The web is being filled with pointless content that barrages our senses, overwhelms and distracts us and reinforces the new norms of sub-mediocrity. And this contentless content is amplified and regurgitated through social media, email marketing, streamed webinars and sometimes even conferences. It’s time to take a stand against the banal and pointless pollution and Dave shares with us how in this great talk from Business of Software Conference USA 2016.
Slides from Dave’s talk here
BoS Europe 2020 BoS USA 2020
Don't Miss a Thing - Get BoS Updates
Want us to let you know about new talk videos, speaker AMAs, Business of Software Conference and other event updates? Join the smart people who get BoS updates. Unsubscribe anytime. We will never sell your email address.
Mark Littlewood: The only thing standing between us and a comedy club is Dave Collins, please put your hands together!
Dave Collins: I was worried that you will choose something else, so thank you. Apparently, in 2016 people don’t like watching presentations that have bullet points and text. Luckily, I knew that, Mark warned me in advance. And another thing they like is to share stories and I have a story to share with you, the story of Bob.
It might surprise you to know Bob is not his real name. Every aspect of this story is 100% and we will all be able to relate to him a bit. So, meet Bob, obviously, it’s not Bob. Bob was a very smart and ambitious software dev, which I suspect a few of you can relate to that. He was an early adopter on pretty much everything so he built his own affiliate system before people heard of the concept and he was into SEO. Bob was doing very well and demand for Bob’s product grew, sales grew by 5 times in just over 15 months which is pretty healthy. I think in 2 years he grew a dev team and even a small sales team. When you look down from the view from above, everything is good for Bob – fortunately he had no idea what laid ahead. Just underneath those waters that look inviting and sunny there were some serious problems waiting for him and they were causing him an enormous amount of pain. Before I tell you what happened to him, I will give you 3 very short history lessons. They will fill you with delight and will be the shortest history of SEO that exists.
Four eras of SEO
Era 1 is exist. Have a website, hope that AltaVista picks it up. Second era is tweak. This is where we get clever, we have a real site and try to trick things a bit. The 3rd era is where we start to manipulate. This is when Google talked about page rank and a simple page said a link is considered a vote of authority and the more you have, the more votes and higher the chance you show up in result. Fourth one was hacking and that’s where we are today, it’s the shortest way to get from a to b as quickly as possible. What you might pick up along the way – that’s the history of SEO, I did promise it would be short.
A short history of me, the first money I made online was I got a piece of software, tweaked it and connected my modem and I trolled the web picking up email addresses and throwing them into a database and I then sent out an unsolicited mail [laughing]. It was before the whole ‘S’ word kicked in but it was kind of spam-like. One other thing about me, you can probably tell from the accent I’m not local. I’m British and therefore genetically predisposed to being sarcastic from time to time. Sarcasm doesn’t often translate across the atlantic well here so when I am sarcastic there’s a warning on the slide.
The final history lesson before we go back to Bob is a very brief of spam. So back in the day, this is oversimplifying it, but you would send out 100 emails, 10 people would actually click on the link – 1 person would purchase so 100 people produce a sale. A few years later we have better email software and clients and it’s harder to send it through. So instead of 100 you send 10k. A few years later the trend continues, you have to send 1 million, 5 years after that it’s 100 million and so on. Can anyone hazard a guess how many spam are thought to be sent every day worldwide? It’s thought to be 184 billion spam every day. It’s an estimate cause there isn’t a finite spam list at the end of the day but that works out to about 2.1, 2.2 million spam every single second. So, first question for you do you think I’m the first spammer to speak at BoS? Don’t answer! The answer is no, and we’ll get onto that. The whole spam thing was very brief, he says. I then moved into the far more noble art of SEO and started dealing with – if any other people remember names AltaVista, Hotbot, infoseek, ring any bells? You probably can’t hear me at my age – Netscape navigator 3 gold? Remember that browser? I still use it! Today none of those mean anything apart for old people and we all worship at the altar of Google, everything they do is wonderful and I have complete and utter respect for them. That’s the history, we’re finished.
Back to Bob, you can all relate to this picture, right? You sit there with your hoodie with your matrix figures flowing in front of your developers’ brains. 1980 keyboard typing away and things are going well for Bob. 2004 when it started getting interesting, that was the year of the Battlestar Galactica remake. Bob had other things on his mind because that was the year he discovered AdWords. I think he went to a conference and got a voucher, some conferences give you vouchers, and he discovered if he threw some money at it low and behold it worked, so he threw more money at it. Bob had shiny object syndrome and said I like what it does but it’s complicated and boring, we will find someone to do it for us. And he found us and we took care of this for years.
“Moderate strategies produce moderate gains”
Then I arranged a phone call with Bob cause you didn’t use Skype back then. So, I said I’ve been wandering around your website and I’m shocked because I think you’re doing every SEO trick I’ve seen and many I haven’t heard about before. Bob’s response was I know, isn’t it great? It turned out Bob had an enormous amount of content on his website, it didn’t make the world a better place or improved the user experience, it simply existed to rank highly in Google and get more traffic. Black hat world is one of the most open forums, you don’t even need to register – it’s not interesting – the really interesting stuff is hidden away but Bob sucked all this stuff up. And where most people went and read some of these threads and said that’s interesting, Bob would look on the threads and said that’s interesting, let’s try it on 20 sites today. And he very much did, he used every single trick in the book. So, I explained on the phone call you’re take a lot of chances, Bob. And Bob had some great lines and he said listen moderate strategies produce moderate gains. Bob had a very aggressive strategy to dominate search and it worked. So, I had to do the responsible SEO thing and say it’s not good, your day of judgment is looming, Bob. Take my advice if you want blah blah blah. And Bob told me something interesting in response. He said I understand what you’re saying – he was receptive to new ideas – here’s the thing, Dave, I’m a smoker and I’m not a smoker like most people, I don’t just smoke stuff, every time I put a cigarette in my mouth and get the nicotine and tar, every single time it’s wonderful and I’m not an idiot, I know the day of reckoning will come at some point and there’s a good chance that I will regret smoking but for now I will continue to do it, knowing the risks and riding these great waves that Google are serving me up, knowing the risk. That’s easy to look back now knowing what we know and say that’s really dumb cause we know Google take action against dodgy SEO. But back then the only real risk Bob was taking was to be put on the Google blacklist and it didn’t exist, so it’s not much of a risk. So, Bob carried on doing his various dodgy SEO things.
2011. Obviously the first thing that springs to mind is the royal wedding in Britain, right? 2011 was an instant year for Bob because Google took the very first stamp down on results they felt they shouldn’t be there and that was in the form Google Panda. So, this was Google’s first attempt in 2011 and this was Bob’s day of reckoning. Do you remember the picture of the mines under the water? It wasn’t the mines, they’d come. SEOs all over the world ran around like headless chickens panicking. To be completely honest I loved it because SEO isn’t always interesting, sometimes a bit dull and when something terrible happens it’s quite good relatively. I don’t get into all the data for Bob and had another look and call and I said to him what we’ve seen is your traffic dropped by about 10-12% which isn’t great but it’s not the end of the world. Bob’s reaction was basically you got me, you’re the SEO. You said this will happen, so fix it. The details about what happened in Panda I’m sure you’d love to know but they don’t matter because it’s actually about is Google trying to make sure that these listings don’t show up, it was that simple. I fixed it and had another phone call with Bob the smoker, we fixed 200-300 pages of his website straight off and I said this is new I don’t know how long it will take to recover, new territory. I said my concern is you’ve used every SEO I’ve seen, you were penalised for one thing here and I think they will carry on, this is the first shot in what’s going to be a very long war. Bob’s response was fair enough but I’m still a smoker and I will deal with tomorrow, tomorrow. So, he went back to the hoodie, matrix figures and had a nice spell but not for long. That was in November 2011.
2012, which was the year of the curiosity rover landing we had the next one which was Panda, April 2012. So, remember Bob’s response to Panda was you got me, go fix it! Penguin was bad it really was quite terrible. Bob got incredible traffic from Google, 700-800 targeted visits a day from Google and most of them converted sales because of the nature of the product and that dried up overnight. So, these fell to single figures, on a bad day he would get no traffic from Google. What this meant 4 and ½ months after this happened, Bob let some of his staff go cause there wasn’t any income coming in, it disappeared pretty much over night. So he had to have those conversations about laying people off. This was about toxic backlinks. Again this was new ground, everyone was panicking, everyone was unhappy, and I’m the only person going fantastic! This is great SEO!
This is what’s toxic backlink page. The headline made sense and then you read the text and the main thing you have to remember and this journey was – there are I have no idea how many millions of these sites and they have 10s if not 1000s of pages of garbage content that serves two purposes, they get clicks on ads and have links pointing to sites. None of this came from us – so Bob was shaken up. It’s one thing to know the day of reckoning will happen at one point and it’s quite another to sit there and have these conversations with friends and colleagues you’ve worked for years. You say I’m sorry but there’s no money, we got to call it a day. Even a few years later Bob was licking his paws. Today Bob does no more dodgy links, he’s doing other dodgy stuff but we’ll come on to that later. He’s very much moved on to what you could call dodgy content instead. But Bob’s problems weren’t specifically about links, that was the symptom and in my opinion the problem was about this attitude to riding waves in general. It goes beyond links and SEO. On top of which his problems were compounded by a number of factors. Now the first one, theory of evolution we all know it’s slightly oversimplified but apparently – when it came to online quality of content, we didn’t continue to improve in that direction. We took a step back and we delivered more quantity but lower quality and we continued that trend and so on.
So about a year ago I had a conversation with my Dad and I’m actually 45, I know I look 25, I had this conversation and we were comparing the world I live in today and the world my Dad lived in at my age. So my dad was an optician, and he worked – we all lived and grew up in Manchester, that’s what Google gave me when I did an image search and what it thinks it looks like today. Most of you think that, it’s not a million miles away. But what we discovered in this conversation my dad had limited points of contact and on a working day he’d read the newspaper when having breakfast, he’d drive to work listening to the news, listened to the radio coming back and then he’d watch the news at 10. These were the days before 24 hour news channels so my dad had very limited connections to the world of external content and we realised if you compare that with our days, by the time I’ve had breakfast, I’ve been exposed more than my dad would have seen in weeks, sometimes months but it’s the quality thing. It’s not there, it’s all about quantity.
Second problem. We know that shouting doesn’t work and it’s bad but why do we do it? Whether it’s online or offline we tap into this idea and this myth of shouting what I call the myth of amplification. This is how it works. I came across an article by Rand Fishkin who spoke here last year – I came unto a great piece of content, that was not sarcasm and how to target low volume key words and I think that was brilliant and high quality. I know I’ve got 6-7k followers on Twitter got a whole lot of friends on Facebook, LinkedIn contacts, I know I will share it with them cause in my mind what’s gonna happen is all around the world people will say there’s a link from Dave Collins because that’s how it works. They will watch the video, read the transcript and go that was amazing! Dave Collins sent us this amazing – some guy talking about something but it came from Dave, the guy is a genius.
That reminds me, I won’t name where this appears but it reminds me of a conversation like this. Hey did you see that awesome post on the buffer blog this morning? No, what’s the buffer blog? Oh, it’s a blog created by a company that built a really cool social sharing app. Here, I’ll send you a link. Has anyone had a conversation like that, ever? They don’t exist, they remind me of Kathy Sierra’s talk where she has this ludicrous photos and speech bubbles, conversations that will never happen. To make a point I sent a tweet to Barack and I said to him do you need any help with SEO Mr. President? Because you will go and see that if you’re following me or Barrack Obama – you will see that and go does Dave do SEO for president Obama? Wow! People in Europe and the UK – might think does Dave do SEO for the whole of the US government? That’s pretty cool! And then look at that, Barack Obama follows me, that’s why he’s distracted the summit, he’s waiting for my Tweets – that’s how the system works, right? You see that and you think that’s pretty cool. And we don’t, but we all do these things cause it’s how the system works.
So, I have two favourite geek photos. This is one of them, me and Steve Vozniak. You will look at that and go Dave works for Steve? Not just president Obama? Does he even work? I thought he just speaks at events nowadays. They are wearing the same uniform, does Steve work for Dave? Neil Patel, anyone familiar with him? He’s a well-known content marketer now Neil got caught inbound.org essentially a forum for marketers or aspiring marketers. There’s an aspiration. Some of the inbounds saw this and took offence and pointed it out and said this isn’t a blog post but an ad for a webinar and when you click on it, you get taken to a landing page and then you get hit by a webinar sign-up and this guy got really annoyed by it. He posted and a whole lot of people discussed it. Generally the trend was negative, people said things like a big turn off for sure, this is a dark pattern, and I love the last one, it’s not just misleading it’s verging on outright scam. My respect for him is basically gone. Still respect him as a low grade cynical con artist. And Mister Angry came along, I want to punch him in the face. I love what he did in the past.
One or two people defended it without getting into the specifics they said you might not like this sort of things but it works, you might think it’s deceptive but it works. Gerald Craft said if definitely work just not for me mainly cause I felt it kept tricking me. It’s my fault, I needed to know better. The point is this is marketers talking about marketing and the overall tone of the discussion was very negative, it seems that the tide is turning and people don’t like being deceived. How about that for weird concept? Sarcasm.
Third problem was the I know syndrome and as business owners we’re worse than just tapping it cause we have epiphany marketing and shiny object syndrome together. But it’s something we only do online cause that’s something different. So, this sort of behaviour I would think most people won’t do what I do – you will do it but not in those circumstances with that guy sitting there in the real world cause that’s weird and awkward. In the real world there are rules and we judge by appearance . The first impressions play a big part and we judge by what people do, by our perceived reputation, the professionalism or lack of it, that tone and the message we’re communicating is huge just by how we hold ourselves in general. But we also judge by what people say. You judge me unfortunately about what I say and how I say it. So, one of the great things genuinely about this conference, in my opinion, is the quality of the attendees. We’ve had the first night and welcome reception. I’ve had countless conversations with people, some which I’ve never met before and it’s good. Imagine if you come to talk to me after this to disagree with everything I said, you come up to me and say… you know the lanyard game – when you look at it and say Dave, what do you do? If I open my laptop and give you a 5-6 minute PowerPoint presentation about the benefits of working with our company and if you sign up in the next 24 hours I will give you a 1.5% discount for life, you won’t say that’s good but you will avoid me. And I have an advantage over most people in this room because I’m British and as a Brit everything I do is automatically trustworthy, honest, reliable and so on. No sarcasm sticker there, it gets a bit confusing, doesn’t it?
We talk about the online and real world and see maps of online activity – guess where it takes place, it’s where there are people because the real world is not a separate parallel dimension or universe, the real world is here, as is the online world, it’s one and the same. Which is why I don’t understand when I get an email like this and this is genuine. An email, I blurred it cause we don’t swear at this conference, and he says [reads email]. Guess what? We’ve all had emails like this at some point, maybe it’s just me. Being horrible online is actually being horrible. If you go on Twitter and you are angry, mean, racist, sexist, it actually means you are an angry, mean, racist, sexist person. The same rules apply. Interrupting online is interrupting cause we know that shouting doesn’t work, right? We’re familiar with that. So when Mark first asked me to speak at this conference, when Mark finally gave into my years of persistence, blackmail and extortion, I was genuinely honoured and privileged and I genuinely feel that way to be standing here today. I could have prepared a talk on something like 5 reasons why SEO is important for small businesses. Mark would have been delighted, sarcasm, and you would’ve been just thrilled. I could’ve gone for life hacker style content, I could’ve prepared a presentation on the scientific argument for mastering more than one thing at a time or 3 tips to help you cut down on magazine clutter [laughing]. These things fill time and the depressing thing is I had to read those articles and they weren’t that good. What a waste of opportunities! Because we’re here to share experiences, ideas and thoughts but we have the same opportunity for every single piece of content whatever form is it, whether it’s a blog post or email doesn’t matter. It’s an opportunity to share these ideas, thoughts and experiences.
Joanna Wiebe from copy hackers who also spoke here last year, we work with her and she asked me if I would write a blog post on their site so I did and it took me many hours cause it was a great opportunity and she benefited and we did as well. I could have gone for the easier approach and could come up with 19 of the most upsetting food photos you will ever see. Cause cool headlines work, right? I bounced this idea around many people and it’s around now, I suspect there’s a few people in the room who are thinking listen, Dave, what you’re saying, we kind of get it but every single time we write one of these blog posts that you think are so inferior and boring, we get signups and leads and income. Every single time we send one of these emails that you roll your eyes and do that sarcastic snooty Brit thing, we get income. These things work, you might not like it but it works. And if you feel that way, I think you’re wrong. And here’s why.
The first reason is – remember that model of Spam? You send 100 and then 1000 and then 1000000 it’s the same pattern cause the same model applies and it’s also about pollution. It doesn’t matter how hot you are, if you’re out on a walk, you get to this water you won’t jump and go and swim in it. Even if there’s a sign saying there’s nothing here, just garbage! It makes me think of the online experience a bit. And it’s an attack on clarity because when you lose it, you can’t see the stunning beauty that lies right in front of you [laughing]. Again, no sarcasm! Back to Battlestar Gallactica if you saw it, I’m sure a lot of you did, they have this theme that all this happened before and will happen again and it applies to what we’re doing online. SEO were in this infinite loop of find the flaw, test it, if it works, roll it out on all the sites, Google stamp on it doesn’t work anymore. It’s that infinite loop, we don’t get anywhere. We’re all familiar with the Google do no evil thing, right? I always thought imagine a conversation with your child, what you want to do when you’re older? I want to do no evil, is that an aspiration? It’s not eradicate poverty or diseases? Just I won’t do evil, just very bad. Maybe we’re missing the point and it’s potentially a warning to us and what Google are saying is do no evil, do not write content with the view of getting better rankings. Don’t create links with a view to gaming the system but content that is so good that people will link to it because it’s an arms race.
Do you remember when you went to a website and a little slider appears at the bottom of the post to receive this in your email every week, give us your email address here. You think wow that’s great and you put it on your own website. And what you see when you put it on your site is the signups explode cause it’s new and really works but then everyone starts having these sliders so when that levels out, you go I will put a pop up in the middle of the screen cause they are a new idea, right? Ask for the email address and for a while that works but after a while we see them everywhere so signups level off again. So, you think I will make it huge and will cover most of the screen and put 2 buttons, a green button saying yes, I want this or red button that says no, I’m an idiot. And for a while that works until it doesn’t. the next best thing I don’t know what it is, but a lot of them will start doing it. And this is the ultimate arms race.
Spam. When you use spam to send your marketing, you’re bombarding someone’s inbox, if you use inbound marketing instead of bombarding the inbox you’re doing it to the world so people will walk over and trip over slides, have your content flying in their faces, no escape. And that also kind of works but either way we’re drowning people in content that they really don’t want. So, get positive!
I will give you three alternatives to content creation for the ideas you will create.
The first one is the easiest and it’s got a formula cause formulas always scientifically proven they demonstrate how clever a speaker is. So, here’s the easiest option I know to generate content. Mental masturbation plus verbal diarrhoea= easy content. It works right? Can anyone relate to the strategy? It kind of works but quality just doesn’t exist so I will give you two other alternatives. Option 2 is what I call the Seth Godden model, 2010 Seth spoke right here at the conference and stood right in front of these doors. And this is my 2nd favourite geek photo where I photobombed them having a conversation. Joel looks like he wants to hurt me a bit, Seth is dazzled by my British access, not at all irritated. Seth’s content model is amazing; he writes a blog post every single day. It’s fresh, original and unique, low quantity. It’s often under 100 words but every single day. So I sent him an email telling him I was gonna be speaking here and to my amazement he replied – I asked him a few questions, if the main reason to write is to share expertise, should be long or short content? And his response was a bit Yoda like, write only as long as you need to, but no longer. The more I thought about that the more I got it. I asked him do you struggle to come with ideas? He said the struggle is in helping them thrive and grow without letting fear or fatigue choke them. He also came out with the most profound statement that I ever come across about Google, but we’ll come to that in a moment.
So, we have the mental masturbation model, the Seth Godden model and the 3rd option is what I call the Joanna Wiebe model. As I said she spoke here last year. She agreed to share some facts and figures so we spoke about one of her blog posts and she told me there’s a blog post that she spent 180 hours on researching and writing. 12000 words and a 59 minute read. So pretty spectacular, 180 hours! So the obvious follow-up question is was it worth it? And it was cause at the time we shared this email a couple months ago, she said it’s been shared more than 4700 times, had more than 130 comments on the page, it ranks first for the phrase copywriting formulas and get 1000s of views a month. The next question is what about the other blog posts that aren’t as popular? This was an amazing figure, she said I’ve spend a year’s worth of time writing posts that few will see or care about. But the body of work we’re building here is bigger than the individual posts. How many people here feel like you’re building a body of work as opposed to writing stuff? I know I don’t.
So there are three options. Option one, the low quality. Two, is the Seth model and three is the Joanna model. So, you have choices, there are others. The easiest one and most tempting because it’s the easiest is option one. Cause easy is always tempting and it’s a bad habit, and bad habits are easy to acquire and hard to break. But I believe most people in this room, we’re not like most people for better or worse, but we’re better than most. Cause if all we’re going to do is trawl the internet and take people’s ideas and regurgitate it, which a lot of people do it quite often. If that’s the best we can do – it’s like a twisted form of cuckoo’s egg. They lay their eggs in other nests and will kick the other eggs out if they can. If not, they will leave it there. And the other birds sit on it and protect the eggs and even raise the chicks. You’d think they would notice that one is a bit different. Maybe it’s colour blindness? But the implications are huge because sometimes you get these small birds with these huge offspring and they die trying to feed them. From their point of view, they said he’s big boned. But these are the consequences of handling the issues for other people. If you decide after this talk cause I will fill you so much inspiration I’m done with software and online. I will open a restaurant! I would hope that you won’t try to knock off McDonald’s cause that’s regurgitating on a whole new level.
The easiest way by far to make decision is to toss a coin, I think it’s the easiest. But hard is good and easy doesn’t mean best. The difficult things in life tend to be good, creativity, exercise, growth, development. Hard is good, we need to stop taking these hacks and looking for them in everything.
Imagine you have some medical issue and you see a doctor and while you’re waiting you see a certificate learn to be a doctor in a 7-day course. You won’t stay around, I hope! We need to stop defaulting to shortcuts so while I was preparing this presentation it took on a life of its own became less organic and these fresh ideas grew and I had this moment – we’re doing what I’m talking about. We send a newsletter every Tuesday morning UK time and I had this moment of clarity and thought why are we doing it every week? So, we wanted to do it every two weeks instead so guess what happened. It was easier to write because it’s easier to come up with an original idea every 14 days than every 7 days. Shame it took me 4-6 years to figure it out! We got better feedback, more engagement and less people unsubscribed but that’s what happens when you create good content that it should be shared and released and set free. Cause the alternative is sharing other people’s ideas and that’s what we do so often. One person writes an interesting blog posts, 100 read it and decide to write their own blog posts about it but they don’t credit the original, they pass it off as their idea and each of those 100 do the same thing 100 read it and pass it off as their own and the content gets diluted to essentially homeopathic level. But the originality and spark that was in the first one is completely gone.
One of the speakers touched on the snowflake thing earlier but I don’t like this idea, it’s become cool to say you are not unique snowflake but actually you are. Every single person and every one of us in this room experiences the world slightly differently from everyone else. Every one of us sees things differently. Every single person in your team, no matter what they do they have their own thoughts and ideas. All we need to do is tap into it, no one experiences the world like anyone else. But you can’t fake it. That’s not a picture of my children, it’s a stock image. They aren’t arguing, he’s got more popcorn than me. Anyone have shelves like that? One book and a stupid plant. You spot the real thing, when you see it, you know it’s the real thing.
So, here’s the solution that I’m proposing. It starts with releasing good quality content.
If you use a content calendar and I hope you don’t use it – if you do, kill it because there’s no better way than killing your reputation than stifling your creativity. You corner yourself with these stupid self-imposed deadlines into this place where you can’t produce good quality content. I’m not saying don’t go to Google to research your ideas but have your ideas go to Google to prove to disprove or reinforce or refute your ideas, but don’t use it just for taking other people’s ideas.
And here’s the quote I promised you from Seth. When I asked him do you care about SEO or you trust Google to figure it out for you? He said neither, Google is not only a miracle, it’s a pox, a black stain on our culture’s ability to go for the edges. Go Google! But I take it one step further and it’s not Google that’s the issue but how we use it. Last year’s talk by Peldi – I hear this winds of discomfort – I thought I’ve seen him speak many times and this was by far his best presentation I have ever seen. It was in this room and a fair number of people saw it online or were here. He had us riveted, right? He held us in the palm of his hand, it was engaging and an amazing story. It was heartfelt and we could feel the terror, angst and weight of it. It was phenomenal. But when you share these ideas that are that interesting, when you share a content that’s so interesting the stories have to be shared because they should be shared, not written. What happens next is predictable, you don’t need to worry about link strategy cause they will happen cause people will want to link to your great content.
That dialogue about the buffer blog, people can start half conversations like that when your content is that good. The whole amplification and do it, but if you want to tap into other people’s desire to re-Tweet other people’s content it’s easier when the content you’re sharing is high quality from the beginning. Bob saw, and some people in this room, saw how devastating Panda can be and Penguin can be. I love that picture. I don’t know what the next penalty will be called, it will start with a P, safe. Datapoint of 2, therefore it’s P, we had panda, penguin, python, polar bear, papaya, pork chop – lethal if not cooked properly.
But it will happen cause Google has the same problem of poor results showing up in the searches. So, if you start when you’re planning and writing and creating the content, if you start by asking yourself does it actually provide real value? Is this content gonna be so good that should show up high because it deserves? Think about the signals, we all written a blog post at some point and if you look and go it’s better than nothing. But what you push out there is this poor quality mediocre content and that’s the first time I come in contact with your company, I will assume it’s a poor quality company. We aren’t writing content for the sake of it, but cause it has to be shared and written.
So, remember Bob’s reservation? I’m not proposing moderation, I’m an SEO we don’t do that. So I’ve got another formula and this is my formula for high quality content. Insight + value = quality. Pretty simple right? But you should have insight in whatever you do and if you create content that provides the insight and value you deliver the quality but quantity doesn’t even come into it. That thing that this happened before and will happen again, we all know it’s a bubble forming and companies rely on hideously low quality content to sustain their businesses and it’s obvious what will happen.
So if you know me, some of you know me, we have to address the issue of metrics and data cause we’re clever. I’m genuinely data driven. If you know me, you might be surprised by my stance on this because I think there’s a time and place for everything including data but sometimes common sense is actually more important. When you’re in that point in your life when you know you’re getting serious and this relationship became something big and we all had or will have that moment when you think should I do this and take the next step? When you’re at the point in your life, that’s not the time to open a spreadsheet. Common sense sometimes it’s more important than data.
So what I’m proposing pun intended, is to step away from what we’re doing cause all we’re doing is quantity. Your competition does it every month, you do it every 3 weeks. Where does it stop? This is an unhealthy arms race, will it be hourly blog posts every 15 minutes? It’s like running on a treadmill, it gets the heart going but you turn it off and you’re at where you began. Bob’s desire to run waves it had some very real risks, if you’re really lucky you will walk away bruised. If you’re unlucky the consequences can be more severe. If you contrast that instead of riding these waves, but sailing straight, still in the water and sunny but avoiding the big waves and going exactly where you want to be going at the beginning, I know which I would choose.
I know it’s very easy to stand here and say stop making rubbish content. This is what I propose – but at the very least I would urge you the next time you’re working on your next piece of content to pause and think what would be needed to turn this from a mediocre into a great piece of content? And there’s a rule of thumb, read the last 10-20 blog posts that you’ve written. If they make you wince, it’s not good. If on the other hand you read them and you feel this genuine pride I did this, that’s a good sign.
So, final quote from Seth, he released the most stupidly oversized book I’ve seen in my life. And I found a good quote in there. This isn’t photoshopped, that’s the size of the book.
Don’t bother engaging with customers unless you are prepared to invest enough to exceed expectations and delight them.
Right, it’s 6 o’clock so let’s trim that down, don’t bother engaging unless you’re prepared to exceed and delight. Thank you! [clapping]
BoS Europe 2020 BoS USA 2020
Don't Miss a Thing - Get BoS Updates
Want us to let you know about new talk videos, speaker AMAs, Business of Software Conference and other event updates? Join the smart people who get BoS updates. Unsubscribe anytime. We will never sell your email address.
Mark Littlewood: Very good! Thank you, Dave! It was fun being involved in that process! Questions? Hands up!
Audience Question: Thank you for a great talk! When should you not do content marketing at all – when you should you and shouldn’t you?
Dave Collins: What do you define as good quality content?
Audience Question: That which demonstrates my and my institutions expertise, our software is manifestation of which.
Dave Collins: My answer is….go on guess. You’ve just answered it. Have you created content that you know is suboptimal? Of course not! Can you imagine your competition doing that? When you have good quality you don’t need to worry about it. I won’t go as far as saying the marketing will take care of itself cause it won’t but it’s easy pushing a strong message and really good quality content that people want to read. When it’s not so good, it’s not so easy and I think if you look at it, you will be able to make that call and say yes, this is something we want out there. When you write a blog post and it’s great and send out an email and you put it on Twitter and want to get it as quick as possible, imagine – I know for you every piece of content is that good, but if it’s all that good it becomes easier. That makes sense?
Audience Question: Thank you for your presentation! I share your viewpoint – shouldn’t we be lobbying or approaching Google to change the way they rank content as opposed to try and change the way websites or content is produced on the other side?
Dave Collins: I genuinely love the fact you think Google would listen or care. But here’s the thing with Google, if you have an AdWords problem where you actually spend money it’s easy to contact them. You might not speak to the brightest person but you will get contact when there’s an issue that will cost them money. There’s no recourse to contact Google to anything SEO related. You can do small things, disvalue links if you want to go that route but it’s like standing at the top of this auditorium empty and shouting, you hope someone will listen. There isn’t someone you could turn to – no one in this room I hope sits there and wants to create bad content. We don’t say I need to create poor quality content but we have these issues that we need to churn content. If I was handling your SEO I guarantee that you will get far better results from 3 really good quality pieces of content than 15-20 poor ones.
Audience Question: Your instinct when you think of the people in this room– is the issue that you typically see lack of clarity and a message at a high level, being able to state what my company is about or the low type of things that Joanne Wiebe is good at – is it a tactical problem or a lack of being to summarise my message?
Dave Collins: I think it’s mainly a lack of caring full stop, because when all too often we’ve got a goal – we don’t write content for the sake of it. We want to reach people, share our expertise and touch base with customers. And all too often it’s this formality – we just have to send them an email and hopefully it won’t be so bad that people will unsubscribe. But the desire to communicate with your customers or potential customers is driven by this is a great thing and what you need to know. I think if you stick to that principle you can get it. And we’ve seen and tested it and measured it. It does work, it’s that simple.
Mark Littlewood: 5,4,3,2,1, your time is up, Dave Collins! [clapping]. There’s a little timer down here and that was on the dot.
BoS Europe 2020 BoS USA 2020