Monday, 3 October 2011

How Digital Content Strategy Has Evolved Over The Past Three Years

One week today I start a new job. And this end of an era, start of a new chapter, has me in a reflective mood. The past three years have seen a lot of change in the world of online content. Three years ago there were essentially two types of customers for digital content: the media and everyone else. The business was divided in two and there were clear differentiators between what was required by each.

Non-media clients were interested in the search engine optimisation benefits of content. They recognised that organic search benefited from fresh, keyword optimised content, and they wanted a piece of the action. Three years ago many of the non-media clients I was dealing with said things like: "we don't care what you write, just use the following keywords."

Digital content three years ago:
  • I'd never heard the expression: "content strategy".
  • Brands wanted short keyword loaded content for the search engine optimisation benefits.
  • I didn't use Twitter, and certainly I can't imagine many brands used social media.
Digital content now:
  • Content strategy is not just a regularly used expression, it's a job title!?
  • Non-media clients see additional benefits from content, such as: thought leadership and brand loyalty. 
  • Companies look to develop detailed and useful content and social media strategies. 

Why the change in digital content strategy?

Search engine optimisation is still important and will continue to be, for as long as search engines bring the majority of visitors to a website.  However, instead of meeting clients obsessed with SEO, I am now much more likely now to hear a client say: "we want content that is useful" or "we want to be seen as experts in our field".  And no this isn't just a reaction to the Google Panda update.  Brands started to realise the value of quality content in building loyalty, trust and engagement before Google cemented it in February 2011.

As a journalist, this evolution is pleasing and I like to think that I may have played a tiny part in helping to educate people about digital content strategy.  I'm excited about what the next three years hold, I wonder whether I should make some predictions?  A subject for another blog post me thinks!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Content Marketing Tips For B2B Marketers

"What do you think of the event so far?" I ask one of my colleagues, while scoffing free biscuits, in the break of B2B Marketing's Content Marketing event.

"It's sh*t" he responds, and leaves in search of nicotine.

Following a fag and some reflection he changes his mind, it's not sh*t, he's just frustrated and disappointed.  Why does an event like this need to take place at all.  Doesn't everybody already know that content is king?  Why isn't everyone already doing content marketing?  Why do we need an event extolling it's virtues, aren't we all already convinced?  Not if the audience response to the question: "who has a content strategy?" is anything to by; in a room of 40 (ish) people only 2 put up their hand.

But hold on, if you already have a content strategy and are a paid up member of the content marketing party, you probably wouldn't feel the need to attend this particular event.  I don't think the audience was reflective of the wider marketing world, I suspect the most brilliant content marketers were probably back at the office, just getting on with it.

I got the impression that this particular event was an opportunity for B2B marketing folk to gather ammunition, in the form of expert opinion and case studies, to 'sell' the need for content marketing to senior management.

What were the key learns from the event?  Other than, ensure your colleague is fully topped up with nicotine before you ask him a question?!

Content strategy tips from the B2B Content Marketing event:

  • Don’t start with “what does your product do?”
  • Ask yourself: “What is the goal of your content at each of the stages of the sales cycle?”
  • Put your customer at the centre of your content strategy.
  • 7 step content creation process -->
  1.  Identify persona's of the audience
  2. Questions (that clients might ask)
  3.  Answers (that clients are looking for)
  4. Audit
  5. Map
  6. Identify
  7. Create
  • Think about the rule of 5: 5 different versions of content and/or 5 different ways of distributing that content.
  • 9/10 buyers say when they're ready to buy, they'll find you.
  • Content in general is measured very badly.  Content marketing is not a quick win.
  • Starting point = audience
  • Be a practical advisor
  • Don't spray and pray
  • Utilise your brands experts
  • Don't underestimate the value of peer communication  

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

17 nuggets of content strategy advice

I added my most recent blog post, on how I would sum up my content strategy advice in one sentence, to the LinkedIn content strategy group and was delighted and surprised to see lots of members offering up their own sentence of advice. 

There were lots of interesting thoughts, so I thought I'd collate them all here for your delictation:

  1. "Think of content as a recorded conversation between the reader and creator" Brandon Quan.
  2. "Effective content strategy enables the reader to follow his or her own path through the information in a way that's comfortable, interesting and satisfying while also serving the communication goals of the host site" Scott Corrigan.
  3. "Good content makes sense to the first-time user" Tessa Copland.
  4. "Content marketing is having the ability and understanding to provide valuable customer enriching information on a consistent basis knowing this creates a nurturing and brand building foundation between you and your prospects and customers" Jeff Harrison.
  5. "Without governance, you're sunk" or "it's all about the metadata" Rahel Anne Bailie.
  6. "Creating and managing content in a way that doesn't piss anyone off (clients, audiences, stakeholders, creators)" Andrew Nhem
  7. "CONTEXT >>> PAGE >>> TASK >>> CUSTOMER, that's how content should make sense" Eric Beteille.
  8. "Listen, man. The streets are clamoring" Edwin Tam.
  9. "A variation of the Golden Rule: what do I, as a customer, want to read?" Kok Hong Poh.
  10. "Content strategy is about making your content matter... to everyone who uses it and to everyone who is involved in producing it" Pamela Kostur.
  11. "Spending your money and using your resources to produce conent that meets your goal in the most efficient and effective way possible" Scott Abel.
  12. "How about a question? If your content can't be found does it exist?" Seamus Walsh.
  13. "Content basics are who, what, when, and where BUT provide or give access to context, without it content loses meaning and value" Neal Burns.
  14. "Know you audience" Claire O'Rourke.
  15. Said the Content Strategist to the Director at the first meeting: "Tell me how your public feels about your products and how you know that, and there we will see what your content needs are" Jenifer L Johnson.
  16. "Creating and managing content so that those who care can mutually embrace it" Andrew Nhem.
  17. "Develop effective information that can be resused and repurposed across multiple platforms" William Huscher.
Anymore for anymore?  Let me know your suggestions below:

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Can You Sum Up Your Content Strategy Advice In One Sentence?

Yesterday in a meeting I was asked by a prospective client, to sum up my content strategy advice in one sentence. So I said: "Align your content strategy to your overall business strategy."

It's something you'll have heard me say before. It formed a key part of my presentation at Internet World on developing a content strategy. I am pretty passion about it, and here is why...

Why is it important to align your content strategy to your overall business strategy?

  1. Creating content for the sake of creating content is pointless.  Content needs context.  A content strategy developed within the context of your overall business strategy will ensure your content has the context it needs to be relevant and engaging.
  2. If you don't know what success looks like, how will you know whether you have been successful or not?  If as a company you are trying to achieve particular goals, you can use content to get there.  Whether your company wants to be seen as: the tech and gadget experts, thought leaders in the sub-prime space, or the place to come for health advice, you can produce content to introduce or reinforce a vision.
  3. When you create content in an isolated bubble you risk that content being squirrelled away out of sight on your website and you risk the content creators or content strategy team being marginalised.  If you create content that is aligned to your overall business strategy then, assuming everyone has bought into the company strategy, they can also understand and support the content strategy too.
What if you don't have an overall business strategy?

It's not unusual to come across a company without a clear overall business strategy.  If you work for a company which doesn't have a vision, then developing an effective content strategy may be harder, and you may actually need to suggest forming a team to develop a business strategy, before you can develop the content strategy!  

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Proving The Value Of Investing In Online Content

How to show that content is valuable, that content is worth investing in, that a company should spend money on content marketing over a million other marketing strategies?  It can be really tricky, and while mulling it over today, it reminded me of similar discussions I would have regularly in my previous life as a news editor for a commercial radio station. 

Commercial radio news is a cost and cannot make money. OFCOM rules prevent you from selling news sponsorship, although you can sponsor the sport, weather and travel news. Being a cost is particularly difficult when a company is looking to cut costs, and commercial radio has been trying to cut costs for over 10 years now.

We would always argue that it was our high quality, well researched, well written, beautifully read news bulletins that encouraged people to listen. The common refrain from a journalist to a manager arguing about the cost of the news was always: "people won't listen to dead air."

Costs were cut, regularly and often, but local news remains in place (for now) and my former colleagues do an amazing job with ever decreasing budgets and ever increasing networking.

It strikes me that there are similarities between the arguments over the costs of news broadcasts and the costs of blogs, news articles, features, info graphics.... After all it's all content.  So how did we prove the value of news content in commercial radio and what lessons can be learnt by those who find they're tasked with proving the value of online content?

3 lessons that content strategists can learn from commercial radio news

  1. Research - Commercial radio is a competitive world and radio stations live and die by their RAJAR figures. It's all about how many listeners you have, because listeners = advertising revenue. So how do you get more listeners?  One of the favoured ways was to ask the listeners what they liked and disliked. Groups of them would be brought into the station, fed pizza and asked to divulge their deepest darkest listening habits.  And I'm delighted to tell you that these very wise listeners would, very helpfully, tell management how much they loved our news bulletins.  Can you conduct similar research?  Can you question users and find out what they like/dislike about the content you're producing or planning to produce?

  2. Education - Want people to understand the value of content? You've got to teach them! Use every opportunity to tell anyone who'll listen about what you do and how you do it.  See it as part of your job to teach your colleagues, managers and partners about the power of content. An important lesson from commercial radio: don't hide your light under a bushel. Promote what you and your team do internally and celebrate successes. It is your responsibility to make sure no-one in the company can say: "who are they and what do they do" about you and your team.

  3. Inclusion - Self-promotion can be ugly, avoid looking like a megalomaniac by getting everyone involved in what you do.  Get the whole company looking for news stories; encourage the sales team to phone-in when they get stuck in traffic on the way to a meeting; ask the news team to pass on leads to the sales team; encourage co-operation. This lesson from commercial radio could prove useful.  Perhaps the more you can involve people in your content strategy, the more likely they'll be to buy into it? 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

How much content is the right amount?

I met with some clients who are looking to create a content strategy.  They've done what so many brands do: spent some money creating content, seen some success and are now wondering what to do next. They're asking questions like:
  • What should their strategy be going forward?
  • What about social media?
  • And video content?
Often clients will use a limited amount of content to prove the concept, once they've done that and seen results: perhaps an increase in traffic, longer dwell time, moving up the SERPs, or something as unmeasurable as a positive comment from the CEO?!

So what do they do once they've recognised the value and want more content?  In the case of this particular client they looked to their search engine optimisation agency first, as many brands do.  If you're looking for the SEO benefits from content, then getting advice from your search marketing/optimisation agency is a good place to start.

I work with a lot of excellent SEO agencies who employ some incredibly knowledgeable and talented individuals and I do not want to criticise their often great work and advice.  However, I was prompted to write this post because I was surprised to hear this particular SEO agency had recommended ten videos a week.  Why ten?  Why not 9 or eleven?  Content isn't about volume, it's about relevancy and quality.  1 great video is worth much more than ten rubbish ones. 

So when you're considering content strategy and what to do next, don't think about numbers.  Don't start with a certain number of articles, features, info graphics, videos, blogs posts, advertorials etc. per week.  Think relevance and quality first.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Winning The Great Big Social Media Debate

I recently had the pleasure and honour to lead the winning team in a debate on social media in the very grand County Hall in London. I'd have been pretty disappointed if we didn't win, as we were arguing in favour of social media! I certainly had an easier job than Neil Kleiner, Head of Social Media for Havas Media, who was charged with arguing: "this house believes that Social Media does not exist in the eyes of your customers."

So how did we win? Firstly we let the facts speak for themselves:


Facebook has more than 500 million active users… and half of those active users logon in any given day. More than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo etc.) shared each month.


Pick a random day, such as March 11th this year - 177 million Tweets were sent.  Average number of new accounts per day over the last month = 460,000.


LinkedIn has over 100 million members. Over one third of UK professionals now have an online profile on LinkedIn.


35 hours of video are uploaded every minute.

This is epic! This is not up for debate… I’ve heard Social Media described as a express train speeding along the tracks and you’d better hurry up and get off the tracks and onto the train quick.

Social media changes the relationship between the brand and the consumer.  So if I think about my own world – the media landscape darling (!!) In the past we broadcast and the consumer listened. We told people what to do, what to think, we decided what they were or were not interested and what they should and not know, what they should buy.  And we were in control.

Ask former Egyptian president Mubarak about the power of social media…. It’s being called the Twitter revolution… It must be true… they’re selling it on a t-shirt.

Social media changes things completely for the media. Suddenly our audience is alive and interacting with us and excitingly we can interact with our audience in a way that was never possible before.

And it is the same for brands. Social media has fundamentally changed and is changing the relationship brands have with consumers.  I gave the Mumsnet Waitrose baby bottom butter case study and the glow stick seller analogy, which you can read about in my AOP social media roundup post.

I argued that brands need to be brave and take part in order to survive. Opinions about your brand are out there, do a real time search on Google and find out what people are saying about you. Brands and their agencies can no longer push a message. What clients and customers say about our brand is as, if not more important, than anything we tell them. People are less likely to be in touch with your customer service department and more likely to be in touch with your customers.

To use another analogy: if we’ve been hunting… now the deer have guns! Social Media can help us to share copyrighted content, make a mockery of super injunctions. Social media releases the breaks on all the tools of control.

Part of the opposition argument was that the public don’t want to interact with brands on social media.  That reminds me of a friend of mine who was a Westminster correspondent for a big commercial radio group. Management would argue that the public don’t care about politics, and he’d counter that: “Yes, but they care about hospitals and schools and transport and all of those things.” and it’s the same with brands. You might argue that people don’t care about brands, but they care if their train is delayed, their phone doesn’t work, if the new gadget they just bought has broken.

And to those who argue that the end game is simply to sell the most stuff with the lowest possible overhead. Well, used correctly social media may be able to help you do that. If you listen, engage and understand with your customers, you can make your products and your offers more attractive; you can understand trends and competitors. If you build relationships you can nurture repeat business.

As a journalist I’d argue that brands need to use content, stories and events to connect and engage with their communities and those communities will get the message, if it’s relevant and strong enough. Find the voice of your customer by listening and then get involved. Get stuck in!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

AOP Social Media Event - Building Smart Communities

A recent census by the Association of Online Publishers found 63% of members see social media as a key area of growth/investment. Which begs the question, where do the other 37% see the opportunities for growth and investments? And the question which I think the recent AOP event: Building Smarter Communities was trying to answer: what are the opportunities within social media?

I like AOP events, I like the tea and biscuits and cakes and free beer. I also like the way they set up their panels, with a mixture of thought leaders from within the industry; usually an agency evangelist and then someone slightly left of field to give the "outsiders perspective."

So what were some of the key take-homes from the event? Well, that's what is so fascinating about social media, there often isn't a list of key messages at the end of a social media event, because if you ask four different people you'll get four different opinions! I liken it to Doctor Who explaining something to his companion using a simple analogy (a bubble on the outside of a bubble) and then once they get the concept saying quietly: "well it's nothing like that." Oh I am pleased to have got a Doctor Who reference into my blog, first of many?!

Actually there were some key take-homes: some fantastic analogies and case studies. And being a journalist I like a good story.

Amy Kean, from Havas Media gave us such a great analogy about social media, so great I've already used it about 10 times since! A brand that is properly engaged in social media is like the glow stick seller at a festival or a gig. Dancing amongst the crowd, adding to the atmosphere and the experience, enjoying the music, and if someone wants a glow stick they’ll sell them one. A brand that’s not engaged is the member of staff hired to sell programmes, stood on the sidelines shouting to attract people’s attention.

Justine Roberts, CEO of Mumsnet gave the example of a Mum who commented on one of the Mumsnet forums that she had used Waitrose baby bottom butter on her face (I assume when she ran out of moisturiser…?!) and she had noticed a visible reduction in her wrinkles. Women were commenting and liking and tweeting and telling their friends… and sales doubled!

On the flip-side, Justine gave an example of Haliborange who felt the wrath of angry mumsnetters, when they decided the company had paid people to comment about the benefits of their products.

Justine also introduced me to this great quote from Avinash Kaushik, an Analytics Evangelist for Google: “The greatest gift you can be given from the Internet is to be proven wrong fast”

And in a stroke of excellent timing all of these quotes and stories provided brilliant fodder for my speech at the Big Social Media Debate at County Hall organised by the LinkedIn ecommerce UK group, which will have to form the basis of my next blog post.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Content Strategy, Recommended Reading

When I was putting together my presentation on Developing a Content Strategy for Internet World 2011, I ran it past a colleague of mine.  She was very kind and enthusiastic and at the end she requested some recommended reading.  She is studying for a marketing qualification, so I guess she's used to being given reading at the end of a lecture?!  Just thought, I really hope my style is more engaging presentation, rather than lecture.  Anyway, here is my recommended reading:

These websites have a wealth of information about content strategy:

These books on content strategy have all been recommended to me in recent weeks/months, though I must confess to not having read any of them:

  • Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content, Colleen Jones
  • The Elements of Content Strategy, Erin Kissane
  • Get Customers Get Content, Joe Pulizzi
  • Content Rules, Ann Handley and CC Chapman

I'd recommend getting to know your away around a few Google tools to learn more about your clients search behaviour, in particular:

  • Google Wonder Wheel
  • Google Trends
  • Google Insight

And finally, some great bedtime reading: Google's search engine optimisation starter guide.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Developing A Content Strategy, Internet World

On Wednesday 11th May 2011, I gave a presentation entitled: developing a content strategy, at Internet World.  It is always difficult to know where to pitch a presentation to a large group of random people.  Afterwards a few people asked for my slides.  So I thought I'd attempt to summarise my presentation into a blog post for those who are interested.

The most important thing when first starting to develop a content strategy is: what is your overall business goal?  Your content strategy needs to be integrated with your marketing, sales and customer service strategy – you need a holistic approach.

As well as ensuring your content strategy is integrated into your overall business strategy, there are some other considerations.

9 key things to consider when developing a content strategy
  1. Audience: Do you have a particular type of client/customer with a particular knowledge or expertise level.  What is their motivation?
  2. Competitors: Analyse what they’re doing.
  3. Exclusions: Any particular subjects to steer clear of?  Are there particular guidelines you need to adhere to? For example, FSA regulated.  Or any companies you don’t want to mention.
  4. Keywords: It is good to know what your clients are searching for. There are a number of tools you can use: Google wonderwheel, Google Insights and Google Trends.
  5. Analytics/KPIs: You’d be amazed how few companies measure their analytics or set out clear KPIs before they start an online project. But if you don't know what success looks like, how will know when you get there?
  6. Tone/Style: Do you have a house style? Do you need to create one?
  7. Social Media: Where is your audience engaging? You must include social media within your content strategy.  It is important to understand where your audience are and why you’re engaging with them.
  8. IT: What are the technical limitations, what can you do and can’t you do with your CMS?
  9. Workflow Who is actually going to produce the content? One option is to make content production part of peoples job descriptions, so you don’t hire someone who’s job it is to produce content, but you actually work it into everyone’s KPIs.

So what about the different types of content?

Deciding what content to produce comes after all the other considerations. You can only decide what you want to create once you know who it’s aimed at. Just because you can produce a certain type of content doesn’t mean you should. Start small, measure it, when you see successes expand. Don’t start something you can’t maintain.

So in summary: You need to develop a content strategy which is integrated into your overall business strategy and you have your 9 things to consider while doing this.  My final advice would be to give it go! Start small and measurable, but you won’t know what you and your team are capable and what the benefits might be unless you try.

I also gave some recommended reading around content strategy, I'll turn that into another blog post when I have slightly more time.

Monday, 4 April 2011

BrightonSEO April 2011

On Friday 1st April most of Brighton's finest SEO types, quite a few of London's finest SEO types and even one of Leeds' finest SEO types, gathered at the Sallis Benney theatre owned by the University of Brighton.  This was a big step up from BrightonSEO mark 1 - in a pub, and BrightonSEO mark 2 - in a room in a community centre.  This time the event had tickets and this time those tickets were all snapped up on the morning they were released.

So for those of you who didn't manage to get a ticket, or for those of you who drank too many glasses of wine at lunchtime and can't remember, what were the key learns?

Blimey search engine optimisation types are passionate

If you were new to SEO then the panel debate: is SEO doomed, which kicked off the conference, might have seen you making a sudden career change decision.  Most panel debates at conferences are polite and often pretty insipid affairs, with no one wanting to offend anyone else.  This BrightonSEO panel debate was so heated it crossed into aggressive a couple of times. 

I couldn't decide whether to be impressed with the passion in the room, or depressed that we weren't debating something more significant: the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown; the war in Libya; or the fighting in the Ivory Coast perhaps?

Is this passion unique to search engine optimisation?  Would I have seen such heart and heat if we'd had a similar debate during my time working in radio; could I imagine my colleagues now having such a passionate exchange about the future of news?  Yes, I suppose I can imagine debates like that taking place.  I guess BrightonSEO has given people a forum for these kind of heated exchanges, which otherwise wouldn't have existed.  Or perhaps these debates have and do existed, they're just usually had in a pub and not in a lecture theatre in front of so many people.

The desire for more honesty and greater transparency in SEO

The SEO industry was compared on more than one occasion to the banking sector and this is a reflection of a desire by the majority of people at BrightonSEO to disassociate themselves with blackhat SEO and SEO Snake Oil.  I also noticed a fair few speakers talking about making an educated guess and stressing that no one, except a select few at Google, knows exactly what makes one webpage rank higher than another in the SERPs.  I think this desire for more transparency is good news, now begins the tough job of educating clients!

There is no magic spell or secret trick

Following on from the point above about greater honesty and transparency, one of the key learns from BrightonSEO, is that being a search engine optimisation practitioner isn't about learning special secrets or tricks.  This is key for someone like me, who partners with a lot of digital marketing agencies, but can't claim (and doesn't want to claim) to be an expert.  Sometimes I think we're all guilty of worrying that while we're busy working hard, everyone else has discovered a short cut.  The truth from BrightonSEO is there is no short cut.

BrightonSEO rocks

Finally, I learnt that BrightonSEO might just be the best free SEO event in the UK and it's in contention for best SEO event in the UK full stop.  What makes it so special?  All the reasons above: passion, honesty, transparency and no tricks.  

BrightonSEO rocks... but don't tell everyone... I might not get a ticket next time... or they might make us pay!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Social media marketing - as recommended by Google

I may be coming to this a bit late, but hey I figure if I missed it, then others might have too.  At Brighton SEO on Friday one of the speakers recommended watching the video below from Google Webmaster.  In it Matt Cutts from Google answers the question: "If you were an SEO of a large company, what would you include in your 2011 strategy?"

Matt mentions three key things (because Google likes lists!?): 
  1. Optimising for speed
  2. Education for senior internal stakeholders about the benefits for SEO and internal linking
  3. Social media marketing. 
So there you have it... point number 3 in a short list of what to focus on in 2011... and Google recommends social media marketing.  So next time you speak to client or someone internally who doesn't see the benefit or the need to get involved in social media, you can tell them that Google recommends it.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The big lie about content strategy

"What is the big lie about content strategy?" Lee Odden from Toprank starts his SES London presentation with a question and immediately answers it himself: "Build it and they will come".

Lee explains to a room packed with people slowly melting (no air-conditioning, nightmare!) that if you have great content you need to set it free. I guess this is really what I described as content curation in a previous blog post. Though it's since been pointed out to me that when most people talk about content curation they're talking about content they don't actually own and didn't create. I guess that's the journalist in me, assuming you'd have actually written the content you want you curate!

Anyway, I digress... So the big lie is that creating a whole bunch of great content and sticking it on a website is enough. I suppose it really depends on whether people already come to the website you're creating the content for. But even if you have a strong brand and a popular website, you still need to make sure people can find your content. It's painful to witness, brands with awesome content squirrelled away in a bit of the site where people are never going to visit or even find. This is where Lee stresses the importance of "understanding what your customers wants in terms of consumption, discovery and sharing."

Lee believes that by failing to provide useful content many retail websites are failing to give good customer service. He says it's about creating lots of different touch points in the customer life cycle, not just influencing customers to buy but also influencing them through out their life. "Content must educate and make it easy to follow a logical conclusion to buy." Content on ecommerce websites... another blog post in it's own right.

Read more from Lee on the Toprank website, or via his Twitter feed.

Monday, 28 February 2011

The diary of an SES Conference virgin

Last week I attended SES London for the first time.  Actually I should say: last week I attempted to attend SES London, attempted because my pesky colleagues would keep booking me in for meetings when I was suppose to be there.  So, in the words of the new cult phenomenon, Rastamouse: "Wagawan?"

Why did I want to go to SES London?

I like to think I'm pretty knowledgeable about search engine optimisation, but it's one of those subjects which is ever changing, and that can make you wonder.  Whatever your knowledge and skills, if you find yourself occasionally gripped by an irrational paranoia that there is some big secret or new development that you're not aware of, then SES bills itself as the cure!

In particular there were three sessions I wanted to see:
  1. Content Marketing Optimisation with Lee Odden, SES Advisory Board & CEO, TopRank Online Marketing
  2. Developing Great Content with Amanda Davie, Founder & Managing Director, Reform and Caragh McKenna, Senior Manager, SEO, The Search Agency
  3. SEO Through Blogs & Feeds with Mikkel deMib Svendsen, Creative Director, and Andrew Girdwood, Media Innovations Director, bigmouthmedia.
Did I learn anything?

Yes I did.... Firstly, SES reinforced a lot of things I already knew, and there is value in that.  It also gave me time out of a very hectic office to stop and think, and that is important. 

But what else?
  • The continuing importance and value of content, and I'm delighted to say not just any content but quality content.
  • The big digital content strategy lie: "build it and they will come."
  • Dozens and dozens of new web tools and case studies
  • And lots of new ideas to explore in further blog posts.  I shall write about the sessions I attended in more detail in some new posts to come.
And the networking?

Unfortunately I couldn't make any of the evening drinks, which judging by some of the hangovers people were sporting, is probably not a bad thing.  There wasn't much opportunity for networking during the show because most of the time I was dashing from one sessions to another and back to work, though thanks to the power of Twitter, I met up with Nichola Stott, founding director of SEO PR Training.

As an aside, a word on the venue: The Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, it was stiflingly hot and the lunch was pretty rubbish, but on the plus side it is just round the corner from work!

So would I recommend SES London?

Yes I would, there were some excellent speakers, with a lot of knowledge.  I wish I'd been able to go to a few more sessions as there was plenty to keep anyone interested in content strategy engaged.  One thing I haven't mentioned that needs flagging is the cost.  It is pretty expensive, so choose which days you go carefully based on the programme.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Content, editorial integrity and partnerships at the AOP

I went to an event today at the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) entitled: maintaining editorial integrity and making partnerships pay.  But rather than produce a blog post about the event, the speakers and what was said, I thought I'd start at the end!

The afternoon finished with a panel debate chaired by editor: Chris Mooney. While summing up Chris said: "like with all good debates we've now all been left more confused than ever!" or words to those effect, and I love that, because he's so right.

One of the key things I will take from today's event is just how muddy the area of content and brands still is. Years after we first started to try to find different ways to monetise content, other than printing it onto paper and expecting people to buy it, new models for making money from content are still not clear.

Two of today's speakers were from Bauer: Brent Coulson and Joseph Evea, who work in an area of the business called Bauer Access.  What is really interesting about what they're doing is that they're not trying to position themselves as a content source, but rather as a resource, so they can work with brands to "create something together." Now that's a vision! and far more exciting than saying: how can we find a new way of making money while continuing to do the same thing we've always done.

What Bauer Access understand is that as well as lots of fantastic content, they have other valuable assests, such as: editorial expertise, their own brands and their own audience.  Having worked for ten years as a journalist, I'm particularly interested in the value that the editorial expertise can add.  One of the other speakers today: Tony Hallett, Publishing Director at CBSi UK B2B, said: "brands want editors to reflect back to them who they are" and that really resonated with me.  Experienced journalists and editors are experts in their field and this expertise can be utilised by brands, to help them speak to, connect with and better understand their customers.  The key in the future is going to be how we make that partnership between the brands and the content experts work for both parties; that wil have to form the subject of it's own blog post or 10!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Digital content events in 2011

My goodness there are a lot of events, exhibitions, talks, breakfast briefings, seminars, workshops, trainings, round-tables, conferences, panel discussions and webinars if you work in/on/with digital content.

The invites mount a near daily assault on the email inbox. But how do you know which are worth attending and which are a waste of time? Should you go to free ones, because they're free? Which paid-for events should you make the business case for? And can you spare the time out of the office?

The main thing I try to measure is relevance. How relevant is this event to me and my job?

  • Will I learn something useful?
  • Will it help me perform better?
  • Will I meet someone who can help my business or further my career?

The problem is, it's often impossible to be sure beforehand, and getting it wrong can be a costly waste of time.

This year I'll be attending the following (so far?!):

SES London - because...
  • I scoped it out last year and ascertained it is attended by lots of interesting people
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a subject I'm passionate about
  • And from the programme it looks like there are quite a few relevant seminars.
Internet World - because...

The company I work for will be exhibiting there, so it'll be a three line whip! We exhibited last year for the first time and found it a really positive experience with lots of lovely ROI to justify doing it again.

Brighton SEO - because...

I've been before and I liked it.
  • It's free
  • it's friendly
  • and it makes you fink!
Publishing Expo - because...

I've never been before but I've identified one seminar I want to go to: Search The Driver For New Content Models. It's only a 40 minutes long and Earls Court 2 isn't far from the office, so it's not going to be a huge waste of time if it's not up to much.

I'm sure I'll attend more than these four events, I signed up for an AOP today, but these are the four big ones I'll be going to.  So... once I've been to each of these, I'll make sure I let you know my thoughts: marks out of ten for the peppermint tea; the cleanliness of the toilets and other important factors. Then maybe I'll be able to help you make a more informed decision about which digital content events you attend in 2012!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Content Curation

My last blog post focused on a rather excellent set of predictions for 2011 by Ashley Friedlein CEO of the mighty econsultancy. One of things he mentioned briefly was content curation and it's growing importance.

So in this post I am going to focus on content curation: what it is, why it's important, and some things to think about.

What is content curation?

Content curation is about displaying and presenting content so it can be seen and engaged with. It's what you actually do with content, once it's been produced; in the same way a museum curator decides what to display and where. However, I'd argue that content curation must start right at the very beginning, before the content has actually been produced. To continue the museum anology: it is much easier to decide which artefact goes in which display cabinet, if your exhibition has lots of really great, relevant, interesting artefacts to start with.

If you are responsible for content curation, then it's important you're involved from the start. Make suggestions about what content is produced based on your knowledge of the market, and of course always keep in mind the basic rules about content creation: be useful, be relevant, be interesting.

Examples of content curation

  • Turning a white paper into a press release and distributing it
  • Retweeting your CEO
  • Making internal PDF documents available to an external audience via the corporate website
  • Submitting content to a content aggregator.

Why is content curation important?

The web is noisy and becoming ever more crowded every day, so content curation is about ensuring your content is found and read. And it's important that content is found and read because it takes money and time to produce content, so that content needs to show return on investment (ROI) and page views are a popular way of measuring ROI.

However, I would advise against overstating the importance of content curation, after all, you can't curate without content, and there is no point curating bad content.

Content curation advice

Another way to look at content curation is to think of it as "making your content work harder." If you, a colleague or a partner/agency has gone to the trouble of creating some great content, you need to make sure you're getting the most from it.  So what should you be doing?

  • Use your evergreen and in-depth content in a variety of different ways.  I've touched upon this above, with the example of turning a white paper into a press release ,and using that as a way to "promote" the original content. When you go to the trouble of producing a significant piece of content, divide it up and spread it around the web, to make it easier to digest and easier to find.
  • Engage with your community. Find your community, find your fans and the people who support and like what you do, and then work with this community to promote and highlight your content.
  • Look at producing slippery content.  Content that draws people into your website and keeps them there, known by some as sticky content, is important, I go back again to the whole ROI issue.  But it's also important to get some of your content out there, to make it slippery. Don't let people duplicate or rip off your content (that'll have a negative SEO impact), but do share and give your content generously where you feel it provides a benefit.  A benefit such as: helping your brand to be seen as a thought leader or helping people to perceive your brand in a certain way.
  • Submit your content to aggregators, for example: Google news. This only applies if your site contains geninue regularly updated news content (otherwise it won't be accepted). We see blended SERPs (search engine results pages) much more regularly now, including news on the first page of Google, this can prove a valuable way of encouraging people to visit your site.
Any other content curation ideas?  Let me know your thought below.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Econsultancy - Content Strategy/Content Marketing

While reading Econsultancy's CEO Ashley Friedlein's 17 digital marketing trends for 2011, I was particularly interested to read point 6: Content strategy/content marketing – the King is back. Interested because, as regular readers of my blog (thanks Mum) will attest, content strategy/content marketing/content in general, is a subject particularly dear to my heart.

I have seen first hand the rise in 'content marketing', not so much the king is back, as the king is still here and more popular than ever. Perhaps it's more accurate to say "quality content, the king is back." Because the emphasis, from the majority, is for high quality content (hurrah!)

So why the rise in Content Marketing?

Engagement and dwell time - for many companies this is becoming a more popular metric. Organisations are recognising that in an increasingly competitive market place, where the web has given consumers numerous options, it is hugely important to engage with the customer. Relevant, compelling content gives the client a reason to keep connecting with your brand.

Thought leadership - Content can have a massive impact on the way your brand is perceived by customers. Providing useful and interesting information is an excellent way to be seen as the expert in your field.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and driving traffic -  Google's beginners guide to search engine optimisation talks about the importance of content for SEO: "Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here. Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it.  Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site's reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content." 

Social media - ultimately social media is content. Perhaps that content is just 140 characters long, but it's content nevertheless. The rules that apply to content creation, such as: be useful and be interesting, also apply to social media. In order to actively participate in social media you need something to say, and that something to say is content.

User generated content - this ties into engagement. If you want your customers to generate content, such as: reviews, comments or images, they will need a reason to do so. One way to encourage interaction is via content, perhaps an interesting article or a product review might prompt a client/customer to comment.

I was also interested to read Ashley Friedlein's thoughts on the importance of Content Curation.  He says: "It’s not just about content *creation* but content *curation*" and he's right, this is a huge challenge. Managing the content: who writes it, when they write it, who checks it, where that content goes and doesn't go; for many companies this is a full time job. Organisations often have huge amounts of internal expertise and knowledge, which would make excellent online content. The challenge is often those individuals with the knowledge feel they don't have the time to turn that knowledge into useful features, guides or blogs.  How to address that challenge, that is a topic for another blog post!