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By now, most everyone has probably heard someone harping about the need for businesses to “tell their story” or “engage consumers with content” or “connect with customers on a personal level”. For over a decade, the mantra among marketers has been that Content Is King. Content is meant to attract and keep the attention of customers and potential customers. As the saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for; you might just get it.” Everyone jumped on the content bandwagon. Ad agencies, marketing firms, public relations firms, SEO firms and media vendors all rushed in to help. They all touted the need for “MORE CONTENT.” The goal was quantity. Tell stories. Share information.
Today, consumers are saturated – actually overwhelmed – by content. Social media has enabled and encouraged everyone to share information and tell stories. Methods of storytelling abound. Businesses are sharing more information. Experts are writing white papers. Industry leaders are putting out Forecasts. Charities are telling stories. Teenagers are chatting and tweeting and sharing pictures, videos and stories. Even religious leaders – who used to be confined to telling their stories from the pulpit – have joined the digital storytelling revolution. And the media — the original reporters of the world’s stories — now find themselves vying to be heard above the storytelling din. People are experiencing an onslaught of ‘content’ the likes of which has never before been experienced. The whole of humanity is busy creating content. It is a growing ocean of noise. Now what?
This is where the law of supply and demand kicks in. When there is a glut of supply in the market, then the value goes down. Whereas once upon a time quantity was the name of the game with content, going forward the focus is shifting toward quality over quantity. Welcome to the age of quality content.
Quality Content is King
In December 1995, just 16 million of the earth’s 6+ billion people were using the Internet (less than ½ of 1% of the world’s population). By 2007 (a decade ago), there were 1,245,000,000 using the Internet (18.9% of the world’s population). By September 2016, there were 3,675,000,000 using the Internet (50.1% of the world’s population). That number is surely expected to continue to grow. That’s a lot of people on the web, both consuming – but also creating — content.
According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, there were five exabytes of information created by all humankind between the birth of the world and 2003. Today, we – all of humanity — create five exabytes of over 1 billion. That represents a 33,000,000% increase in 20 years. And, today, there are roughly more than 1.2 billion videos uploaded to YouTube with people uploading about 500 hours of video to YouTube every minute. More than half of all YouTube views originate from cell phones and the site has more than 800 million unique views per month. It would take 60,000 consecutive days of 24/7 viewing (164+ years) for a person to see all of the content that already exists on YouTube alone, and that is only one of many, many social media sites and websites. The amount of content on the Web is mind-blowing.
Businesses are contributing to this volume of new content in a big way. To the extent that that information assists consumers or helps companies better relate to its customers, more of it is considered a good thing. Content is also really good for SEO. According to highly detailed research from serpIQ, the top 10 results from Google all have a minimum of at least 2,000 words. That’s because Googlebot, Google’s web crawler, looks at every piece of content on a page, such as words, titles and whatever other information shared. When a 1,500 word article is shared – instead of a 200 word post — there is more flexibility with keywords. It allows keywords that may not be specific, but are still relevant to the theme, to be included. This helps because Google doesn’t just provide exact results, but results that are related to the subject. Moreover, longer posts increase the chances of gaining quality backlinks. So for SEO reasons, longer articles and more content is still a good thing.
So can there be such a thing as too much content? Yes. It can reasonably be argued that too much content dilutes attention. Too much content distracts and confuses. In today’s fast paced world, people are too impatient to sift through loads of data to get what they want, and they would rather abandon their quest than undertake a painstaking search. But if Content is King and too much content confuses, what’s the solution?
In order to make an impact and be worthy of being heard/read/found, organizations need to not just tell stories, they need to tell great stories. They can’t just share lots of useless, repetitive or inane information. They will have to share valuable, useful and timely information. And all of this information will need to be clear… concise… and easy to consume. The new mantra will be Quality Content is King.
Here are some tips to help organizations ensure they are producing quality content, not just quantity content.
1. Focus on quality
It starts with value. Write information that is interesting. And, by interesting, we are talking about content that is interesting to the reader (not the company or the writer). Don’t develop content that is really just a sales pitch in disguise in the hopes of getting readers interested in what the company wants to sell. Instead, develop content that is of interest and has value to the audience about things in which the audience is already interested.
Then, chop out redundant, superfluous and otherwise boring information. It’s not about being artificially long or abruptly brief. Length isn’t what matters as much as the value of the information. If it takes 3200 words to communicate information, so be it. If the point can be made just as well in 1200 words, then take out the fluff. Do justice to the information in as few words as possible. It is fine to engage customers frequently as long as the information being shared is fresh, clear, concise and valuable.
2. In articles and blog posts, add Word Count / Read Time
If a business is posting an article, add a notation of the Word Count and Read Time. There is evidence that adding a Word Count and the Read Time will actually make people read the content more.
Case in point. Computer engineer Brian Cray added estimated reading times to the articles on his site. He then looked at the before-and-after metrics. He found that by adding the estimated reading time, he improved his overall ‘time on site’ by 13.8%. Even more impressive, people either followed him, subscribed to his blog and/or retweeted his articles 66.7% more often. Similarly, web developer David Michael Ross, a Read Time doubter, assumed that adding the estimated reading time to his 1,000+ word blog posts would drive people away from his blog. Instead, his overall bounce rate dropped 13% when he added each article’s Read Time.
(Incidentally, Monday Mornings with Madison is beginning the practice of adding the Word Count and Read Time to its posts going forward. We hope this helps our readers and KPIs too!)
3. Use photos or graphics to make a point or engage the audience
It’s been said that a picture paints a thousand words. So save the time writing a thousand more words and use an image, if possible. This is particularly helpful in communicating numerical data, stats, survey results and other quantifiable data. It is also helpful to connect with the audience in a visual, emotional way.
4. Use video to tell a story
Often, a video can engage the audience better than an article. That’s why people prefer to see a play in the theater than read a play. Anything that involves action is more impactful if the action can be seen. Keep in mind that while the tolerance for informal or amateur video is high when it is created by individuals for others, it is less so for companies. People expect video from companies to be polished, unless it is intentionally shooting to looking amateurish in a funny way. An animated cartoon to tell a story is fine if it’s for a toy store or an educational institution. Animation, however, can make a sophisticated business look less-than-professional. Each organization needs to consider the medium that will best match the brand. Also, note that Google rewards video as content even more than articles as content.
5. Write real content
There is nothing worse than a company or professional who takes the easy way out and copies – word for word, post-for-post, week-in-and-week-out – the content marketing of another company or individual. Copying the work of others just adds to the noise pollution. And it defeats the point of quality over quantity. Writing original content is not easy. It is not a strategy for the lazy or unimaginative. And it is definitely not a strategy for those who like to cut corners. Coming up with topics and writing clear, concise and engaging content on a regular basis is a challenge. Consider this before boarding the quality content marketing train.
Last point about quality. People might get tired of the noise and the chaff, but they never tire of quality content. People never tire of great stories or stop needing quality information.
Quote of the Week
“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.” Craig Davis, former Chief Creative Officer at J. Walter Thompson
© 2017, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.