Lee Odden

6 Essential Questions & Answers About Content Marketing

Content Marketing 2013For every social media, SEO or content marketing “expert” there are hundreds, if not thousands of smart business people that do not possess advanced knowledge in those areas. That’s not unreasonable, since running a business involves more than keeping up with the latest internet marketing best practices.

On this blog we often include the basics of search, social and content marketing because that’s where a lot of people need confidence and affirmation that they’re on the right track.  To support that approach, here are a series of questions my co-worker Miranda Miller shared with me as prep for an online radio show. Hopefully, if you’re responsible for attracting, engaging and converting new business for your company, you will find them useful.

What is content marketing and what is it not?

I’ll start with what Content Marketing is not. It’s not limited to creating compelling media. It’s not simply creating more content. Content Marketing also is not just a SEO tactic or poorly informed blogger outreach.

Content marketing is meaningful information designed to be useful for a certain audience with the intention of inspiring an outcome or action. As I mentioned in a recent Forbes article, “The content marketers I know use customer insight, interests, goals and pain points to create editorial plans and that provide utility, not noise. It’s meaningful storytelling, not just mechanical spray and pray.”

The more I interact with corporate marketing and public relations professionals all over the world, the more I am convinced that Optimize does a great job of helping search, social and content marketers integrate and develop a more holistic approach.

How has the importance or value of content changed over the time you’ve been in online marketing?

Since I came into digital marketing through web development and search, that’s the perspective I’ll share. Within the SEO world, marketers would usually work with content that already existed and the task would be to optimize what’s there for better visibility on search engines.

When keyword targets were not represented with content, recommendations would be made to create new content. This is where (in 2007) I started promoting the idea of connecting with frontline staff like customer service and sales teams to log frequently asked questions. Answering those questions in a blog or a FAQ could not only provide new content inventory for optimization, but surface the kind of information that would be most helpful to people. This particular approach of answering customer questions has really taken off in the past year or two.

Efforts would also be undertaken to inventory existing digital assets and content for use online as a SEO asset. The focus for search marketers was very much on keywords and the assumption that companies knew their customers well enough to create the kind of information that could “sell” to the people being driven to company websites through search.

Content became a commodity in the SEO world through article spinning, scraping, doorway pages, etc because the more content included in search results, the more SERP shelf space you had to attract traffic. That approach extended to different media types once search engines began to include video, blogs, news, images and other digital assets in the search results.

Fast forward to 2012 and 2013 and you see that SEOs have become more creative with content and focused more on content quality.

However, I think there’s still a disconnect in that keywords drive editorial vs. using customer insights to drive topics & editorial which then inspire keyword optimization. In other words, optimizing for customer experience: discovery, consumption and engagement as the priority.

Because of the growing interest and attention with content, the opportunists will exploit the superficial and we’re going to see a lot more crap content posing as the good stuff.

For companies that can integrate their efforts at building community and tapping into various data sources from that community via  social media, web analytics and internet marketing performance, there is a true competitive advantage to stand out amongst the growing volume of “content marketing” tactics posing as useful information.

What are a few of the industry-specific challenges you see in your company’s content plan, ie.: finance, B2B, publishing and how do you plan for those?

I wrote a post about this recently, “5 Reasons Why Companies Are Challenged by Content Creation & How to Fix“. Regulated industries must pay attention to a different set of rules than others and there’s definitely a difference between content needs for a long, B2B sales cycle than the kind of content and media that’s useful for impulse consumer products.

How will you and your team prepare to combat the new year slump (as is typical in many industries)?

Our editorial calendar provides for a continuous stream of relevant content that we plan for in advance. I like to keep a queue of articles and posts to draw from so there is no slump of ideas to share, just our individual ability to execute in a timely manner.

Also, a lot of our current marketing is tied to events, so we’re creating content and promotions pre-event, during and afterwards that ensures we’re visible in the industry on a continuous basis.

What sort of “housekeeping” should marketers be doing with their content collection?

There’s something to be said about outdated content – whether to sunset it & redirect or to repurpose. Some companies simply delete outdated content to avoid misinforming people with information that’s not up to date or no longer valid. That’s appropriate of course but in the process of determining how to deal with outdated content, some thought should be given to how that content could be repackaged, creatively redirected to fresh information or even repurposed.

There’s no doubt that content should be managed from the perspective of it’s usefulness to the target audience and for advancing business objectives.  If that same content can continue to serve as an asset for attracting new business through search, social media and the news media, then optimizing the discovery, consumption and engagement value of that content is essential.

What do you see on the horizon for content marketing in 2013?

Here are a few future thoughts on Content Marketing, but be sure to watch for an upcoming post that will dig deeper.

  • Smarter efforts towards data informed content planning, promotion and performance optimization
  • Integration of earned, owned and shared media
  • More companies adopting content creation as a core part of their marketing mix
  • Opportunists reverse engineering the success elements of content and exploiting the hell out of them, causing “content blindness” amongst consumers/buyers
  • Companies that have been spending on social will now be drilling deeper into how to make those investments pay off in customers and revenue
  • Convergence between Public Relations and Marketing with content creation playing a pivotal role
  • More companies focused on UnGoogling their online marketing efforts.

There you have it. A few key questions and answers about content marketing. What are some of your most pressing questions about content marketing?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Content blindness is what scares me the most. I already feel like I’m missing some great content (and others are missing some of mine) because the best content producers aren’t necessarily gaming the system enough…and I think you’re right, it’s going to get harder. Great post, Lee!

    • Thank you Jeannie. I think to avoid public content blindness, we need to really build our private lists and direct channels of distribution (communities). Promise good stuff, deliver good stuff, over and over = very little competition. 🙂

  2. I look forward to those follow-up posts, Lee. @twitter-14270757:disqus I’m also scared about “content blindness” because most of what I post involves digging “one level deeper” than that surface-level rhetoric everybody posts (albeit equally hard to reach people through that surface-level rhetoric)…and right now it’s unique. Should that change, I’m not going to be able to keep up.

    • Avatar Rank Watch says

      “Content marketing is meaningful information designed to be useful for a certain audience with the intention of inspiring an outcome or action” And Content creation is inventing and making your product so specific and unique that it supports the principle of content marketing and compels the readers as well as experts to look at it as an expansion of their knowledge and truthfully satisfies their needs. No one have to be disheartened, but keep learning and growing, Mr. Stephen.

  3. Quoting you – “I think there’s still a
    disconnect in that keywords drive editorial vs. using customer insights to
    drive topics & editorial which then inspire keyword optimization. In other
    words, optimizing for customer experience: discovery, consumption and engagement as the priority.”

    How to build this connect, most effectively, such that it lasts long and clear?

    • I think what he means is “search engines aren’t your customer, the customer is your customer.” There’s already a convergence of organically-ranked pages and what pages might be most appropriate for a user based on their social connections, what those people have recommended, etc. All your hard work optimizing for a keyword might be for nothing if a user has a ton of social connections whose recommendations for another page they’d trust more than a #1 ranking they’ve never seen before. On the flip side, writing content that inspires, solves and connects with searchers will build up that same trust that ousted you from the top ranked spot using traditional keyword optimization.

  4. I’m finally starting to gain an understanding as to what “content marketing” means. All the other posts I’ve seen were a bit too technical for me…

  5. Avatar Mark Spencer says

    In my opinion, content marketing has become more and more misconstrued by the masses for so long now that it is leading to vast numbers of websites trying to “out-maneuver” the Google Bots using outdated and mis-guided SEO tactics and unreliable strategies.

    It is no wonder that more and more Companies are deciding to “Un-Google” their online marketing efforts.

    The way forward has to be more attraction, rather than content marketing (to my mind.)

    Be a Leader, Not a Follower…. Attract rather than Repel.

    • Good points Mark. Improving the ability to “attract” is what modern optimization is all about. Understand what matters to your audience, craft the content that informs and inspires them to action. Improving that process is optimization – even if it has nothing to do with Google 🙂

  6. Thanks for really excellent insights Lee (and Stephan) … Top 5 “keyword” list posts are a dime a dozen. Quality content based on insight will stand out.

  7. Avatar Abhishek Bhan says

    Thanks for the post dear because till now every time I tried to understand the concept of content marketing, it became even more intricate. Hope I will be able to imply at least some points. 🙂

  8. Quite well written article. The only thing I would like to add is that SEO specialists should do their bests to achieve results, It’s about daily work, people should work from 3 to six months in order to get some results. it’s not about gaining quick achievements

  9. In SEO, content is always important. It is, after all, what the users are ultimately after. Creating quality content is the key. Simply creating more content and crap content is worthless.