Should Digital Marketers Be Worried About Content Saturation?
by Al Gomez
“Quality over quantity.”
Digital marketers understand it, and we practice it religiously. After all, high-quality, comprehensive posts not only get more shares on social media, it also gives us plenty of chances for optimization.
Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones with this game plan. A search for “content marketing” alone will churn out about 95,000,000 results. It’s no wonder people only scan content these days instead of reading them.
But engagement – in the form of reads, clicks, and comments – is the very thing that could turn an audience into a real customer. If less and less people interact with your content, should you be worried? And why is this happening despite creating high-quality stuff?
Content Saturation: The Online Phenomenon
The concept seems easy enough: produce great content and you’ll eventually rise to the top. But for businesses that rely on content marketing to give them leads, gaining followers is NOT enough anymore.
According to a 2015 study by research firm Forrester, popular social media platforms such as Twitter saw a decrease in user interaction. Although their following increased, their fans are not interacting with their content as expected. Instagram for example, experienced a difference of 1.952 percent drop in engagement than the previous year.
The funny thing is that even with the obvious decline in engagement, these websites kept producing more content. So why are they still not gaining the desired results from their audience? Senior Content Strategist Blaise Lucey calls this phenomenon “crisis engagement” in his article for Marketing Land. He then cites two possible reasons for this dilemma: a) the first is that you can’t get enough reach as before – unless you pay; b) the second is content saturation.
It makes a lot of sense. Try searching for trending topics like “Marvel superheroes” or “virtual reality” and you’ll get millions of results. Even niche topics such as “gaining backlinks” will give you more than a hundred thousand answers. That’s a LOT of content to digest. If you’re an average user, you’ll most likely opt for easier ways to get what you’re looking for:
- Download a mobile app that filters content for you
- Subscribe to your favorite blog/s for constant updates
- Read what your friends are sharing
Let’s face it: the Web has made various types of information available to the public in the shortest amount of time. There’s just too much stuff nowadays! Which brings us to a second problem brought about by content saturation: the correlation between engagement that counts AND social media popularity.
The Click Generation and Content Saturation: Which Metrics Really Matter?
Writer and storyteller Jonathan Crossfield contends the age-old social media question: do shares, likes, and retweets really matter?
After all, these metrics are what most digital marketers watch out for when gauging the success of their campaign. The more shares you get for your content, the more popular it is, right? Therefore, your content must be effective. If it’s effective, it won’t be long before people start buying, too.
Say your objective is to sell more copies of your ebook. So you religiously produce high-quality, comprehensive content, publish during the best times, and even contact Influencers to help share your works. In a few weeks, you see a spike in website traffic. Your result on social media isn’t bad either. But when you check how many people have already bought your ebook, you’re puzzled as to why the numbers are so low.
That’s because about 96 percent of first-time site visitors are NOT ready to buy. Although you make a good first impression, they want to browse around a little more, perhaps do a bit of profiling.
While getting traffic is awesome because it means you’re gaining attention, you want to keep that attention long enough for them to take action. CEO of Chartbeat Tony Haile wrote that “the most valuable audience is the one that comes back”. For two reasons: a) one, these audiences returned because they’re interested; and b) they came back because they’re open to purchasing.
This brings us back to the original question: if social media popularity does NOT guarantee customer action, which metrics can you trust? What about content saturation?
For viral content website Upworthy, focusing on attention minutes got the results they were looking for. It’s generally a measurement of varying signals (like if a user still has a tab of your website open) that tells them how engaged a person really is with their content.
Unlike click-focused strategies, attention minutes don’t account much for page views or shares.
Instead, it records how much time a user has interacted with a specific content.
Imagine this: if the average online user can read about 200 words per minute, it would take him between seven to eight minutes on a 1,500-word article. Blog posts with the same length but with an average dwell time of 15 seconds says something. Either the user has been disinterested at the first paragraph, OR they saved the article to read for later. There could be plenty of reasons.
But the bottom line is this: you create content because you want to capture people’s attention so they would take action. Just because they shared your link or viewed it for 2 minutes doesn’t automatically mean that you’ve succeeded. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Are You at Risk of Content Saturation?
Before you get worked up over content saturation, you must first do a thorough analysis of the following:
- Your business goals with regards to your content marketing strategy
- Your past campaign results
- Your online presence and current standing in the industry
- Any other strategy you are implementing along with content marketing (SEO, PPC, etc.)
Let’s take a look at each.
1) Your business goal and existing content marketing strategy.
Whether it’s a monthly or annual objective, every business needs a target. Are you clear about what you want to achieve? Is this aligned with your current content marketing methods?
For instance: if you’re aiming to gain more newsletter subscriptions, then it pays to have an engaged audience. The more time they spend on your website, chances are high that they’ll come back for more, and eventually subscribe to your blog.
Increasing the volume or quality of your posts just because “experts said so” without reviewing your objectives is suicidal. You will risk wasting time, energy, and resources in methods that might not work in the end.
2) Your past campaign results.
If you implemented content marketing in the past, what were your results? What did you do to get those numbers?
Don’t forget to compare last year’s results to your current outcome. Is it better or unchanged? If your results showed a decrease in interaction despite gaining more page views, then you may want to review your content. It could mean that people are lured to your blog, but your content offers none to be desired.
Study what your target market wants. Do they prefer videos over text content? Are they excited about HD images in blog posts? Stop creating content that everybody will like. Focus instead on what YOUR potential audiences are looking for – and deliver that.
3) Your online presence and current standing in the industry.
People have a tendency to trust things they are familiar with. But in order to be a household name, you need to establish yourself as an authority in your field.
For example: those interested in business content typically go to digital publications like Forbes or Fortune. That’s because they already have built a solid online reputation on the subject. Perform a search for commerce topics like “best investing opportunities” and odds are, the names of those websites will appear on Google’s first page results.
That’s why you need to know where you are in terms of your competitors and with your potential customers. If people search for particular content, does your name crop up? Do Influencers in your circle recognize you? Do online users talk about you on social media?
Marketing consultant Mark Schaefer advises businesses to be highly specific in the industry you want to penetrate. The more precise your target, the more room you have to maneuver around the industry (i.e. experiment with various strategies, pull in your audience, compete with rival businesses).
For instance, if there are over a million search results for your target keywords, your work may get buried under more popular content. How will you rise to this challenge without duplicating what’s already been offered before?
4) Other strategies you are implementing.
Content marketing can be executed in conjunction with other techniques like SEO or PPC. Done right, it can amplify the effectiveness of your campaign. If you’re implementing these along with high-quality content, it’s possible to have good, sustainable benefits – even if you halted the campaign for a while.
Social Media Scheduling service Buffer did an experiment in 2015 that challenges this idea.
For 30 days, they didn’t produce any new content. Instead, they experimented with different strategies that would help amplify their popular, albeit older, works. The result: their dip in website traffic wasn’t significant (almost 3 percent), and traffic coming from organic search went up!
Not only that, their visits and views increased in other channels, such as Slideshare, where they were also hosting content.
Too Much Content with No Engagement? Look to the Past
Here’s the thing: with so many businesses and brands jumping into the content marketing game, there’s just too much unused stuff. Even a search for trending topics will deliver thousands of results, most of them offering nothing new or valuable. So you can’t really avoid the phenomena of content saturation.
So what’s a digital marketer to do? Look to the past and collect your best evergreen content.
Online marketers have been told time and again about the benefits of evergreen content: they never go out of date, they’re informative (especially for beginners), and they’re usually comprehensive enough for search engine optimization. Once you gathered your best works, you can look into trying the following methods:
- Update blog entries with new long-tail keywords and other new information on the subject
- Re-purpose popular content into other forms such as infographics, video, podcast, or an ebook
- Build your email list so you gain more audiences who will interact with your content
Make sure you utilize a content calendar so you’re on track with HOW much content you publish and WHEN. If it seems that you’re producing too much with no real value or no new information, you can pause that strategy for the meantime as you help existing content gain traction.
Building Relationships Around Your Content
What really makes someone interested in a piece of content? What makes people come back?
More than the quality of writing or information contained in it, it’s the creator’s ability to tell a story. Even if the work’s filled with heavy data, a great content marketer can craft a compelling tale behind it that would make audiences sit up and pay attention.
Imagine good old days around the campfire, when people told stories to one another. They would come for the anticipation of hearing something new – but they stay for the companionship.
Content marketing is NOT going away nor is it going to be obsolete. However, the game is changing.
Clicks and likes alone are not going to get you to where you want to go. Plus, almost everyone wants to go in the same path. Content saturation is REAL, so finding better, less congested routes towards success is a must for every brand and marketing agency.
After all, who knows what sort of difference a new road will make?