The Inbound Marketing Manifesto

Cover of The Inbound Marketing Manifesto

Content strategists of the world unite!

Have you heard? Content marketing is the future. I hear you saying to yourself, “But you’re an inbound marketer, Rebecca, isn’t that statement just a tad self-serving?” It’s not just me. Look at the spike in interest over the past two years:

Content Marketing Google Trends graph

This is a conversation that’s being had over and over again, both in and out of the inbound marketing industry. If we’re right about content as the future of the Internet (hint: we are), then marketers need to make some promises to ourselves and the larger world. And then we need to keep them, so listen up. This is our manifesto.

We will respect the Internet as a place

You know how you’d never, ever go over to your grandmother’s house and put your dirty boots on her coffee table? You know, because you respect her? Well how about we all stop putting our dirty boots all over the internet!

From now on, we promise, collectively, to only produce content that adds to a larger conversation. We understand that people come to the Internet for two reasons: to be entertained and to be informed. We will endeavor to always create content for our clients which achieves those means. We will NOT:

  • Write the same old, tired list post that’s been written fifty-billionity times before
  • Write content whose only purpose is to contain keywords and links
  • Publish content that would embarrass us if it had our names on it
  • Write content just to have a content strategy
  • Add blog posts just for the sake of keeping your blog content “fresh”

I know, I know, our clients want guest posts, they want link building, they’re not going to let it go easily. There’s not a lot we can do about these requests other than set out to prove that the new strategies are actually more effective in the long-term for our clients.

We know that our clients will come into our engagements with their own strategies. That’s okay. But we will do our best to educate our clients on why the old techniques don’t work anymore while simultaneously arming them with a full understanding of why we are making the choices that we are.

We will look into the future and not dwell on the past.

Look, we’ve come a long way, baby, but in a short amount of time. I mean, remember when this lovely blog post title was indicative of what people expected of inbound marketing?

Keyword stuffing example

Image courtesy of Ricardo Bueno

Let’s promise ourselves that we will not go back there. Yes, keywords are important, but perhaps even more important to the world of inbound marketing is authority. It’s content that is lasting and meaningful that will end up doing the most for our clients in the long run – and will help keep the Internet a place that we all want to hang around in. We will anticipate and be the future of the internet before it happens.

We will understand that “content marketing does not exist as a tactic”

We are not black hat SEOs, after all. We are writers and marketers and designers and creative folks who have more to offer than just a few gimmicks. So, to paraphrase my boss, Ian Lurie, content marketing is NOT a tactic or something that exists at all, really.

What does exist, however, is marketable content. Or at least it could exist if we made it. This is content that allows us to help our clients build a strong and dynamic message, then communicate that message effectively with others in order to grow an audience. Let’s be like Kevin Costner and realize that if we build great content, our audience will come.

We will match our content to our client’s needs

You know what would be fun? If every client was a “Red Bull” client who put their content first and their product second. But they’re not. And that’s a good thing. After all, there’d be no balance if all we ever produced were extreme sports videos and viral content. Plus, for most clients, that kind of content would stand in opposition to the needs of their brand. What are the needs of the brand?

We will take the time to find out and then we will build a body of content that enhances their brand. We will find out what types of content could be the equivalent of a viral sports video in their field and we will help them produce it. We will be the doctors of the Internet and we will first do no (brand) harm.

We will push our clients to the content edge without pushing them over

Oftentimes, our clients want to see a return, but they don’t want to take a risk. That’s not okay. Yet, it’s also not okay for us to step all over the brand messages that they’ve spent years developing. Instead, we will develop content that builds on their existing work but that also pushes their brand forward. Here at Portent, we call this the 70-20-10 strategy.

Graph of Ian Lurie's 70-20-10 content strategy

Clients tend to want to stay solely (and safely) within the 70% content. Or they tend to want that infinitely-more-difficult-to-produce 10% content. It is our job to convince them that it is not an either-or and explain to them why balanced content is the best content. Then we’ll act on those strategies and create content that improves our clients’ sites.

We will assign real value to our work

It’s simple. We know that we are doing important and valuable work for our clients, yet we’re not always the best at communicating that value. That’s partly because it’s more difficult to assign a specific analytical value to content that’s intended to build authority. Not domain authority, but honest-to-goodness brand authority.

We can look at bounce rates and repeat visitors and such, but the real work that we’re doing isn’t a quick fix, so those results don’t really reflect the long-term aim. It’s not our clients’ faults that they don’t “get” content, it’s ours. So let’s fix it.

So what do we do? We work to find new ways to convey value in content. We do case studies. We learn the metrics that we can use to measure value. We figure out algorithms that go beyond the scope of Google Analytics (but we still learn how to prove value with Google Analytics). We work together as an industry to prove the value of the very difficult work that we do.


We will discover new things every day and find ways to challenge ourselves

In order to do the best work that we can – every day, we must remember this motto and repeat it to ourselves:

If I’m bored while writing the content, then it’s boring content.

If we’re not consistently learning and having fun at our jobs, we will remember that it shows in the caliber of our work. We will remember that this isn’t a job that can be done by rote if we expect to succeed. When we’re on our five hundredth product description, feel as if our eyes are bleeding, and that every adjective we’ve ever known has escaped our brains and floated off into the ether, we will stand up! We will walk away! We will do something else or talk to someone in another department.

We will rotate and balance the work that we do for our clients so that we stay fresh.


Furthermore, we will spend time every day learning, growing, and developing new techniques. We won’t be content to let someone else tell us what works on the Internet; we’ll actively try new things and make these discoveries for ourselves. We will read up on the latest thinking, we will go to conferences and meetups and engage with our peers, and then we will form our own strategies. And we’ll share them.

We will endeavor to be seen as the strategists that we are

The nature of inbound marketing demands that we work fast to obtain the best results. While in traditional channels of marketing and advertising decisions are made over many months and by committee, this is not the case with inbound marketing – which has made us all strategists in ways that other types of marketers could only dream of.

We recognize this and we will endeavor to be thought leaders. As inbound marketing’s star rises, we will rise with it. We will recognize that for many years, our field had a bad reputation, yet we knew the work we were doing was important. Now that the value of a solid content strategy is being recognized, we will not rest on our laurels. We can still be the “cool kids” that we’ve always known we were, but we will continue to engage intellectually. We will create content that is the best and that is the smartest.

We will change the world (one blog post at a time)

We will. Or at least we can. Now let’s do it.

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  1. This is such a great post, Rebecca! I love it 🙂 Mostly, I just want to give you a high-five, because each of your points are solid and yet need to be heard again and again. I may just have to print this out and hang it on our wall – really well-done.

    1. Thanks! How about you and I just keep shouting “Hey, you! Get thy dirty boots off the Internet’s coffee table!” until everyone hears us? (Or thinks we’re crazy.)

  2. Fantastic work! I love that you’re challenging yourselves (and us!) to do better. Content really is a product — and creating great content in a sustainable manner really does require planning, research, and strategy… not just making ALL THE THINGS.
    You’re already do awesome, fun, substantive work… but now I can’t wait to see what you do next! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jonathon, I especially appreciate the compliment since I LOVE the work you do. Shucks!
      I do think comprehensive strategies are the answer and it excites me to no end that we’re all figuring out what this means and growing as an industry. I mean, the creative side of me really really does want to make all of the things all of the time, but the analytical side realizes just how counterproductive that would be. Also, I have wimpy fingers that tire quickly when typing. Unless Ian finally agrees to my “we need a room full of typing monkeys on staff” idea (side note: OMG, monkeys!) , I think we’re going to have to stick to the planning, researching, and creating only the best of the best content for our clients. We’re working on new ideas constantly, it’s a pretty rewarding line of work to be in.

  3. Great manifesto. I saw the picture of a book and thought that Portent was finally going to link to some good reading material (like a book) but this is a good start too. 🙂

    1. Oh, I’m sure we could provide you with a million reading suggestions! Our Content Team here are proud owners of GoodReads reading lists that would make every last one of our English teachers well up with pride.

  4. I love what you say about assembling information from multiple sources, forming an action plan and then formulating an opinion based on our results.
    One of my core beliefs is that learning = behavior change. I used to believe that when I read/watched/or listened to something I didn’t know before, that I had learned something. But now I only see that as me having a new realization.
    For me wisdom comes from doing, not talking about doing or playing spectator to other people who are doing.
    Life, as I see it is about the Hero’s Journey and the Hero’s Journey asks you to consistently become more by leaving your comfort zone and answering the call to adventure (call to the unknown), becoming initiated into unknown, and then coming back home and sharing the truths you’ve come upon.
    And it is so awesome that content marketing/marketing online is it’s own never-ending Hero’s Journey and I salute you Rebecca for encouraging people to rise up and do what it takes to been seen as a hero in the eyes of themselves and their clients. 🙂

    1. Thanks! It’s really exciting to see the changes that are happening. I think it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and just do the same old thing, which is why I love the Content team here (I know, I know, I’m a homer, as they say of sports fans). We’re constantly being challenged to do more and to do better in very rewarding and fascinating ways. And I love your Hero’s Journey analogy.

  5. Nice article in keeping with a definite and welcome trend in the industry.
    I had to disagree here however: “if we build great content, our audience will come”
    If this was true, Don Draper would be a poor man.
    The best content in the world requires enthusiastic effort to promote it above the absolute deluge of fairly reasonable content out there. It takes a holistic view of the market and numerous technical aspect of the market place (aka the internet in our biz) to ensure this content reaches enough eyes that it’s greatness propels it past the tipping point.
    I fight clients constantly that say things like “but my article is better then the top 10 pages. I should be #1” Even if they have the best content, merely publishing it is only the beginning. It needs strategical promotional work.

    1. Hi Lance, thanks for the compliment.
      Yes, but unless you first build/make/write/conceive of that great content, you’ll have nothing to promote. I’m a content writer, but trust me, I realize that it takes an army, not just my brain and fingertips, to end up with a content product that actually realizes its potential. Fortunately, at Portent, we have team members to help us out on that end, but I do realize that people who work solo have to do all of it themselves and that there’s probably a lot of great content that’s falling through the cracks while some of the not-so-cream content rises to the top of the SERPs. I agree with you, following through on the great content is essential. Thanks for your insight!

  6. Holy smokes. Well put, well written and well thought.
    Personally I also prefer the 10 % risky content, but luckily I don’t have to write for customers. Just readers. I will promote the hell out of this on Twitter, because I totally agree.

  7. Hey Rebecca Bridge
    Fantastic work! I love that you’re challenging yourselves (and us!) to do better. Content really is a product — and creating great content in a sustainable manner really does require planning, research, and strategy… not just making ALL THE THINGS.
    You’re already do awesome, fun, substantive work… but now I can’t wait to see what you do next! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Amir! The next post I’m working on should be a fun one that brings ALL THE FUN!

  8. Just read this at a bar and drank every time I read ”content.” Rebecca, you are beret than tequila art getting me drink! (note: misspellings intended to imply drunkenness)

    1. Sorry, Paul. I’ve now amended the post so that it has a “Not to be uses as a drinking game” warning. Thanks for the feedback!

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