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by James Perrin on 14th February 2012
Last year I attended the 2011 Content Strategy Forum. Being a relative newbie to SEO and digital marketing, I was eager to learn and understand from speakers and attendees all about their experiences, and in what capacity they were involved in Content Marketing. I was amazed to learn that out of all the people in attendance, few were actually from SEO agencies – in fact I would even go as far to say that out of all the people there, I could have been one of the only SEO Copywriters. Whilst this seemed a little disheartening at the time, it was actually rather enlightening.
When it comes to content, there’s a whole host of people out there looking to strategise and manage their own website’s content or their client’s content. Whether this is on-site or off-site, the sky’s the limit in terms of what people are thinking of at present.In this sense, I’ve realised that for a Copywriter, there really isn’t a better time to be in work – if you’re creative and ambitious, not only can you feed the web’s appetite for content, but you can systematically help enhance your brand, delivering new and returning traffic, as well as conversions to anyone’s site.
When it comes to formulating a content strategy, there are those within the digital industry who look at more than just writing sticky content. Don’t get me wrong, this plays an important role in the overall user experience, but when pieced together with other factors, it can be used to devastating effect.
So what are these other factors? Well, for example, you have Information Architects who look at the art and science of organising websites, as explained by Martin Belam, a well known Information Architect for The Guardian.
It can’t even be said that Content Strategy is still in its infancy anymore, after all, Martin’s post was written two years ago. However, the way we have come to value content as well as the way it is structured and presented has really started to take shape. That’s where Information Architects earn their crust. They are able to take an existing website, audit it, move sections, add text, delete text, split test new designs and create a whole new website, that, as Martin says, “…isn’t just about functionality. It is about how people feel as they use a digital service, and about the way it does things, not just what it does.”
A recent example of an extensive redesign was the Daily Mirror site. Whilst I don’t actually read the paper or the online version myself, I can still appreciate when I see a decent website in terms of layout, especially for the User Experience. This is a much larger discipline in which Information Architecture fits, but nonetheless content and the way it is presented forms a huge part of any user’s experience.
As you can see from the above pictures, there is a marked difference to how the content is presented. Whilst I have no statistical evidence to show which site has been the more successful in terms of branding, traffic or conversions, the positive reaction to the update certainly points towards a brighter future. In any case, this is great example of all the various disciplines pulling in the same direction to achieve their goal – greater interaction with content.
To get back on topic, we can see from just on-page copywriting, that the need for good content forms an important part in the overall picture. Copywriting in this sense is more important than ever. To create well written content that drives behaviour is the Holy Grail – and this can be achieved with the aforementioned disciplines of User Experience Design and Information Architecture.
Anyone working in SEO knows that (at the risk of sounding like a broken record) content is king, and when it comes to off-page content, this can be a major influence on traffic. Guest blogging, press releases and the usual cavalcade of off-site hosting platforms provide opportunities for links and visibility. But why stop there? In the business of link building, content that is readily viewed, shared, liked, commented on, and linked to, will be of much greater value than pieces that never find an audience.
So what can a copywriter do? Well, to start with, find solutions to problems. This way you can tailor your content to the needs of someone who has actually posed a question or query. Forums, question and answer sites, information hubs are all crying out for content helping solve problems.
A word of caution here though; responses should always be accurate, so make sure it is within your area of expertise, or do your research to ensure you speak with authority. If you respond with something that offers no answer or clear insight to the question or query at hand then your content won’t be as valuable as it could have been. Yet this is small fry compared to the other off-page content ideas at your disposal. There really is no end to the possibilities when it comes to content production, it needs to be read, liked and shared. Going viral ensures that your efforts are rewarded with mass-exposure and a deluge of links.
At Koozai, we have really stepped up our efforts when it comes to content marketing to make it a lot more shareable. After brainstorming topic ideas for clients we will then research the most relevant and searched for ideas using keyword research and analytics. For the content to become sharable, we ensure the prose is appropriate and relevant, but also take advantage of multimedia. Where appropriate we will include unique images and pictures, as well as embed videos, all to enhance the value of the hub, lens, article or blog post we are writing. Thanks to sites like Pinterest, the inclusion of unique and original images is stronger than ever.
Attention has also turned to guest posting. Whilst this has been around for years, and used by many within SEO to generate strong inbound links, it wasn’t until after attending the CS forum 2011 that I realised just how powerful this could be for clients too. After hearing a talk given by Charlie Peverett on Content Strategy for the Social Web, my key takeaway was that if you build it, they won’t always come. Why spend hours and hours creating amazing content if this is going to be distributed to an article or hub site which won’t rank that well? It’ll get lost in the ether, never to be read by a single set of eyes. Whilst this is okay for a link, your time spent on writing it doesn’t justify where it ends up, so make sure you write something for where the eyes will be – and guest posting presents copywriters with a perfect opportunity to get our content seen.
In the age of a social web where social signals now play a role in rankings, it’s imperative that our content gets liked, +1′d, tweeted, stumbled, pinned…you get the idea. But also, in the age of Content Marketing, the time is now, especially for brands, to create content that will not only inform or entertain, but actually shape people’s conversations further enhancing their brand value. Here I must mention a post I read recently from Tom Critchlow of Distilled which featured some fascinating videos of Coca-Cola’s 2020 Content Strategy, called The Time For Content Marketing Is Now. This is where copywriters can also help with strategic branding through the art of storytelling and writing compelling ‘liquid’ copy.
The time for copywriting has never been better
The decisions we make as copywriters are fuelled by SEO, but we shouldn’t just stop there – we have the Information Architects and User Experience Designers, as well as the Content Marketing and Strategic Branding to think of as well. In Tom’s post he starts by explaining he wants to bridge the gap between the two worlds of SEO and Content Marketing – and I couldn’t agree more.
I started my post telling you of my time at the Content Strategy Forum 2011, where I’m pretty sure I was one of few SEO Copywriters in attendance – it was enlightening for two reasons. Not only could I could see that the worlds of SEO and Content Marketing need bridging, as Tom has pointed out, but also the opportunities right now for a copywriter are truly remarkable.