Thanks Google! Content Really is King Once Again.

 

The world suddenly seems to have a voracious appetite for content as online marketers compete with each other in an attempt to capture the eyeballs and eardrums of current and potential customers. Not just any content, but high-quality, unique and relevant content.

It wasn’t always this way. The bottom kind of fell out of the writing industry back in 2008 as the recession hit full force. Media outlets were laying people off in droves, or closing entirely, and the demand for freelancers was rapidly diminishing. I know because I had been a freelancer for a number of years. Even while employed full-time, I made a very nice “extra income” from writing for a variety of trade and professional publications.

It was this extra income that I felt would help provide me with a cushion when I launched Strategic Communications in 2008. But I was wrong.

During the first week in my new business, I experienced a couple of unexpected setbacks. One client who I had been writing a weekly article for decided to cut back to just one article a month; another publication went from monthly to bimonthly, cutting my work with them in half. The financial impact from just these two clients amounted to about $2,500/month. Ouch.

“Content farms” like Demand Media cropped up, paying writers embarrassingly low sums of money to write fairly bland, evergreen content that could be posted to a variety of websites to drive search engine optimization (SEO). Laid-off staffers were taking on the freelance jobs that regular freelancers, like me, had formerly written. I wrote about the content farm phenomenon for EContent back in 2010.

Fast forward to 2015, and it’s a decidedly different content environment. The demand for high-quality, unique and relevant content — and lots of it — has increased exponentially, and Google, I believe, is the force that has driven this demand. Thank you, Google!

As Google has continued to tinker with the algorithms it uses to deliver results when users conduct online searches based on various words and phrases, it has significantly increased the ability for quality, unique content to rise to the top of search results and has significantly decreased the ability for generic, evergreen content — the kind of content that services like Demand Media, About.com and others are known for — to generate results. Ouch, again. But this time, I’m on the other side of the equation.

Over the past few years, I have witnessed an increasing demand for two types of services: content creation and content curation. Content creation is as it sounds — creating original content. Content curation has really sprung up, I believe, because the proliferation of so much content has been overwhelming to consumers. They simply can’t stay on top of the massive amounts of information that bombards them through various channels, online and offline. Consequently, the need for someone to review, or curate, that content has emerged. Content curation involves reviewing and sifting through massive amounts of content to select the most relevant pieces for a specific target audience.

We work with a number of clients to curate, create, place and analyze the effectiveness of content across a variety of channels — online and offline. It’s extremely interesting, and highly rewarding, work. Who would have thought? I’ve discovered that both my personality and my professional background really position me well for this type of work:

  • I’ve written content professionally for a number of years on business and marketing-related issues as a freelance business journalist, so I have both strong writing and editing skills.
  • My professional career began as a copywriter and I spent 10 years in direct marketing, which has positioned me well to really leverage the “direct marketing on steroids” environment of online marketing; I believe I am literally addicted to response. I love testing and retesting strategies and approaches, and I love watching and analyzing results with an eye always toward generating “more, more, more…”
  • I’ve worked in corporate environments as a director of communications and marketing where I developed strong skills in developing strategic plans — identifying the various communication channels that, in combination, would serve to generate maximize results at minimum cost (time and money).
  • My approach to marketing, probably based on my early years in direct marketing and likely supported by my undergraduate degree in psychology, is extremely “other-focused.” I like to think long and hard about “what’s in it for them” (WIIFT) as I create content in any form. What do I want my target audience to do, think or believe? What’s important to them? What do I (or my clients) have to offer that this audience would value, and how can we stand out against the competition (both direct and indirect)? What information do I need to convey to influence them in some way?
  • Finally, I like input. In fact, my #1 strength based on Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment is input.  I can use inputs from one source or project to inform, or support, other projects. The learning is exponential and, I’ve found, can be applied to my freelance writing, my business consulting, and my teaching — in truth, it can be applied to everything I do.

This is fascinating work that allows me to continue to learn about new and emerging content across a variety of industries and geographies, for an ever-growing and increasingly diverse client base. A potential client asked me recently what I thought was the most important thing that contributed to content marketing success. My response was that it’s really all about the audience. If you can’t provide them with relevant information that meets some need they have — a need that is not being adequately addressed somewhere else — you’re simply not relevant. This sounds simple; it’s not. With so much content out in the marketplace these days, those who are able to effectively deliver content that is both useful and unique will win the eyes, ears — and pocketbooks — of their target audiences.

The demand for unique, high-quality content may not last forever. But, while it does, I’m enjoying the ride.

 

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