Graeme Somerville-Ryan
Jun 24, 2014

Panda beats Hello Kitty… with content

It's a Google bloodbath out there for cute but empty branded content. Graeme Somerville-Ryan explains why the search giant's Panda 4.0 search algorithm spells the end of content devoid of substance.

Somerville-Ryan: "Content marketing falls into two camps: the Hello Kitty camp and the Quality camp"

Those claiming to be advocates of content marketing are probably the same university students who sat at coffee shops telling each other how important their post-grad degrees in anthropology were. Not just for them you understand, but for ‘society’. Hmm. Guilty. But that was a long time ago.

Those kids may have been correct, but they never asked a key question. What practical benefits does your anthropology research bring an organisation who is going to pay you to live?

Content marketers talk about ‘influencing the market’, ‘thought leadership’, ‘changing communication paradigms’, and ‘driving audience trust’. In short, we sound like complete and utter Muppets. Seriously, would you invite someone like that to a party? Not a chance.

But, I digress. This article isn’t about anthropologists. This article is about soft toys and pandas.

Let’s ask ourselves the same blunt question. What practical benefits does content marketing bring an organisation that is going to pay you to live? No excuses. Give me one practical and demonstrable reason.

I believe content marketing falls into two camps: the Hello Kitty camp and the Quality camp. Don’t get me wrong, I like Hello Kitty as much as the next man. But Hello Kitty is mass produced. Pretty on the outside, but nothing more than a template stuffed with synthetic filling. You might have a Hello Kitty in your house (that’s ok), but you’re not going to take it out in public to show your friends. Hello Kitty is ‘thin content’ personified (though I know she’s not a person).

But how do we convince the pay masters that it is worth putting the effort and resources into good quality content? How do we make them scared the Hello Kitty approach is going to come back and bite them? Simple. Threaten them with a panda.

If anyone wanted a reason to focus on quality content marketing, our friends at Google have given us one in the form of a large angry panda. Panda 4.0. Four times as angry as Panda 1.0. A panda on a mission to disembowel and destroy Hello Kitty. Without going into any detail, Panda 4.0 is Google’s search algorithm. It’s how and why your website and content gets found on internet searches.

Let’s reflect on our earlier question: What practical benefits does Content Marketing bring an organisation that is going to pay you to live?

Google has been trying to ensure the websites with the best content get found first. SEO guys go on about keywords and the like, but Google is taking matters into its own hands – making sure Quality content ranks at the top. All content marketers should read Google’s 23 bullet-point blog on what makes a good website—it’s what Google is looking for.

Google’s blog on why businesses should include ‘published article’ level content on their websites is a content marketer’s dream: Update content regularly, make sure it is industry relevant, make sure it is trusted, and ensure it adds value to the reader. So if you can write well about interesting issues… Google has just done your pitch and written you a cheque. Drop me a line at @graemesr to discuss how this can work for you. Get the idea?

So what does this mean for the future of content marketing? Looking into my crystal ball, here’s a thought: thin content is being forced out. As publishing platforms like LinkedIn allow individuals to self-publish, content quality is going to fall (content marketing isn’t as easy as people think). As there are now 5.62 million Hello Kitty articles on how to be the world’s best CEO and/or how to get the promotion/job you deserve, there will be a Google-driven flight to quality.

Corporate, agency, and contract content marketers need to set themselves apart from the crowd. Writing yet another article on “how getting the greatest first job and working hard made me the award-winning CEO of the best company in the world” will no longer be good enough. It will not add anything to a reader’s life.

Write well and write about interesting things. Google will look after you. FMCG is not the future of content marketing.

Graeme Somerville-Ryan is the marketing and business development director (Asia) for the international law firm Wikborg Rein. He has more than 10 years’ experience in public relations, communications, international marketing, and brand development. He has also consulted on marketing projects in the oil and gas, shipping, ICT, export education, tourism, and insurance sectors. 

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