This is a quick post with some key takeaways from one of Econsultancy’s smaller conferences, Digital Shorts.

The theme of the day was content marketing, a hot topic and a phrase that ‘isn’t as well defined in the U.K. as it is in the U.S.’ according to Econsultancy guest blogger Kevin Gibbons, UK MD of BlueGlass.

Kevin’s background is SEO, and he offered the English and Spanish soccer teams as analogies for the way SEO is changing. New tactics are less direct, more forward-thinking.

SEO is changing

The importance of content marketing can be succinctly demonstrated with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines which tell us to ‘Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single-most important thing to do’.

Kevin gave TripAdvisor as an example; a site that gets lots more traffic than, for example, Expedia and TravelSupermarket; traffic from over two million keywords.

TripAdvisor has so much content that it makes heavy use of ‘long tail’ search terms (destinations, hotels, tours, there are lots of pages on a broad range of topics).

Google’s Panda update benefitted sites that are content heavy, and one of the goals for any website must be to find favour with Google’s algorithm as it stands. Again looking at content for its benefit to SEO, Kevin compared OkCupid to

OkCupid can’t compete on paid search spend, but it does create engaging content such as opinion pieces about dating/looking for love. This approach gets OkCupid short-term and longer term success, builds their reputation (through inbound links) and allows them to compete in search on even the most competitive terms.

Agent Rank and the increasing importance of authorship

Kevin discussed the nature of authorship and Google’s potential changes to its algorithm, with the filing of the Agent Rank patent (or Google Plus as an identity service or digital signature) in August of 2011.

Important authors writing from less authoritative sites will likely give ‘juicier’ links than lesser or anonymous authors on authoritative sites.

So, topical authority will become important, and it will be beneficial to hire authors rather than copywriters. To that end, try tools such as Google+ ripples, followerwonk, journalisted and jobs.probloggers.

Visit Wales and the integration of content

Jon Munro runs Cinch, a digital and marketing communications consultancy that has been embedded at Visit Wales since 2008. Jon told a story of content gradually becoming the wider context in which not just SEO, social media, PR, PPC and UX sit, but also strategy and data. True integration relies on the all-pervasion of content.

In tourism, selling approximations of places, Jon told us that content is all we’ve ever had. Michelin, a tyre company, recognised this and started a new business model with what was essentially content marketing – maps and tourist guides.

The modern-day equivalent is perhaps Red Bull, a brand that is hitting the heights of what content marketing and integration can do.

Visit Wales set out to deliver an extra £150 million of value by increasing awareness, reputation and advocacy in an attempt to persuade people who wouldn’t normally visit Wales to do so. Tourist boards such as Cape Town have utilised social media to great effect, but best results come when the strategy supports a great idea. Jon cited Queensland tourist board and their ‘best job in the world’ campaign, which advertised the job of caretaker of Hamilton Island, and generated eight million unique visitors that spent an average of eight minutes on site.

Paid media as turbo

The use of paid media, to boost your always-on content building worked well for Visit Wales, based around a content calendar. As an example, they decided to target romantic breaks and holidays through non-brand keywords. Around a year ago, nothing was doing, search-wise, for Visit Wales and these types of keyphrases.

So Visit Wales built a new section of their site about romantic breaks, got users involved e.g. using Facebook to ask of them their favourite romantic spots in Wales. They developed this credible content on their own site, and also placed it with suitable partners (e.g. Mr and Mrs Smith, a luxury hotel specialist). Over six to nine months positions in SERPs improved for romantic break keyphrases and their share of traffic increased.

Brand and non-brand traffic were converging on the same volumes.

Visit Wales also set out to hit one of those great ideas and run with it. Creating the ‘we want Piers Bramhall’ campaign, they asked advocates to try to persuade one chap from London to come and live in Wales. They did this though video invites, of which 196 were created by advocates. This led to 19,000 Facebook fans, 128,000 requested views of content and 11,500 subscribers.

The take-home points were:

  • Develop themes in line with the brand story you are trying to sell.
  • Deliver the themes across multiple channels. Use paid media to amplify your efforts.
  • Commit budget with clear objectives behind it. A percentage of your budget should be used to take calculated risks.
  • The relationships between internal and agency teams must be good. Create an environment for this to happen.

Curation is quicker and cheaper

Nick Watt, partner at business futures practice, Atmosphere, started with a definite view that the real problem is an excess of content. The consumer is crying out for effective curation.

There are great examples of brands creating their own content, e.g. Johnson’s Babycentre and Coca Cola’s recent change in strategy to content excellence, but for the smaller business, this is perhaps unattainable. Enter curation as a valuable, quicker and cheaper alternative.

Content aggregation (RSS feeds with way too many unread articles) is now evolving into content curation.

Tools such as, Flipboard, Zite,, Storify and Pearltrees can be used for content curation. Penguin books are using Storify very nicely to curate content (including their own).

Of course, one of the biggies for visual content curation is Pinterest, and brands are getting involved. GAP is a good example.


Whether curating or creating content, social media has obvious rewards when it comes to short term gains in PR and brand reputation, if not (as Kevin Gibbons posited) any immediate search gains. But social media carries inherent risk, and Katie King, MD of Zoodikers spoke about legal considerations with social media.

There are few boundaries in the world of social media, and Katie termed the summer of 2012 a ‘summer of (dis)content’, with high profile victims of trolling such as Tom Daley and Rebecca Adlington during the Olympics.

Fear of the nature of Twitter has led people such as Alec Baldwin, Charlie Sheen and Sally Bercow to leave the platform, for varying reasons.

Over the past month, the Lord McAlpine false allegations led to what has been termed a watershed moment in media use. Katie showed a clip from the Daily Politics show making the point that users have been unaware that they are in fact broadcasting, and not simply sharing content with their friends and followers.

For consumers and organisations alike, Katie summed up the different types of social media usage that can land any user in trouble with the law, and there are a lot of them – using Twitter as an example – from defamatory tweets to harassing, malicious and menacing tweets to deceptive or impersonating tweets to threatening or revealing tweets, to copied and branded tweets.

Organisations need to take a few steps to mitigate risk:

  • Social media policy and training.
  • Monitoring of social content.
  • Appropriate web filtering.
  • Cleaning up incidents.
  • Crisis communications strategy.

This may be an area that needs further clarification as brands continue to lean on their communities via social networks to help co-create and co-curate content.