Writing business junk for the Internet is over. Lucky us. It’s taken about 10 years for higher standards to emerge as consumers demand more from what they devour online.
Do you remember content farms?
It’s where companies hired scribes from word factories to satisfy early algorithms for search engines. At 50 cents or less per article.
Everyone wanted SEO (search engine optimization) so URLS for websites could reach the top of pages on Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Seven years ago, SEO experts were charging $500 per hour, but scribblers came cheap.
Overseas writers produced words in bulk and skilled writers recoiled over how their profession had been devalued.
The worm has turned, and a range of new professions has emerged.
Except there’s confusion over the new roles. What type of specialist do you need to hire? A blogger…content creator…website writer…how about a content strategist? What do they even do?
The Arrival of Bloggers
Bloggers are, by definition, writers.
And the blog remains a foundation of digital marketing. In 2017, there’s an estimated 4.47 billion webpages in the world wide web and 460 million blogs.
Many Bloggers write as if they need lessons in grammar, spelling and sentence construction. Does this mean that professional writers – for example, all those journalists who lost their jobs over recent years – know how to create a blog?
Not always. Blogging involves more than writing.
In the case of business, Bloggers need to understand corporate objectives while taking marketing goals and target audiences into account before promoting the blog. Of course, strong writing skills are a must, especially with respect to clarity and readability.
It’s not sufficient to come up with a great topic and a great angle anymore.
As articles get longer and longer, and tasks in the digital marketing world get tougher, people are starting to crave how-to content more than motivational moments.
Content shows them how to fix their problems, how to grow sales, how to be better at their jobs.
Bloggers cannot just publish and run. Time and energy must be devoted to marketing the blog through social media, advertisements, and email marketing, to name a few strategies.
Here’s the kicker: they need to know how to execute in those different mediums, as well. In addition, content draws an immediate critique where people talk back through comment threads. Bloggers respond.
What about word count?
Today, the average blog post is 1,142 words long, which is 41% longer than the average post just three years ago in 2014 reports Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media Studios. He surveys Bloggers and, this year, 1377 replied. He also says six times as many Bloggers are writing 2,000+ word posts. It’s no wonder Bloggers are spending more time than ever on writing.
Bloggers are Evolving into Content Producers
A Blogger differs from the Content Producer who delivers multi-platform digital products.
Sometimes, Content Producers can be subject experts, sometimes they ghostwrite for the CEO’s voice. Sometimes a video or a podcast is created on the smartphone. Our mobiles now function as a combined television studio, radio station, newspaper, and media distribution company. Powerful tools.
The important thing is figuring out how to place the right people in the right roles, then putting them in the roles and defining the roles. The roles need to be defined and responsibilities explained before a strategy gets off to a good start.
Content Producers look after these responsibilities:
- Creative ideas, coupled with sound editorial judgement;
- Content for various social media platforms;
- Types, quality and volume of content suitable for digital product launches and subsequent releases;
- Procurement and delivery of appropriate content for digital products;
- Commissioned quality content as required;
- Editorial rights, acquisition, and clearance;
- Content Strategist.
Content is king today. And context is Queen.
That’s why Content Strategists are in great demand and understand the following:
- The shift in culture and language from the hard sell to the development of engagement funnels. They need to understand what type of information is useful for potential customers and clients at different phases of connection. These skills are integral for companies that want a robust marketing and communications plan.
- A client’s business objectives and a customer’s or end user’s needs. This can start by conducting content audits, gap analyses, and determining whether the fundamentals of digital marketing have been established.
- Editorial calendars, style guides, taxonomies, metadata frameworks and content migration plans. Content Strategists may also be responsible for managing other employees and freelancers, maintaining budgets, and assisting with the technical integration of content.
Sometimes the Content Strategist also is called on for these duties.
- Content for websites;
- Blogs that are commercial in nature;
- Blogs that reflect journalism standards;
- Podcasts, short and long videos;
- Media releases;
- SEM campaigns;
- SEO campaigns;
- Email campaigns;
- Facebook and PPC advertising.
In my experience, it’s very difficult to be really skilled in all the disciplines that contribute to digital marketing. The wise Content Strategist knows when to draw on the talents of others to achieve results.
Responsibilities for this position differ from small business to big business. Duties include:
- Planning and coordinating;
- Writing and/or editing the written content for publication;
- Finding media tools for promotion and dissemination of information and products;
- Acquiring additional media in support of the content.
A solopreneur or very small business will carry out all responsibilities. So, for example, I might write a post, but I need a photo; we know that images enhance viewership. Three are ideal. Maybe I need an infographic. It could also be a podcast if you want to develop distribution for that channel. And, of course, Google is loving video these days. There needs to be somebody who oversees the assets for the story.
The Editorial Director for an enterprise organization would assess opportunities for editorial contributions from departments. Maybe that person would determine who could be invited to submit a blog for their company. In that case, the ED would determine editorial guidelines, determine style guides, discuss the voice they need from writers/bloggers.
Writing for the Web
If trained for online marketing, the writer/editor and designer also understand the path that moves visitors through the website to the desired outcomes.
UX (user experience) designers are top-of-the line because they test the visitor journey all along the way during development.
Make no mistake: A successful website is a marketing tool. After all, why spend all those resources on building a website and then leave it to obscurity among the 4.7 billion websites that exist today?
Now if you have a big organization, you might have a web team responsible for the design, architecture, and maintenance for the website; somebody else writes content for the page.
Web producers generally are not expected to be the editors, but they can also find things and make suggestions. Their role is to build the infrastructure, make it look good, ensure the metadata is where it needs to be and the page tiles are correct. Some web producers carry out SEO, a detailed and time-consuming task, if done well.
Early on, you also have editorial planning. Now that could be the Editorial Director to a degree, but let’s say you cover five different topics, so you probably need to have an expert in each of those different areas to help with the planning.
Together with the Editorial Director, they work out the “the big message, the story.” The Editorial Director might be an expert at storytelling but that person must collaborate with the subject expert to ensure accuracy of the message.
VP, Content Marketing
These are leadership level roles that, in many companies, shape strategy and run a team. That does not mean they can’t carry out the tasks. Very often, VPs have moved up through the ranks and have done it all. Otherwise, they might have C-Suite experience and know how to manage resources – talent and tools.
As we move forward in an evolving profession, some uniformity in titles can be helpful. How else will we know what somebody did when we consider hiring them?
All hail the skillful writer.