The early days of the internet were like the Wild West. It was an exciting time of exploration into a completely unknown world. Even things like banner ads were irresistible to our curious points and clicks.
In 1994, AT&T made internet history by running the very first banner ad. Today, the average click-through rate (CTR) for a banner ad weighs in at less than 1%. Even a moderately decent one clocks in at 0.8%. But that AT&T banner ad, as modest and primitive as it may seem, recorded an astonishing 43% CTR.
Now, over 20 years later, banner ads are almost universally considered the most annoying part of the internet experience. They’re so annoying, in fact, that users are practically tripping over themselves to turn them off completely. As of last year, almost 200 million users had installed ad blockers on their browser, costing publishers an estimated $41.4 billion in lost revenue just in 2016, according to Business2Community.
And so banner blindness, as it’s known, has become a prevalent issue.
We’ve begun to see a similar issue arise in our line of work called “content blindness.” Though a relatively new concept, it’s becoming an appropriate description of how much content is being published and how internet users feel about it.
I’m going to discuss what content blindness means for content marketers and a few ways you can use it to your advantage.
Content Blindness And Its Benefits For Marketers
Banner blindness exists because people generally don’t like to be sold to or interrupted. Content blindness occurs because the signal-to-noise ratio is increasing. The amount of content cruising around the internet is staggering. It’s no wonder the vast majority of it falls through the cracks.
But just like any other obstacle we face as marketers, it’s simply an opportunity to be more creative with how we solve problems. From where I sit, there are two ways in particular marketers can use content blindness to their advantage:
1. Create better content.
If your audience is blind to your content, it isn’t very good. That’s not to say it isn’t written or edited well. It just doesn’t resonate with your audience. The bar is raising for content to be effective. Today, if your content doesn’t educate, entertain or inspire your reader, it’s not going to give you all the other things you want from content (traffic, leads, sales, etc.).
We need to think more like our readers and reconsider our approach to creating value with our content. When our blog traffic started to level off late last year, we realized it was time to freshen up our content strategy. We addressed it by simply asking how our audience consumes content on the internet, not just what we want our audience to find interesting. After adding that dimension to our thought process, we saw a remarkable turnaround: spikes of up to four times the daily page views.
Many small-to-medium-sized businesses haven’t fully embraced content marketing the same way larger companies have, at least from an editorial standpoint. In many cases, SMBs aren’t publishing content at all. And those that are tend to publish only very product/service-oriented content. That’s simply not how content marketing works.
If readers are becoming blind to a client’s content, we have an opportunity to point the conversation in a new direction. Change the way you start the conversation around content. Instead of asking about desired results, ask your client his or her favorite content to read on the internet, no matter the subject. Ask why that particular content resonates with them. Beginning there (instead of “What do you want your audience to know about your company?”) will help the client to think about content as an experience, not simply an alternate means of selling.
It’s been our experience that even the most demanding clients are open to a new direction when their content is under-performing. An opportunity to creatively work to solve the issue is an opportunity to strengthen the agency-client relationship and help them create work even more impactful.
To put it in stock market terms, I’m short on banner ads. I think most of the internet has been for quite some time. But I’m long on content marketing. No matter how prevalent ad-blockers and content blindness becomes, these concepts give me tremendous confidence that, as long as content marketers can develop content that truly speaks to a reader, content marketing as an integral marketing tactic is here to stay.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the Forbes CommunityVoice blog.