and more for the laughs than for the same purpose) as well, it’s part of our job. If we don’t do it we’re failing at doing our job properly. Whats the point of writing amazing content if no one will ever read it, right? This is the point in the conversation where I’d actually like to throw in my 5 cents.

What’s shitty content to me, might be golden for somebody else

While writing a top 10 list of how to do a simple (simple for you and me) thing for the 10th time while adjusting a few things in there to rank for very long tail keywords seems like a lame idea, this piece of content might just be the best answer to that long tail query. If user searching for the answer is satisfied with the query results who are we to judge?

Yes, this means it’s highly unlikely we as industry professionals will “subscribe” (I digress, but does anyone really use RSS nowadays anymore? Or is it like AOL e-mail thing?) to such blog as it would bring us things we know every day. Yet so many blogs like this exist. But why?

Because they are not writing for us! They don’t need us to read the article, they need their targeted audience to read it, and this tactic is bringing them good returns, otherwise they’d be out of business.

Here’s an image of AOL logo that I found using Google Image search and have no idea who should it be accredited to. I’m putting it here, because I meantioned it in a “clever pun” above so it’s kind of relevant to the article and should be included.

One of the best examples of such blogs is HubSpot’s blog. I love HubSpot for their involvement into the inbound marketing industry and respect the time and effort they’ve put into building awareness of this industry and educating people in the early days (especially in the early days of IMU back in 2009), but come on, would any real inbound marketing professional read their articles all the time?

For example, their two latest articles are called:

  • 7 Critical Things Every Lead Nurturing Email Needs to Communicate
  • The 16 Most Important Social Media Updates of 2012

If you Google and add a few keywords from these titles, you’ll see they’ve covered these same topics from just a bit different perspective several times already.

This screenshot is of what I see when I Google “ Lead Nurturing Email”. It might be different for you. This is because Google personalizes results using… oh who am I kidding, if you’re reading this article you know that…

Should we ask “Can we?” or should we ask “Should we?”

Can we as an industry write better content? Probably yes. But should we? Is the content we find shitty but targeted audience find golden already fulfilling its purpose?

Those articles aren’t written for you and me. We are not their targeted audience. We, as industry professionals, are extremely unlikely to buy their software, because we do things differently.

Would their targeted audience benefit more if the articles they get when Googling these keywords are “better”?

Actually, I’m not sure they would. People who’ll read such articles simply aren’t ready (or might never even be ready) to read the thought provoking, cutting edge, disrupting industry philosophy. They might never be ready to read Jonathan’s article. Not everyone is aspiring to be at the top of the industry. To be the thought leader, to drive the industry forward. Some people are happy just being there, 2 steps behind the leaders and living their lives stress free.

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