It puzzles me that the SEO industry and the content marketing industries rarely talk to each other. While there is some modest overlap, by and large, the two worlds keep to themselves on blogs, twitter, and even with having separate conferences. This strikes me as a missed opportunity for both industries. I believe there's a lot we can learn from each other and in this post and more over the coming weeks, I'd like to bridge the gap between the two industries and foster communication and discussion between SEOs and content marketers.
Why SEOs Should Care About Content Marketing
We demand budgets and resources from our clients in order to produce content. We are hungry for and passionate about content. And not just content that will rank for keywords, but content that will be remarkable- content that will earn links and content that will convert users into customers. We should care about content marketing. We should understand how it works, how brands produce content, and what innovation looks like. There is rumbling within the SEO industry towards more cross-disciplinary inbound marketing and as we make this shift and become involved in these projects, it will become crucial to understand how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
To be crystal clear, content marketing is not article marketing or spun press releases. We're talking about editorial remarkable content that a brand can be proud of.
Content Marketing is Hot Right Now
Content marketing is undergoing massive growth right now and we're seeing a revolution take place across all aspects of online marketing. One of the most widely shared and high profile examples is Coke's recent 2020 content strategy. These videos are long, but essential watching if you want to understand how brands are going to be spending their marketing budgets in the coming years:
Props to Joe Pulizzi for covering this originally.
Brands Are Becoming Publishers
As hinted at in the above videos, brands are starting to wake up to the fact that generating unique and compelling content is the key to winning online. As some are lamenting the death of the publishing industry, publishing for brands is undergoing a revolution. Brands like Redbull are leading the charge:
Red Bull, the popular energy drink, supports its content strategy with just that foundation, though, owning its very own Red Bull Media House. [...] RedBull.com covers all of its digital bases, with an offering of web TV, web radio, online games, newsfeeds and digital databases. [...] And to date, nearly 300 million YouTube views have been generated from Red Bull content, making Red Bull Media House one of the top five sports content producers on YouTube globally - source
But Smart Publishers Are Doing Just Fine, Thanks
Let's not count the old school publishers as down and out just yet though. Those that get the web and embrace the new world of content consumption and marketing are thriving:
The Atlantic, the intellectual’s monthly that always seemed more comfortable as an academic exercise than a business, is on track to turn a tidy profit of $1.8 million this year. That would be the first time in at least a decade that it had not lost money - source
You should read the whole NYT piece on the profile of The Atlantic, it's a fascinating #longread.
The Observer is profitable by a thin margin for the first time in its 24-year history. This is a big, big deal. - source
This is a quote from Elizabeth Spiers, Editor in Chief for the Observer, and is part of a fascinating look at the Observer one year in.
Everyone Is Producing Original Content
There's a real macro trend here for companies to start producing original content. UGC-driven communities are doing it:
The popular social blogging site Tumblr is hiring writers and editors to cover the world of Tumblr. [...] “Basically, if Tumblr were a city of 42 million,” Ms. Bennett said, referring to the number of Tumblr blogs that exist, “I’m trying to figure out how we cover the ideas, themes and people who live in it.” - source
Content juggernauts like Netflix are doing it:
Up until now, Netflix has not had content in this first window. Instead, they’ve focused on the second or third or even fourth window. That is, they’ve shown content after it’s in theaters or on television for its initial run. And sometimes they don’t get content until after it’s been in theaters and then on television for quite some time. This catalog of content has been the service’s bread and butter.
But with House of Cards, the game changes. For the first time, they’re going to get people signing up to Netflix to get first access to content. And if it’s as good as the talent behind it suggests, they might get a lot of people signing up for that very reason - source
A Focus On Engagement Is One Emergent Trend
Smart marketers have known this for a while: there's real value in not only sucking users in with content, but also keeping them engaged once they hit the site.
in a front-page story in December, Donna St. George reported that black students in the D.C. area were suspended and expelled two to five times as often as whites. That story attracted 3,736 comments, more than 2,000 of those by 9 o’clock in the morning - source
Wow. By the way you should check out the full article where among other fascinating insights I learned that the Washington Post has 6 full time staff dedicated to comments.
From a technology perspective, I'm fascinated by features like Disqus Ranks that allows anyone to better reward and engage with commenters on their site.
Bold Content Plays Is Another Emergent Trend
Fortune favors the bold. There have been some bold redesigns and rethinking of the traditional blog format in recent times. I love the FastCo redesign:
And it's worth noting that the Gawker redesign actually worked.
Disruptive Business Models Are Another
As the old-school traditional ad model starts to die out, we'll see more innovative and disruptive revenue models for content. Retargeting is just the start of this revolution and we'll see all kinds of crazy approaches. In particular I was struck by how Buzzfeed monetizes their site:
Its business model, in part, capitalizes on the mix of high and low content; instead of banner ads, BuzzFeed works with companies like Pillsbury to create content ideal for sharing, including “10 Things You Never Knew You Could Do With a Crescent Roll.” - source
What Can We Learn From All This?
I'm a fan of actionable insights and I think there are a few key takeaways that I can see:
1) Being Remarkable Produces Outsized Rewards
In the connected world in which we live, the difference between average content and bad content is hardly noticeable. In fact, the difference between good content and bad content is not that big. Truly, the only thing that really gets rewarded is remarkable content. If you're investing in content production, always invest in the most amazing, ballsy, exceptional content that you can get your hands on because if you build it, they won't come. This quote sums things up for me:
We've tried to work longer on stories for greater impact, and publish fewer quick-takes that we know you can consume elsewhere. We're actually publishing, on average, roughly one-third fewer posts on Salon than we were a year ago (from 848 to 572 in December; 943 to 602 in January). So: 33 percent fewer posts; 40 percent greater traffic - source
This is a quote from a fascinating article about the growth of Salon.com - check the whole thing out
2) Hire a Chief Content Officer
I spoke about the need for a Chief Content Officer in my SearchLove presentation in NYC and this is a trend that businesses of all size need to follow. The key point here is that this role needs to be senior enough to oversee all kinds of content production. David Edelman agrees with me:
Our research shows that in companies
where the marketing function takes on the
role of publisher in chief—rationalizing the
creation and flow of product related content—
consumers develop a clearer sense of the brand
and are better able to articulate the attributes
of specific products. These marketers also become
more agile with their content, readily
adapting it to sales training videos and other
new uses that ultimately enhance consumers’
decision journey - source
This is a quote from the full version of this article (which you'll need to register to be able to read) and the whole thing is well worth a read.
3) Invest in Page Types
As Sonia points out at Copyblogger, every page is now a landing page and it's important for both social and SEO to invest in crafting excellent page types. I always point to Oyster.com as the gold standard here with their large imagery and massively detailed content, but really more sites are starting to get this. If you're not investing in making your content pages be excellent pages with thick content, then you're going to get left behind by those that are investing in their page types:
4) SEOs Are Perfectly Placed To Engage In Content Marketing
Smart SEOs are already doing content marketing as part of their online marketing strategies and have been for some time. Our skillset matches extremely well with what it takes to win at content marketing. In particular, we understand the whole process. In summary, producing content looks like this for us here at Distilled:
- Researching & identifying influencers and communities
- Keyword research & analysis
- Competitive content research
- Creative content generation
- Outreach and promotion
- Analytics, measurement and tracking
I'll end this post by highlighting an in-depth analysis of what content promotion looks like and how a simple guest post can be more powerful than many other mainstream content channels:
In previous times, before the Internet, this was called the Oprah Effect. And don’t get me wrong, I’d still leap at the opportunity to share my message on cable with arguably the most persuasive person who ever walked the planet. (Producers—you can reach me via my website!)
But as more of our attention (and our book buying) shifts online, its only natural that the mantle Oprah held for a quarter of a century in introducing readers to new books, shifts to a digital native.
And in my opinion, the digital native who has taken up that mantle in the book world, is Tim Ferriss - source
Go read the whole piece, it's fascinating and detailed.
We do an awful lot of guest posting as SEOs, and we're already valuing the benefits of this above and beyond a simple link. Now is the time to understand content marketing.
Image Credit: Movable Type www via Bigstock