Content Sourcing, the New SEO

laptop-newspaper“Content sourcing” means creating channeled mechanisms to facilitate the output of predictable and valuable recurrent content.  Out of all the challenges companies face as they embark on advertising, PR, and marketing online jihads, the need to source content creation is ubiquitous. This post examines the content sourcing riddle and offers tips to begin the flow.

It’s Not Really New.
Realistically speaking, every channel ever used to disseminate marketing and branding rhetoric has always been dependent on content creation. However, consistent output of worthy content has become more crucial now that search engines rank pages based on relevance of written words, quality and count of inbound links, bookmarked pages, buzz in social communities, and bookmarked RSS feeds.

Set-it-and-forget-it static brochure sites will always have their place in the website constellation, but ultimately the ability to generate site traffic and quality inbound links is dictated by the supply and demand of useful information. Actually it makes sense that search engines assign “value” and “relevance” to websites that publish a steady stream of useful content.  If there is nothing new on your website than there are fewer benefits for visitors who return or for others to discover and link to your site after repeated visits.

Whether one refers to the evolution of organic optimization strategies and link building tactics as “New SEO,” “Web 2.0, ” social media, or any other catch phrase-at the end of the day successful website marketing comes down to creating valuable, predictable, and intentionally optimized content that people like and utilize.
Everyone’s Got the Same Question.

Yesterday I visited with 4 unique Minneapolis clients to check in on their projects (another classic 15 hour AIMCLEAR day). A significant percentage of each appointment included confronting the classic chicken-and-egg-like conundrum of exactly where content should ideally originate. We counsel our clients to do whatever it takes to generate a consistent flow of valuable content to publish on their websites. Whether the content management platform is a blog , virtual press room, updates to site pages, a podcast feed, email campaigns, optimized press releases, or social media campaigns, we want our clients to publish early and often. (Read Lee Odin’s post on sourcing corporate blog content.)

The puzzle for most companies is justifying the allocation of human resources to seed and maintain the process. Creating content is extremely labor intensive. Simple economics dictate that, initially at least, spending an employee’s time and energy on writing every-day content is hard to justify financially. Profit gained from content is measurable but takes time to root and propagate. Usually there’s plenty for everyone to do already!  We tell our clients that the allocation of these resources should be considered an essential part of a marketing budget and is as important as design, paid advertising, and other traditional budget expenditures. In fact we believe these days our clients can’t afford not to develop deep content sourcing initiatives for Internet marketing.

Content Warfare
Online content refers to web pages, feeds, email, and other elements which typically include, text, graphics, podcasts, videos, links, file downloads, and any other beneficial material which adds value to the end-user’s experience. I also consider the creation of text SEO attributes like meta description, title and technorati tags, etc… part of the content creation process. This creative work needs to come from somewhere. The irony is that often there are multiple stakeholders in a website’s content who have conflicting (and reasonable) interests regarding what appears on the site.  These interested parties scream “do my content now” but don’t have time to help create it. Corporate factions typically include PR, brand-at-any-cost-monsters, IT departments, sales personnel, customer support, advertising agencies, and others.

Content Creation Tips
Here are some tips for beginning and maintaining the flow of content for online publication:
1 Leadership is key. As with any business initiative it’s easier to get things done from the top down. Key executives with decision making authority need to buy-in to the long term vision and value of recurrent content, make it a priority, and spend money on it. We see too many companies willing to invest obscene amounts of money on initiatives that overbuild brand, past what’s necessary, and seriously short change content creation.

2 Identity all the stake holders in content and assign a player from each department a daily, weekly, or monthly quota for content creation. Brainstorm content categories, subcategories, and titles and include them on a written schedule. Gain buy-in from all the players. Communicate the long term objective and value in content creation.

3 Set a global calendar for content creation and assign an employee as content traffic manager who is responsible for delivering content to the technical team that publishes your website. Hold players accountable. Give the traffic manager procedural authority for holding the players accountable. One company’s content traffic manager I work with sends reminder emails 5 days, 3 days, 1 day, and 4 hours prior to when someone has content due.

4 It won’t help if the content sucks. Look to those key corporate team personnel that provide the most value to your customers as you source content. It stands to reason that your most valuable resources also have the most to offer your audience. If these key team members are too busy to write, assign some of their more pedestrian daily busy-work tasks to clerical help to free up time. It’s that important.

5 Measure and track your website’s key performance indicators with advanced analytics in order to directly associate site content with sales. Nothing makes a business owner happier than initiatives which clearly translate into measurable profit. Share the performance metrics with all players. Commitment breads success. Success reinforces commitment.

6 Just do it. Making a systemic commitment to sourcing content is sort of like having a baby. There’s never a perfect time.

7 Stay realistic in expectations. Profit from content is a long term investment which grows steadily over time.

8 If you are a one person shop, start writing now!

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