The middle ground of writing for humans and robots

I’ve spent a large part of my recent career developing enriched content that produces enriched “data exhaust.” In a nutshell I’ve learned, the more one knows about the internal indices baked into content, the more data insight one can derive when content engagement occurs.

In the world of digital content development — what your CMO will call “content marketing” — there are two masters that need to be served simultaneously: Search engine optimization (SEO) and the audience.

Despite thinking of myself as a content enrichment know-it-all, our SEO director humbled me with one simple warning about the intersection of writing compelling content and making sure humans find that content. He described the challenge as “finding the middle ground of writing for humans and for robots.”

Here are 5 tips and warnings for finding the sweet spot between people and processors.

  1. You must start with high quality insight based on customer needs. Search optimization that successfully leads users to bad or irrelevant content (despite the search results) is not a viable strategy.
  1. If the site where the content lives is not easy to navigate, all the optimization in the world will not get users to engage. User experience should trump SEO considerations.
  1. Most companies implement a strategy I call “Random Acts of Content.”   Unfortunately, both humans and robots are much more conducive to engaging with content that is built around some form of information architecture. This concept is not foreign to IT, given their affinity for data and network architectures. However IT must shift its thinking from content “containers” to considering how content fits into an intellectual architecture.
  1. The only thing more attractive to humans and robots than compelling content is more compelling content. The more various sources point to content, the more robots will move it up in search findings. This reinforces the importance of promoting content through “further reading” links and social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Content marketing budgets have been among the most scrutinized in the organization. The metrics can be murky and need to justify millions of dollars in expenditures. One study found 32% of the marketing budget spent on content, sometimes with questionable return on investment. Cloud-based marketing technologies such as Marketo, Hubspot and others have dramatically improved the ability to gather very specific metrics combining engagement with content impact ratings.

This is a textbook example of where technology pros and marketing wonks can combine forces to demonstrate return on content marketing technology investment.

How much is enterprise IT involved in content strategy in your company?


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