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The 5 Most Overused Cliches in Content Marketing

Content marketing is awesome. Yet, despite its effectiveness in growing audiences, engaging and retaining users, and generally giving freelance writers work to do, content marketing has lately been on a bit of a lame streak.

That’s because the people who are most eager to do it are the ones who are selling it. They’re growing their content marketing businesses by doing content marketing … about content marketing! So we have a glut of content about content, which naturally has led to a lot of recycling.

It’s good, because we’re all learning. And, (to use a cliche myself), the rising tide does lift all boats in this industry. But we who are educating the world on the benefits of publishing high quality content need to make sure we actually produce meaningful content ourselves.

I think that means more insights, more research, more reports and fewer gimmicks. Let’s stop scratching the surface and trying to win the Google Search War with generics and cliches.

And for the love: Please no more content marketing articles that start with, “If a tree falls in the forest…”

Here are the five things I think content marketers should stop saying:

1. “If a tree falls in the forest…”

Recently, I became aware of the immense overuse of this phrase. In fact, over the last couple weeks I came across two articles about content marketing that began sections with some variation of it:

They are all decent articles. Let’s just find some new analogies to draw from before we bore our readers!

2. “If Content Is King, Then XYZ Is Queen (Prince, Princess, etc.)!”

I’ve seen this one used so many times I could build a royal pedigree chart of content concubines, princesses and jesters. “If content is King, social media is Queen.” “If content is King, design is Queen.” “If content is King, distribution is Queen.”

Here are some real links:

The analogy has been beaten to death. It’s time to retire it.

3. “Top 10 XYZ For Content Marketing” (When There are Only 10 of XYZ Anyway)

This one is pure gimmick. Bloggers know that Top 10 posts are easy clicks. They’re cool, when they’re real. But often these posts are just a cop-out because the author can’t think of a better story idea.

The point of a Top 10 list is to actually rank the best few things among a group of many, not just list all of them. Billboard doesn’t have a Top 1,000,000 Bands list; they curate a Top 200. Why would you write a “Top 10 Free CMS For Bloggers” when there are only maybe 10 examples of free blogging CMS in the world anyway!

Yes, you could say that this post is an example of this cliche itself. I’m well aware. I will argue, however, that there are many more blogging cliches out there than just these five.

4. Tips Posts With Useless/Obvious Tips

Another quick-fix for bloggers is the Tips Post. Anything that professes to be a collection of insightful tips had better be more useful than eHow if it hopes to gain some reader loyalty. But a lot of content marketing tips posts amount to little more than obvious generalities.

I don’t want to pick on any one author too many times, but I got wicked sad after reading this guest post on Mashable (disclosure: I also write for Mashable). Tip #6 for “10 Tips For Better Content Marketing” was — I’m not joking — “Develop Content.”

The post did not cover how to develop better content. It just said that you should actually, you know, develop it. Not helpful.

5. “How [Current News Event] Is Like Content Marketing”

Yes! We have a news peg.

I’m as guilty as the next blogger of using this tactic in the past. It used to be novel to blog about “How copywriting is like Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or “Marketing tips you can learn from hurricanes.”

But let’s be honest: now that everyone does it, it’s pretty uninspiring.

There’s a difference between being clever and being useful. If I’m taking time out of my schedule to read about content marketing, I’m not doing it to be entertained. That’s what Buzzfeed and BoingBoing are for. I want information that will help me become better and smarter. Your customers probably do, too.

Final Thoughts

Rigorous newsrooms keep their eyes open for cliches and recycled old prose. Editors yell and scream. Reporters take pride in their stories. The New York Times would never run “Top 10 Social Networks With More Than 100 Million Users” and start it with, “If a tree falls in the forest…” Neither should you.

If content marketing as an industry is going to teach the world that brands can produce the kind of quality content that used to be exclusively the domain of newspapers and magazines, then we need to step up our game.

This isn’t Little League. It’s time for content marketers to start playing with the big boys.

More in content marketing cliches:

10 Content Marketing Buzzwords You’re Going to Hear Way Too Much This Year

10 Content Marketing Buzzwords You’ll Hear Way Too Much at SXSW

10 Content Marketing Buzzwords That’ll Make You Want to Go Live With Bears

 

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