I’m no champion of content, guys. What I am, though, is a faithful consumer of information online. I knock back know-how like yoga instructors slurp smoothies, but probably with worse posture. I’ve noticed which kinds of posts grab my attention and (most importantly) maintain my interest. Today I’d like to share my sliver of insight with you. Hopefully we’ll keep this in mind before carelessly hitting the “publish” button.
Every post I’ve ever enjoyed, ever, fits into one of the following categories: tactical education, curation, validation, niche appeal, mass appeal, amusement, controversy, and inspiration. Depending on the time of day, my mood, and my needs, I will click through to a post if its title implies to serve at least one of these purposes.
These posts are direct and informative. Often the title alone is enticing enough to attract users (it certainly is for me). What makes these posts valuable is the direct transfer of knowledge; the author empowers the reader to understand something he or she didn’t before reading the post. A recent article that fits into this category is called Copy/Paste screenshots directly into Photoshop. And guess what? The article explains very effectively how to do exactly as the title promises. Now that I know a new handy shortcut, this girl is satisfied.
What I enjoy about curation posts is the one-stop-shop factor. Jon Cooper’s post about visualizations is more than an article; it’s a magnificent resource. The next time I’m craving inspiration for visualizing data, a particular subject, or whatever, I don’t have to spend more time than necessary sifting through Google search results for posts relating to visuals; I can simply open this blog post which already references awesome examples, instructions, and tools.
It feels good to read something I already know or believe in. It just feels good. Why was I so eager to digest the many posts that highlighted an author’s Top Albums of 2012? Because I wanted to know that I’m not the only one who saw the value in Purity Ring’s debut album. Reassurance is a nice feeling. Additionally, when I first jumped (headfirst, mind you) into the SEO world, I felt encouraged to discover how many other industry cats were pursuing similar “white hat” tactics. It instilled a pride in my work and in Evolve. One specific article I recently appreciated was about 2013 being “the year of the online writer.” Hey, online writing, that’s what I do! No wonder the post resonated with me; the author’s words justified my contribution to the digital marketing world.
I am pretty big into humor. Work can be tense, so I appreciate a post that is sprinkled (or drenched) with comic relief. I admire brands that can loosen their ties and crack some snarky jokes; it gives me a reason to return for the next post. I’ll be honest, these are usually not found on websites relating to my industry. When that happens, though, it’s pretty miraculous. A fellow SEO on Twitter released this humorous SEO Predictions post a I recommend it if you are in need of a laugh. Or there’s always The Oatmeal (warning: it’s vulgar).
Content pieces written for a specific audience are successful when the subject focus is very narrow. This blog caters to a niche audience; a very small percentage of Internet users give a crap about SEO. I’m pretty sure my own mother doesn’t read this. And that’s okay a because I’m not writing it for her. Niche appeal posts should be useless to a person who doesn’t fit in your targeted audience. One article that comes to mind is called “Ray Bradburyas 7 Rules for Writers.” It’s a nice summary of several points made in his book Zen in the Art of Writing. What makes this post niche is that it appeals to a subset of writers: those who admire Bradbury’s works enough to want to learn from him. And I most certainly do.
Information that applies to wide audiences has its purpose, too. It has the potential to draw in a more diverse crowd, thus increasing exposure to a particular brand or idea. This is definitely not my area of expertise; it’s difficult to find a way to link readers that are looking for different solutions online. I don’t know for certain how many brands can benefit from this strategy a but I do believe there is value in considering different ways you can apply your brand’s strengths to an audience you wouldn’t normally consider your targeted demographic.
The article “Method Ocean Plastic Bottle” from The Dieline, for example, appeals to designers, animal lovers, and environmentalists alike. I like that.
It’s never been easier to hop onto a soapbox and boldly proclaim your opinion, and that’s a beautiful thing. Even better, we can share news to hundreds of thousands of people (depending on the virality) in minutes. So it’s pretty hard for me to resist a post that’s intended to ruffle feathers. Even if I disagree with the author (which I often do), I usually see the benefit in giving the other side a chance to speak. Derek once stated that you shouldn’t publish a topical piece without stating a clear opinion. Sometimes infusing a bit of controversy into a post is as simple as pushing your outlook a little more aggressively than usual. People might dislike you for it, but at least your post is going to stand out. The post “Please stop eating the shit sandwich” from TripleSEO does a fantastic job of presenting an issue in what some may consider a controversial way. I’m a fan.
I like blog posts that challenge me to think a different way and grow into a smarter, more proficient person. Inspiration can take many shapes, but I feel most moved by the transparent, direct words of people I admire. Case studies, design portfolios, success stories, and even lessons learned all urge me to continue learning and developing. The post “100 Tips About Life” from Julien Smith, author, and blogger extraordinaire, is one I try to reference often.
Great posts often serve more than one purpose at once. For example, I usually gravitate toward educational posts for niche audiences. Or maybe content that both validates and inspires. Having grasped the particular purposes that content can serve, I think I’ll start challenging myself to enhance a post with additional tiers of intention. If you ask me, it’s going to be pretty difficult to get away with anything less as we continue to be overwhelmed with information online. One of my goals this year is to do my part to reduce the amount of thin content that is released online; it gets pretty discouraging to click to an article whose content doesn’t live up to the enticing title. Simply put, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. Hopefully I haven’t.
Learn more about How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy.
Content Marketing Works
First let me defuse those fuming. Ok, so content marketing works. For Evolve Digital Labs, as a brand, the value of content creation is clear. However, we have witnessed and experienced first hand how quickly the value of content can change. For better or worse.
The Scale of Content Production
When EDL first rolled out a list of services content marketing offered hope to challenged brands and small companies. It provided the opportunity to be found and be useful. That same opportunity exists today, the challenge now, is the average enterprise company has figured this out as well. So just like the production challenges the SMB against enterprise, content for the purpose of digital transformation has become a war of scale.
The Value of Search Engine Result Pages
We look at a web page differently than most. It is an asset, a business asset. And assets are meant to be monetized. In fact, that is really the entire game of business, how can I increase the value of X, while I make it for less. SERPs are no different, in fact, Google is kind enough to do the heavy lifting for you, if you are willing to pay.
So why not determine the most valuable assets at your disposal online and work towards reducing the cost of sale, while increasing the value? Can a single piece of content do that? In most cases the answer is no. Especially today, when your industry leaders have started to drive up the price of admission for everyone else.
Queries Change, Jobs Don’t
I place the obsession of keywords squarely on the search professionals. Not Google. Over time the search professional convinced the sales and marketing teams that keywords are one-to-one with a customer trying to buy or solve a problem. That keywords should be one-to-one with pages, content, rankings.
That’s a myopic and dangerous perspective. We aren’t in the search marketing business; we are in the growth business. We are not in the ranking business, we sell. We are not in the content marketing business, we help companies, including ourselves, build products and experiences online that increase the value of their presence.
It’s the Music, Not the Tape
The real issue with content marketing and why we stopped investing so much time in content creation ourselves can best be demonstrated by the music industry. When you write a blog post, create an infographic, make a video or whatever piece of content you can possibly dream up, chances are you created material that at best is the means to the end.
People want less of the how-to and more of the tada. Most of the content we are tirelessly creating has a finite shelf life. Just like every cassette I’ve owned. There are classic albums, that have been produced on every distributable medium possible and people who have purchased them all.
They don’t really want the record, the cassette, cd, or even the mp3. They want the music, the ability to take it with them, and the consumption of a product that satisfies an unmet need only satisfied by Miles Davis, Pink Floyd, or The Beatles.
Evolve Digital Labs is committed to getting a job done, not just satisfying a single query. We are in pursuit of a classic.
It was also a place where people were willing to go to extremes to keep tweeting.
If you had too many of the aforementioned beverages and missed something here are a few quick takeaways.
Gunnard Johnson, SVP Data & Analytics at Centro, shed light on the Five Pillars of Performance: audience, channel, execution, exposure and response.
Johnson took time to brake down how data & analytics factor into generating tangible insights. You can read more about his key points here.
One take away from Gunnard and the panel that included, Evolve Digital Labs president, Derek Mabie, is data and analytics are meaningless if there is no narrative to assess and relay.
Shawn Stevenson detailed a discussion on content vs. context and contributing relevant information. His advice is about messages that actually provide value.
And with any valuable content, don’t forget the call to action. (See ours at the end of this post.)
Gunnar Kiene of SapientNitro talked about forging brand consistency vs. cohesion in a digital world.
Consistency as one tweet put it is about identifying what your brand is…and of course is not.
Dan Pollman the founder of happyMedium wrapped up the day with an idea that should strike a cord with startups and growing firms.
We agree on 100% with the statement about making tools if they’re not available. Make something great and then share.
Here’s our final takeaway.
Thanks @AdClubSTL for organizing an engaging event.
Also if you’re interested in sharing ideas on data, analytics and actionable insights get in touch with us. We’d love to talk shop. Want to collaborate on a project? Drop us a line.
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