Richard Whittle, head of content and media, iProspect
Richard Whittle, head of content and media, iProspect
A view from Richard Whittle

Think BR: Now is the winter of our content

Not all content is king. A lot of it is just content - bytes and bytes of it, writes Richard Whittle, head of content and media, iProspect.

The estimated indexed web contains at least 8.09 billion pages of content - is all of this content king? I don’t think so.

The fact is we live in a content saturated world. We are not economical with it because it’s easy for everyone to make and publish it, all day, everyday - it comes like a flood of electronic slurry.

The first thing to do is to try to understand what the word content actually means. Is it daily news feeds or is it a fat kid dancing? You have to measure it and you can’t use the metrics we normally would use in SEO.

There is no hierarchy of taste or aesthetic in web content - there is only engagement, which can be measured mainly through social interaction and dwell time.  

We are a digital performance agency, sitting where data and technology converge, so it might seem odd to some that we are entering the content creation space. But, at a time when Google has been sifting through the spam, the importance of quality content is greaterthan ever.

Matt Cutts, Google’s spam chief, commented recently that: "All those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, ‘over optimization’ or ‘overly’ doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little bit more level."

The search engine is now capable of seeing content as being of varying quality, depending on page authority, social citation and even quality of the written language.

Since the Panda and Penguin updates, the quality and value of content has become ever more important on the web, and it’s been a life-changing development for people working in natural search.

At iProspect the mission statement of our Content & Media Team is that our content should be well-researched and expertly produced material (copy, graphics, video). To achieve real cut-through, this should be placed strategically to drive positive online engagement with a target audience. 

Driving social citations, traffic, links and leads will increase rankings and engagement, although when I read that to aclient the other day, she reminded me that in essence, that just means "cool stuff that gets shared".

There’s no fail safe process for creating content that will 'go viral’ yet remain true to a brand’s identity. Agencies must learn what your brand stands for, listen to your audience and what they are saying about your brand, create content that is relevant to what people are saying, and place it in front of the people who will care about it.

It’s important to build a detailed brief and style guide working closely with the client to understand their requirement as well as producing gold standard pieces of benchmark content.

In many instances we not only create content platforms, we also seed this material online. In order to guarantee maximum engagement, good content must be placed in the most fertile environment.

We see relationships with journalists, publishers and bloggers as an important link in this process and understanding the balance between a brand and a publisher’s tone of voice is massively important.

Working in a performance environment, it’s no use making content for clients unless we can show how successful it is: in my experience building or even refreshing a client’s content strategy, both on and off site, can result in hugely improved traffic and engagement figures.

Recent content projects we have implement have delivered web rankings for virtually all destination keywords improved by several pages, in most cases to page one, and traffic to key destination pages also increased by up to 221.8%.

With impacts like these, content will be king for a long time to come. My experience shows the importance of maintaining a clear but flexible content production model, and constantly cultivating those key relationships with writers, bloggers, and journalists.

With these fundamentals already in place, we can move straight to our particular clients’ needs, rather than reinventing the wheel for each new client. In this way high quality content can be delivered at speed, and those strong impacts on web ranking can be replicated as a matter of course.

In the old world of advertising and media, this would be close to finding the holy grail - making good value, quality advertising content delivered on a conveyor belt. We haven’t quite re-invented the model just yet but we are making steps towards it.

Richard Whittle, head of content and media, iProspect