Once upon a time a great many businesses woke up to the realisation that content was an important part of the marketing mix – they added a blog page to their site, vowing valiantly to blog regularly about interesting and relevant topics – many of them added a post that read “Welcome to our first blog post” which ended up sitting alone on the page like the child whose parents forgot to pick them up from school. 

Others decided it would be more fun to add lots of posts about sponsored bike rides (complete with pictures of their team clad in Lycra!), baskets of muffins and stories about what the CEO’s new puppy got up to when it visited the office last week.

As time went on they started realising that having a page that promised content, but contained none, was not working very well. So they started looking at new ways to get the content they craved. Some misunderstood advice about SEO, creating posts that were stuffed with keywords about their business, but were so badly written that no one read them. Some unscrupulous types simply ripped off other peoples posts – changing the odd word or two so it wasn’t immediately obvious. Others added feeds of syndicated content and yet more paid University students to write learned articles about things that they didn't quite understand.

Before long the internet was awash with content,  everybody’s inbox was filled with content, and LinkedIn became so much of a repository for content (if you are reading this on LinkedIn please forgive the irony) that it was difficult to read something new because it slipped off the page so quickly. People began to tweet links to content that had an interesting title, but no one had time to read it, so they simply retweeted without really engaging.

Then the mighty Google became angry with the flood of bland, banal or badly written content and began to reward people for creating content that had a positive contribution to user experience. Their search results became a prioritised list of the sites that best answered the query or question that the user was asking. The users were happy because they found what they wanted  – and happy users make Google happy -  so it continued to tweak its clever algorithms to give the users the engaging content they craved.

Without going to deep into the world of SEO (a subject is far better left to the experts - My  Single Best SEO Tip for Improved Web Traffic - is written by one such expert and very enlightening) The time had come, when content was judged far more harshly and companies around the world had to begin changing their ways and prioritising quality and engagement over quantity and keywords - Which is where we are today!

So what does it all mean to us as businesses with content marketing initiatives? The simplest answer is, if Google is prioritising quality content, so should we!  We can start by defining our audience: Who considers buying what we sell/make/do? What do they want to know at each stage of their buying cycle? How can we provide them with the best possible information? Who should be writing the content?

Once we know who our audience are, we can define ourselves: Who are we? What do we talk about? Why does what we talk about help our customers? Then when the big question – How do we start producing engaging content that best serves our audience (and makes Google happy)? – comes up, we have a lot of the answers already...