Content is still king

Back in 1996 – before COVID, the GFC, 9.11 and the first Crows premiership – Microsoft’s Bill Gates wrote an essay entitled “Content is King”.

“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting. The broad opportunities for most companies involve supplying information or entertainment. No company is too small to participate,” Gates penned.

While marketers’ infatuation with content has ebbed and flowed during the last decade, a recent event has reinforced why, more than ever, content should be an important part of your marketing armoury in 2020 and beyond.

Providing the right answers

Type any search query into Google (Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, race riots in the USA, stock market results and there’s a good chance the top results will feature stories from news publishers.

Despite the pressure on News Limited, Fairfax, The Guardian, The New York Times, Fox or CNN to survive during these tough advertising times, they’re still the most trusted sources of information in the world.

Google search is all about providing the right answers, and reputable content from publishers means it is more likely to deliver the information users are looking for.

It works too. Each day, people trust Google with more than 3.5 billion searches (40,000 per second) and about a third of all product research starts with search.

To ensure Google is providing a quality service and results that are relevant, it has in place an algorithm which draws on a complex range of ‘signals’ – about 200 of them – to help it decide which results to display.

Content is one of those crucial factors in how Google determines search results.

Trouble is brewing

But the days of news sites dominating the top search results in Australia could be limited, with the Federal Government recently announcing its intention to force digital giants such as Google and Facebook to pay for news snippets they ‘borrow’ from publishers.

Australia isn’t the first country to go down this path. Both Germany and Spain, and more recently France, have attempted something similar in the last decade.

In Germany, Google reacted to the move by shutting down Google News and removing news snippets from search. This saw a massive drop in traffic for some news publishers, leading many to back down.

It was a similar story in Spain, where Google News was shut-down in response to a so called ‘Google Tax’, with severe impacts for Spanish publishers.

If the same happens here in Australia, where news results disappear or receive less prominence, there is potentially a big opportunity for businesses to fill a yawning information void in organic search results. As long as you have something useful to say.

Commit to quality content

Regardless of the outcome in the battle between Google and publishers, producing regular high-quality content, tailored to the needs of your customers, should become one of your marketing tactics in 2020.

But before you rush out and start adding to the noise, there are some important rules.

Rule #1: Have a purpose

Before you put pen to paper (or vision to screen), you need to be clear about your purpose. Content without strategy is like driving with a blindfold on. Define your goal (general customer awareness, increased website visits, deeper customer engagement), know how you’ll measure success, understand your audience’s information needs intimately and then plan editorial (stories, video, infographics) like a publisher would.

Rule #2: Focus on quality

The reason that content written by news publishers drives traffic is that it is shaped by professional editors, journalists, photographers and videographers, who know how to extract the right information, and present it in a way that is engaging. In other words, they can sniff out a story angle and deliver it in a way that makes it unmissable. Don’t fall into the trap of entrusting your content to a junior or generalist. Seek out an experienced professional.

Rule #3: The details count

It isn’t enough to only produce regular, quality content. When it comes to content that delivers value to your organic search ranking, the details count. Factors such as the length or your content, how it is displayed, its uniqueness, keywords and the relevance of its meta titles and descriptions are just a few things to consider.

Rule #4: Pair your content

Content alone isn’t going to drive you to the top of search results. It should form part of an ongoing search marketing strategy where you’re continually optimising for the signals that search algorithms draw upon. We know that search drives sales, so you need to feed the entire chain.

Rule #5: Keep it diverse

Not every consumer takes in information in the same way. Some like long form articles, others like video, an increasing number prefer on-the-go podcasts. Make sure you keep your content diverse and purpose driven. Understand why you’re doing it, and how your content can be of use to your target audiences, to establish which type of content is going to be most valuable.

There are no silver bullets to increasing your search ranking, but an investment in regular and consistent content will help you get closer to your customers, and over the long-term, it might just give you the edge when it comes to getting on the first page of Google.

Want to invest in a content and digital marketing strategy for your brand or organisation? We’d love to help! Send an email to our Business Development Manager, Paul Kitching, to get the ball rolling today.

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