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The Myth of ‘Great Content’ Marketing Itself

Posted By Darren Rowse 1st of September 2009 Blog Promotion, Featured Posts 0 Comments

One of the common misconceptions that some new bloggers start out with is that in order to find readers for their blog all they’ll have to do is regularly write quality content.

  • “Great content will market itself” – a statement I heard one speaker make at a blogging conference last year.
  • “Write it and they will come” – a motto I’ve heard a number of new bloggers sharing as a secret to their yet to be found success.
  • “Quality Content = Readers” – an ‘equation’ I saw being written about in one online blogging course recently

Each of the above statements has elements of truth to it. Many bloggers have built successful blogs on the back of great content. However there are almost always other factors at play.

The reality is that many blogs produce quality content that doesn’t get read. The reason isn’t that the blog’s not worth reading – but in many cases it’s because nobody knows to go read it.

Here’s the thing…..

Letting your content market itself DOES work IF you already have an audience to help with that process by spreading word of it through word of mouth – but if you’re just starting out and don’t yet have a readership the reality is that YOU are the only person who knows your great content exists.

Word of mouth can still play a part in your finding of readers – but as YOU are the only person that knows about your great content YOU need to be the one who starts the process and starts the process of getting the word out.

It’s time to hustle and get word out about your content.

Seeding Content

Later in the week I want to highlight 9 methods to do this – however today I want to start with a more general suggestion that comes from my own experience of getting content read

Seed it – Don’t Force it!

Perhaps it’s just my personality or style – but I find that sometimes less is more in the blog post promotion game. Here’s how I’d chart the effectiveness of my blog promotions vs the amount of effort (or aggressiveness might be a better word) put into the promotion.


Let me flesh this out a little:

  • In my experience if you only put little effort into your blog promotion you get little results. This is what I talk about above – if you don’t let people know about your posts how will anyone find them?
  • If you put in too much effort into it and get too aggressive with your promotion you can also get little results. In fact sometimes when you’re too aggressive you can actually go backwards and hurt your site.
  • For me it’s about putting in some effort – but not getting too full on about it. It’s a real balancing act at times.

I like the term ‘seeding’ to describe how I try to promote my content.

I’m not really a great gardener but I do know that in order for me to have a new plant grow in my garden I need to go to some effort – but that if I do too much I can actually hurt the growth of the plant.

To have a plant grow I need to plant a seed, I need to ensure it gets water, I can give it some fertilizer, I need to give it a little protection from my kids digging it up…. but after that it’s up to the seed and the environment to make it grow. It takes some effort – but there comes a point where I need to step back and let the seed do it’s thing.

This is similar to my experience of promoting content on blogs. Often it takes me getting the ball rolling but if I force things it can actually have the reverse effect.

As I look back on some of the biggest traffic events on my blogs there’s been a real mix of my own promotion (usually to start the process) and a more organic thing happening. Sometimes I push too hard and don’t get results – other times I don’t push enough and get little return also – however getting it right can lead to incredible days of traffic.

Update: read the continuation of this post at my next post in the series – 9 Things to Do to Make Sure Your Next Blog Post is Read by More than Your MOM

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. There are lots of examples of “successful” blogs where the writing is mediocre, sometimes even poor. I’ve almost reached the conclusion that blogging is not really about writing – blogging for profit, that is.

  2. I haven’t been reading problogger very long, but this is definitely going to get me coming back. I can totally identify with several things you mentioned; many experts (both real and self proclaimed) say that content is a key to traffic. It seems the real experts all go to point out that promoting your blog and getting involved in the community is just as critical. like you said, you have to get the people to read your blog before the quality of the content is even relevant. I look forward to reading your post tomorrow… nice cliffhanger.

  3. I learned a thing or two about blog traffic on what to do and not do to for promoting. I’ve really never looked at it like that. Even though it does make sense. I totally agree about new bloggers thinking Great Content is really all you need. If you’re the only one admiring it and awed by your articles and content that doesn’t really help at all for traffic.

    Thanks for the great post and I look forward to tomorrow’s post!

  4. The parable is so right at the point. I’ve promote my new blog
    so hard but gain nothing. My visitor number don’t even increase. Feel tired and useless i stop promoting it, even not checking it for days(i used to check it every time:D), and when I checked it few days later, i saw that there’s a jump of visitor number! After reading this post, i realized that all that I should do is to let it seed….

  5. Hi
    Im one of newbie on the list. And I face the exact situation. Am looking forward to your next post.

  6. This completly true.

    Work smarter not harder.

    A month ago i was on goarticle writing a ton of articles. i wrote 100 and i am getting mabey 5 clicks a day. the problem is if you want to article market and get alot clicks you need to have 1000+ to see results and if you on ezine you probably should pay some one to do article marketing because i have used article i wrote in highschool and they were A and my teacher loved the article but guess what ezine rejected it. They are very pickey. Pay some one and then go out and build up a social network of people and work somewhat hard and give your self breaks workaholics like me have issues with that.


  7. Really profound way of approaching this, Darren.


  8. Great article. And in my opinion, a great form of SEEDING. It’s the “article series” approach I’ve read about here and on other blogs. I will definitely be back tomorrow to read about the 9 methods you’ve written about today and I’m sure others will too.

    You are a master at what you do. Thanks for the tips, inspiration and ideas.

  9. I have noticed that every top site has a substantial sales funnel in social media and around the web.

  10. I write “great content” because I have to. I can’t not. While I’m not sure how “great” my content is from any other point of view, I try pretty hard to make it great for my own personal benefit.

    But “write it and they will read” is a fallacy in most cases!

  11. Promotion of the blog is as important as the content.

  12. Brave and excellent post.
    By the way, there might be a typo in the last sentence, 2nd para:

    ‘…The reason isn’t that the blog’s not worth reading – but in many cases it’s because nobody knows (sic?- where) to go read it.’

  13. I look forward to the next posts of the specific seeding ideas, I think this will be the key!

  14. It’s not enough for book sales, why should it be enough for a blog? But if you promote a blog with mediocre content, it doesn’t help you much, either.

  15. Anxiously waiting for your examples.
    The discussion seems to be quiet interesting. SEO people often say that GOOD CONTENT is a must. It will give results on automatic basis.

    But marketing should complement the good content.

  16. Thank you for another out class article.We will always learn here.
    Thank you

  17. Nice sharing Darren

  18. But we do need to market our articles because everyone does write some good content but without promotion it stays there.

  19. I enjoyed your post and look forward to your 9 practical examples of seeding. Content is important, but of course there is much more to it. There is no singular “best idea” for garnering readership. As you say, it’s a balance of multiple things. Thanks.

  20. I’m really looking forward to seeing the “how.” Twitter hasn’t been working for me. I’m trying to decide whether or not to push at all with Facebook, but I have a sense that it’s going to be the same. Most of my traffic comes from Tagfoot, where people aren’t particularly interested in my niche (but are all over yours — blogging AND photography! ;) ).

  21. With my newest project, I need the right advice at the right time more than ever. Which is what led me to you. Love that I found this post today. Very much looking forward to the next piece of the puzzle. Wondering how much is too much…how little is too little? Neck deep in finding out!

    Thanks, Darren!

  22. Looking forward to the 9 methods.

  23. Hello Darren,

    Lovely article here!!! It captured my whole attention. Looking forward to the 9 methods tomorrow.
    Have a lovely day.

  24. This has come at the right time for me. I was asking myself this question? I have been writing great blog posts but who is reading them. I wrote about my twitter mistakes and I know they can benefit someone but who is reading them. I realized I better start knowing how to get my blog out so that other people can read.
    This is great and I look forward to future posts.

  25. I couldn’t agree more!! It seems to me it’s actually 50-50 marketing to quality post writing and it can be exhausting sometimes to be doing so much of both. Now I have over 500 followers on twitter and only 9 on my blog. Gotta figure that out!

  26. Great point about good content driving traffic, its like a great store that nobody knows about

  27. This just what I need. Thanks. Bring on the nine things to do to market your blog.

    Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide at http://boomersurvive-thriveguide.typepad.com.

  28. Hi Darren,
    Its really an important thing for any good website that it having an good readable content for its readers. As most of the new bloggers like me will definetly find useful from this.Its really having an
    good stuff to refer and implement these things.

  29. Ben – I’m not sure it’s about putting too much ‘effort’ in as such but it’s about being too aggressive or not subtle enough. I’m sure it varies from niche to niche but I see some people pimping their blogs so hard over and over again that it puts people off. I guess it’s about watching how people react.

    Chris Mollo – I think in blogging circles the general ettiquette to someone linking to you is not to ask your permission first – people just link up and you then benefit from it both from the traffic and in the long term with the SEO benefits. The only real time you’d want someone to ask before publishing is when they use your whole post.

    Megan – love this quote “Everyone is in love with the romantic notion that their amazing writing will bring in the masses. Apparently because the masses are psychic and these URLs just pop into their heads.”

    Very wise words

    RW Jackson – yes promoting bad content can hurt you too – all of the methods I share in my next post are only ever going to work if you have something worthwhile to say!

    Blogercise – you’re right in that if you can rank well for content you don’t need to do much promotion sometimes – HOWEVER – to get ranked well by Google you need people to link to your blog at some point…. so you do need to do some marketing some where along the line. Once a blog gets successful and starts to rank well things can be a bit easier.

    Rebecca – yep it’s a fine fine line between putting it out there but not getting too aggressive

    Jhay – ‘So it boils down to a good balance of good quality content plus being a marketing ninja?’ Yep, exactly.

  30. Waw- That’s exactly how i feel!
    I started my blog two months ago but started it wrong by raising the bar too high for me to manage.
    I realised this at the start of the second month already and thought of -and like written in my last post- to take it easy.

    And though I took it easy, my blog views were stable and rising at days as if the blog was promoting itself on his own.

    So yes, this post has definitely truth in it!

  31. But if you don’t have great content, what do you have then to market? SY

  32. Nice and easy does it every time with most blogs, I’ve found (PPC is a different game however!).

    The “write it and they will come” attitude always seems to assume that marketing is a bad word. But if you tell someone you’re having a party on Saturday night, you are engaged in an act of marketing!

    Doing it for a blog is a little different–you do have to be all “ninja” about it–but it’s worth the effort (or lack thereof, as teh case may be!).

  33. True, people need to know about our blogs to come and appreciate what we write. But then there is a phenomena of bloggers ganging up. These gangs plague various bloggers’ group promoting each others blogs regardless of the content and thus wasting the readers’ time.

    I a firm non believer in such “I scratch your back , you scratch my back” policy.

    It was only a few days ago, I wrote an article on my blog regarding this content vs networking dilemma which plagues the bloggers.


  34. i strongly agree with you, i am sure there are lots of great websites buried because their owners didn’t know how to market them well

  35. Really great post, thank you! I think the word “aloof” is what could sum this approach up, especially when letting your content market itself…I’m looking forward to the 9 practical examples. Anyone looking for the missing tenth one can find it here: http://www.studiowide.co.uk

  36. Great content will works fine, but great content+promotion will works perfectly.

  37. I think you’ve pinpointed the balancing act nicely of creating awareness of your work without overselling. I look forward to reading more about your 9 steps.

  38. it is far from my reaching because creating good content still a dream for me, I need to learn more especially from master blogger like you. thanks for sharing the information.

  39. Thanks, Darren.

    Early this morning I went looking for great information on blog promotion. I somehow missed this post, but when I checked Google Reader, there it was.

    I’m looking forward to your series on seeding.

    As a writer with a few (:>) unpublished books, I know that great content doesn’t sell itself. I’ve been amazed at how bad some of the information on promotion is.

    I can’t wait for your new articles.

  40. Good content is indeed essential, but you are correct that it is not enough.

    I’ve found for me and people I work with that having blog promotional tools outside of the blog itself is key. Tweeting new posts is an obvious one. Making the new post your Facebook status helps. If you work for a company with a web site, have a link to the actual post (not just the blog front page) from your site. Getting on the speaking circuit is very effective.

  41. If a blog is the centerpiece of a website, you can consider other components (forum, image gallery, free web tools, job board etc) to be fertilizer that nourish and support the sprouting blog with traffic.

    Once a blog is receiving abundant traffic, one can clone the process and adapt it to another endeavor.

    Then with the fruits you’ve harvested, you can write a best-selling book containing the sweet nectar of your efforts.


  42. People should write the meaningful content so that the content will help others.. It is true that Great content will works fine, but great content promotion will works perfectly.

  43. Very good points. thanks for sharing…

  44. Great content is definitely a key to gaining readership. But you’re right, there are countless blogs with great writing that just don’t get read consistently. Helping others and getting involved with others can bring a steady flow interested readers. And for businesses it brings a steady flow of possible clients. Its social marketing at its best.

    Can’t wait to read some of the seeding ideas.

  45. Effort is generally not an issue for many who are serious about blogging.

    Each day more and more blogs are added to the list of blogs that I have to compete with.

    Great post ,


  46. Kevin says: 09/04/2009 at 6:00 am

    I prefer to use article marketing and document sites to gain authority backlinks and to rank for low competition high search keywords as my secret traffic technique.

  47. This is the first time I saw such a graph base on effort vs effective of promotion. Yeah, the seed story makes sense.

    Will keep a look out for your next blog post for the 9 tips. Thanks.

  48. Thank you, Darren. Every time I come here I have a good experience. Keep up the ace work! Best regards, P. :)

  49. Great article. The thing is, how do I grow my readers and retain them? Anyone help.

  50. Very truly said. Here we have a quote “Too much Lemon makes the Juice bitter”. If fact too much aggressiveness or less aggressiveness is too dangerous. When it comes to build the foundation of a blog, balancing is very important.

    Great post Darren…….keep blogging

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