20 December 2023 |

Content is changing––but 3 pillars remain

By Tracey Wallace

Distribution, less is more, and looking to the past to understand the future

Content is changing. 

Sure, AI is part of that. But, content has been commoditizing for a while now. Heck, I was even part of its commoditizing, creating one of those SEO playbooks people dreamed to copy––generating more than 1M organic sessions a month on a blog alone, and for wildly difficult terms like ecommerce marketing, email marketing, etc. 

It’s no where near as easy as it used to be to do that (heck, it was little ol’ me and an SEO manager that did that back in 2017). And, we don’t really know what will become of SEO in 2024.  

There are still a lot of great plays to make in SEO, especially for more established brands that have already been working at it for a while. But, I’ve found that most brands are shifting. This comes from dozens of talks with, well, y’all, over the last couple weeks. 

Content is changing. It’s maturing. And three ideas that have been circulating in content marketing circles for ever are becoming foundations of the discipline––with outliers often hyped on LinkedIn proving the rule. 

The 3 pillars of content marketing

Distribution is king: 

Content was never king because its value is absolutely zero if no one sees it or reads it. No, kings are visible. Kings have distribution channels. They have press. They have attendants. They have inner and outer circles of influencers and executive presence. 

Content could only hope for such distribution. SEO once provided it. For some, it still does and can. But like with any channel, its never wise to play your entire bet on one. No, content needs distribution powered by the larger organization across:

  • Organic social media
  • Paid social media
  • Employee social media 
  • Content syndication 
  • Dedicated emails 
  • Ads 
  • Partner marketing
  • Sales enablement and sequences

For distribution power like that, you need the larger marketing team behind you, which means you need content they love and support, feel like they had a say in, and that is presented in the formats that work best in their specific channel. 

This means your organization needs themes, and campaigns. You need demand generation. And content is but the tip of pencil, though a really, really sharpened one. 

Less really is more: 

This isn’t a new idea or prediction, but it’s hard a hard one for content folks to really actualize. And that’s for a lot of reasons.

  1. It’s hard to just slow down. SEO often required a high volume and breadth of topics. Content marketers aren’t used to slow. 
  2. A lot of leaders, especially at start-ups, don’t particularly love slow either. They measure work via what has been produced––at in the time between reporting. 

But trust me, nothing about less is actually very slow, or really even all that less. In reality, less is more means that less topical assets is more. In other words, you need to create content to support distribution back to your main asset (the hub & spoke model).

In this example, your lead gen asset would sit in the middle. And each spoke is a variation for distribution. You likely have supporting articles that contribute to overall SEO. Social content in the form of social carousels and snackable content (aka modern infographics). You’ll have dedicated emails, and cotnent syndication placements, and guest blogs for partner sites, and maybe even some influencer marketing work, and a webinar to really just tie it all together and extend the program even further. 

The difference between 2023 and a decade ago, though, is that the lead gen asset you create has to be really, really good. It needs to be juicy. It needs to be entertaining. It needs to be relevant and provocative, and hard to not give your email up for. 

And then, you need to deliveron the promise –– getting folks data or research and information they couldn’t find in Google or ChatGPT or TikTok or YouTube in a fun and interesting way. Is that interactive content for your brand? Is that video content? I don’t know. But written PDF content alone isn’t enough. 

So, less topical assets––yes. But more variants on the same topic to make sure you get your point across. 

Everything cycles: 

Finally, remember that everything really does cycle––and in a fun decade or so timeframe, too. The hub & spoke model has been around since the dawn of my content marketing career––first as a lead gen play, and then as an SEO play. 

eBooks were popular at the beginning of my career, and then quickly shorter-form 3 page assets were the thing. Then, Aaron Orendorff started publishing 50 page deep dive guides on verticals at Shopify Plus, and next thing you know, long-form gated assets were back. 

Even the snackabel movement––and trust me, you’ve these all over Linkedin. They are little one-pager infographics, basically. And they convert really, really well. But they are just that––infographics! But in a 5×7 instead of those incredibly long assets that only ever really looked decent on Pinterest. 

The point in, words change, but tactics cycle. Look to old mediums and be the company that revives them. They say its the early bird that catches the worm. But maybe it’s really just the bird that’s been around the block a few times, and knows where to look. 

A note of this advice:

You do you! 

One content marketer’s best practices aren’t always right for another one, though I do try to distill out the main concepts and core practices I believe everyone can benefit from. That said, you must use good judgment when deciding whether to take advice given from folks on the internet. I am an expert, and this advice comes from my direct experience, but I am not smarter than you, and I have nothing to gain or lose because of what you do.