By Michele Linn published February 25, 2014

18 Content Marketing Myths and How to Bust Them

tablet screen-myth/reality word cloudAs much as content marketing has grown in awareness and popularity over the past several years, people still have many questions and doubts about its viability as a successful discipline.

During a recent #CMWorld chat with Michael Brenner about justifying content marketing, we asked participants to share the biggest misconceptions they hear about content marketing. The ideas came flying in, so we thought we’d share — and debunk — them, to set the record straight.  

Thanks to all of the participants who shared their ideas.

Myth 1: Content marketing is inexpensive.
(@Steph_Montreuil,  @RyMontano , @angusmacaulay, @eccushing)

Reality: While content marketing offers tremendous value (see how it compares to PPC), it does require an ongoing budget and resource commitment.

Looking at it another way, this tweet from @angusmacaulay rings true: “Lots of misperceptions on cost. Brands will spend millions on a TV spot, and balk at $$ for good content.” Want to know how much content you can get for a Super Bowl ad? Joe Pulizzi recently did the math (and it’s pretty astounding).

Myth 2: It’s best to outsource your content to the lowest bidder, as anyone can write. 
(@SFerika and @RyMontano)

Reality: Even though one writer may be less expensive than others, chances are the quality of their work will be lower, and you won’t get the results you need. Finding great writers is tough, but they are often worth their price tag (unless you like sub-par content and endless revision cycles).

Myth 3: Content marketing is the “flavor of the month, and it won’t last.”

Reality: While no one can predict how long people will use the term content marketing (Google Trends shows that adoption of the term continues to grow), one thing is certain: The principles behind content marketing are long-lasting. Chances are, content marketing will eventually be so entrenched that it will simply be referred to as “marketing.” Content is not going away, and smart companies will learn how to treat it as an asset, not an expense.

Myth 4: Content marketing is an independent discipline.
(@FiveMinPro, @martinjason)

Reality: Similar to the point above, content marketing makes any part of your marketing program better. As @FiveMinPro tweeted: “[Content marketing is] not an island… it’s a strong link in the chain. @martinjason adds to this, explaining why isolating your content marketing is a dangerous practice: “Major misconception about content [marketing] is that it’s a consideration that is OK to be left after all other marketing is done.” Of course, if you leave this until last, it will never get done.

Myth 5: Content marketing is the same thing as SEO.
(@tiffanifrey, @Carly_Stec)

Reality: We’ve run several posts that debate the nature of the relationship between SEO and content marketing on the Content Marketing Institute blog, and one certainty has emerged: SEO is an essential part of successful content marketing, but it should not be the overriding principle you focus on when creating content.

If pressed, look at your traffic in Google Analytics: How much of your traffic is coming from organic search? The other factors that contribute to your traffic (e.g., quality of content; relevance; the value it provides your audience, etc.) are just as critical to content marketing success as SEO is.

Myth 6: Content marketing is the same thing as social media.  
(@eccushing, @tiffanifrey)

Reality: Without content, there would be nothing to share on social media. Want more proof that there are distinct differences between these two media strategies? Read this perennially popular post from Patricia Redsicker, First Things First – Content Strategy Before Social Strategy.

Myth 7: Content marketing needs to be traced to a sale In order to be considered successful.
(@MichaelMooneyy, @Casielee)

Reality: While a sale is often the end goal for creating content, it is not the only goal you should be tracking. This is especially true in complex, B2B sales, where you need to be cognizant of which step in your purchase funnel you are in. For example, as a result of engaging with your content, do you want the audience to visit a specific page on your website? Sign up for something? Request a demo?

Also remember that content marketing is an excellent technique for increasing customer retention rates.

Myth 8: Content marketing is only blog posts.
(@SFErika and @atxcopywriter)

Reality: Blogs that are updated regularly with high-quality content can serve as a strong backbone of a content marketing strategy, but they are certainly not the only — or, necessarily the best — kind of content in all cases. Experiment! Here are 24 types of content you may want to try (with examples and pointers for each).

Myth 9: You can plan to create content that will “go viral.”
(@NHowellsFW, @Koozai)

Reality: As @NHowellsFW asserted, content can’t “just happen and be magical and go viral all on its own.” Adding to this, @Koozai made a great point that not all content needs to go viral to find the right audience.

But, if you do want to give your content the best chance of extending its reach, keep in mind that remarkable content begins at 81 percent.

Myth 10: Content marketing is about campaigns.

Reality: OK, this is a particular pet peeve of mine: The word “campaign” should never follow “content marketing,” as it implies there is an end point to the effort. As Joe Pulizzi has discussed on many occasions, the ongoing nature of content marketing is just one of the characteristics that distinguish it from clever advertising spots.

Myth 11: Content marketing is a quick, easy win.
(@webber_karen, @eccushing)

Reality: It can take time (often as long as six months) to start to see results from your content marketing efforts. Unlike traditional advertising, which provides immediate proof of success (or failure), content marketing is more of a marathon than a sprint — enjoying long-tail benefits, including bringing in leads/sales from pieces that you may have published years ago. For instance, when we look at post performance on CMI, it’s common for us to find posts that were written years ago yet still generate considerable traffic.

Myth 12: More content equals higher reach.

Reality: I often think about this post from Ryan Skinner in which he asserts, “Brands can actually step down content production and step up distribution to get better results.” Focus on your best content, and put a great distribution plan in place for those pieces, rather than abandoning them in favor of churning out endless streams of purposeless content.

Myth 13: Content marketing only exists in the world of print.

Reality: Effective content marketing programs combine digital media, print, and in-person events. As Joe Pulizzi once said, “It’s a three-legged stool.”

Myth 14: In B2B, your target is a “business” rather than a person. 

Reality: Regardless of whether you are in B2B, B2C, or nonprofit marketing, you are marketing to people. These are people who have multiple priorities, people who may get distracted, but also people who genuinely want to learn and make good decisions. As @Erin_E_Palmer aptly tweeted, “A major misconception is thinking that your target is one-dimensional. Doctors like to laugh. CFOs have emotions. #NotRobots.” Remember: You will be competing, not only with other companies in your business sector, but also with anyone or anything else that might be capturing the attention of your consumer.

Myth 15: Content marketing is just filler.

Reality: When done well, content marketing should support your core mission and audience(s). When it does this, it’s supporting your greater purpose as an organization — and your business goals.

Myth 16: Content marketing is only about creating content.

Reality: As @Carly_Stec mentioned, content marketing is about “distribution, interaction, and communicating a message.” When you document your content marketing strategy before embarking on a single content effort, you have the potential to accomplish marketing goals that are above and beyond simple content creation.

Myth 17: Content marketing is not different than any other marketing.

Reality: As @moveo tweeted, “Leaders must understand it requires its own strategy, funding, sometimes its own team.” While content marketing works best when integrated with other kinds of marketing, it does require a different mindset.

Myth 18: Content marketing won’t help the sales team.

Reality: Using content marketing for sales enablement can be a huge benefit as content can support the sales cycle.

OK, it’s your turn: What other misconceptions do you hear — and how would you refute them? Let us know in the comments below.

We hope you will join us on a #CMWorld Twitter chat soon! We hold chats on Tuesdays at Noon Eastern on Twitter — follow the #cmworld hashtag and find us at @cmicontent. Are you interested in being a special guest? Do you have a great topic idea or any questions? Submit ideas here and find our upcoming schedule on our Twitter chat page.

Cover image via Bigstock 

Author: Michele Linn

Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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  • Lexi-Web Copywriter

    One misconception I hear is, “My business is too [technical, boring, etc] for content marketing.” I think the more technical, boring, or “unpopular” a business is, the more challenging and exciting it is to do content marketing. It’s also easier to stand out, because your competitors are probably thinking the same thing and avoiding content marketing altogether.

    • Michele Linn

      Hi Lexi,
      I agree — there is definitely a huge opportunity for “boring” brands. Exceptional content may be even more unexpected — and appreciated.

    • MichaelVancouver

      Hi Lexi,

      I’m on the same page. My company distributes surgical products and has to deal with a lot of red-tape regarding communications with purchasers. I find it a tricky balancing act to push (as Michelle says) exceptional marketing, while staying in line with upper management’s communication guidelines. There are great ideas out there, it just a matter of thinking outside the box – easier said than done, but true. I’m happy to hear I’m not alone!

  • Hashim Warren

    I disagree with busting Myth #10.

    Content Marketing can be a campaign, and it can be a program.

    On TV there are ongoing series, and there are mini-series. In the same way, depending on your goals, you can have a short term campaign of content, or roll out an entire program.

    I like to start with campaigns – measurable bursts of media production that’s meant to be stopped and studied. Once we find a campaign that connects our audience and goals, I like to roll out a full program.

    Most campaigns and programs will fail! So, why default to a long term commitment? In my experience, a program failure puts the entire concept of content marketing in jeopardy at a company. However, a campaign failure can be see as learning that can eventually be applied to a winning program.

    • Michele Linn

      Hi Hashim,

      I have a share a similar sentiment, but we’re using different terms.

      I think content marketing should be a program / mindset within a company. It’s not something that you start and stop like I would do with a campaign. However, within your content marketing program, it’s best to try different things. I am 100% behind experimenting and seeing what works and adjusting from there. As you say, a lot of things you think may work may not — and vice versa. I wasn’t considering each of thee experiments a campaign, but I can see why you would.

  • Mike Myers

    See, there you go again…using content marketing best practices to demonstrate how well content marketing can work. (Nicely done.)

    • Michele Linn

      Thanks, Mike. And, I really appreciate your great addition to the list via the chat!

  • BethWilliams (

    One recurring comment I hear from clients is “We need to be on every social network!”. For some, especially those with limited resources, they would be much better off focusing on a limited number relevant networks. Quality, not quantity!

    • Michele Linn

      I second that, Beth!

  • Guest

    I think it’s funny that the Content Marketing Institute’s Google PageRank is 0 (I have clients who barely launched their site and already have a 1 or 2 PageRank reputation). Since they are the guys responsible behind this “content marketing” hype, you’d think that Google would consider them as somewhat relevant… but nope. Zero PageRank.

    • Mike Murray

      Guest: I appreciate your perspective about PageRank. In the
      past, it was one way to represent the value or importance of a page
      based in large part on the authority of other web sites linking to the
      page. I’m sure the technology can fall short at times, but multiple
      tools are showing Content Marketing Institute (CMI) at 6, not zero. Many
      respectable online publishers have a PageRank in the 5-7 range. Critics
      have long complained that PageRank lost its usefulness when it became
      apparent that it’s not even updated all that often (maybe CMI is a 7).

      At one point PageRank was broken:

      I like what Google shared a few years back – look at other numbers and metrics:

      get that PageRank is like a badge of honor. Does a low number mean the
      business isn’t successful? Hardly. Does a high number mean a company has
      its online marketing act together?

      Personally, I look more at a piece of content and whether
      it helped me learn or challenged my thinking. I also size up resources
      and decide which publishers consistently produce good information (so
      I’ll know whether to take the risk with my time).

  • Andrea Bridges-Smith

    I would say “Once a piece is created, you’re done and on to the next.” A single piece can spawn a half-dozen others, be the foundation for an entire campaign and, when done well, be reused again and again, either as standalone content or in conjunction with other related pieces. It’s important to take the time to do a postmortem on those pieces and tune them up so they can stay useful!

    • Michele Linn

      Agreed! While it’s a great idea to see what pieces of content you can generate from existing content, it’s also a good idea to pre-plan your repurposing strategy as well so you can release pieces in a coordinated fashion. Good news: the opportunities seem endless. Bad news: the opportunities seem endless.