By John Eberhard

As part of my recent R&D project on search engine optimization, I read an excellent book entitled “The Content Code” by Mark Schaefer.

One of the things I learned from this book was that, as I had long suspected, that it is not enough to simply write good content and put it up on your website. Despite what Google has been telling us for 4+ years, just writing content and putting it up on your site, by itself will do nothing. You will not get tons of links coming to your site from other sites, or get tons of traffic, just by writing great content.

Instead, once you write some new content, your job is just beginning. It is your job at that point to get people to share and link to your content.

Schaefer says “The persistent myth that surrounds much of marketing today is that content is king. And if you can just produce enough of this scintillating, ripped-from-the-headlines, epic and amazing stuff … dripping with keywords, stuffed to the headlines with relevance, decorated with Pinterest-worthy graphics and videos, and podcasts and listicles … you’ll win.”

“Today, the world has become more difficult for digital marketers because your competitors have also figured out they need to be fueling their helpful Internet presence with content. If you were first and dominant in your niche, good news, good news, good news! But if the niche is filling up, you’re probably discovering a business state I characterize as Content Shock.”

Basically the raw amount of content on the Internet has reached a saturation point in many different topics.

“Of course the volume of free content is exploding at a ridiculous rate. There are many forecasts out there, but most center around a 500 percent estimated increase in the amount of information on the web between 2015 and 2020. If you can imagine the vastness of the web today … well, pretty soon we’re going to have five times that! And some think that number is low, projecting as much as a staggering 1,000 percent increase in information density in that timeframe!”

Reis and Trout, in their book “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” talked about the vast increase in the number of marketing messages bombarding the average person – 35 years ago. In other words, they were saying in 1981 that the average American was exposed to a huge number of marketing messages. And the number of marketing messages has only increased dramatically since then. The point Reis and Trout were making then was that you had to use a positioning for your company or product in order to cut through the noise.

The point Schaefer is making in The Content Code is that the content revolution is entering a mature phase, meaning that there is now a ton of content online already in almost every category. So just creating and putting up scintillating content (with no attention on distribution of that content) may have cut it 10-15 years ago, but it sure isn’t going to work today.

Here are some guidelines on how you can determine if your topic or niche is too saturated with content already.

“Saturation Guidelines

“So what constitutes “saturation?” As these examples show, the higher the information density in a niche, the more difficult it will be to create outstanding content that will shine through on its own without investment in distribution, promotion, and advertising. Here are rough guidelines outlined by Penn, using Google search results as an index for relative saturation levels.

  • “If there are fewer than 10,000 pages of returned search results, full speed ahead! There’s an opportunity for you since there is low content density.
  • “Between 10,000 and 100,000 results, expect some resistance, but it’s surmountable with minimal investment, exceptional content, and implementation of some of the Content Code factors covered in this book.
  • “If there are between 100,000 and 1 million search results, expect significant resistance. Competing through content alone will be difficult. Applying Content Code strategies might be the primary means of rising above this level of saturation.
  • “A result producing more than 1 million pages of content represents a thoroughly saturated niche. Unless the content becomes a product in its own right through significant investment, Content Shock exists in this niche and is likely to bury even exceptional content creation efforts. In this situation, the Content Code strategies would be the only possibility of strategic leverage.

 “Examining the relative saturation in your niche is crucial to understanding how the Content Code formula will or will not work for your market. It’s extremely difficult to unseat somebody in the search engine ranking if they have dominated a niche, even if you’re doing great work. But it’s not hopeless.

Here’s what Schaefer recommends as a content ignition strategy:

“The six elements of the Content Code

“We’ve established that great content is rarely enough to assure success. Great content is simply the table stakes needed to earn a seat at the table. I’m not going to cover tips and tricks about writing for the web or creating epic videos. Those topics have already been effectively covered in many other places. We’re here to plow new ground.

“So here is the starting line for this race: You need great content.

“Let me repeat: You need great content. But then what?

“This is where the Content Code takes over. Content that rises and is discovered through search is a mixture of art, science, and magic that includes these six factors:

  • “Brand development
  • “Audience and Influencers
  • “Distribution, Advertising, Promotion, and SEO
  • “Authority
  • “’Shareability’ embedded into each piece of content
  • “Social proof and social signals

 “Now, if you’re paying close attention— and I’m sure you are— the first letter of each piece of the Content Code spells out BADASS.”

In the next article in this series, I’ll cover more on Schaefer’s content ignition strategy, as well as the types of content that it is important for you to create.