Let’s take a peek behind the content marketing curtain.
There’s a lot that goes into content marketing. Being in the biz, one of the things I find most interesting about that is a new trend predicated almost entirely on Google telling the world—no conflict of interest there, right?—not to bother tweaking content to get better results. If you believe Big G, Search Engine Optimization is dead, and all you need to do to rank well is create great content; do that and your audience will naturally find you. Even more interesting, people are starting to buy it. That includes people who should know better.
Yesterday, MarketingLand contributor Ric Dragon said that we should stop bothering to categorize posts in blogs. His argument, as near as I can tell, is that hierarchical categorization of content is no longer of any real value. And the statement, taken on its own merits, is accurate; it’s unlikely that many people are consuming your content by querying your web site for categorically-related issues.
But that’s not the point of assigning categories to your content. And it never was.
Categories and tags, while potentially useful to your visitors, are really about establishing authority with search engines. And yes, there’s more value than that; we often reference articles by pointing you at the relationship-based groups here, in support of the article being written, tagged, and otherwise marked up. So I’m not saying that SEO juice is the only value categories convey. But that SEO value is real, and although stand-alone SEO is becoming less valuable, discontinuing an element of it is the wrong way to handle content marketing. Just because very few people go out of their way to look for your content by using your pre-defined categories doesn’t mean you don’t need them.
Want proof? You’ve come to the right place.
Some years ago, I asked one of my sons what the point of using hashtags on Twitter was. His response (“More Fun”) was one I didn’t understand at the time. Looking at the issue from a purely analytic standpoint, I saw that assigning random categories (actually, “TAGS”, in this case) to disparate posts wasn’t a real grouping, at all. Who would care if you appended #MyBrotherJasonIsAnIgnoramus to a tweet? Who would ever find that by searching for it?
But take out the name and change the last word of the tag to something more common, and there’s potential for your category/TAG to have some value and spur more contact and further discussion. The hashtag #MyBrotherIsAnIdiot is one that people actually use. And Twitter is about as large a content marketing success as there is, anywhere.
Ric Dragon’s point, though, was about rigid hierarchical categorization. And it’s as incorrect as my old assumption about the value of hashtags.
The picture at the top of this article is the beginning of one section from our home page. That section is a grouping of the articles posted here, arranged in reverse chronological order. But take a look at the first post; it isn’t current. It’s a post from 2010 about Hubspot, and part of our content marketing strategy is to capitalize on the high rankings people see for us when they search for various Hubspot-related ideas. We force that Hubspot post into our home page using a category we’ve built into our content management system.
Now look at this picture of the footer that appears on every page of Answer Guy Central. The left and right columns are the most popular articles over the last fifteen and 365 days. Those categories are time-based, and while there’s no real reason for anyone other than my fans (yes, I have a few) to care about which of my words are most popular, by having those posts listed and re-listed every time a page gets loaded here we increase the efficacy of our content management (read, SEO) in the eyes of search engines. Oh, and as an aside, see that arrow showing the drop in popularity of this post about Nicholas Megalis from third-most visited over a year to eighth-most-visited in the last two weeks? I’ve mentioned that the post would drop … and that mention was offered in pursuit of content marketing.
So tags, categories, and other predefined hierarchies aren’t pointless in content marketing; their purpose is merely non-obvious. Could Mr. Dragon have been talking about the extra work involved in accounting for categories when he wrote that in a content-marketing-has-usurped-SEO world there was no longer a reason to bother with categories? I hope not; see the right side of this picture showing our TAG cloud (also an SEO, and therefore content marketing magnet, by the way) and the part of our content management system that we use to populate tags and categories? ‘Nuf said, right?
I’ve evolved; get the spelling right and ad-hoc content marketing through methods like hashtags works—in many ways even better than older hierarchical methods. But the name of the game, even if you aren’t completely sure of what the game is, is referral volume. And the old school methods of attracting traffic still matter, too.
Don’t be throwing out your categories, got it?