[2/2] How content is evolving: an interview with Nick Wilsdon, Search Product Owner @ Vodafone

A while ago, we had the pleasure of speaking with Nick Wilsdon, Search Product Owner at Vodafone. As one of the pioneers in digital marketing, Nick was kind enough to share his expert insights with us and help us imagine where content is headed, which is something all sorts of publishers are eager to know more about.

But before discussing the future of content, we had to set the record straight regarding what content really is and how it overlaps with SEO. In case you missed the first part of the interview, you can easily catch up with everything we talked about with Nick by clicking here.

In this industry, often the best way to learn is to watch what everyone else is doing and seek out prime examples of good practices from which you can grab actionable takeaways that you can apply to your own business later. This is something we were curious to hear Nick’s take on who’s doing things well.

Some brands are really crushing it in the content marketing arena

We wanted to see which brands would Nick point out as inventive and successful in the content marketing arena. Nick was quick to highlight brands like Patagonia, MoneySuperMarket, and Michelin as doing a good job from his expert perspective, and he also mentioned one bike company that has pleasantly surprised him, as a consumer:

“Patagonia has always done fantastically and I think a lot of people refer to them [as an example of good content marketing practice]. In terms of their blog, they’ve built a hugely loyal following and they’ve done that through fantastic imagery, really good photography and they’ve realized that their audience is aspirational in terms of getting outdoors, experiencing nature and living life, and they’re producing just the right content to engage that audience. They do put in sales messaging – they’re not afraid to do that – but they’ve got the right balance between interesting content, usefulness, and sales. They’re obviously measuring that very carefully in terms of engagement and making sure that their content is actually resonating with their audience and producing something of value for the business, so as a case study I think Patagonia’s pretty hard to beat.”

Nick said that there are a lot of others who are also doing it well. For example, the people behind MoneySuperMarket are doing a great job by connecting SEO campaigns with larger and creative content ideas. They have social media teams and SEO teams creating content which spins off the main themes of the business and, according to Nick, that’s very clever because, speaking from the SEO department point of view – he would always rather have £10,000 of a £100,000 project, than £10,000 in isolation. That money will always be spent much more efficiently than it would be if it was spinning off a larger budget or a larger campaign.

Nick also talked about a specific bike brand that he believes is a great example on how to focus your content marketing efforts where they matter most:

“I saw Trendz recently, which is a bike firm. I went to their page to buy a bike light and what they’ve done is taken photography of all the bike lights they’ve got in the same position on a dark path and you can see and compare each picture against the other pictures. The angle, the spread. They were describing each light, with a write-up – and that’s fantastically useful content. […] That’s my idea of content. People talk a lot about the Michelin pamphlet – they produced the Michelin guide because it encouraged people to drive around the area and use their tires, and I think that’s a great example of content marketing.”

Evolution of SEO content and its place in newsrooms

We wrote about the benefits of SEO for newsrooms on our blog not long ago and explained in great detail how publishers can improve their online visibility and ensure their website gets properly indexed. Speaking with Nick, we learned how newsrooms could definitely utilize SEO, but publishers need to think beyond just improving rankings and adopt a more mature approach to the game:

There are a lot of people who are working in the news areas and they’re doing fantastically well with SEO and news. It’s good: they do need more mature SEO in those areas […] A lot of news people perceive SEO as a way of keyword-spamming your content to get more views and unfortunately this has spiraled off with websites like the Daily Mail and Mail Online where it’s affected the content and it’s making very sensationalist content rise to the top all the time, because it has those keywords and it appeals to those audiences.

In terms of the way content marketing and SEO are evolving, we can expect SEO professionals to become increasingly specialized in specific fields (such as the previously-mentioned SEO for newsrooms), mobile-first and data-first are also in focus. However, optimizing for different content vehicles such as voice search, is not something that most professionals have cracked yet, as Nick explained to us:

I specialize a bit in voice search and I find there are very few SEOs that really know about the optimization of Alexa. SEO will have to go that way and one person can’t possibly cover the entire spectrum of what you do across the website. But, in terms of how everything’s changing… Mobile-first and data-first are absolutely revolutionary. Data-first is, for me, probably more exciting than voice at the moment because we have to find ways to manage our data and make it machine-readable.

We also need to bear in mind the element of instant gratification that’s become an essential part of modern user behavior: “People aren’t going to sit there and wait for a minute and a half for a title to be read out for a news title, so we need to work out how to reduce all of this content to make it work on voice. So, there’s a huge amount of work that needs to be done now.

Data-powered creativity will always find its place on the market

Nick believes that over the next few years we’ll see a drastic change in focus, shifting from website to data. A lot of business professionals will try to figure out how to optimize their data and deal with databases to export them to voice. SEO will be all about optimizing all that data while adapting to different platforms, too:

“Internet used to be something that we accessed from the computer, but then suddenly we got mobile, so we’re carrying the Internet around with us […] It’s becoming all-pervasive now, and I don’t think people have really grasped how much optimizing data is going to be an issue, let alone just thinking about the individual optimization of each format: web SEO, voice SEO – these are all going to be specialized formats.”

It seems that data-powered creativity will always find its place on the market. Experienced content marketers – who have developed a sixth sense for their audience, understand exactly what they need, and can make sense of available data – are rare birds. They display a talent for coming up with blog ideas and infographics in order to delight their relevant prospects. However, Nick has explained to us it’s not that easy for companies to hire the right people, especially when they themselves don’t know who they need on their team:

I feel very sorry for people who are hiring SEOs to be honest! I speak to a lot of people and you don’t know who you’re hiring now. You could literally be hiring somebody who could be coming up with blog ideas and infographics, or you could be hiring somebody who could be hired to understand the intricacies of Javascript and optimizing them for Google: it’s a massive spectrum of skill sets and I think that’s made it very hard to employers in terms of working out who they need in their team, and who they need to get. There aren’t many all-rounders – or they tend to be quite old!

We at Content Insights definitely think that data is the present and the future of the publishing industry. When paired with creativity, it has the potential to create a paradigm shift.

Thanks to Nick for chatting with us – we’ve learned a lot! You can follow him on Twitter and if you missed the first part of the interview, you can check it out here.

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