Content Is Not King—Engagement Is

You’ve probably heard the mantra “content is king,” preached like a rehearsed affirmation at a cult meeting, by SEO and content marketing professionals, but wondered what does it really mean?

Well, in most cases today, it literally means nothing.

Most experienced marketers know that today, simply publishing content has no effect on any metric that matters. That’s because most content is garbage, and the evidence is painfully clear.

In fairness, the phrase “content is king” once meant something because most websites had very little content besides standard pages, like the home page, about us, and contact pages, so creating topically-themed content was the key to organic ranking. Today, nearly every website has a blog and publishes content somewhat regularly, so that isn’t enough. Publishing quality content on a regular basis doesn’t give you an advantage anymore—it’s the bare minimum, a starting point in order to even exist online.

Say goodbye to the “What Are Red Widgets” type of posts, or the equally useless and blatantly self-serving “10 Reasons You Should Buy Red Widgets from XYZ Company” type of posts.


Yes, publishing content is still critical to successful online marketing, but it’s not enough just to publish something. It’s not even enough to publish something good. No, today, if you want to succeed online, you need to publish content that blows people away. Content that answers their questions. Content that is so awesome, they’ll want to be the first one to share it, and will do so willingly and passionately.

Forget about just writing about your industry keywords. Those days are over. You need to build engagement, and the only way to do that is to find the things that the people within your target market are passionate about, and write about that.

We had a former client who struggled with this concept. They provided drug testing, and insisted on writing only about that. 10 Years ago, that would have worked, but not today.

Today, engagement is a huge factor in organic search, but more importantly, it’s a huge factor in building a brand. The only people who talk about drug testing all the time are people in the drug testing industry, which obviously, are not potential clients. But do you know who are potential clients? Human resource professionals. Do you know how to make sure human resource professionals talk about your brand? By writing content that matters to them—and it certainly is not yet another retread article about “10 Reasons You Need to Drug Test Your Employees.”

We were able to steer them away from useless content for a while, and wrote specifically for the HR industry—their exact target market.

  • We published interviews with HR professionals
  • We published round-up posts with several HR professionals answering a specific question
  • We wrote about HR best practices on topics like background screening, recruiting, interviewing, and resolving workplace conflict

In a short time, our client started regularly receiving links and social shares from prominent HR professionals. It was working! They were regularly cited by HR publications, while traffic, leads, and brand recognition steadily increased. The HR-related topics were bringing in more traffic than all of the drug testing-related content produced over the last 10 years combined, and it was exactly the type of people they wanted to reach!

But despite the campaign’s massive success, the client recently insisted on “getting back to the basics,” which meant “let’s write more about drug testing.”

The outcome was predictable. Leads, traffic, links, and social shares dried up. Today, they are struggling to even stay afloat and don’t have the money to fix the problem.

There’s nothing wrong with writing specifically about the products or services you provide, but that should be a tiny fraction of your content. You have to write about what matters to your audience. They don’t give a shit about you until you give them a reason to, and you’ll never accomplish that by droning on endlessly about your company. Look at some of the companies killing it with content marketing: GoPro, WP Curve, MOZ, John Deere, and Article 15 Clothing and you’ll see a common thread. Their content isn’t about their company—it’s about their customers and topics that matter to them. The result is an engaged and loyal audience of buyers who become willing evangelists for the company on social media, and/or link to it from their own blogs.

So how do you find out what really matters to your audience? It’s a lot easier than you might think. We’ve already established that it’s not more content about your company, so the next step is to do a little digging on social media…


Take a look at what your fans are talking about. What are their hobbies? Who are their customers? What industry do they work in? Who influences them?

When you can answer those four questions, you’ll open up more content ideas than you could ever write about.

Now it’s time to get started…

How to identify your customer’s network