What is content marketing? An old school look at the technique

Stream of consciousness

They say you shouldn’t write blog posts as a stream of consciousness, that they should be planned, crafted, pounded into a listicle, or a two thousand word bit of evergreen content that Neil Patel and his army of munchkin content writers crank out.

I do actually say the say thing, but sometimes you have to go old school, clear out the old noggin and do a brain dump. Forget for a minute your tribe and do one for you, which is what this post is. I snap awake at 5.59 with a head crammed full of thoughts and just need to get them out.

This of course is what blogging used to be like, and it was fun.

You got to really know the blogger as you would get warts and all, sure it’s indulgent, but it was a clunky depiction of the human condition and as there wasn’t any Twitter, Insagram, Linkedin, Facebook… Ect, in those days you had little place to go, time to gather your thoughts, play a little with the language.

Thinking along these lines I realise there is way too much content being produced right now, most of it will never even be read or consumed. I am reading a lot about content shock lately, but the problem I see is for those businesses online who are trying to reach people, to turn them into paying customers.

I hate jargon.

Or maybe not, because I do use it. But what I hate is those who use jargon to mask their like of knowledge or talk about an old, ancient thing with a new phrase which comes over like they just invented it. “Influencer marketing”, is one that seems to be replicating itself, Ebola virus like across the blogosphere (is that term even used anymore, grandad?). As if “influence” is a new thing that bloggers just came across.

Socrates I am sure would disagree.

But this is the nature of online publishing, you can complain like a cynical old git, or you can join in.

But I think there is a third way.

You see, people constantly over complicate things.

Content marketing is only about two things, communcation and persuasion.
Your content must do both to acheive its objective.

All you are doing is taking a thought that is in your brain, and allowing a piece of content to carry it to another human being’s brain.

Thus content is merely a mechanical device used to transport thoughts.

This is taking things down to the fundamentals.

Which is useful because that’s where the good stuff can happen.

Not following made up jargon like “inbound marketing”, “influencer marketing”, content marketing”, and all the others. That is what my friend, Andrew Burnett calls, bollocks. We had a good chat yesterday on the nature of marketing and the judicious use of the term “bollocks” in a presentation. I was for sparing use, if at all, as things are special, magical words only to be used to highlight the most intense of things.

But then Andrew is a tad intense, which is a good thing.

As this bit of writing is a stream of consciousness, it wont be edited. No, that’s against the rules. Plus it wont have a crafted ending with a call to action that invites you to sign me up as a creative content consultant, to help out your agency team that seems to be drying up for ideas, or if you;re a small business to get you to sign up to my social media management service.

No, blog posts like this just seem to drift away.

The deep blue sky of dawn is turning to a grey sky of daylight.
Seagulls are given a last cry before the sounds of the Megacity that is Truro drowns them out.
And children are getting up to read Bin Weavils comics before school.
Time to finish this blog post and get the porridge on.
I hope you enjoyed this one
Have a fantastic day.

How big should blog posts be to rank on Google?

This blog post was previously published on Creativeboris.com

The time when it was all about targeted keyword rich, short form content,  crank out a few hundred words, has long gone. Creating long form, well researched content is expensive, time consuming and hard work.

But what is the evidence that we should create long form content? How do we answer the question, “What size of content will help me rank in Google?”

Brian Dean

Evidence that Longform content is best

Backlinko.com recently did a massive study of 1 million Google search results, published on January 21st, 2016

It’s findings regarding size of content were:

” Based on SERP data from SEMRush, we found that longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.”


Steve Rayson over at Moz.com bloggged, “Content, Share and Links: Insights from analyzing 1 million articles”, you can download his 31 page pdf here

Steve Rayson
The analysis was the result of teaming up with Buzzumo.com

Deep research and opinions matter :

“There are, however, specific content types that do have a strong positive correlation of shares and links. This includes research backed content and opinion forming journalism. We found these content formats achieve both higher shares and significantly more links.”

On the length of content with regards to social sharing:

“…long form content of over 1,000 words consistently receives more shares and links than shorter form content.”

On the type of content shared

 “List posts and videos achieve much higher shares on average than other content formats. However, in terms of achieving links, list posts and why posts achieve a higher number of referring domain links than other content formats on average. While we may love to hate them, list posts remain a powerful content format.”

It seems the much hated listicle is not only getting the shares, but the links too. Gathering anecdotal evidence for this article, people would role their eyes at the idea that listicles get the most attention. This may be due to that fact that people who are in the web publishing business see more of them and are not in “reader mode”, but are in publishing mode. It may also be pure snobbery, the fact that we want people to think we are more sophisticated than we actually are.

The article goes on to say that most content receives few social shares and even fewer links. This would indicate that content is being dumped on a massive scale into a vase and empty space with no one reading, sharing or linking to it.

The research indicates that longer form content in excess of 2k is more likely to be successful. Thus time spent creating 3 x blog posts 1,000 words long could be wasted, whilst time spent creating 1 blog post 3,000 words long returns rewards.

The study goes on to look at the type of content that is being shared and linked to, analysing around 70k webpages with articles from , The Atlantic, New Republic, Nytimes.com the guardian.com and indicates that it is well researched opinion pieces that are most popular.


How Important is Content Length? Why Data-Driven SEO Trumps Guru Opinions
Analysis was performed of the top 10 results in Google in 2012, using 20,000 keywords and discovered a direct correlation of long content to higher results in Google.


“As you can see, there is a drop in content length as we move from first to tenth position. On average, 10th position pages have 400 less words on the page than first position pages. This does point to the trend that higher ranked sites have more content, but keep in mind that this graph is not segmented in any way – this is just a graph of all of the SERPs we’ve analyzed.”

More evidence from Moz.com

In another study from Moz, by John Doherty, it “found a direct correlation between the number of back links…and the overall length of the content itself.”

Below is a chart of 500 posts on the x-axis and the number of words on the y-axis

Moz graphic

If we take the chart above and overlay with the number of links each post acquired has been recorded, we can clearly see a correlation between length of post and number of links the post gets.
John Doherty states, ” if we visualize the links that these posts have gained, there seems to be a correlation between longer content and links:”

 moz graphic 2

OKSUMO and Buzzsumo research
Why Content Goes Viral: What Analyzing 100 Million Articles Taught Us

“We’ve analyzed the social share counts of over 100 million articles in the past 8 months.”

“If you look at the chart below, the longer the content, the more shares it gets, with 3000-10000 word pieces getting the most average shares (8859 total average shares). Not surprisingly, there was a lot more short-form content being written. How much more? There were 16 times more content with less than 1000 words than there were content with 2000+ words.”


It is quite clear from this graph that you are more likely to have your content shared on Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin, Twitter, and Google+ if you content is over 3,000 words, rather than 1,000 words or less.

This flies in the face of common thought that we are only motivated to share, short, snacksized bits of content. It is not what the data is telling us.

“As you can see in the graph, 3000+ word articles get more social shares on Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin, Twitter and Google+.”

The Backlinking Strategy That Works
Patt Flynn has also noticed a relationship between shares and content length.



5 Things That Will Change Your Mind About Long Form Content Marketing

In Garrett Moon’s research for Coschedule.com he found that content with a higher number of words ranked higher in Google.


“Yes, it’s true. Long-form content ranks higher on average than shorter pages. In my results, the pages in the top five (1-5) averaged more than 2,000 words per page. In the bottom half (6-10), the posts only averaged 1,400 words. Long-form content was absolutely weighted to the top of the list.”

Neil Patel
Neil Patel of Kissmetrics and Crazy Egg likes to get data driven answers in this blog post investigating the merits of long form content, Why you need to create evergreen, long form content

Neil Patel

“I took the 327 blog posts I have written on Quick Sprout and broke them down into two buckets. The first bucket contained blog posts that were fewer than 1,500 words, and the second contained posts that were greater than 1,500 words. I then analyzed how many tweets and Facebook likes each post got.

Posts that were under 1,500 words, on average received 174.6 tweets and 59.3 Facebook likes. Posts that were over 1,500 words, on average received 293.5 tweets and 72.7 Facebook likes.”


A word about causation. We are not stating that long content causes more links and higher ranking, but we are suggesting that there is a correlation between the two, it has been my belief that this has been for case for a number of years.

However, we have a number of factors at work here, the main one is the person who actually reads the content and then reacts. Something is happening to cause them to be more likely to socially share the content or link, size of the content may be a factor, but the content must be coherent and resonate with the reader. It must engage.

Semantic footprint vs the keyword

Spock and Bones

Google introduced a new algorithm called, Hummingbird in 2013. Danny Sullivan of Searchengineland.com said,

“Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.”

That Google is using the “meaning” of the whole article rather than a specific searched for keyword means that more semantically relevant content is going to help Google determine the relevance of that search term for your content.

It’s not as simple as “more is better”. It’s that more relevant, useful content is better.

If we look at it simplistically, what does a 500 word post have that a 3,000 word post does not? The answer is ease of consumption, it’s quick for the reader. But speed of reading is not the objective of the publisher, we want to produce a reaction. If a reader’s objective is to read and consume a blog post quickly, then they are quickly on to the next thing.

The problem is, most publishers see their content in isolation rather than a sequence of content from numerous other publishers.

Each piece of content consumed by the reader is battling for time in the consciousness, ready for downloading into the subconscious.

Which brand do you think is going to stick more, the brand of the content that took 2 mins to read or the brand which had the content that took two 15 minute sessions to get through?

The thing is, it’s hard to create long content. We get distracted, Netflix, Facebook, Linkedin upates, yada yada yada. And when you create something great at 1,000 words that PUBLISH button starts pulsing. Right now I’m at 809 words and I think I have something interesting for people.

But there are a few other points I want to cover on this issue, and hopefully it takes this particular piece of content from good to great, but that is your call not mine.

We now know content has to be big and thus requires more investment

A blog post is not a forest


You write a number of articles which have a common thread, a linear pattern which leads to a conclusion, builds a thesis. You put the articles together and you have a book.

A book is a product, it is not content.

You create a blog post, it exists on a linear time line with other blog posts. But the other blog posts are not read, just the one.

This is not a product, this is content.

Can a single blog post connect? Or is its purpose simply to draw you towards the other pieces of content, like hooks in velcro. A single one has the weight of morning dew, but together they become a powerful tidal wave.

But that blog post does not exist on its own. It is a tree that resides in the forest with trees that are exactly like it.

Much better noticed, if the tree stands alone in a meadow.

Don’t Build your House on the Land of the Social Media Barons

Social media gate

Own as much of your digital real estate as you can, as talked about at startbloggingonline.com. Don’t build a Facebook page, get your own domain and build your own blog or website. It’s both easier and cheaper than you think. Create your own email list, rather than having your listen controlled by these social media, corporate entities.

Social media billionaire barons don’t do what they do because they like you. They do it because they can make money out of you. Don’t trade away the sweat of your labour for a few magic beans.

Don’t muck about on someone else’s platform, get your own and make that your base. Sure, join all the other platforms, but work them, don’t let them work you.

The message, your message should be under your control as much as possible.

Image source

BBC Recycling Own Blog Posts


This was the most read shared on the BBC today, note the date of publication. Since this was first published I have read this twice before. I wonder how much of the content on the BBC is reused.

It does make sense to reblog when you have great stuff in the archives as demonstrated by this becoming the most read. Content should be seen as an asset and squeezed for every last job of juice.