Experiential Content

Not every piece of content needs to establish thought leadership. It doesn’t need to be an infographic, or a whiteboard video, or a list-style post. Instead, how about making your audience feel something? Connect to something? Who are they and what are their hopes, fears, and desires? Speak to that instead. It might just be worth the risk.


One of the most tiring things to hear if you work on online marketing is the absurdly abused catchphrase ‘content is king’ and all the other drivel that comes along with it. As a phrase it has become pretty meaningless and as a tip/tactic/technique it’s even more worthless. What has emerged in the wake of this mantra being repeated by hordes of marketers is starting to feel like a post-apocalyptic period where everything is scorched and little remains that is useful. Google came down hard on ‘content farms’ a couple years ago only to spawn what I call ‘content wastelands’ awash with phony authorship, list-articles for miles, and everybody striving to be a ‘thought leader’ with ‘thought leadership content’ in their boring industries. Where is the fun? Where is the experience?

This post is going to be a bit different than others I’ve written because it will not contain specific tactics you can run with immediately. It probably won’t be very interesting if you’re just here to quickly skim through it while eating your morning cronut while reading a million tweets per minute zoom through your feed. If you care about producing content that has meaning, both for your brand as well as your audience, this post should resonate.

The problem is that not every industry needs thought leadership blog posts. Not every brand needs to struggle to solidify elite thought leadership status. It works for Moz because of the type of business they are in, but it makes little sense for a moving company to only blog about ‘7 challenges people moving homes face.’ The number of challenges is arbitrary and the reaction of the casual internet user seeing that headline is getting closer to the Ad Blindness we experienced from the flood of Google Adsense that used to flood every website. To complicate matters further, the explosion of (not provided) to 100% of search visits means the ability to track the viability of long-tail keyword traffic is even harder, and all of this is besides the fact that long-tail traffic can be huge but is little more than drive-by traffic that will not convert well or stay for very long.

Instead I propose thinking outside the norm for a second and imagining what experiential content could mean.


It’s easy to say that GoPro or Under Armour will have an easier time creating cool content. I’m not talking about cool content – I’m talking about experiential content. Content that shares an experience, or elicits a sense of experience with the reader.

Look at the type of articles being written on Medium – they’re awesome. They are brutally honest in many cases, and they have a rawness to them that has been missing for a long time from web content.


It’s that honesty, that willingness to put aside the bullshit that makes those articles so damn interesting to read. I read a post this morning on what its really like to deal with grief (when a close one passes). Very moving article. Not exactly cheerful morning reading but it moved me in a way not many articles have in a while.

What if instead of ‘7 challenges movers face’ the moving company wrote a piece, or published a submitted piece, about what it was like to move away from a home they’ve lived in for 15 years and what experiences and memories will live on from that time spent.


Online course sites do this well. Codecademy publishes stories of what their users have accomplished in life since learning to program through the site. That’s moving. That speaks to my hopes, desires, fears, and goals. It says you’re not alone, there are others like you.

Another favorite example is what some companies have started doing with bringing Instagram feeds onto their product pages. Again – don’t show me the outfit on a white background. Show me other people like me and how they’re wearing it. Show me how much fun they’re having because of that shirt. Show me an experience.

It comes down to what are your goals and what is going to be the best way to achieve them. Yes, experiential is risky. It doesn’t have specific long-tail keywords that you can look up their search volume in Google’s Keyword Planner. But it resonates because it speaks to your core audience. It gets shared. It gets mentioned in other blog posts and it drives business.

If there ever was an unfortunate by-product of Google and SEO it is the never ending chase for keywords which has taken business over by storm, with the near obsession over keywords and rankings eclipsing the real need for converting visitors. Organic search is a channel. It’s a channel that can reward you handsomely. But if you build your content, and your business, around a search engine you will be destined for irrelevance, because what is so different between your ‘7 things to think about’ post and the next guys? You both target the same keywords.

If you completely disagree that’s fine – tell me why. I stand by my belief that what will set you apart is more honesty, more rawness, and more of an experience.

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