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.