Brands of all sizes today are on a content kick, constantly churning out media vying for our attention and hoping to convert us to a prospect or a customer. One of the most common content marketing formats is the ever-present blog, ubiquitous to any brand website. But do blogs work? New reports are calling the reliability of this content marketing staple, on its own, into question — as well as questioning some of our overarching content marketing strategies.

Build it well, but they may not come

Marketing analytics software company TrackMaven released a report today, Build a Better Blog, with research it performed on the impact and shareability of blogs. The report analyzes industry-wide trends in blogging.

Blogs provide the best benefit to brands when they’re shared virally by content consumers through their social networks. (This should include company employees). Blogs also help drive traffic when they’re optimized for search engines. But this begs the question for marketers: What are best practices for creating blogs, how do you receive the most benefit from this marketing medium, and what else do you need to do to produce real results?

This report doesn’t just give you vague suggestions — it dives into the components of over 65,000 blog posts from September 2015 to August 2016 to surface specific best practices for successful blogging.

There are several significant findings for marketers in the report. One major discovery is that blog output by brands has increased 800 percent in the past five years. However, in that same period, organic social shares of blogs have gone down by 89 percent.

This means that as brands are blogging more, content consumers are sharing less — a lot less. According to Beckon’s latest report, Marketing Truth or Marketing Hype, this trend is further supported by the fact that while branded content creation is up 300 percent, only five percent of that content leads to meaningful brand engagement.

Some of the TrackMaven report’s other key findings include:

  • Longer posts are more shareable than short ones. The target length that marketers want to hit is 1,200 to 1,400 words. This is about two to three pages in length. (This post is just north of 1,000, so I’m clearly not listening to this advice).
  • Sunday at 3 p.m. EST is the best time to publish a blog post in terms of shareability. The worst time to publish a blog is Friday at 1 a.m. EST. Most blog posts are published on Wednesdays at 12 p.m. EST.
  • Blogs with titles that consist of exactly seven words are more shareable than shorter ones. It’s also interesting to note that the further your title strays from the magic number of seven words, the less shareable it becomes.
  • The most shareable blogs use clear, sophisticated language that isn’t difficult to read, but that isn’t overly basic, either. It’s best to be clear and concise in the writing of your blog articles without making your readers struggle or dumbing down your text.

The key to take away from this report is that it is rapidly becoming more difficult to reach people with branded content. The value of branded content is also decreasing. No doubt this is due to the deluge of content that is constantly being pumped into the market.

The benefits of content marketing are well-established, but the means to attain those benefits is changing. Simply posting on your company’s blog, sharing on its social media, and hoping for organic engagement doesn’t work anymore. For many brands, it never did.

For marketers, this is a new, yet somewhat familiar, problem. You can have the best content in the world — just like you can have the best product in the world — but without the right promotion, it will go unnoticed.

Content advertising hack: paid content amplification

Content advertising could be a way to get your content in front of your target audiences. This requires going a step beyond blogging, SEO, and social media by embracing paid amplification. With some of my digital agency clients, we’ve redistributed their ad spend from display and TV and moved it to paid content amplification.

Paid amplification creates the potential for dynamic synergy between a well-crafted blog or article that’s optimized for shareability and strategically planned audiences. It’s marketing at its most basic: You advertise that content ONLY to the targeted prospects and custom audiences who’ll be the most interested in it. If you can make it a rewarding experience for the customer, even better. Most ads suck. But good content that is worth reading, promoted to the right targets — that’s a win for all. And it works.

Let’s say you’ve got an awesome article that’s totally on point with a major issue faced by your potential clients. You post it to your company’s blog, you mention it on Facebook, you tweet it, etc. — and you wait. Then, nothing significant happens.

But instead, you could take that piece of content and amplify it with paid outreach to your targets. If those people then engage with your content or share it with their networks, its reach is exponentially increased. The result? A much more effective content marketing campaign.

Content marketing alone is dying

Content marketing just doesn’t work like it used to. During Advertising Week, Beckon reported that 5 percent of the content gets 90 percent of the engagement. That means 95 percent of the content is being left behind. Now TrackMaven echoes the fact that content marketing, by itself, just isn’t working.

You need other tricks up your sleeve. For example, account-based marketing is growing in value as a sales support tool. Account-based advertising tied to paid content advertising can provide the needed boost.

So while you need to know the industry shifts, if the reports of the death of content marketing brought you to a roadblock in your strategies, worry not, my friend. As Jon Wuebben tells us in his new book Future Marketing, change is a constant, and its pace will escalate:

[W]e should all be encouraged: there has never been a better time to be alive, a better time to be in business, or a better time to be a marketer.

For all the changes, Wuebben writes, we’ll have “new tools in our tool chests, new quivers in our bow.”

The full Build a Better Blog report is available from TrackMaven

The full Marketing Truth or Marketing Hype report is available from Beckon (PDF).