The Cost of Bad Content

Cost of bad content represented by a piggy bankAccording to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs 2012 report on B2B Content Marketing, 90% of organizations are marketing with content! (I’d love to know what the “other 10%” are doing?)

But does anyone have a handle on the costs? What are the costs of producing content that never gets used? What are the costs of publishing bad content in the form of lost revenue?

I looked for answers in 2 separate reports. The one mentioned above and the IDG Connect IT Buyer Survey from last year.

While almost two-thirds of the CMI study report that they plan to increase their spend on content marketing over the next 12 months, many report struggling to report effectively on the impact of their content marketing activities.

So I think it starts by looking at both sides of the equation: the costs and results achieved from content marketing. . .

I believe the main problem stems from the common marketing mistake of focusing on activities instead of results (my blood is starting to boil) but I think if we bring some simple and solid analysis to the discussion, we can arm our colleagues to think like business people, focus on the customer and deliver results.

CMI and @MarketingProfs Report

On average, B2B marketers employ eight different content marketing tactics to achieve their marketing goals. The top tactics include:

  • article posting (reported by 79% of respondents)
  • social media excluding blogs (74%)
  • blogs (65%)
  • eNewsletters (63%)
  • case studies (58%)
  • and in-person events (56%)

Marketers, on average, spend over a quarter (26%) of their marketing budget on content marketing. That is a lot dough! And yet non-monetized web traffic is still the number one way marketers are tracking the success of the content marketing activities.

The main challenges listed are quality content that “engages customers,” followed by quantity of content and content marketing budgets.

Those who consider themselves effective content marketers:

  • Spend almost twice as much as their less effective peers
  • Are more likely to consider buying stage in their content marketing efforts
  • Have senior-level support for their content marketing efforts

IDG Connect North American IT Buyer Survey

Digital Content is important:

  • represents over 50% of what contributes to a sale
  • when done right, adds to a vendors chances of getting the sale by up to 25%

This survey gets to some of the costs of bad content:

  • Less than half of digital vendor content is found useful
  • 22% of the buying process is wasted with ineffective content
  • Vendors who make these mistakes are 27% less likely to be considered on the buyer short list
  • And they are 40% less likely to get the sale

And the impact on content:

  • Buyers estimate that content is, on average, 50% too long
  • Buyers are expecting to be entertained with stories as they get educated
  • Buyers are looking for truly “white” whitepapers with no promotional bias
  • Content gating leads to a 40% abandonment rate
  • Buyers provide mis-leading information on forms 30% of the time
  • Buyers are looking for content personalized to them and their contextual needs


From these 2 studies it is clear that content marketing is more than just the latest buzz but is truly important to marketers and buyers. But it must be done in an effective and disciplined and measured way.

How are you measuring the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts? Are you thinking about content that is mapped to buyer stages? Are you tracking what content is found useful by your audience?

Photo Source

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

13 thoughts on “The Cost of Bad Content

  1. Michael, this posts is sparking a number of thoughts for me. At the core of it is this:

    How much of content marketing is wasted?

    The answer probably isn’t quite as simple as the quote about half of your advertising. In content marketing, I believe opportunity cost is a significant contributor to waste as well. Organizations are creating content in silos. The end result is content that is only used to a fraction of its potential and content that is recreated multiple times across an organization.

    Good food for thought, thanks!

  2. Great post – I know with my clients they always ask about traffic. I never understood that – who cares if a million people hit your site if none of them are converting. I try to persuade them to look at the entire picture.

    And now you don’t even need special software like Clicktale (which is awesome..but) you can get so much from a free Google Analytics account.

    I can show my clients which areas of the site are getting more attention and I can pinpoint the content that isn’t working. It’s easy – low time on site/high bounce rate means you either a) aren’t giving people what they expected to see or b) you showed them what they expected and they were still unimpressed.

    I’m not so worried about people writing content in a funnel as much as not leveraging the mounds of information available about what’s happening on their very site.

    And if you have a good automation tracking software even better because you can say – “see look, X amount of IPs were hanging out and coming back and then they visited Y or Z content and they’ve been gone forever” – that’s the content that lost the sale. Which is probably the same content you paid for based on price.

    Sorry…. you’ve got me on my soapbox 🙂

    1. I’ll take the soapbox any time. Especially on the analytics front. If we can just look at the data we have and make informed decisions, we’d be so much better off.

  3. Thanks for sharing the results of your research. Content creation that captures the imagination (and wallets!) is The Prize of Prizes in today’s highly competitive and overcrowded marketplace. It seems as if everyone is scrambling around trying to out-do each other, claiming one tactic is superior to another. At the end of the day, though, making more sales comes down to a blend of strategy and magic. Yes, magic. You just never know what exactly will capture a buyer’s imagination even when a product or service is crowdsourced to death. Analytics are great, but they can’t measure emotion, impulse, or whim. I think that’s what makes this whole digital experience so interesting, the tiny little slices of the unknown! 🙂

    1. Hi Mary Lou, someone once told me that great content was 33% creation, 33% curation, 33% syndication and 1% magic. I agree that there is no formula but there are some guidelines to be in a position to create magic and we need to nurture those opportunities, create the kind of culture that feels free to do so and to celebrate successes.

  4. I’m seeing content curation more and more as the way forward for marketers this year – but it all boils down to one thing: have something interesting to say, or don’t say anything at all.

  5. It’s almost too cynical to say… but we’ll say it anyway 🙂 – If you’re not fully committed to doing content marketing, you shouldn’t even dip your toe into the water. It really needs to be an all-or-nothing approach to see solid results. Bad content is worse than no content in most cases.

  6. If you aren’t investing in content marketing today it’s hard to thrive online. Consumers are looking for information before making a purchase. It’s your content that establishes trust over time. Without content, it’s also difficult to get found in the search engines.

  7. Everything is very open with a clear clarification of the challenges.

    It was truly informative. Your site is very helpful. Thank you for sharing!

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