WriterAccess Webinar Archive

Engineering Content Marketing Success

Thursday, January 29, 2015 – 1:00 PM ET

Engineering content marketing success requires getting the right people to do the right things at the right time. But getting all that to work well is challenging. Until now.

Join Cruce Saunders, Principal of Simple [A], and host Byron White to identify the players you need and roles they’ll play to engineer content marketing magic. You’ll learn how to set the goals, establish the boundaries, recruit the players, and build a collaborative team and environment to create, optimize and publish amazing content that delivers on performance goals. Beware: the customer is the center of the formula, and the KPI’s may surprise you.

In this webinar you will learn about...

- Engineering Content Marketing Success
- Aligning Business and Content Goals
- Defining Content Engineer Skills
- Modernizing Content Marketing Strategy


Slidedeck Download

The slidedeck from this webinar is available for download.

Video Transcription

Byron: Welcome everyone. The 56th webinar. Wow. Getting old. Nice to be here today. I’m here with Cruce Saunders. Cruce, are you available?

Cruce: I am here as well. Hi Bryon.

Byron: Nice to have you here Cruce. To give everyone a little footnote on today’s fabulous presentation, I’ve been chatting with Cruce and had a really good opportunity to get to know him as part of a conference that I’m hosting called Content Marketing Conference up in Vegas in May. So stay tuned on more announcements on that but it’s been a real pleasure to get inside the mind of Cruce who I think is on to some really exciting things that are going to help everyone today better understand really the engineering, the methods, behind the madness of content marketing and content strategy. So a couple of things to go over with you real quick.

Number 1, please ask questions today throughout the presentation. Use your widget on the right side of your screen to fire any question to me and I’ll be keeping track of all of them and monitoring them and will ask any questions for you after Cruce finishes his presentation. I also popped up a poll which I think would be lovely if you could fill out. Hopefully, you could find that. There are a few questions in there that we would like to get a feel for, particularly because it’s just good data. I will reveal the answers to those polls, if you don’t see them at the end of the presentation, as well. There’s all this cool stuff in there.

This webinar will be recorded. Everyone listening in, including anybody who has just registered to this webinar will get a link to this recording. Thanks for tuning it in. Feel free to share it. Fantastic.

So, in general, real quick, I am going to go through a deck that talks a little bit about the setup of content marketing and the complexities that I think Cruce will have some really good answers for us on how this complexity can be minimized and maximized from an engineering perspective. So that’ll be fun. Cruce is going to go through about 20 slides and will end with a fabulous story, if you will, that he is going to share with us. I’ll then ask a few questions after those 20 slides and then he’s going to going to have another 20 slides that he’s going to send us off with so that we can all become content engineering masters by the end of this presentation. That’ll be exciting. So without further ado, let’s dive in and hopefully surface with some great information today. Thanks for tuning in. We really appreciate it.

So there’s some contact information for us. These decks will also be available as well as the actual recording of the presentation. You’ll find links to those in an email probably in a few hours knowing that it will be right out there.

I think by now we all have a pretty good feel that to be successful, that forward thinking companies are thinking like old school publishers. Namely, gathering ideas, developing stories and publishing a steady stream of content that engages readers and keeps them coming back for more. And I really think that is what is happening out there. We can get into the semantics of what we call all of this and there’s been wonderful debates about that, content strategy versus content planning type kind of thing which I think is quite fascinating. From being in this industry for 50 years, I really don’t see the distinction between those two camps but maybe someone will enlighten me someday.

Really, the question is how do we make this transition? How do we start publishing good content? What’s the content marketing workflow look like and how do we win at it? Who are the players and what are their roles? Do they do this as a one small op marketing department? Do I need a small army of people to make content marketing work? And most importantly, the pressure is on most of our shoulders is how do we get the ROI demand from this content marketing and investment? So, those are clearly the challenges.

You know, as it turns out, content marketing is really is a fairly complex workflow. Probably because we’ve made it so I might add. You know I used to think that content marketing is easy. You just bang out some content, see what people’s reaction are, see if they like it and pass it around. Then do more of that and if they don’t you might try new things…more original, more creative, more interesting. So I wish it were that simple although in my mind I still do think about it being that simple. But I think at the end of the day it does involve some advanced methodology and certainly some robust technology that can really shortcut the whole process.

I’ve got a nice simple deck here. It can kind of walk you through these big five ingredients I like to say and those are: content planning, creation, optimization, distribution and performance measurement. And some of the elements I am seeing are at least now at what these 5 pieces of the puzzle are trying to do. So we can all get on the same page and really set up crews to man and straighten this out with how all of this fits together. So on the planning end of things, we are trying to figure this out and by the way before starting WriterAccess I ran a full service content marketing agency where we were challenged in a big way by companies like Emblmart, Brookstone, FTD on the B2C side, on the B2B side Iron mountain, Salesforce…We insisted on beginning with a content plan. 5:43 (3-3:30) I was out in one of our customer’s offices in Baltimore. I brought one of our 400 hour plans with me and they were just mesmerized like I need a copy of that. 400 hours- what could one do with 400 hours’ worth of research? What does that accomplish? Essentially content plans at the time we were building them, we were trying to figure out how much content do we need, how good does it need to be, what channels do we need to publish it in, how do we stack up with our competition, and more importantly, what specifically can we expect from a return on our investment? These plans, some from 80 pages to 150 pages, would map that out and literally look at capturing market share in different silos and recommendations on how many assets we need to create in each of those silos to capture the market share that would generate the leads and therefore the revenue. I mean planning was a big part of what we did and I think, keep in mind that that was 2005-2010, before anyone really knew what a content marketing agency was. It was good stuff. Fast forward now, we have incredible tools and technology that can help us get this stuff done and help us research things much faster and easier. I think that 400 hours is probably down to about 40 or 80 hours maybe to really accomplish some of the same things we did back in those days. Content creation continues to be the big challenge. So there’s wonderful chatter about how there’s too much content out there and not enough original content. And we are just producing stuff for the sake of stuff. You know I don’t really buy the argument. I love when people start poofooing all this content. Like what have they been creating that has been so amazing? Are they just criticizing what’s out there? Creating content is challenging, it’s difficult but it’s also changed quite a bit. You know what I think, writers have a voice in the matter, no pun intended. We’re learning that we need to create content with certain tones and styles that reflect our brand and who we want to be and the voice we want to have in the marketplace. We can now onboard writers to what those goals are with our tone and our style and our voice. We getting much better with that. Particularly with platforms like ours. But where do I find good writers? How do I know what to create? What really engages my readers? Those are challenges and we’re learning more about that as we study what does get passed around and what channels might be best for us. But it’s still tricky and it’s still tough. There’s tons of tools and technologies out there that you can take a look at as well.

Optimizing content. I like to say that, don’t think this is revolutionary but optimization is the new search engine optimization. And when we think about optimization, it’s a lot more than peppering keywords and content. It has to do with landing page optimization. And you know that optimization for the search engines is perhaps relevant but I think that there’s new ways to do that. There’s new ways to move the spider bots around the content of your website. Use things like frequently asked questions to link over to your blog posts which help the search engines understand that your blog posts answer a particular question. So I think that we are just getting deeper now with our understanding of optimization and how to win both even off the page not to mention on page, And who do we have do all this? Who are the professionals that are handling our optimization? I think that their skill set is getting wider and is no longer just focused on search engine optimization. So that my point there on the whole area. There are lots of tools and technology.

Distribution continues to be the challenge for us all. I just saw a demo yesterday. Here’s a little secret for anyone of you out there looking for some creative distribution channels. Linked in is really doing a great job with making some smart moves with what they call “Sponsor content”. That’s content that is sent out through the newsfeeds on LinkedIn but is in fact sponsored content. Where they are governing that only wanting you to send out information content to the crowd and audience but you can get very granular with who you’re promoting. That is an asset too. LinkedIn has a wonderful ability, more than any database and archive of leads on really zeroing in and getting your content in front of the right people. So check that out. I was quizzing them yesterday and there’s only like 30,000 people who are using that channel right now. I think that it is under…really, it’s exciting. So get in there while you can and get your great content in front of people. And it’s not crazy dollars to make that work. Unlike PBC raves and some of the things that are so competitive now to get out there. But distribution is tough and getting out there. There are great ways of getting your content out there but we need more of them and we need to reach people that are orbiting at high speeds.

So Performance. The pressure is really on CRS, I mentioned. But the challenges are immense for performance. So immense that it is really like how are we going to track all this stuff. What channels are my customers in? There are incredible new technologies. Technology is really where it is at when it comes to content performance. So the questions we have for Cruce today are really what is content engineering? We need to understand that in the workflow. What is the method or technology that engineers what you are using?

So let me without further ado, quickly turn things over to Cruce. And take it away!

Cruce: Ok. Wonderful. Thanks Byron. I appreciate that good overview of the market and what is happening right now with content marketers being besieged on many fronts with many technologies for each phase of the life cycle. There’s a lot of technology involved in delivery of a very, very simple proposition which is telling good stories and getting those stories out to an audience and involving them with our brands and our messages.

So that landscape that Byron introduces is getting more complicated all the time. If anyone hasn’t seen it, it is worth taking a look at the chief Martek content technology landscape for 2015. That is an even broader exposition of all the content related technologies as well as the commerce and other marketing channels that make it fairly complex for marketers to know which technologies to deploy and with limited time and limited resources. The way that I like to look at it is-let’s get back to the basics of the process. How can we boil everything down to its bare elements? Then how can we take those elements and optimize them for effective content marketing process? That is in addition and aligned with business goals and competing need of everybody of your team. So on your team, you may have large teams or small teams, but they’re generally going to involve a number of disciplines. And whether those disciplines cross a lot of people or just a few people, alt of times you have to touch base and rift each one of those disciplines. We need to understand process. We need to have an engineering mindset and kind of break this down a little bit more and that’s what I’m going to attempt to do in our talk today.

A little bit about myself. I’m Cruce Saunders, a principal consultant at Simple [A]. Simple [A] is a content engineering focused consultancy. We do content management systems integration and customer experience management deployment. We also do training and staff augmentation in this area of content engineering. You can hashtag content engineering if you’d like to pick up anything that is on to twitter and you can find us on Twitter at @SimpleATeam. I’m at @MrCruce.

Ok, so let’s take a look through our goals. We want to understand how to align these processing teams within content marketing as I mentioned. We also want to take a look at how engineering great content marketing experiences puts the customer first because, ultimately as Byron elegantly said, it is about storytelling. It is about getting messages out, seeing how people respond to them, putting out more of what does work and getting customers to engage with our brands. The way to do this is through receiving content at the right time that touches their interests and hopefully helps to stimulate those and connect them with your brand. We also want to take a look at how content engineering organization integrate content marketing process. Right now it is not in a lot of models of digital marketing processes and it is the real missing piece. We are going to take you through what to do in order to get there. We are also going to take a look at why it’s valuable as opposed to this content marketing process.

So in order to get here we should put a frame around this idea of “Customer Experience Management.” I’d love to understand from everybody in the room if we have a bigger room, I’d ask you to raise your hand and find out who has heard this term or what your experiences are with this phrase. It has taken on more and more vernacular within the content marketing world. Customer experience management is in many ways the next generation beyond content management. Beyond getting our content put through a system and publishing it on a website, now it’s really connecting customers with content experiences by multiple channels. So it’s a way to get the content that we’re creating and make sure it gets out on every device the customers have and sometimes in offline channels and other experiences that are more mobile and key off base.

So orchestrating all of that content marketing requires an understanding of this concept of customer experience- what that is. And then we need to get the folks and the process involved towards that. So customer experience allows us to orient the operations of the business around the needs of that customer. And reach them where they are at multiple touch points. Content marketers, strategists and content engineers have different parts of this important value chain that they need to bring and they are really at the forefront of helping to make customer experiences happen. Beyond it being a catchphrase, if we’re going to facilitate the customer experience with our content, we need a framework for doing that.

Content engineering is about the construct and context for our content. What will users see and how will they interact with the site. How can it be shared, related and repurposed? Where does the content belong? So some of that’s from the related area of content strategy and the disciplines of content strategy. Then also how can we get that information connected to the users through our technical system? And through our CEM or customer experience management platform? So the content engineer bridges the integration gap between content strategy, the content management system, and the customer experience technology that are the overall landscape. Sometimes the CRM, or that’s RMP and sometimes that ecommerce. And other systems that interact with our customers on an ongoing basis. All of that has to organized and aligned and integrated and really often the content marketer gets left behind in that. It becomes a big technical ball of yarn that is very difficult to unwind. The content engineer kind of helped align that ball of yarn and get the content strategist and content marketers integrated and working together with the technology. The content engineer is in many ways a bridge those two worlds, the technical and the creative. It doesn’t necessarily need it to be a separate person and we’ll talk about that. It’s really a role within your organization and it needs to be identified and at least somebody on your team should be deputized the content engineer as a part of the process or at least responsible for content engineering. So I hope to convince you of that by the end of this talk or at least open your mind to the possibility that that will be the case in the upcoming years. You might look for other evidence of this in the marketplace.

That content engineer is really important for marrying content strategy, content technology, and content management. They are the technicians that help to hold together the different capabilities of the platform and your operations equaling profits inside the organization. Then the vision of your executives and the vision of the senior marketing team and the vision of your content strategy. All of that vision needs to be tied together and made operational. It has to be connected with the technology. You cannot have vision disconnected from the technical reality of your projects. They have to be aligned. If the technology is disconnected from the vision, what you end up with is a big mess. The story that I’m going to tell is a lot about that. Content marketing process breaks far too often and it doesn’t need to. A lot of times what starts out as a very simple vision of getting a story out to an audience can become long difficult projects that end that end up becoming abandoned at worst or published with very low standards for what that content is going to be able to do or how it will be reused, how it will touch the customers, how it will be syndicated. And how it will be exposed to the search engines? We were talking about search engine optimization earlier. Content engineering done right opens up all kinds of new ways through schema dot org and other ways of marking up content to allow Google to see the content differently that it sees content from a competitor without schema dot org or without other markup in there. So if you’ve got semantically marked up content which is just a way to say extra tags, extra structure around your content that your customer experience platform naturally adds if its engineered properly then your content is actually more competitive than the competition. It is easier for Google to consume and it is more likely that it will be digested and presented in the search the way you want it to be with much more rich search result pages where they apart title, headline, author, author photo, which they have been playing around with whether to include or not and other kinds of elements of content that will actually present directly in the search. All of that is impossible without engineering happening out front. That’s why we really want to make sure that updating our processes. So it’s 2015 which is a good decade past the sort of second generation of web management project, digital marketing q point o which is fancier websites primarily not a lot of mobile activity, very little personalization. The only people doing personalization at that point were Amazon.com and a couple of other behemoths. And very little in the way of structured content. Very little of the content was being reused. We had a lot of blocks out there…big chunky blocks of content that you plugged into. Probably a content management system that you built internally. There was only a few major players at the time but most of those systems were real expensive so most the people would just hack their own system together projects were basically just Photoshop projects that you could be creative in and the cut it up in html and push it out into the web call it a day. Publish one time and not have the dynamics not hide or have the intelligence to…it’s just like publishing a magazine but online. And I hate to say it but you wouldn’t know that it’s not 2005 by the way that many of us are managing our digital projects today. It kind of seems like it’s the same thing. You have a process that’s real similar to 2005. It is time to update our process and all of our marketers, leading organizations need to be on the forefront of that transformation. Deputizing content engineers, building these disciplines into the organization and leading the charge for more intelligent content at the core of their web property.

So in order to illustrate this, I’m going to tell a story about Digitalbridge and Dynocorp. This is actually a true story and this happened. We were brought in after the fact in this situation and got a lot of the background from the folks inside that have been through the trenches on this. Anyone who’s been in the industry might find some parts of this familiar. This is not a happy ending. It’s a pretty tragic story from marketers and it starts out happily enough. Digitalbridge is an interactive marketing company. By the way the names have been changed to protect the guilty here. They’re an interactive marketing company/ interactive agency and they’ve been involved in interactives since it meant static websites and flash applications but over the years they grew their resources to have content strategists and interactive designers and developers with different specialties and quite a few talent traffic coordinators and account executives inside. They had a lot of different channels-social, local, CAD, display advertising, video and the web so they cover a lot of bases. They are really smart people. Excellent at creatives. They’ve won a ton of awards. They are pretty well-known as an interactive agency. They have a client that’s a healthcare giant. We are going to call him Dynocorp. They needed to grow patient volume and also improve the customer experiences that were happening across the board really. They were ultimately dealing with a really old website that needed to be upgraded so they decided to make this a big effort, spent a bunch of money, and had Digitalbridge build a new content strategy, a new design strategy and they were going to have them do email campaigns, mobile apps, internet- the whole thing from kind of soup to nuts. They were starting with a very expensive customer experience platform. So in this case, they chose Sycor. Sycor is expensive. It’s a really powerful platform for customer experience management but it’s not for the faint of heart. So they put in a bunch of money and a bunch of time into the license for this and they saw this beautiful advantage of having this system that’s going to do a lot of stuff. So ultimately they’ve got tens of thousands of content IDs and thousands of visitor sessions a month. So they ran a content audit that took like 3 people a month to complete. They felt like they had a good understanding of the content and a clear plan forward.

It was a pretty normal project team. They had a content strategist and an IA. They had designers and they had developers. The process was pretty normal. They had discovery, design, develop, test and release. Pretty normal kind of development process. All of those elements were tied together by talented people with good intention. They wanted to enable some personalization. And a lot of locators, in particular this client had a lot of location. So they needed to personalize by location and also by disease type and also by interest. They wanted to create once, published everywhere- that’s called C.O.P.E. Create once publish everywhere sounded really good to them because before they had a lot of content that was duplicated everywhere in a lot of places. So they wanted to put it all into one place and publish from there so they didn’t have to have separate content in their mobile apps or have separate content on the mobile version of their website. They wanted to reuse that content and they also wanted to have related content between sections so disease type related to particular location, etc. They were hoping to tie it into market automation. So basically if a visitor comes and visits and requests an appointment, they send a follow-up email. If there’s no response between 3 weeks, it might prompt another follow-up email and then if they come and revisit the site as a result of those emails it might send specific disease type information to them. So they wanted to automate a lot of things that were manual processes that their sales team were getting bogged down with. All of it sounded great but the actual results were total destruction. That’s a little overstated. It did ultimately launch, not with all of the features that they were really going to be getting. So they had unstructured content blocks, so by the time we saw this thing, all the content was still in WYSIWYG chunks because the developers hadn’t been given any guidelines as to with content. They were given high level requirements so they built what they were used to building which were unstructured content blocks and they stuck them in. None of the content could be reused. Because when you’ve got unstructured content it’s all a big blob. It’s just one big blob of content. They had a title and then a blob. They had no way to relate those content items between each other. They didn’t have a taxonomy system or a tagging system of any kind. The development team ignored personalization requirements entirely because the personalization requirements were written user’s story but there was no indicator of how the content was going to match the particular user’s experience that were being described. It was just …they were just being described as a high level in the use cases but it was abstract enough that the developers didn’t know what to do with it so they just ignored it. And then ultimately they had a pretty poor author experience. Sycor is a very complicated platform. It can be made to be very beautiful and easy to use but if you hack it together incorrectly in can result in a poor author experience that nobody wants to use and that was the case and they had a lot of rework. A lot of back and forth and rework trying to get this right and they ended up abandoning a lot of these things that they wanted to do. The outcome was disjointed completely. So cope is what they did, not how their CMS works and everybody was pretty frustrated by the whole thing. Basically that they felt that they were sold a bill of goods and all of the different folks had some really gut reactions to the situation. So you had the developers who were all highly paid and experienced. They were overwhelmed and misunderstood. They were handed these high level content strategy documents and some CFS files and the design. So they had a beautiful design. CFs , the IA, all of that were there but it couldn’t actually deliver on it. And then the creative team was very frustrated and the content strategy folks as well because thought that the technical folks just didn’t get it and they really wished they had another one. They had spent a huge amount of mental capital up front and money for the client to put together these, what they thought were well-defined strategic visions, and the technical folks just didn’t do it, didn’t make it any of that happen. Then Dynocorp felt like they had been sold a bill of goods. We spent all of this money on this platform. We’ve gone with this highly rated interactive agency with all these awards. We spent all this money and ultimately we have the same thing we had before but it’s more expensive. Now we have a different design but we still have chunky content that we can’t move around. No marketing automation. Really no way to execute the personalization that we wanted to do. And really it’s not really very fun to work with. So we didn’t really get the value that we were going to get. So they were kind of in a tough situation though because they ended up spending most of their budget on this project. So they had very little left to try to recover or go back and make it better. They liked the creative that the agency did. So they stuck with the agency but they ended up just kicking the ball forward and being satisfied with something …being underwhelmed with what they currently had. It’s really kind of a sad story because they had so much potential and so much energy and so many good talented people involved. So we are working with them to try to turn that all around but the promise of content engineering is to tie some of these things together. The content strategy. All of the stuff that is happening on the interface level, the responsive design plus the functional requirements and getting that tied in to the development. So getting the creative strategy aligned with the responsive design, the functional requirements and the developers and getting them working together. We’ll walk through in little bit what those things are but this might be a good time to take a break and check in with everybody. See how it’s going. Any questions that are out there and then we can pick back up.

Byron: Great stuff here Cruce. Someone has a question for you. Can you give us visual examples of unstructured content blocks and also explain what relating the content means? You might go back to that slide where you sort of explained that.

Byron: Are you discussing how the developers and coders actually put together the code on the pages together? Go ahead and explain it.

Cruce: Yeah, absolutely. Great question. So WYSIWYG is what you see is what you get. That is when CMAS’s were first being developed, when content management platforms were being created for the first time. Essentially it was just data based fields that were- where you were entering content into a field and it would show up in the proper place on a webpage. What happened was CMS didn’t know what structure your content had. They were just coding something that would display content generically. Not all content is the same content. A lot of content had different structures so that is very important nowadays to Google and to search engines and to republishers and to everybody. Anybody who wants content to be more intelligent, it has to be structured. The difference is that with an unstructured content block- you go into the CMS into the content item and you are presented with one big chunky block of space and you edit it like you do in Word. You might put your title in there. You might put author by and you change the font and then you put subheading and a little synopsis and all of that would be like you were editing in Microsoft Word. With just one big blank page and then you save it at the end and then it would display exactly as you put it in there. If you bolded it in there or you changed the font size, when it went to the page it would display exactly like you put in there. So the very first CMSes were just big blocks where you would just essentially insert block here into a webpage. And what has happened over time is that has gotten more and more broken apart into elements and more and more controllable by editors. So authors might have the ability to enter content but not to change the formatting. Authors might write the content in but the formatting is controlled at an editing level. A lot of times they were still big chunky blocks. What has happened now with most of these platforms is that if you choose to you can still do big chunky blocks or you can create little wizards. You can give your content authors discrete little questions to answer. So what’s the date that you want this published? What is the title that should show up on a mobile website? What does the picture look like? Upload a picture to go along with this image if you’ve got one or this article. And the author through a series of questions that ultimately end up with a content record. What is this related to? What does this article relate to? Then you provide the topics. It makes sure that the content ends up in a format that will allow it to be used in certain ways. It will be published differently to mobile devices than it is published to a desktop website. Or republished out via RSF feeds or republished with schema dot org tags wrapped around it that are associated with those fields. So the more you structure your content, the more intelligent it can be. In many cases, the easier it is for writers because you give a workflow that allows them to add and enrich the content without having to edit all the formatting and manage all of the schema dot org tags and figure out how to relate it by plugging it in and later going in and mapping it properly to different pages. You don’t have to do any of that. You just give the author’s one workflow so they can focus on the creative. Does that help?

Byron: I think it did a pretty good job. Someone else will bring in the word, taxonomy. Your thoughts on taxonomy- how important it is. But before you so that, we have a big picture sort of question to ask you Cruce. Let’s just throw ourselves back 10 years from now. In 2005, when we were all battling, coming off a recovery of the first stock market and the dot bomb that happened. The complexity of the web, the early stages of Google, problems spidering your site. Remember the famous question mark in the url. Oh my gosh your evil. You’re blocking those bots. They think your pages are being created dynamically so they’re not going to give you search results. All the hype. All the buzz. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent on technology integrating our sites and getting rid of the question makers and proper H1 tags and H2 and H3s and search engine optimization conferences, gazoo. Oh my gosh, technology disguised for…Cruce aren’t we out of that, man? Things are long gone. Google has upgraded significantly. Why are we having discussions we suggest on schemes and technology and tags. Doing all of these things for what? Why are we doing it? The bots are going to recognize our content. Now from a user’s perspective, that’s a different story. I get that and I think that’s where the customers are coming into play. Could you comment a little on that in your thoughts on really Sycor and some of these technology platforms? Are they still living in the dinosaur age with antiquated technology that’s having problems getting a simple article out to the web doing it so it can be cross referenced on other pages of the website? Like that’s still hard?

All good points. We have been through the ringer with SEO and with Google. Everyone in the content business in in a dance with Google whether they like it or not. And we’ve been through the ringer. Google’s put us through the ringer because they have been figuring it out. We have to figure it out with them. What they’re trying to figure out we hope is about getting users, getting searchers, getting the public exactly what they’re looking for. Something useful to their search query in response to their search query. The highest signal, most relevant, most value-added material. It used to be back then when we were doing all these conferences about you know talking about metatags a lot, stuff like that. And certainly things like query string structure and all of that was part of these algorithms. What is it the Google wants us to do to structure our content so that we will be seen as valuable? Google has largely moved toward high signal content winning. Well-formatted, beautifully presented, beautifully written, good English, all of that. Usually those kind of quality articles, quality markers that other people think are valuable are upgraded towards the top and less spam techniques are working and really if we’re all honest with ourselves most of what the search engine conference were about was sort of manipulating the search engine. Those weren’t conferences about how to make beautiful high-quality content. It was about how to get to the top of search engine pages. The content marketing revolution is really about how do we make high-quality content. Google’s responding because Google is finding high-quality content, better and better and better. If you really want to be seen by Google, create high-quality content. And absolutely Byron, there’s no reason that we should be spending too much time thinking about structure and tagging and all of that. We want our authors thinking about beautiful quality experiences for our customers, for our clients, for the people that are coming to visit us through digital touch points. We want them creating beautiful experiences and we want them focused on quality. That’s all true. However, Google’s dream is a semantic web. They want to understand the web and all of its content not just at the surface level. They want to understand the dimension of that content and what it means. So if you talk about a doctor on a webpage, they want to know what that doctor does, the history of that doctor, where that doctor practices, what that doctor looks like. They want to know everything about that doctor that you’re talking about in your article. And right now- it’s getting smarter and smarter all the time- but right now they can’t infer everything just form the text of your content. They have to pull it from the schema. They have to pull it from the structure you provide. If you mark it up properly, Google can do that in the background. I think, to address your point, it’s absolutely true- we need to have content authors focused on quality and nothing else. So if we are going to do that, we need content engineers to focus on schema and petting the Google monster to make it happy. Feeding it because if the Google monster isn’t happy, the writer’s content is not going to have the same kind of reach and reuse it could have. We want our authors to focus on quality. We want our content engineers to focus on schema and mark up and all of the stuff that happens in the background and we hopefully we want those things to be invisible for the authors and the marketers.

Byron: And is the science growing? Let me rephrase that a bit. From my perspective, content marketing in general is both an art and a science. When content marketing was first launched as a concept, even if you look back with the introduction of the “white paper” many, many years ago, it existed mostly to appeal to a non-salesy piece of collateral asset if you will that was launched to the world. It was thoroughly aligned with words, not so much science. It was what it was. It was a simple white paper. But introduce Google and optimization and SEO and engineering and all of these wonderful content, we saw a surge, I think you would agree. In early 2000s and mid 2000s and into the next leap, here we are today. But I think art, the art part of science and marketing, is really on the upsurge right now. It really is the quality of the content that we’re creating, the topics, the originality…isn’t that going to end of the day what wins the war of words, Cruce in your opinion?

Cruce: Absolutely, the art will win because no matter how beautiful or how semantic, how well marked up and well-related the content is, people gravitate, us as humans, gravitate towards quality. That’s it. We gravitate towards experiences that uplift us. Our content needs to do that. Our content needs to be compelling to our listeners and our readers and our consumers. Wherever they’re touching it. Ultimately quality will win and it’s the content engineering piece- all of the enriching content making it more intelligent- is there to make content more accessible and more reusable and more valuable. So it’s not there to replace the art. In fact, if you pull out a huge arsenal and you’ve got tons and tons of resources and you employ every single approach, that will create semantically structured intelligent content that is well-organized you write drivel and write shallow information and it’s not useful to anybody and it will still fail in a big, big way. It’s a power up. If you’ve got quality, it’s the power up that will make that quality experience amplified and the right people and be reused in the syndication and within your own marketing effort with a lot more ease. So it’s a huge advantage. It’s one of those things that when quality content becomes table steaks, then it starts to become necessary to get your message well-structured.

Byron: And can’t you bring great science, from a content engineering perspective, to even simple platforms like WordPress, you know? Isn’t there great tips and advice that will probably be getting to in a second but, I’m going to let you continue on the rest of your presentation cause I could ask you questions all afternoon as you can see. Is it getting easier? You know, we need the engineer. We need to know what’s popular and what’s getting shared and what’s out there and what’s the right direction to point the ship in. What’s the right platform that we should be publishing in given the assets that we’re going to publish and the data that we want to reap from that? That’s the engineering aspect that’s winning right now. Would you agree Cruce?

Yes, and I think whatever your platform, whether on Wordpress or Groupor or Sycor or Kentico, any of these big CMS platforms that are out there, whatever you’re on, you need a content model. You content needs to have some ultimate structure to it to related content types. Those content types ultimately develop into a well-engineered system. That’s the marriage of that content strategy with content engineering. We think that content engineering needs to be integrated into the creative marketing lifecycle.

So this content model I’m referencing is up on the screen now. The content model is, anyone who’s familiar with Sarah Walker Vectors’ work, she’s written a very interesting book that introduced these concepts. This is the entry point. That book introduces a sort of entry point into content modeling and this is the part that no matter what platform you are on, needs to be addressed. In this case, an article is tied into a newsletter which is tied to a promo which has an event and all of those parts and then related to different elements of the content model. So they time and address and special offer and all of those elements get plugged into this little thing that’s representing your content delivery technology. So that could be WordPress or Grouple or Sycor or Episerver or Ectron or Kentico- it could be any of those. Then a lot of intelligence happens at that point, right? This is sort of the insert content engineering magic here because that’s where it gets tied to how that content gets presented on the page, how it adapts and flows on a page.

It’s personalized to different users. Personalization is part of the sort of the marketing maturity model that’s really far out there for most marketers. It’s like trying to describe New York to somebody who is just getting started on their journey from the West Coast. It’s far out there. We’ve still got a whole country to get to before it gets there. It’s not possible without these kind of structures in place ahead of time. Does that make sense?

Byron: Definitely. Carry on. These are some great slides. I think you have a few more.

Cruce: Absolutely. CEM or Customer Experience Management starts to happen when we are facilitating both the work side and the strategy and technology side with someone who is responsible for organizing or with the role or function that is responsible for that. So we see a workflow that has business strategy, content strategy, and content engineering involved, UX Design, development, deployment and optimization. We see a continuum where content engineering is a part of the workflow and we see a situation where we had a traditional process that’s up on top versus our customer experience and content engineering process below that just has a few simple changes to make. These are not huge. It is just adding, taking a look, it is a part where you are looking at strategy. It’s looking at strategy and what that look like for personalization and what that looks like for device types. Modeling strategy towards the implementation side. Including the implementation side in technology side within that discussion. Then, where there is a content strategy piece, add a content engineering mindset. Deputize one person to take on that mindset, that role. That could come from the development side. It could be a business analyst. It could be somebody that’s a consultant. It could be somebody that’s just in there to represent the content engineering pieces along with the content strategy discussion.

Then, in the tradition form of the project, you usually have some sort of static wire frames. But we’re looking at are looking at, in this content engineering projects and disciplines, that you are really going to need to make those more rich. Instead of having static wireframe. You are going to have prototypes. Why is that? Because if you have a static prototype, you are saying this is what the interface will look like every time you visit it. Nowadays, really, the interface changes based on who you are and what you’re looking at and on what device. That’s true with pretty simple, like a WordPress site that’s responsive. You are going to need to come up with variation of the interface. That’s done as a prototype. Not as a static wireframe. If wireframes are still happening in Photoshop or Adobe illustrator, take a look at that and see if there is another way to…would this be the right time to start training people on Acture or other prototyping tools? That allow us to show different versions of how interfaces work. It’s changing from a static world view to a dynamic world view that has different variations. Making sure the audience is on board with what gets presented there. In all of these cases, the content engineering role is critical for making all of this work.

“Adaptive content is more than just “mobile.” It means getting your content into a format that you can share and distribute into any platform you want.” That’s the content structure that allows that to happen. “You can get content onto platforms you control and platforms you don’t.” That makes that power up that I’m talking about where your content can get reused beyond your website. And Karen McGrane addressed that in her book, Content Strategy for Mobile.

So content engineers are really good at structuring content to be reused across the different media. They’re in a way a sort of mediator. They kind of advocate for the customer experience but then also the technology and how it happens from the content writers. They create and architect the system are between the content authors and the content creators and the audience in all their different places that they’re consuming content.

A great content engineer for CEM is at the intersection of strategy and technology. They’ve got an ability to understand management of these processes and the ability to understand the customer’s facing side and the internal needs and then really bring in that engineering mindset to things. So every team has one of these- usually they have one person who thinks cross-disciplinary, those are usually really good candidates to take on the content engineering role within your teams. Content engineering results in a better author experience, long-term content reuse for personalization and structure, improves communication in the team, and also a clear configuration plan which makes developers happy. Happier developers and happier strategists better defines configuration and schema dot org marks. Basically, it makes Google happy as well. It’s not just Google. There’s other consumers of schema but Google’s just a big one.

Then we really think that a content engineering practice should be built internally. The way to do that is by highlighting all of the importance of the roles, starting to facilitate that discussion in your organization about how these competencies can be covered. Who does this? Right now it’s the IA or sometimes it’s the Director of Development. Sometimes it’s the content strategist. Right now it’s all over the board. So it’s a good idea to define it. Highlight it. Lead the discussion and introduce it. And introduce these concepts to the C-suite executives and the partners and look at the projects and see how you can streamline those projects with that function.

If you like, there’s a lot more to discuss on this and we’re already ten minutes over and I appreciate everyone’s patience. I am glad that we got to cover so much. If you’d like to take a look at the book, I’d be happy to send it to you for free. It’s called, Content Engineering for A Multi Channel World. If you just email me at c@simplea.com, I’ll get you a copy of it. It goes more in depth of all of the stuff that we were just talking about. So glad to review that with anyone that’s interested and thank you so much for walking us through this Byron. This has been a lot of fun.

Byron: This is really fantastic. I want to get to a couple of questions. First of all somebody said…what’s the name of Sarah’s book that you mentioned?

Cruce: I can’t remember.

Byron: Sara Wachter Voettcher.

Cruce: I have this book. I have given copies of this book to our entire team. I have read it multiple times and I’m blanking on the name. It’s a name that’s pretty innocuous. I forget what it is.

Byron: Someone had a question. When sharing on a social media…would you say more traction would occur from sharing something with a big name or high attention grabbing keywords or something more loyal to your brand?

Cruce: Really quickly. I found the Sarah Walker Vector book. It’s called, Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for a Future Ready Content. And Sara’s name is S-A-R-A and W-A-C-H-T-E-R then dash V-O-E-T-T-C-H-E-R. I bought it by kindle at first. It’s actually a beautiful book to purchase a physical copy of.

Byron: Fantastic. So the question. Sharing on social media, more traction would occur form sharing something with a big name, or high attention grabbing keywords or something more loyal to your brand.

Cruce: I think with social media the thing that’s working for everybody right now is to be now an attention-grabbing title. If you can do attention grabbing title plus keywords, that’s great. That becomes a question where you are going to step back and say whoa. What’s are content strategy? What’s our voice? And really take a look at that first. Then advocating for the content engineer in the discussion. After the content strategy and the voice are determined, also take a look at what kind of semantic space do we want to own. Then social should amplify that strategy. So look at…there’s a series of words, like a semantic world, which are a set of words that are related we want to own. You can call it keywords but it’s more than that. It’s about the relationship between those. And you put together a kind of little grid that can be used as a guideline for those kind of social amplification messages.

Byron: Mmmhhmm. Very cool. Let’s see. If you have a WordPress ID, do you need to still install plug-ins like schema dot org.

Cruce: Yes. For WordPress and Drupel, most of these things are going to be handled with plug-ins. Sometimes you hack together customer solutions. Most of these platforms do not, out of the box, handle schema as a default and they should but they don’t which is another reason that it helps to have somebody who understands the reason for semantic markup and the technology to advocate for deployment.

Byron: How much would you say meta descriptions influence how SEO draws visitors? Loretta wanted to know.

-Communication difficulty-

Here’s a better way to say that. Is SEO dead? Sorry, couldn’t help myself there.

Cruce: SEO is dead but long live SEO.

Byron: Fair enough, Are you optimizing meta tags, meta descriptions, keywords? Are you bothering to do that anymore with (a) recommendations with your customers and clients and (b) your own stuff?

Cruce: So we cover the bases. We recommend to clients that they cover the bases of these things but we don’t obsess about it anymore. It’s really not…it’s background noise. Meta tags for example, when I talked about creating author experiences with little wizards. So what’s the title? How should this display on a mobile device? One of those is also, what are the key words. Hopefully we’ll suggest them based on the content. So that the author doesn’t have to come up with them all the time. That’s just getting baked into the authoring process and then published. We used to think a lot about it and now we just kind of do it as a habit. Make sure that we have good titles, good meta tags. It’s sort of like having a clean house. You just do it. If not, you don’t have to think about it- just do it along the way.

Byron: Right on. It’s just been great having you on today. I really appreciate it. I’m just going to show a quick link to my book right here. So a couple books for everybody to download. Feel free to add it. You are going to get these books in a link of a follow-up along with a link to the presentation today. So thanks for tuning in. Cruce, thanks so much for being with us today. I appreciate it.

Cruce: Absolutely. Thank you Byron. Thanks everybody for coming.


Byron: We will perhaps block out 2-3 hours to continue this conversation Cruce. It’s really exciting stuff and you’re bringing so much to the table to develop our understanding of a critical element to all of this. I just hope the engineering job is getting easier. And one final question. Do you think the engineer can be actively involved with understanding, distinguishing great content from not so great content? Is that part of a role for everyone on the team, but especially for the engineer? Wouldn’t you think?

Cruce: the engineer ideally should be focused on the distribution, blocking and tackling the elements underneath. They should have an understanding of what creative go through. Creatives and strategist need to lead the charge. They understand. The creative and strategists understand how to make that magical experience that enthralls users and brings them closer to the brand. The content engineer needs to understand the importance of all of that. The engineers can contribute to the conversation but their focus is on getting those beautiful strategies and messages and stories translated into technology platforms. So we can talk to developers for making this happen so the content strategists don’t have to. We want the strategists and creatives to be free.

Byron: When do you think you need to bring in a content engineer into a company? What size of a marketing budget, and or overall online spend do you think you would need to justify cost of a full-time or consultant content engineer coming into play.

That is a longer answer that will be part of our two hour… I will say that there’s not a one answer to that. I will also say that the content engineer is a role it’s a discipline that there’s never a bad time to start. You can start now. Understand the discipline of a content engineer, no matter what concepts you have, because if you are a content strategist, it will help make you a better one.

Byron: Cruce, thanks again for coming on today.

Cruce: Thank you Byron. Thanks everybody.

Byron: Thanks for listening in everybody. Until next month, I hope that your life is a little smarter, better, faster and wiser. Thanks for this Cruce and this webinar. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll see you next month.