Are You Ready for the Game of Thrones Content Marketing Zombie Horde Attack?

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Many a time I have listened to the moaning and wailing of the Ben Sherman attired SEO, about the overuse of infographics and that they don’t work anyway and that if only the new Content Marketing Manager had said yes to his 500 blog domain network over multiple “C” class ip numbers, we would have no need of the hipster design freaks and their bean bagged offices.

And of course they were right to complain, but the mistake they make is in thinking they are the audience. But there is something far more psychologically painful coming to the grumpy – bitcoin rig under his bed – SEO type, and this time it’s real.

Winter is coming.

You know what I’m talking about right?

To be honest, if you are a fan of Game of Thrones, people like me are probably going to ruin it for you. Not by revealing the list of people who will die this series – as a teacher in Holland did to his class to get them to shut up – no, we are not evil. But by unleashing a wave of content marketing that has been unseen in the Kingdom of Westeros since the dark age of the Dragons….. Sorry about that, got a tad carried away, I meant since ever.

You see, the corporate marketing depts are now infested with marketing types in their early 20′s, you know the sort, the kind that constantly witter on, “like yeah, cool, no worries”, and have a slight twitch coming from being always worried that their 1970′s retro, manbag is going to get pinched.

But they get content marketing, they grew up with it. They lived on Tumblr – before runined by Yahoo, had their first sexual experience with an avatar, think high speed broadband is a human right (actually I agree with this one). They are the ones that have been weaned on Buzzfeed/Huffpo headlines during their formative years. They love content that extends the narrative of the show, like, Game of Thrones – Get the Skills.

Of course, this does not mean they can implement/action/get things done, all you have to do to this generation is show them a shiny ball, throw it and say “go fetch ball”. It only occupies them for a few minutes, but by then they have forgotten what they were doing and are now busy downloading Prisoner Cell Block H, using Pirate Bay through a Romanian proxy, whilst at work.

But these are not the people I was at first referring too, the ones who are going to ruin GOT for you. No, it’s the herders of the 20 somethings, the wranglers of the Millennials, these are people who can squeeze commercially viable output from these “information is free”, Spongebob Squarepants for Student Union President, types. Using a blend of psychology, foosball, and sugar addiction.

Understanding this crowd is probably more important that understanding your customer, as these are the trend setters, the leaders of the pack – apparently Seth Godin keeps one of them in a cage under his desk, helping him keep it fresh.

Once directed, this tribe will go and create industrial scale content for the Walking Dead commuters to consume on their smartphones whilst trying to ignore the body odour of the cycling nazi who is crammed up against them in a crowded train coming into Waterloo.

At first it will amuse and for those it will be aimed at – those who link – it will be fun. But for the rest of us we shall soon tire of the “20 Killer ‘Game of Thrones’ Items on Etsy” type content shoveled at us by the likes of Mashable. (nice find btw, Laura Vitto, and of course the Ben Sherman, shirt wearing SEO will be moaning of Twitter again, whilst setting up secret Facebook groups to mutter about Rand Fishkin.

I’m thinking the content threshold will be met before the season actually starts, the amount of link and Google juice squeezed from these low handing fruit will be more even than the juice coming from Matt Cutt’s plums.

Should you hop on the bandwagon, and pump out some “10 Reasons no one flosses in Game of Thrones”, type content, for your online plumbing supplies website? Probably not, you are competing against a tidal wave of content, vomited forth by zombie plague of those who eat, drink and avoid sex for this kind of stuff.

Like I said.

Winter is coming.

Why you should build content that lasts 7 years

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Just a quick one, as I have a ton of work to do today.

Recently someone contacted me, noticed one of my old posts, Beginners guide to SEO links would benefit from having a link pointed to content that had just created. I had created it seven years ago and it still gets traffic, although most of the information was applicable to that time, which makes a link proposition to update it attractive.

I checked out the content asking for the link and found it was top notch, something that people who read this blog would benefit from.

So I gave them a link.

The email wasn’t fancy, but was polite and to the point.

Is link building that easy?

Well, no because first you have to invest a lot of time into content, then you have to build a contact list and then you have to catch the target at the right time. I read the email 6 days ago but as I am catching up with a lot of work left it till now. And that’s the thing, the people you contact have real lives going on and it’s really just a case of numbers and …. well you know the rest.

This kind of link building is hard, at least I have always found it hard, because it’s a bit of a grind. Wins results though.

I am always willing to link out to people who offer something of value to my readers. That is what keeps the web interesting.

Getty allows Websites to use their photo images for free

The bosses at Getty had a meeting.

And decided that too many of these geeky, internet types

were using their images without attribution.

So they put their boffins to work

And they came up with the idea of using the “iframe” tag, just like Youtube videos.

Now that’s interesting, and a lot of fun.

Because we can create better content and more interesting websites, in exchange for giving exposure to the Photo agency.

Of course the photographer may lose out, but just as the music business has had to adapt to the changing landscape, so must photo libraries.

Read more about it on the BBC

Why Does Buzzfeed Content Work so well?

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A recent Buzzfeed content piece has proved great success in getting social signals and links, Which ’90s Alt-Rock Grrrl Are You?

969,000 likes on FB and counting.

Yes, any mediocre content on Buzzfeed is going to get more action that brilliant content on a mediocre website. But the huge numbers here represent that the content is brilliant.

Buzzfeed has made it’s name in the field of brilliant “pop culture” content. It doesn’t always produce good stuff, but you don’t have to if you regularly knock it out of the field.

So what makes this work?

The celebs chosen are not current and even when at their height were not considered mainstream.

They represent what I like to call a “small footprint, but high impact theme”. They may not have Global reach but the people who grew up with these artists have them deeply imprinted on their psyche.

The “personality quiz” technique, has been used for years in teen and womens’ magazines and is an old staple. It requires little focused attention, is done in minutes and provides something to have a conversation about.

People need something to talk about to fill the empty void, but lets not get too existential right now.

The fact that this content requires you to only make 7 clicks, where you probably don’t even read all the options and give it considered though adds to the genius of this content. As it’s instinctual, it’s possible that it’s more accurate.

You don’t have to think too hard to engage with this content, it leads you through what you have to do simply, and clearly.

It’s easy to be critical of such content if you are an intellectual snob, but if you want mass results, you have to go after a mass, populist theme and present it in a way that engages and doesn’t require too much attention and thought.

Try to Watch a Bon Jovi video without thinking of Spinal Tap

For me, Living on a Prayer is the, Bon Jovi song.



When creating content you have to be aware of cultural connotation

A connotation is frequently described as either positive or negative, with regards to its pleasing or displeasing emotional connection

Some people will have not watched Spinal tap, and some may not have even heard of it. Which means the headline above will be lost on them. They will also not get the reference from the BBC iPlayer, which goes to 11 on their volume scale.



It’s important to be aware that some will not only have a different emotional connection to the stuff you are putting out, but also will not even know anything about the stuff you are putting out.

Most get away with this by simply running with their own tribe and thus they share the same cultural capital as talked about by the French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu. Note: It is a proven fact if you quote a French Sociologist, you will seem more intelligent than you actually are.

If you are creating content for others, and for tribes that you are not a member of, you need to aware that the reader may not know what you are talking about. This is why most blog content is very shallow and broad in tone.

The headline above will resonate most with those whose formative years were in the 80′s, and by definition represent a distinct target group, ie those with, Mortgage, kids leaving home, divorce, overweight, etc. This of course is a generalised list but represents high probability.

So, think twice about creating content that refers to the second verse in “Love will tear us apart”, by Joy Division, if you are marketing to 18 year olds in Midwest America.



The Joy Division video balances the Bon Jovi video just right.

Massive links or Tribe Building

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Wow, 2013 is finally done and dusted.

No, you wont get a round up of best posts of 2013, this is not what this blog is about and others do it way better.

As I sit at my desk with crystal blue, Cornish skies out of my window, I clear the inbox of client emails and consider what will 2014 will bring.

It used to be, one massive link from a website which Google deems as an authority was all you needed to kill it in the ranking pages. Linkbait, infographics, etc. all did that.

And that was great.

But now, things have changed. To get links these days, it’s better to forget about link building.

Manipulative link building, (if you want to fluff it up by calling it something like Inbound Marketing, content marketing etc. knock yourself out) has been negated. But it’s not dead, and SEO is not dead yet.

But link building has gone from the rabid wolf to the one legged coyote

Lots of people in the industry have hitched their wagon to a specific aspect of website marketing and will defend their territory when challenged, even with only one leg the Coyote is a animal to be weary of. This is why the industry is slow to change, although compared to any other industry it turns on a dime.

Google has changed things, they always do. They are like that.

It’s the animal that can change and adapt which will survive, not the one who can say, “look at my great kills of 2013″

Past performance is not an indicator of future success

The Cheetah is a fantastic killing machine, honed by evolution to perform one method very well, wait for the weakest, go fast and kill. But it’s the Coyote that thrives, who adapts, who looks at what is happening around it and changes tactics.

This is what you have to do to survive in 2014.

I am going to go out on a limb here and state that I don’t think manipulative link building is going to have the same effect as it once had. We are already seeing this happening. You probably don’t consider it “manipulative link building” and may even still believe in Santa. (thankfully my kids don’t yet read this blog, sshhhhh)

Are links still important, yes they are. But you have to respect Google for being the biggest cat in the jungle and if you annoy it, it will eat you turn you into fertilizer for the weeds.

Link acquisition should still be part of the strategic plan, but it certainly should not lead or be your only tactic.

What is becoming more clear is that tribe building is becoming more and more crucial, I have talked about this way back in 2007 and it was clear even then that this is the way to go.

Building a tribe is why you should create great content, of course links are important but people are more importent. They are they who make up your tribe, and it’s wise to consider what it is your tribe wants, do they want Game of Thrones content? Do they want you to help them save time, make money or get laid?

It’s the tribe you are the servant of, not the bot.
And don’t think your interests are more worthy than the tribe, if they want Kim Kardashian’s ass, then I am afraid you have to give it to them.

Yes, there will be outliers who kill it with links and end up on a sun drenched beach drinking a cooled beverage. But it’s not a business that can be replicated by most people.

This year is also going to be about publishing to the tribe. and giving them giving them what they want.

To Get Links you need to Forget about Link Building

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I have been building websites and getting people to go to them since 1998. Doing it for such a long time does not always make you a better link builder, but it does give you a long view. It allows you to note that the current changes in the building of links to increase search engine rankings is just one more change in an constantly changing landscape.

The cost or value of links has changed too, experts would usually quote an average link on an average website, giving an average amount of Google juice would cost around $100 – $150. These would be links that would pass the “natural” test. You would need a few hundred of these links for the average niche to rank and get a decent ROI.

But what has happened is a whole level of the SEO industry has been eviscerated. These are SEOs who would rely on a fixed cost for link getting and could quite easily plan it out with blog network buys, industrial guest posting, web 2.0 articles, plus many more techniques that are available on black hat market sites.

Some of it still goes on of course and still works if you don’t abuse it.

Current link building best practice is more akin to PR than it is to SEO. The ironic thing is that the traditional PR agencies are still quite poor in achieving an effective ROI. This is because power has shifted from those slick smooth talking PR types to the passionate, creative, online digital publisher, or what we would call the Blogger.

Pick a jargon phrase and run with it – conversation marketing – inbound marketing – relationship marketing – content marketing – and so on. These phrases have a high copulation rate and so if you don’t like one another will be along shortly. If you employ a digital agency or find yourself on a self styled “guru’s” website, they will be using these types of terms and explaining how you need to buy their book that will reveal all.

But the reality is, the way you link build is actually quite ancient. It’s called “Publishing”. You create an idea, make it physical (ok digital but lets not distracted by semantics) by using a medium such as a blog post and then you share that idea with other people who react, hopefully in the way you desire.

It’s not about “build it and they will come”, publishing includes marketing, advertising, means of production, delivery etc.

To get links you need to be a publisher, you need to publish. Anything else is mechanics, the way or form in which you publish.

Effective publishing involves knowing the audience, achieving an effective ROI, developing relationships with those who consume the published material.

This is where effective link building resides right now. It could be argued that it has always resided in the concept of publishing (and as we know from Reddit pretty much anything can be argued).

Where does that leave you if you want and need links? You are probably not a publisher but sell something like, plumbing supplies online.

You simply have to build an efficient, effective publishing machine. This can be a one man band or a huge army of workers to build out a magnetic for links.

Your effort will have more effect if it is consistent, rather than a few linkbaits here and there.

Go get published and go get links.

Feed the viewer of your content as if it were a Velociraptor

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When creating content you should always serve the meat first and then let the viewer gnaw on the bones after, if they so desire.

My thinking when it comes to this stuff is to put the meat above the fold and then allow the detail to be revealed to those who wish to scroll. This rewards the hit and run viewer who simply wants the meat and then to share it, and the viewer who likes to spend more time and dig down to rich detail and then share.

When you have made the massive effort of tempting the ravenous viewer to your page, to feast on your tasty content, don’t make them work for it.

Feed them Seymore

Don’t make them have to think. Viewers when asked may like to pretend they like classics like Dostoyevsky, but John Grisham always sells more. Don’t make them have to scroll further to get to the meat because even if the meat is the tastiest in the world, the viewer will probably give up before they get to the end..

The importance of having the meat above the fold is huge, as most people will even give great stuff a cursory glance. Content has to impact fast and smash it in the viewers face. The detail, the complexity and the “take the viewer on a journey”, comes after that and rewards those who stick around and want a deeper narrative.

It is tricky because when we create something we have been taught to take the viewer on a journey, this thinking developed for magazines and books, when the viewer had little distraction or need to quickly move on, as they had bought the book/magazine and intend to read as much as possible.

Same doesn’t apply to web content.

I see the modern web browser as a starving Velociraptor. They are not too concerned with the complex flavours or that hint of truffle oil.

They want meat and they want it now.

My solution is to radically change your layout so that the meat is always served first, and then as the blood drips from the Velociraptor’s teeth, let them gnaw on the bones of the detail.

The aim is to create art that satisfies the hunger on viewing and then allows for further investigation and confirmation that the content is worthy of a social signal or a link.

This thinking underlies my philosophy when I consult with clients on content that gets shared.

I hope my thoughts on this helps.

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How to Compete with Kim Kardashian's Ass

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The competition for your website content is not only content from other websites in the same niche.

You are also competing with:

  • Buzzfeed.com
  • Netflix
  • Twitter
  • Angry Birds
  • Facebook
  • World of Warcraft
  • Email
  • Lunch
  • Plants Vs Zombies
  • Huffingtonpost.com
  • and last but not least, Kim Kardashian’s Ass

The point is, don’t just think about the very small space that is your target website niche. Any niche is small compared to all the content that people are bombarded daily with and all this content is competing for the attention of your target. More content than a target may be interested in is being produced each day, this is what you are competing with when creating content.

When I was growing up – it was not that different to this Hovis advert – we had three TV channels to choose from, and to buy a newspaper, book or magazine you actually had to go outside and visit the shop, facing the problems of actually having to interact with people.

Effort and energy on the part of the reader had to be expended to be exposed to the content they wanted, this may have meant having to be in front of the TV at a specific time, or walk into town to buy the latest 2000AD.

Content creators back then (were not called “content creators”) had a lot less to compete with. The effort of publishing and actually getting the content in front of your target in the form of a magazine or TV program was usually enough. You didn’t really need to think about marketing that content like you do now, because the barrier to shipping was huge.

Now the barrier to shipping is a few mouse clicks.

To get traffic to a website you simply need to curate a blog post around Kim Kardashian’s Ass. Not that I am recommending that, but I want to highlight how easy it is to create content that people will be interested in and that TV, Tablets, Movies, etc. are also competing for the attention of your target.

90% of your content is useless. I make this claim after years of looking at clients and prospective clients websites and being asked to provide content marketing consultation. Most content is created by dead eyed copywriters, chained to the desk between 9 – 5, who care little about the words flowing from their keyboard and more about hitting the required word count.

Most content is without:

Passion
Usefulness

Most content does not have a chance, even if you only compare it with the daily output within that particular website’s niche, let alone competing with all the other great content attracting your target audience.

Beware those who say, “content is king”. They just don’t understand the space.

That was great in a time where Kings were rare, nowadays the Kings outnumber the peasants.

The solution is to have a Content Marketing Strategy.

It’s a fancy term isn’t it, one that is designed to wow and impress. What it means is that all your content shares one specific aim, which is tied up with your business model, your brand strategy and all sorts of other management speak guff. It’s something that goes down to the bones of what your business is about.

I know this kind of stuff is hard for a lot of website owners and business people to get their head around, I go through this each time I consult with clients on this matter.

It’s all about the Strategic Plan and using a combined forces mentality to build a machine that will compete with the posterior of any reality TV show star.

In a future post I will detail what a strategic content plan should look like.

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