Why No One Trusts Your Content

You can trust me; I'm a writer! If I say it, it must be true.

When you think a vendor’s white paper sucks, tell them. Better yet, review it on a public forum. Force vendors to produce better content.

In writing about a white paper entitled, Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field, released by the CMO Council, author G. David Dodd got me thinking about why most content that’s released by vendors, well, sucks. (Read Mr. Dodd’s blog post here.) It doesn’t surprise me that only 9% of the respondents surveyed for the white paper said they valued content that came from vendors.

Nine percent is a slap in the face that most vendors actually deserve. I can recall many (many) years ago when I was hired as a freelancer to write a “white paper” for a company. I did my research and turned in what I thought was a fair and balanced assessment of the product. They were horrified. To avoid a lengthy story, I will say just that I learned what they actually wanted was an 8-page brochure that was written on a white paper template.

To make matters worse, I have learned over the years that most–MOST–readers don’t want actual white papers either. Perhaps we’ve been conditioned to not read more than 140 characters at a time, or our minds have been softened by too many infographics. Whatever the reason, I’ve found that few people read beyond the first few thousand words of anything. When I was first asked to write for CMSWire, I was told that “around 600 words” was the optimal size for a post. So each month, as I sit down to write my article, I keep that number in mind—you know, as a multiplier for how many words I’ll actually write. (600 x 2, 600 x 3, etc.)

Picturepark is the first employer I’ve had who has permitted me to produce content that is not Sell! Sell! Sell! in nature. I think that shows under the Digital Asset Management menu our website. I think it also shows in our “Enterprise DAM Checklist” white paper, which easily passes Mr. Dodd’s test of credibility in that without the branding (and the last paragraph that mentions Picturepark as the publisher), there are no clues throughout the paper’s 45 pages about who wrote it or what it’s trying to sell. In fact, the paper is so software-neutral that any DAM vendor whose product is based on technologies that are standards-based, non-proprietary and less than a hundred years old could share the paper with its own prospects. (No, that is not a license to do so, you silly DAM vendors! Do your own work and stop copying off my paper!) 😉

I think the main problem we face as content providers and consumers is three fold:

  1. As I mentioned above, most people don’t read larger documents, which gives content producers an excuse to avoid writing them.
  2. Most content providers are marketroids who haven’t a clue what they’re talking about, but were taught last week in marketing school that “content is king.” So they write their “5 steps to becoming a better human” articles and white papers and pat themselves on the back when the leads come rolling in.
  3. And that leads to the big problem: It seems that for 99.9% of vendors, content’s main focus is to generate leads, not educate. They don’t care whether what they offer is valuable because once the download form has been submitted, they have what they want. Worse, their main audience is the GoogleBot, not the reader. So they stuff blog posts with keyword terms designed to get them ranking higher in search engine results placement (SERP). Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with legitimate SEO tactics—after all, there is a lot of noise on the Web. But when “SERP” and “lead-gen” are goals for content—content that should be designed to educate—you get numbers like 9% when you ask how many readers trust it.

I encourage you to read Mr. Dobb’s post and spend some time in his blog. There is some good stuff in there.