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Establishing Content Relevancy in a Crowded Marketplace – Robert Rose // Content Marketing Institute

Episode Overview: Ineffective content marketing strategies are plaguing the competitive marketing landscape, obscuring and limiting the reach of content for everyone striving for visibility in their respective industries. Join host Ben as he welcomes back content expert Robert Rose from the Content Marketing Institute as he leads a discussion on the current state of content marketing and clarifies the essential content strategies companies need to practice to elevate and separate their content from the chaff.


  • Recent research from the Content Marketing Institute indicates 55% of companies employ one to two people to handle content for their entire organization, which poses a scalability issue.
  • Content itself isn’t valuable – its ability to resonate with and impact your audience is.
  • Creating valuable content requires creating an engaging, worthwhile experience for your audience that holds their attention over time and compels them to engage with subsequent published content.
  • “The content is not oil, content is coal. It is a simple commodity, a raw material that if you don’t do anything with it, if you don’t actually synthesize it into something useful, it’s not going to actually have any value at all.” – Robert Rose


Ben:                 Welcome back to Content Optimization Month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and today we’re going to continue our month long dive into the words behind the numbers and discuss what SEOs need to know about content optimization. Joining us today is Robert Rose, who according to his LinkedIn profile is both the chief strategist and chief troublemaker at the Content Marketing Institute, which is a resource that helps marketers maximize their content’s marketing efforts by teaching them how to attract and retain customers through compelling multichannel storytelling. Today Robert is going to talk us through the changing landscape of the content marketing industry.

Ben:                 But before we hear from Robert, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions to support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a free trial of the Searchmetrics suite. That’s right, and you can now start a trial of both the Searchmetrics SEO and Content Experience platforms without paying a dime. To start your free trial, head over to

Ben:                 Okay, here’s our conversation with the man, the myth, the legend, Robert Rose, chief troublemaker at the Content Marketing Institute. Robert, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.

Robert:             Oh, thank you very much my friend. It’s always a pleasure to be here.

Ben:                 Always a pleasure to have content marketing royalty on the show. The last time we talked, I said that you were the godfather of the content marketing industry and you corrected me and said, you are the consigliere, and I just want to go on record of saying you made us an offer that we can’t refuse. I’m sure I’m butchering The Godfather, but it’s great to have you back on the show.

Robert:             Take the content, leave the cannoli, yeah. There you go.

Ben:                 The content with the cannoli. That’s good. That’s good.

Robert:             There you go.

Ben:                 So, it’s been, I don’t know, six months since we last talked. I’m sure a lot has changed and a lot is the same in the content marketing industry, and we wanted to talk to you today about some of the changes and about how marketing teams and SEOs need to consider what’s different with content. Talk to me a little bit about the overall landscape. Where does content fit into a marketer’s arsenal today and how does that impact what is fallen on the SEOs plate?

Robert:             Well, two big questions there I think, and I think the critical thing is that it’s becoming, or should be becoming, more integrated than it probably is. You’ve got a couple of things going on from the way that you asked the question. You’ve got content marketing, which is succeeding in pockets in most organizations, where it sort of erupts usually as some kind of experiment, usually with a couple of people. Our latest research says that more than 55% of companies usually have one or two people handling content for the entire organization. So it’s very ad hoc. It’s very sort of supportive of other functions in marketing, like demand generation, or email marketing or the web content team, or the brand team, or the PR team. So those people are providing some level of editorial thought leadership, et cetera, content writ large for the business, and not scaling it very well as a result. And where that fits into SEO is usually either it’s a function built into the SEO strategy either through an agency or through an internal team, and in many ways SEO is transforming into this more, how do we get content seen, distributed and used for findability and all of the things that we did with SEO rather than the more technology driven, technical driven structure of content that it arguably used to be.

Robert:             So, as those two things start to get more integrated into the business, we’re seeing either a challenge with scalability and, because as it starts to work, people want to scale it, and two, as it becomes more siloed as its own functional thing, a challenge with measurement, how are we actually trying to measure this function of calling it content marketing, plus SEO, plus whatever content production we’re doing.

Ben:                 One of the things that I’ve seen is there’s kind of a macro trend, and I think that this is, there’s so many ad impressions that are floating around across so many channels. People are consuming more and more media, and consumers tend to not want to be advertised to. And so instead of just showing what used to work for your display, banner ads, even your creative and your social media channels, the flat image ad is no longer resonating. People don’t want to be advertised, they don’t want to be disrupted in what they’re doing. So more and more of marketing and advertising is turning into either producing video that looks like content or content that is not necessarily positioned to be advertising but carries an advertorial message. Talk to me about where content is fitting into the greater landscape in terms of its place in advertising outside of just SEO and Google, is content becoming more valuable?

Robert:             No, and arguably it wasn’t ever valuable. It is the impact on the audience that makes content valuable, not the content itself. This is one of the challenges by the way that businesses have is they measure exactly the wrong thing. We measure content by its, and we even call it an asset, when it is usually neither of those things. It is neither valuable nor an asset to the business because quite frankly, it’s not having the intended impact that we want it to have. A lot of that is exactly due to all the things that you’re speaking to, which is the decline of advertising, the sort of noise that’s in the marketplace, the fragmentation of audiences across so many different channels. All of that has commoditized the idea of content in so many different ways. Not to mention the fact that there’s search and social and all of the different walled gardens that are beginning to be erupted.

Robert:             I’m reminded of a conversation I had just a couple of days ago about the idea of how Google is now pulling more and more content into the search results where less than half of searches now results in a click, because quite frankly I can get the answer I need right there off the Google search results page, and even if you ranked number one, or number two, or number four, you might be on page two because quite frankly the content that Google is scraping in there is taking up the majority of the real estate of the first page.

Robert:             All of that is basically forcing companies to start to think about the value of what it is they’re creating, not from an individual content asset perspective, but the experience that they’re creating when they do attract traffic to their owned media properties. Now, that might be a blog, it might be a website, it might be a microsite, it might be a digital magazine, it might be their email newsletter. But the question today isn’t how do we attract attention in context with an ad on a website, or an ad in the middle of a social feed, or an ad at the top of a Google page, but rather what it is we do when we actually attract someone to get to there, not how we’re getting the attention, but actually how are we holding it? How are we actually engaging a user to the extent that they want to stay with our content and actually engage with it? And that’s where the value is.

Robert:             The value is on what impact are we having on holding the attention of the consumer or our audiences as we bring them in. And that’s changing fundamentally the way we think of creation of content. Because you’re right, that flat ad is gone. The flat ad usefulness is gone. What’s replacing it is how do I give you enough information that you want to click through, and then not only want to click through but stay.

Ben:                 It’s interesting, when I asked the question is content becoming more valuable, your first answer was no, and then the story that you’re telling is that the purpose of content is to create an engaging experience, not just to grab someone’s attention but to keep it. But to me there’s the, and I don’t mean to be argumentative, the notion that just running a flat ad, a display ad, is no longer as valuable as it used to be in a lot of brands are using their content and using these paid distribution channels to get their content out there, to try to drive some sense of self selection and then to remarket to the people that are interested in their content with either other content or other types of engagement strategies, which to me makes it feel like content is becoming more valuable because content is the ad now as opposed to an actual banner ad or a piece of display creative. Help me reconcile that. How does that mean that content is not becoming more valuable if it’s being used to replace advertising?

Robert:             The key is in what we do with it. So the metaphor I often use is, is the content is not oil, content is coal. It is a simple commodity, a raw material that if you don’t do anything with it, if you don’t actually synthesize it into something useful, it’s not going to actually have any value at all. In other words, you can create something that’s amazing and you can atomize it and create all these ads and pay for placement in Google, you can pay for placement in social media, you could pay … and still have it perform horribly. There’s a classic quote, I think it’s, not to bring all Star Trekkie into this or anything, but the Jean-Luc Picard-

Ben:                 From Godfather to Star Trek, we’re on a roll already.

Robert:             It’s the, it’s the Jean-Luc Picard quote where he says, “You can absolutely make zero errors and still lose,” and that’s where we are with content today. It is simply just a raw material. We have to package it, present it, contextualize it in a way that creates trust with the audiences that we’re doing. So it’s not just creating, it’s the how do we actually package it up and create an experience for customers that it’s actually worth holding their attention over time. And that’s when you think about it for a moment here, you can see what’s happening with Google, with Facebook, with Twitter, with LinkedIn, basically all of those platforms are becoming walled gardens. And as Facebook goes out and makes a deal with all of these publishers, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post and New York Times and says, “Hey guys, we’re going to pull your content into our interface and have people just interact with the news stories in the content, right within this walled garden.”

Robert:             Well, what the publishers are doing are simply making a deal with the devil there because there’s conflating their brand with the Facebook brand. And so you see this happening where audiences don’t trust the news that they’re getting through social media, but they’re getting the news from things that they do trust. So that context is really, really important. So if we really are going to be the trusted source of interesting things for our consumers, we not only have to get the content out on all of these display mechanisms, we have to get the audiences into our sphere of influence, our owned media performance in order to have that ability to create the true trust, not with Facebook. In other words, yeah, I can go post something out on Medium, but that gives Medium the benefit of the trust, not necessarily my brand. I want to build an experience and do something with that audience that has them trust me, has them trust me as the storyteller, as the delivery mechanism of that content, not another walled garden out there. Otherwise I’m building Facebook’s brand, not my own.

Ben:                 Now I’m picking up what you’re putting down.

Robert:             Yeah.

Ben:                 I think the key thing that I want to summarize that you said is, content on its own is not inherently valuable. Content marketing is becoming increasingly valuable. Taking a piece of content and pushing it through all of these channels, and doing syndication to get it out there is providing value and is becoming more of a mandatory practice than it ever has been before. And sure, there is some risk when you’re taking your content and you’re putting in another platform like Facebook, but when I originally asked, is content becoming more valuable? Your answer was, no. Content is still content, it’s the raw material. Using content and content marketing to me is becoming more of a mainstay in a marketer’s arsenal.

Robert:             Yes, that is the right way to think about it. So here’s another maybe horrible metaphor that I often use, which is businesses are really good at hacking together one airplane and they’re good at it. They can hack together one airplane and get something out, and that campaign, that content campaign, it might perform. It actually might do pretty well. Businesses are horrible at building airplane factories. They’re really not good at scaling and creating efficiency in mass producing experiences that can perform over time. So taking a risk on being able to take those raw materials and doing it once, yeah, you might hit, you might miss, creating a consistent set of experiences that builds value over time is just a different, it’s a different skillset. And building that airplane factory is a whole different idea than taking raw components and synthesizing them one time.

Ben:                 So I think that’s a really important point. And so let me reiterate it. I think that what we’re getting to is content on its own is a raw material. You need to be able to market your content, whether that’s through SEO, whether you’re getting Google to prioritize your content, some of the other channels that are out there, your paid media channels. But brands often struggle to build the infrastructure to be able to create a scalable content machine.

Ben:                 So that’s a good stopping point for us today. We’re going to continue this conversation tomorrow with Robert Rose and talk a little bit about some of the changes in ways that brands are putting together their content marketing teams effectively.

Ben:                 So that wraps up this episode of The Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Robert Rose, chief content strategist and troublemaker at the Content Marketing Institute. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Robert, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can send him a tweet, his Twitter handle is Robert_Rose, or you can visit his company’s website, which is

Ben:                 If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show, notes or you can send me a tweet at BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to for your test run of our SEO suite and content experience platform. And if you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning to continue our conversation with Robert Rose. Okay, That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.


Jordan Koene

Jordan Koene

Jordan Koene is the CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. a wholly owned subsidiary of Searchmetrics. Previously, Jordan was the Head of SEO and Content Development at eBay. During his time at eBay, Jordan focused on utilizing eBay content to improve user experience and natural search traffic.

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