The New Wave in Content

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Content has been an important feature of marketing ever since the first fishwife hawked her wares in the village square. “Fresher, cleaner, clearer of eye!” she screamed, drawing customers to her booth. Since that first day, the person doing the talking has needed to know what people want to hear about and the information has to be presented in a way people are comfortable accepting.

This fundamental is still true but the game has changed in so many other ways. And in a funny way, one of the ways it has changed has to do with reality television shows.

Whether or not you remember television before reality shows depends on how old you are. The very first reality show aired in 1972 (unless you want to include the original Candid Camera that first aired in 1949) but the genre really didn’t pick up until the early 1990s. An entertainment Writer’s Strike in 1988 and another one in 1992 had a lot to do with Hollywood producers suddenly thinking that reality shows (no writing, no rehearsing, no actors) looked pretty good to them.

A Trend Toward the Natural

But look at what would happen when television is gradually inundated with people saying real things, unhampered by a script. The language would get more realistic. More casual. More natural.

And that’s just what the new trend in content is like. It sounds like a real person talking.

A person who has been writing advertising copy for decades or, worse yet, scholarly articles may have a hard time making the change to this new voice. It might come more naturally to a young person but any competent, experienced writer should be able to make this shift, as long as they understand the reasoning behind it.

This is the language people are hearing and reading all around them. The language of Tweets, of Facebook posts, of reality shows. If someone “talks” to them in formal, ultra-conservative language, a lot of people are likely to turn away unless they really need something out of the article or content.

Knowing the Viewpoint of Your Audience

Another fundamental that has not changed is that a writer must still have a good grasp of the viewpoint of the person who is likely to read his (or her) words. Natural-sounding is great but the message must resonate with the reader. It must help him solve his problems, plan his future more successfully or at least make him feel better. This takes knowing the problems and goals of a potential reader, at least in a general way and as they relate to your product or service.

In part because of the changes Google has been making in the way their search engine works and partly because of this rather universal shift in language, much of what you will see online these days follows this pattern. Blogs even more so because nearly every blog is from an individual or a limited group of writers. These writers generate content that is pertinent to their areas of expertise, directed at the needs of their expected readers, and phrased in their own natural voices. It’s much easier to grasp this kind of content when it resembles the way a person would talk to you if they were just sitting down to fill you in. It’s a good trend, and a good thing to master if you are creating content for blogs, ads or websites.

Grant Boshoff

What is an Advertorial and Why Doesn’t Google Like it?

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Have you ever been reading a magazine (a real, printed magazine with paper and everything) and you start reading an article that is talking about – oh, let’s say spaghetti. It’s telling you how to cook a particular dish and it’s got a recipe and instructions. The only thing is, it recommends a particular brand of spaghetti for this dish.

You look up at the top of the page and there’s a little word there: “advertorial.” You would probably intuitively realize that this means that the spaghetti company bought this page and created an ad that would look like another page of the magazine. You were just tricked into reading it because you thought it was the next article in your favorite magazine on entertaining.

Google on Advertorials

Google doesn’t like them much. When Google is offering up search results, it does not particularly want to offer up advertorials. When a person is searching for advice on why their baby has a diaper rash, Google doesn’t want to offer up ads for diapers. They want to offer up informative, educational pages that answer the question.

Now, this is a sensible goal. Google is essentially doing a pretty good job of reading the minds of those searching for data. The slightly scary part is that they have done their job so well that they have generated enormous power.

The British company Interflora found out how much power Google has when they set up paid advertorials with news services and other websites. For a while, if you were in the UK and searched for “Interflora” and “flowers” and “delivery” or some similar search, you might find in your results some of their advertorials created on third party websites. Like the Yorkshire Times, for example.

Google shut Interflora down entirely for eleven days. In other words, even if you searched for “Interflora flower delivery in the UK,” you would not see any of their sites. You can imagine what that cost Interflora.

“Content Marketing, Please”

Google wants to serve up “content marketing.” If you have a dental practice, Google wants to offer your useful educational content on dental health, not the page that says how wonderful you are and not a page that you paid for that appears on the website of a local newspaper.

One More Thing…

There is a way to have advertorials and not be penalized. Links in an advertorial must be set up so they do not enhance your page’s ranking in search results. Google describes this kind of link as a “nofollow” link. There must also be disclosure of the nature of the page. The advertorial should say “Advertisement” or “Sponsored.”

Google follows this procedure themselves in their search results. I just did a search for men’s clothes” and at the top of the page of search results, it says “Ads related to men’s clothes.” The top three search results are surrounded by a lightly shaded box.

In fact, they’ve gotten clearer as they insist that other people become clearer. I believe it used to just say “Sponsored results” in this location – a bit more ambiguous.

So what is the sum total of this subject? Quality content rules now and is going to rule for a long time. Add informative, useful information to your website and Google will be your new best friend.

Grant Boshoff