Skyscraper content & unoriginal ideas

“In chasing search traffic, companies are sleep-walking into intellectual plagiarism. They’re fixating on their keyword research tools and SEO briefs at the expense of originality and personality. They’re curating other people’s work, instead of creating their own. They’re choosing to make content longer, instead of better.”

“Writing copycat content yields, at best, small improvements over the existing search results. We’re not adding anything new, just collating existing information into one place. As content marketers, we shouldn’t settle for that.”

Copycat Content (Animalz)

Over the last several years, marketers focused so intensely on chasing search rankings that we’ve abandoned honesty — “authenticity” — in favour of exhaustive, sprawling essays about whatever key phrase we’re chasing.

More often than not, these long-winded pieces end up looking like carbon copies of one another because we’re farming out consolidation assignments.

I’m guilty of this. Heck, I built an entire system around it, heavily inspired by the skyscraper technique that Brian Dean (Backlinko) preaches.

Does it work? To an extent, sure. But it kills the spirit and original voice of the individual.

No more “The Definitive Guide to ${X} for ${CURRENT_YEAR}”

I’m trying to combat this by pulling back from massive 10,000 word pieces. Instead, I’m interested in publishing first-hand insights and stories from the community, anchored around central topics/themes.

My hypothesis is that this approach to content will be far more interesting, far more engaging, and absolutely worth subscribing to — thus bringing members back time and again.

It’s the same thing we do as community event organizers. We have a general idea of what themes to cover, i.e. presentation tracks. We put a call out for speakers to send in their pitches, then we work with them to massage the concepts into the overall structure.

What if we thought of our content as complementary, instead of as competing?

Here’s a practical example: At the time of writing this blog post I’m in the middle of re-learning JavaScript. If you’ve spent any time looking up JavaScript tutorials you know that it’s an exhaustively covered subject.

I’m not leaning on only one resource to learn JavaScript. I’m jumping between several blogs, tutorial sites, YouTube channels, forums and Slack groups.

Each one presents the same subject in different ways. So I’m bouncing between a bunch of different pieces of content that’re all claiming to solve the same problem and teach the same thing.

But there’s a difference between these sources. Their tone, their style, their technique; small choices in examples and metaphors that might otherwise be taken for granted.

The most valuable content tends to come from community sites and message boards like Reddit, where people talk through their problems and share first-hand experiences. There’s no “Definitive Guide to X” in these threads. It’s just anecdotes and advice. And it works.