Hilary Bird

How to Stand Out in the Era of “Content Shock”

By: Hilary Bird | January 4, 2018 | 
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content shockAre your content marketing pieces not performing as well as you want?

Are they just not getting any clicks, despite your best efforts?

While you could be making avoidable marketing mistakes, there is another likely reason things just aren’t working out: content shock.

The content market is oversaturated, and PR professionals absolutely must adjust their content strategy to stand out.

Here is what you need to know about content shock—and what you can do to overcome it.

The Problem You Didn’t Know You Had

Mark Schaefer coined the term “content shock” in 2014.

According to Schaefer, marketers can create a seemingly infinite amount of content—and they are working hard to do so—but we can only consume so much in a day.

This means the supply of content far outstrips demand for it.

For marketers, this means spending time, money, energy, and then, even more money, just to get your content in front of your audience.

When consumers have unbelievable amounts of (often quality) content available at their fingertips, marketers must work harder to distinguish their content from the din.

This is not a new struggle for content marketing, but it has become a more serious one over time.

This is Your World on Content Shock

Schaefer predicted content shock, and recent research backs him up.

There is more content than ever, but the same number of consumers.

When supply outweighs demand, the perceived quality goes down, and suppliers scramble to come up with a solution.

In this case, PR professionals are the suppliers.

Content shock is drowns your content.

Even carefully crafted, well-planned content can fall victim to content shock.

After all, with hundreds or thousands or even millions of alternatives, even the best content has tons of competition.

So now your content isn’t getting seen, isn’t getting clicks, and isn’t performing how you’d hoped.

What is a PR marketer to do?

Standing Out in the Era of Content Shock

Though content shock certainly poses a problem for PR marketers, there are ways to overcome content saturation.

These solutions may require some effort, but that effort will pay off when you get the clicks you want.

Stay Ahead of Trends

One of the best ways to stand out from the pack is by leading it.

Create content on topics before they trend, allowing your content to stand out as thought leadership.

When you anticipate trends, your content is less likely to be overlooked by already-satisfied consumers.

Some trends are easy to predict.

For example, yearend retrospectives will trend at the end of each year (so be sure to get yours ready before December 31st).

Likewise, big technology announcements trend reliably.

Some trends are less predictable, so look to news sources or content aggregators such as Reddit to see what people are starting to talk about.

Create Evergreen Content

Evergreen content continues to get links, even months or years after the initial buzz has died down.

This is because evergreen content deals with topics that will always be of interest to consumers.

Just ask the folks at What to Expect—their 1984 pregnancy guide remains a household name, and their book and website both consistently rank in pregnancy-related searches.

There are many topics ripe for evergreen content creation.

The key is to make your content authoritative, making it a valuable source that people will turn to for months and years to come.

Even if such content doesn’t get a large spike in clicks initially, it is likely to perform well over time.

Use Long-tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords, or keywords with four or more words, may not get tons of clicks up front but tend to find a sizeable audience over time.

Long-tail keywords are distinct enough to stand out and help you reach a particular audience.

After all, the person searching for “car repairs” (a highly saturated keyword) and the person searching for “Japanese car repairs in Portland” (long-tail and less saturated) have different needs.

Pair long-tail keywords with evergreen topics for solid content that will perform well over time.

For example, a post about Thanksgiving recipes is lost in the world of food blogs.

But the long-tail keyword “easy small-scale Thanksgiving dinner” stands out to find an audience each November.

Likewise, a content piece about “internet safety” would be overwhelmed, whereas a piece about “internet safety on social media” could fare far better.

Take Unique Angles

Bringing your unique perspective to a topic can make your content stand out.

Writing with an angle not only gets eyes on your content but also helps you build your personal brand.

Need an example?

There is a glut of content about recipes.

There are fewer, however, about one-skillet recipes, and even fewer about one-skillet recipes for bachelors (also an evergreen topic).

Before you decide on an angle, make sure you know who your audience is.

Once you know who you are creating content for, it is easy to tailor your angle, your distribution, and your tone of voice to that audience.

You will give your audience something they can’t find elsewhere, and make your content stand out from the masses.

Your Content Against the World

Content shock may herald the end of an era, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your success with content marketing.

Practice the steps above and you will create killer content which rises above the rest—getting you the eyes, clicks, and ultimately, the conversion you want.

What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments below.

About Hilary Bird


Hilary Bird is a digital journalist with over three years experience in the marketing startup world. She combines her interests in tech and marketing with her fascination of interpersonal communication by studying how tech is continually reshaping the way we communicate.

  • Emily Jacobs

    Awesome post, with good ideas and so many great links to refer to later! Thanks for this.

    • Hilary Bird

      So glad to hear that, Emily! I hope it helps in your future marketing efforts!

  • I laughed out loud at the one skillet recipes for bachelors idea! We’re actually going through a process right now to help communicators find their niche and that’s a perfect example!

  • turnerchris

    Hi Hilary, liked this post very much. For most content producers, its just not achievable to rank alongside HuffPos, Buzzfeed’s, TechCrunches or whatever but knowing your audience and understanding exactly what they’re looking will mean good content does get found.

    • Hilary Bird

      I couldn’t agree more! If we don’t have the big name of a pub behind us, we need to rely on those very niche communities that rely on high quality content to help us get exposure.

  • re: “There is more content than ever, but the same number of consumers.” Is not exactly an accurate statement. Audiences shift all the time. Recently twitter saw added monthly users. So if twitter is a channel you use the number of consumers has grown for you. Obviously you may have lost them on another channel.

    There’s no predicting the behavior of people in social media. There are days although few and far between that I have posts exceeding likes and shares of a Coca-Cola’s fan page post on Facebook. How in the world can that possibly be?

    Lastly I hate to throw cold water on this but I’m not only a content guy, I’ve been a full-time webmaster for 15 years.

    If your website is slow, your meta-tags and meta-titles are wrong (or misplaced). If you have no site maps submitted to Google and your site is not verified with Google and or Bing. If you’re not leveraging the power of video.

    If you’re not checking for the efficacy for your links that may have gone 404 in a site move at some point, even if you’re the next Ernest Hemingway – your content will never be found by Google.

  • Very good reminders, Hilary. Staying ahead of trends is probably the most difficult. You need to stop from busyness and take the time to think and analyze.

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