Remember the "One-Hit-Wonder"?
Content Strategy and Semantic Search Solve That Problem!
“Next up, a ‘One-Hit-Wonder’,” raves the radio announcer. You sit up, perk up your ears, and smile as you recall that old song you once loved. This may be a melancholy memory for those who border now on ancient, like me, but I do hear them each week on “60’s on 6” with “Uncle Brucie”, the “SeriusXM” channel that dominates the air waves in my VW Beetle.
One often wonders, what did happen to that group? Now, the Beatles, they lasted beyond crying out “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” I saw them in Shea Stadium at age 13 and still can’t stop singing their music, from “Abbey Road” to “Yellow Submarine” to my namesake, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” at the ripe old age of 63. We continue to sing, “Imagine, there’s no heaven . . .” by John Lennon. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Why? They captured our imaginations, our hearts, and they were everywhere. Every year, every month for a long time, every performance, with new content, new tunes!
The music world, like the print publishing world, thrives on continuous new work. A Nobel Prize novel is wonderful, but must be followed by new books next month and every month from the publisher. Or else, they are a one-hit-wonder. The need now is to build brand equity through a constant stream of new content products and share them through ever-changing new channels of communication.
In his book, Google Semantic Search, David Amerland seeks to help us envision the new importance of our online content for promoting and prolonging the life of our brand: “In the age of semantic search content has become the transactional currency used to unleash real value on the Web. When everything revolves around its existence traditional businesses are forced to become publishers and broadcasters, individuals need to become writers and photographers, and brands have to become more personable and direct. Everyone needs to remain current in their quality, fresh in their output, and constantly be producing content to define who they are and what they do.”
Content production now becomes the axis around which revolve all our marketing efforts.
The Constant Stream of New Content and Its Purpose
Our content on the web has several purposes:
- To establish a presence, to build identity for your company or brand
- To generate interaction and through it to create trust
- To define what we do, our identity
- To establish our credentials, reinforce our authority
- To propagate our message, also building trust
- To increase our digital footprint, our authority
Our content can come in many formats:
- Text: website content, articles, blogs, comments, social media update
- Images: photos shared on our websites or through many varied forms of social media
- Audio: music, podcasts, and more
- Video: shared on websites or in social media
- Diagrams: charts, visuals, pictorial explanations, on website or in social media
In each case our content is readable now by the search engine and forms “data” about our company or product. This descriptive data is indexed information that can be shared in any combination as answers to queries in search. They are all tools for the search engine to use in order to combine all the fragmented pieces and build a conceptual understanding of who we are and what we do. This must all be part of one content strategy to answer the questions posed by those who search.
It will serve you well if your content promotes your brand and your company values, and also creates a better understanding of your business, helps consumers understand the value of your products, and helps potential customers understand why they should buy from you.
The semantic web, with its demand for fresh content and inevitable social media engagement on platforms that you may or may not control, forces you to think like a publisher. Not only do you need to constantly produce new content. You also need to step beyond your role of content production to also simultaneously market it.
As a small business owner, you may have never visualized yourself in this role. Busy with the production of your business products, you now need to step into your other role and see yourself as a marketer working on the promotion of your business. You need to learn to think like a publisher, music, book or other, if you don’t want to be a “one-hit-wonder.”
How do Content Strategy and Semantic Search Change the Game?
To increase sales and amplify brand impact, methods have changed as recently as the past year. Marketing and PR professionals used to hold the responsibility for content production. Search engine optimization, to achieve web visibility, used to be an outsourced activity to other professionals who would present you in search.
The two functions were rarely coordinated to work together. These support services need to be working in tandem, allowing collaboration on one coordinated message to promote your company or brand. To perpetuate the brilliance of your first “hit,” it is time to “wonder” about the new game we need to play.
For online success, a large part of search engine optimization is, of course, still done on the web page itself, but now it is also done through strategically planned and coordinated content marketing.
“To succeed in the semantic web”, says David Amerland, “you need to think like a traditional publisher. Bring that mindset to your online publishing efforts. To avoid a diffusion of your sales message, every content department and communication vehicle of your company must be aligned.”
This is the way a successful print or music publishing company worked. We can learn from this model. Continuous production of new content had to be matched by coordinated marketing of the brand, the musician, and the product line of books or music.
In the past, one audience might consume your book, another your video message, and another your Twitter message or email. But now, everything digital is visible to the same search engine and to every audience simultaneously as a result. Everything, all your marketing efforts at once, greet the public in search. You need to make sure every communication method is in synch so everything you do amplifies everything else you do. You are one brand, one company. Why waste effort?
The Serendipity of “Findability”
Content is the primary force behind engagement on the web. It is used to create as well as maintain the reputation of a brand and of an individual. Through our content we establish identity and authenticity of our brands. Through it people make the connection to our products, our company, and our people, perhaps separately, but also simultaneously.
Reputation used to be carefully controlled. In the past, the intentions of marketing one item to one audience may have been carefully separated from the marketing of another item to a different audience. Predictable promotion efforts played separately to multiple audiences in multiple venues. We planned it that way. Loss of control is always a hidden surprise. Lest we think we have any control left of our separate marketing messages, take a moment to envision the obvious.
Serendipity is the woven display of your identity across the web so your content may appear differently through any number of surprising doorways, making new connections and attracting new customers. Most important is the fact that you are not always the generating source, your audience is. Someone searching for one product may come up with an article written on other aspects of that company’s work and discover, serendipitously, a different product line or use of the products of the same company. They may also share your content in an entirely different context and point of view to others. This goes beyond the intentions of well-organized silo marketing of each item to its own audience.
The blend now created in online search seeps through every doorway and crack. Every engagement medium, through which the audience itself generates content for you, through their referrals, comments, and reshares, and wildly differing interest groups, is now your new marketing opportunity. Obsolescence will come from blindness to this evolving reality.
Control is an illusion. Serendipity is an uncontrollable miracle. But, if you are not prepared with a coordinated message, your brand reputation could suffer like a “one-hit-wonder.” “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind,” to borrow a phrase from an old 70s Peter, Paul, and Mary song that lived a very long life. “How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see?” continue the lyrics.
Your audience spreads the word. You no longer control what they say and where. Use it or lose it. Support them. Engage them. It is not the time to put your head in the ground and avoid the future. Avoiding the opportunities of audience engagement of a coordinated brand identity is more like avoiding the avalanche that is destined to make you great.
Pass beyond Keywords to the Intent of Search Queries
Another aspect of well-controlled marketing was the practice of using keywords for online search. Keywords are fine. But the professionals in the SEO world used to rely on these keywords too heavily, repeat them, insert them in every paragraph, every title, and every link. If you put it on the page as many times as possible, then, when that word was in a search query, your content could come up higher on the search page. A simple-minded concept, this is a pretty limited approach now that we look with the eyes of audience engagement and search serendipity.
Passing beyond that stage of our online development to the reality of a new semantic search engine that addresses word meaning, examples abound that show a search query answered with an article that does not use any of the key words in the question. Try it and you will see. The search engine is different now; it is working to understand the intent of our content and match it with the intent of a question asked online. How do we work with that? We don’t control it the same way.
We can no longer just hand over our business website SEO to someone else to add a bunch of key words. The content message must make sense, so our content can match a search query without matching specific words. To do this we need to generate content that answers the questions most often asked by our audiences.
List the questions that come to mind on a topic your audience needs. Do you answer one of these questions in your online content? Will this answer help establish your company’s authority? Will it leave people feeling enriched? This goes beyond the mere repetition of words so a search engine will list your website or product. It produces the result you most want, a satisfied enquirer who will regard you as a reliable resource, come back to search more, reference you to others, share your material widely, and perhaps also buy your product.
How Can You Prepare Coordinated Web Content?
1. What are the key questions your audience is asking? Be sure these are covered well in your online content.
2. How many types of content does your company produce? List the various online media and venues used.
3. What are the company values you need to communicate to and through your desired audiences? Comments and reviews provide a source of results.
4. How can you address common brand values differently in each of these venues?
5. Do different audiences have different needs for your product or information? You can address this variety in your message style, yet still be coordinated as one brand.
6. What consumer engagement opportunities do you provide? Identify them for each audience and media.
7. How will you honor this engagement through response, product change, or venues for dialogue? Plan routine reviews based on response.
8. How will you address new content development for serendipitously discovered new needs and connections? These may open new doorways for communication.
9. How will you identify success for each audience, and each format or media? What can you learn from each metric chosen, such as sales produced, or minutes spend staying on your website? Identify your goals clearly.
10. What will be the desired pace of development and introduction of new content? Static content is no longer an option.
11. What will be your path of exploration of newly developed online media opportunities? Technology is ever changing, and if you are not there, that audience may never know your brand or replace yours with another.
Think like a publisher with the need to constantly produce and constantly promote the company content. Do not limit your vision here to simple lists of audiences or media. Realize the potential possible at any moment in the online landscape. Content can go “viral” through online audience sharing of your messages. Enlarge your vision to receive and respond to the potential for tremendous amplification. There is no need for your good products and ideas to become “one-hit-wonders.”
This article is based on the guidance in the book, Google Semantic Search, by David Amerland. Please do enjoy the content of Chapter 6, the foundation for the article.
Please read the other articles in this series, based on this book: