There’s been a debate raging recently about quality vs. quantity of content. In the red corner, we have “quality” content, produced by journalists or experts who are paid market rates. In the blue corner are so-called “content farms”, such as Demand Media and AOL’s Seed that pay writers $15-$20 for articles that act primarily as a context for search-terms that will make it findable in Google.
So it’s in this context that I’ve found AOL’s leaked Content Strategy a fascinating read. The digital behemoth has been quietly re-defining itself, streamlining and building up a relevant staff.
According to the document, one of AOL’s primary goals is to scale up content production (from 31,000 pieces in January to 40,000 in March). Most of this growth is through what they call “scaled production” from Seed or other high volume/low cost methods. AOL’s ad-based model is, after all, all about page views and this model has been successful for Demand Media too. Their recent IPO valued it higher than the New York Times.
But AOL isn’t turning its back on high quality content either. They’re still producing original, top quality content, but in a more focused, strategic way. They commission this content out to “notable freelancers”, who have an established following, plus they estimate expected page views and revenue potential before commissioning it. Sounds like a solid content strategy.
While AOL’s business model may not be relevant to many of our clients, we do have conversations on a regular basis that are similar, such as:
The big news is that Facebook is moving in on Disqus with a revision of the way site owners can implement comments in situ across their content.
You can already use Facebook Connect to allow users of your site to login and comment with their real name and profile photo.
“The Comments Box easily enables your users to comment on your site’s content — whether it’s for a web page, article, photo, or other piece of content. Then the user can share the comment on Facebook on their Wall and in their friends’ streams.”
If you only have a couple of minutes here’s what you need to know about the coming changes:
“The new commenting product is a significantly deeper expansion of this, according to sources. Facebook will be able to power the entire commenting system–handling the log-in and publishing, cross-promoting comments on individuals’ Facebook walls, and possibly even promoting them as well on media outlets’ own “fan” pages. Undoubtedly, the Facebook “like” button will be deeply integrated as well.”
“Back in October of last year, news started to trickle out that Facebook was completely revamping their commenting system plugin. The very thought had to send a chill down the spine of commenting startups like Disqus, Echo, and Livefyre. In a statement to us at the time, Facebook confirmed the upgrades, and vaguely said, “we’ll have more to share in the coming weeks.” Well, weeks turned to months — nothing. But that may be about to change.”
If you have any questions about this then you should email me or call me on +44 (1273) 827 784 and I’d be happy to discuss this further.
We’re putting together an event for Social Media Week 2011, which we’re calling What next for content?
It’s on 10 February in London, and we’ll be chewing over the future for content, in the context of digital marketing specifically and online communication in general.
There’s a lot we could talk about, but I want to focus on the key trends. So, I’m going to use Connect as a public notebook to jot down my thoughts – and see if I can get the conversation started ahead of time. Here goes…
Content strategy as a discipline will be recognised for the critical part it plays in effective digital communication
Let’s start with an easy one! In case you haven’t heard, Content Strategy is the new Social Media (or something) which means that in 2011 just about everyone and their dog is going to be wanting a piece.
It’s already an established discipline with recognised processes and outputs in the US and this year we’re going to see more hard examples of how organisations and brands have put it to use to improve traffic, deepen engagement on-site (lighter bounce rates, more page views per visit and increased time on-site) and get the right content at the right time in the right shape to the right people.
My fellow content strategists Charlie Peverett, Trisha Brandon and I saw an example of this at the Content Strategy Applied conference a couple of weeks ago, when eBay’s Nikki Tiedtke shared the impressive results her team have achieved by using content strategy methods to improve the satisfaction of their critically important European Business Seller users.
Just as you can’t imagine building a website without considering UX or SEO now (right?), soon you won’t go near a major web project without a content strategist on the team.
Do you go in for New Year resolutions? Is it going to be a new healthier you? Are you going to take up a new hobby? Or perhaps look for a new job? January sees many people reevaluate their lives and look to make changes. It’s no coincidence that we see job applications peak following the festive break.
I have worked in PPC for just over 4 years and have enjoyed every minute. No day is the same and the benefit of working at a company such as iCrossing allows me to work with some fantastic brands and individuals. We are always on the look out for talented individuals to join our growing paid search team so I thought I would highlight some skills that I feel are essential if you want to get ahead in PPC. This is what we look for in a Paid Search Analyst:
You must be Eagle Eyed.
The role of Paid Search Analyst (PSA) is probably the most important in the company. An analyst holds the responsibility of generating maximum ROI for our clients investment. Exemplary attention to detail is the basis for every successful PSA. You are in charge of the budget. You are responsible for the results. You need to be in control. That’s what makes it so exciting…
When planning the content for a new site, content strategists often want to have the page details available in at least two formats.
We want them in Excel (where we can easily group and analyse different categories of data) and Word (where you can see clearly what the plan is for each individual page).
Here’s a common example. You’ve created an inventory of your existing content in preparation for a redesign, broken down page by page in Excel. This gets ripped apart, reordered, reconstituted, until you have a new list of pages for your site.
This planner contains all kinds of useful data that any good content strategy should deal with: not just what the H1, page title and wordcount for each page should look like, but what the messaging hierarchy is, who owns the content, how often it will need updating.
It’s the same information that a client, a designer, an information architect or an editor will want to review. But unless they’re a rare kind of freak, they probably don’t want to go through your Excel spreadsheet line by line.
That’s where page tables come in handy. We often use simple ones, generated in Microsoft Word and based on Melissa Rach’s template, as featured in Content Strategy for the Web.
These put all the essential details for each page of the site on one or two sheets, allowing them to be easily shared and discussed, and for changes to be tracked or annotated by hand in the margins.
2010 was a funny year for Google Adwords. While there was some movement towards having more control of your account with the inclusion of modified broad match there were also steps towards letting Google have full control in the form of keywordless ads. (My thoughts on such remained unchanged from when they were first rumoured).
We also saw some great developments in terms of ad formats with the full roll out of paid sitelinks and plus boxes along with several others.
It’s always a tough one to predict future releases, so below I’ve taken a rather safer option of going for what I’d like to see.
The advent of impression assisted conversions is a truly fantastic development if you happen to use Google Analytics and Google conversion tracking. The policy of not opening this up through the API for third party campaign management tools though is still a big disappointment. I’m not naysaying the free tools that Google provide, the quality is remarkable, but the reasons for not making these stats widely available is unclear.
The main reason I want to have this data is to measure the real benefit of impressions to your account. Google insist that there is a big branding benefit but without being able to measure it advertisers will remain reticent to invest in non-directly converting terms. If this data were readily available the incentive to invest in high cost generics would be significantly raised and accounts would evolve far beyond simply direct response.
The number of people taking short breaks in 2009 fell by 13%, according to ‘the Association of British Travel Agents’ (ABTA) Travel Trends Report 2009. With this in mind, iCrossing’s Research & Insight department decided to look at the search landscape for short breaks and related categories with a view to sizing the current market and seeing how it has changed.
To get a free copy of the full travel breaks research report please Email Us
/ Being visible for stag and hen breaks is an important opportunity for travel companies.
/ The most popular city destination for a short break is New York, followed by Paris, London, Amsterdam and Rome.
/ Shortest travel times win over cheapest or greenest options when planning a short break suggesting people want the most time in their destination.
/ Women are more likely to perform online holiday research than men.
/ Consumers are becoming smarter at searching online, preferring trusted branded searches to more generalized ones.
/ Handy hints and lists of things to do are more sought after than descriptive narratives about a place.
/ The five most visible websites for breaks related searches contain user generated reviews.
To get a free copy of the full travel breaks research report please Email Us
Things have changed since I studied marketing 10 years (eeek!) ago. I have been fortunate to get some great rounded experience from media, creative, social and digital agencies, as well as working client side, so I thought I would note down some of the new skills I think are necessary for marketing folk these days.
Doer and a thinker
Speaking from personal experience, as a planner I have always been more of a thinker than a doer but this no longer cuts the mustard and I find myself learning to code, learning web design and learning how to film and edit! Being able to express yourself and your ideas in visual design is no longer the remit just of the ‘creative dept’, in fact being creative is something we all need to embrace to some degree. And why? Because the content you are competing for attention with is produced more often than not by amateurs, and more often than not in a matter of days not months which is phenomenal. To truly understand what goes into that content production, what makes it relevant and what makes people comment on it or share it – you HAVE to just get your hands dirty and do it yourself.
You’ve spent the last 3 months pulling a detailed plan together. The project has gone through the ranks, been approved and the deals have been done. But the results are not as expected. Why? Because the research you did 6 months ago on which your plans were based is no longer relevant. A new player has entered the market, a negative buzz has been surrounding your brand unbeknown to you, or maybe the wind has changed and people’s tastes no longer favour what you have to offer.
Marketers today need to develop ideas and project in an agile way. They need to be willing and able to take new paths, gain constant feedback and respond to fast changing demands. All of this requires an ability to listen, track and understand the market. Which leads us neatly onto our next two skill requirements…
As the year draws to an end I’ve started thinking about where online is heading in 2011. Below I outline four areas I think will be important next year. Almost everything I’m going to talk about is already happening, therefore these are not predictions that may or may not happen but rather observations as to what is already happening and what you need to do to stay ahead of the game.
Visual: search is becoming more visual, images and creative now matter more than ever and website optimisation is no longer simply about getting the right words in the right places it’s also about getting the right pictures and creative message in the right place. Images are working their way into the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and you don’t need an eye tracking survey to know that an eye catching image will attract more attention than a text only link. We can see that in the above example the top 3 results are much more eye catching than result 4 which does not include an image.
I had the pleasure of attending a Google Think event last week, specifically for the entertainment & media market. The most memorable bit of the day for me was a panel discussion with three of the UK’s most successful You Tubers – charlieissocoollike, katers17 and nerimon. What I liked about these guys was their innate honesty about the nature of their ‘business’. As they talked, I scribbled, and here are some of their words framing some of the more ‘corporate’ points made in earlier presentations:
“I never thought I would make money out of this”
Will Page, Chief Economist at PRS spoke to us about the challenge of shifting and multiple business models in this digital world. As much as we hate change, the world has become more complex and the only option is to embrace the challenge and experiment with different models rather than seeking a new singular one. What makes this challenge all the harder however, particularly for entertainment and media brands, is they are competing for attention with people who don’t have the bottom line to contend with. Despite their novice innocence, the You Tubers grasped and put into play many of the new economic concepts that Will Page outlined such as Disintermediation, Visibility & Popularity. The one principle they didn’t seem to apply was that of Scarcity. Live events, pop up shops, limited time offers all part of this trend – I wonder how a vlogger could apply that principle for greater gain?
“It has to be relevant to my interests and my community”
Listening, daily, to what people liked and what people responded to was what shaped the You Tubers creative decisions, from what content to produce to whom to partner with or endorse. Relevance appeared often as a theme of the conference. 20th Century Fox talked about tailoring ideas or adjusting finished assets to the media environments or geographies they existed in. Google highlighted the brilliant Converse ‘spelling bee’ campaign which adjusted messaging to cultural events (i.e search terms) and Bruce Daisley, Head of You Tube, talked about skipable ads to ensure only those ads that are relevant are played and charged – ‘we’d rather people skipped it and no one pays’ was a refreshing approach. Ultimately it was about devoting time to insight and analytics and using this to inspire much more relevant ideas.
I also love this inherent protectiveness the You Tubers felt over their communities. EA also made a brilliant comment that “brands are only defined by their users, as they create and share… they’re part of your brand, its meaning, its purpose and its behaviour”. In this sense, community focus is a smarter mantra for brands these days rather than consumer focus.
- Connect – iCrossing U.K.
- Conecta2 – iCrossing LATAM & Spain
- Greatfinds – iCrossing U.S.
- Talblick – iCrossing Germany
- The Content Lab
Sign up for email notifications of Connect blog posts.
Other Blogs We Recommend
- Core Audience
- Forrester Blogs
- Google Plus Blog
- iMedia Connection
- Media Monkey
- Mobile, Social, Ambient by Rachel Pasqua
- Online Marketing Blog by Tristán Elósegui
- Search Engine Land
- The Content Lab
- The Facebook Blog
- The Official Google Blog
- Twitter Blog
- Wired Sussex
- WSJ Digits