As content marketers, we have a responsibility to our clients and our audiences. Our duty is to solve problems, to inform, to entertain and to compel our readers to take action.
From start to finish, every piece of content we create and share with the world must solve a problem for those who read it. At the very least, our content must add value to the lives of our readers.
Whether explicitly stated in a contract with our clients, or tacitly implied the moment we hit 'publish', it's the job we all signed up for: adding something of value to the world.
With this in mind, it irks me when I see content marketers using the same trite cliches over and over. Lame copycat tactics and vague marketing buzzwords are polluting the internet, and it's time we put an end to these cliches.
Rather than litter the web with cliches, let's get back to adding value. Let's start serving our readers the way we would want to be served.
Now, where do we begin?
The first step towards getting rid of these cliches is to become aware of them. Once we start "pulling the weeds" from our collective marketing vocabulary, we can get back to publishing amazing content.
I've put together a short list of what I consider to be the most overused cliches in content marketing.
Here they are...
1. Content Is King
This one is so worn out it's almost too cliche to include here.
But the content marketing maxim "Content Is King" rightly earns its place as #1 on our list, having been beaten to death by content marketers since the early 2010s.
Back then, it was a warning to link-obsessed SEOs: "stop focusing so much on getting links; instead, create great content that earns links naturally."
Since, it has mutated into a meaningless watercooler cliche used by anyone and everyone, from Rupert Murdoch to SEO bloggers.
Why You Should Avoid "Content Is King":
As is the case with cliches, we tend to believe them simply because they've been repeated ad nauseam.
This tendency to accept what is repeated is known as the repetition bias, and is responsible for much of the cliche content marketing advice on this list.
"Repetition bias is a cognitive bias in which there is a willingness to believe what we have been told most often and by the greatest number of different of sources."
Despite its widespread use, "Content Is King" is not entirely true. There's much more to content marketing than simply "creating content" and letting it go at that.
Further, the phrase was coined by those who stood to benefit the most: major content aggregators and news sites. Companies like Google, Microsoft, News Corp, and Viacom were some of the first and most ardent disciples of this cliche.
Why? Because more content means more advertising dollars in their pockets.
What To Do Instead:
Here it is: create epic content, then promote the living heck out of it. At the risk of being a cliche itself, creating and promoting epic content is the answer to "content is king".
Epic content isn't just about creating something better than all the rest. It means creating something ten times better than what's already out there.
One example of 10X content is this interactive, user-generated map by the New York Times, showing readers where to find peace and quiet in the Big Apple:
As I've mentioned before, the future of content marketing belongs to those who not only create great content but also make it incredibly accessible for their readers.
And the work doesn't stop when you hit 'Publish'. In fact, it's just begun.
My friend Derek Halpern is a pro when it comes to promoting his content (the guy has 200,000 YouTube subscribers and counting).
Derek knows that content promotion is the crucial step in content marketing, and spends 80% of his time promoting his content.
If there are a handful of people who love your content, chances are there are thousands more around the world who will love it too - so start spreading the word.
2. Going YOLO with acronyms
As the content marketing & SEO industry has evolved, the demand for content marketers with a diverse marketing skillset has grown.
In the past, ranking your content in Google was a mere matter choosing the right keywords and getting some links with the right anchor text.
Oh how times have changed...
In 2016, the only way to be successful at content marketing and SEO is to take a holistic approach to digital marketing.
With the advent of holistic approaches to SEO and content marketing, a variety of new marketing channels and skillsets have emerged, each with its own handy acronym.
Nowadays there are so many acronyms, it's hard to keep track of them all: B2B, B2C, SEO, PPC, CRO, CMS, SEM, CPL, SMM, UI/UX, CPA, PR, CPC, LSI, BR, LTV, CAC... the list goes on.
Thanks to these acronyms, marketers can now have their own jargon with which they can converse and feel special...
Jokes aside, this 'acronym overload' comes at a cost: our clients and customers don't understand a word we're saying, and are excluded from the conversation.
What we've gained in marketing nerd-speak, we've lost in meaning. Overuse of acronyms is not only cliche, it's downright annoying.
Why You Should Avoid Content Marketing Acronyms:
First and foremost, certain acronyms have more than one meaning. Take, for example, the common digital marketing acronym PR.
In the internet marketing industry alone, PR has at least 3 different meanings:
Secondly, using acronyms for common content marketing terms is not bad in and of itself, but with overuse, you'll come across as robotic and cartoonish. Would you prefer that your readers connect with your message or with a series of letters?
What To Do Instead:
Write with your audience in the front of your mind. If your readers are unfamiliar with marketing concepts, then avoid content marketing jargon altogether.
Even if you're writing to a marketing audience, it doesn't hurt to spell out the first instance of an acronym, like "we lowered customer acquisition costs (CAC) by 20%..." This way, you avoid any confusion about the meaning of an acronym, and also allow for the use of the acronym later on in your content.
This is especially important when using novel acronyms. Take, for example, this explanation of "Brand Dialogue Behaviors", an important concept for content marketing funnels:
Notice a balanced mix of the fully-written term - Brand Dialogue Behaviors - as well as the acronym itself. In this case, there is no mistaking what the acronym BDB means.
Additionally, it doesn't hurt to spell out even the most obvious acronyms. Most readers know that CTA stands for Call-To-Action, but you may run into a Chicago native who reads that as the Chicago Transit Authority.
For residents of the Windy City, CTA is a familiar phrase. Source: Abbreviation Finder
3. Low-Hanging Fruit
Also known as "easy wins," the low-hanging fruit cliche is typically used by content marketers to describe content that is easy to create.
For example, using long tail keywords in content is one way to "pick" low hanging fruit. The long tail is less competitive, therefore it's metaphorical fruit hangs on lower branches (as the thinking goes).
While it's all well and good to build some easy wins into your content strategy, this term becomes cliche when it obscures your meaning.
Let's look at an example. Here's a blog post on Moz advising to go after Low-hanging fruit:
This is a perfect example of why this phrase is cliche: what the author means to say is that readers should "DO THESE FIRST". Referring to the FAQ section at CrazyEgg, he suggests that long tail keywords are a ripe source of quick wins.
Yet, we see Low-hanging fruit and our eyes glaze over. A better H2 would be, "Start here:"? It conveys the message directly without the cliche intermediary.
Why You Should Avoid the Low Hanging Fruit Cliche
Clichés make for great fluff to content. They add length, without saying anything meaningful or adding any real substance.
When you tell someone to pick low hanging fruit, you avoid the responsibility of giving any real, compelling advice. (Unless, of course, they work at an apple orchard).
This cliche, like all the others on this list, tend towards mental laziness. It's easier to plug them in without taking the time to write what you actually mean.
Further, going after the low-hanging fruit isn't always the best strategy. Psychology research tells us that the easy things are not the good things:
"Experienced fruit pickers always start at the top of a tree, where the fruit is more ready to eat because of greater exposure to the sun."
Like-wise, experienced goal-setters know that to truly motivate oneself into action, a goal must be compelling enough to do so. Intrinsically, a worthwhile goal must be challenging (ie, fruit at the top of the tree).
What To Do Instead:
Imagine this: you're a small business owner, and you just made a potentially life-changing decision to work with a content marketing agency.
In your kickoff meeting with your new account manager, he or she tells you that, to start your content marketing campaign, they will go after the low hanging fruit.
How does that make you feel?...
Probably not that great.
Low-hanging fruit should be part of a comprehensive content marketing strategy, a part of a much bigger whole.
Set your sights on long-term goals, and the low-hanging fruit will fall into your basket of its own accord.
The 3 cliches listed here are what I consider to be the most overused and egregious cliches in content marketing. But there are many others -- hundreds, if not thousands of cliches we could use in our content.
Though these may be the most obvious and overused, using any cliche is committing the same error as any other: it's a form of mental laziness.
The process of adding value to the world starts with one thing: creating new value. If content marketers are to create new value, they must begin a creative process, one which requires hard work and that ultimately produces something amazing that people love.
Are there any content marketing clichés make your blood boil? Please share them in the comments.