By Kath Dawson, Creative Director, Strategy Internet Marketing
2013 has certainly been a turbulent year for search, content marketing and anyone involved in the business of creating quality digital traffic for their clients.
No-one can have failed to have felt the impact of Google algorithm changes; Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. These dramatic game-changers, whilst frustrating for many, systematically began the purge of poor quality, duplicate content, spamdexing, spammy links, the manipulation of guest blogs and forum posts, and off page spam. Social bookmarking spam and paid links were also targeted, and many SEO agencies fell foul of the new world of search, losing clients hand over fist as they slid down Google’s rankings.
Intelligent and responsive agencies on the other hand, thrived by embracing the challenge to produce quality, relevant and useful content which not only adhered to the new Google rules, but provided real value to the user. Those producing amusing, entertaining, concise and infinitely sharable content with the dual purpose of guiding users to a desired action like a purchase or recommendation were rewarded with quality traffic for their clients and excellent reputations within the industry.
With this shift away from traditional SEO and more focus on content marketing have come the inevitable naysayers who feel that content marketing is not new, an overused term, or is somehow inauthentic and a fad. Their sentiments may be understandable to some degree, particularly in the fast-paced world of digital, an industry which can completely transform overnight.
However as someone who has seen the results it can bring I firmly believe that in 2014 content marketing — and the crucial point of difference here is quality content marketing – is here to stay and thrive. There has been a noticeable shift in the way we consume information as humans, multi-screening, viral sharing and instantaneous news and opinion have shortened our attention spans and increased our expectations. We like content that is aesthetically pleasing, entertaining and imaginative, and will share, discuss and engage with anything that sparks the imagination or proves useful.
Great content marketing is aimed at the needs of identified buying personas. In exactly the same vein as the market segmentation traditional marketers employ to assess who their customers are and how they reach their purchasing decision, content marketers should consider each and every element of information their potential customer might need and provide it.
Building on the principles of psychology — as marketing and PR have done for years – in 2014 we will continue to see the most successful digital content designed with every whim, interest, question and preferences of well researched buying personas in mind. Through studying the behaviours and motivations of these personas a ‘personalisation’ of content will create a level of intelligence resulting in more interaction between users the content targeted at them.
Over the next year, digital marketers will work to develop even more engaging ways of presenting their clients’ common customer service queries and site search information, incorporating feedback from customers and site users as well as reviews of the business. By presenting useful information to target audiences in easily usable formats – which have different benefits at different stages of the conversion funnel – such as whitepapers, online tools, infographics and mobile apps, these items will become indispensable marketing tools.
The ‘new world’ of search and content presents myriad opportunities for businesses, not least of all the chance to create real brand affinity and differentiate themselves as a firm which has a true understanding of what makes it stand out, and where those factors cross over with what makes its customers tick.
In 2014 content marketers should continue to steer away from poor quality content like survey results hidden away in blogs or an isolated infographic, and focus on good quality, interrelated content in coordinated campaigns. We will certainly see firms invest more in content marketing specialists and services, focus on the ROI of content marketing, and social media and mobile will play an even bigger role in successful content marketing strategies. I have no doubt in my mind that 2014 will most certainly be a year in which content is king.
About the author
Kathryn Dawson, Creative Director, Strategy Internet Marketing
Kath Dawson – as well as being co-owner – heads up the creative team at Strategy Internet Marketing and has been instrumental in the company’s success. Through her work inspiring, developing and managing a talented team of creatives, writers and designers, it has grown to be the largest digital content agency in the South West.
Kath developed her first commercial website in 1997, and over the years has become highly skilled and experienced in integrated online marketing techniques particularly creative content, outreach, community development, search engine optimisation (SEO – in which she holds Advanced certification), conversion rate optimisation (CRO), usability and web analytics. Kath also offers SEO consultancy and will happily help anyone who wants to understand what SEO is all about – in plain English! She is also very active in the SEO community and keeps abreast of leading conferences (SMX, SearchLove, Mozcon) to ensure Strategy’s processes and procedures are at the cutting edge.