Content is Bigger than Google

Content is Bigger than Google
A short week ago I found myself face to face with a Google believer — someone who puts all of its eggs in the Google sandbox, relying on the search giant to build traffic, and doing the bare minimum required beyond that to play into it to the fullest.

That is a mistake. One that is increasingly going to isolate the content of that site.

Because given the avalanche of posts, articles, text, even visual content to a degree, individuals are faced with every day, a site will not continue to become a destination with Google alone — nor will it be able to rely on the strength of its content.

Here’s why: Content is bigger than Google

Don’t believe me? I have one number for you: fivethirtyeight#. Now that is a destination people will bookmark and return to regularly — and directly. Ben Thompson shared the reason in a recent post#:

This, of course, is made possible by the Internet. No longer are my reading choices constrained by time and especially place. Why should I pick up the Wisconsin State Journal – or the Taipei Times – when I can read Nate Silver, Ezra Klein, Bill Simmons, and the myriad other links served up by Twitter? I, and everyone else interested in news, politics, or sports, can read the best with less effort – and cost – than it ever took to read the merely average just a few short years ago.

The zero moment of truth for content is this: become a destination or struggle to come out of the Google sandbox. And that is increasingly just one part of the content consumption pool.

People share on Twitter and Facebook, bookmark and subscribe — RSS or email, many choose email, not all because apps like Flipboard make it easier to create one’s own publication — to read later, maybe on the subway. You have no idea how many save articles to read on the subway even with the subpar connectivity we have in the US.

Okay, so we now realize there are two other actors to include in our conversations on content discovery and consumption arena: 1) social; and 2) mobile. Ah, but Google is taking care of that with its deep liking strategy for apps#:

Google is deploying “deep links” inside apps as a way to protect its $50 billion a year search empire from consumers’ shift to mobile. Rolfe Winkler explains deep links on digits.

And G+ was supposed to take care of social; for now it is an excellent complement, a Plus to your SEO strategy#. All the people you follow and friend elsewhere are probably not on Google+, and not planning to join. Medium may be attractive to the early adopters.

Many of your connections in social may be considering LinkedIn for the sake of establishing their business an/or career. That is great news, because LinkedIn is searchable, right? Well yes, and no.

LinkedIn recently expanded its “Influencers” program the ntwork started in the fall of 2012. If you were among the first 150 select contributors, congratulations, you were publishing to the site alongside Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Martha Stewart, Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and Conan O’Brien, who started posting in mid-October of last year#.

According to Roslansky, the average Influencer post drives more than 31,000 views and receives more than 250 likes and 80 comments.#

Since February 20 of this year, LinkedIn opened the Influencer program to 25,000 additional members. USA today says#:

As of today, the ranks of LinkedIn Influencers has tripled from about 150 to about 500 including CEOs Ian Read of Pfizer, James Gorman of Morgan Stanley and Carlos Ghosn of Nissan.

I received one such invitation and plan to be publishing long form thought pieces on the network, the first I joined among the ones I currently participate in, as member number 1,993,563 way back in 2003. For perspective, today the network counts 277 million members. Even if just one fraction of those members become publishers that makes for a lot of content.

Is Google going to go away? Of course not. Optimizing just to the search engine, without taking into consideration what makes content valuable, how, and where people read it is shortsighted.

We are way past the one thing solution — optimizing to the search engine. Even in social networks we are getting to the (saturation) point, needing social or native ads just to be discoverable. 

It will need to be a combination of things: both/and.

Consider this: Better is more

When your content has depth to it, both in format, functionality, and the quality of your writing, it goes from unremarkable to worth reading. You’re not a bookmark or a destination yet, just worth reading, or scanning as it may be.

I have another number for you: onethousandfourhundredandforty. Written out like that seems a lot, doesn’t it? It is the number of minutes we each have each day. They are never enough to get everything done.

We probably regret many things we did not do today. Not reading one more unremarkable post we learned little from and could not make actionable, or be inspired by, or share with at least one person, that I am guessing is not one of them.

Since what we share becomes a reflection of what we read and internalize (hopefully we do at least read it), we are becoming more discerning. It’s the same as providing a recommendation — you build your reputation through it.

Despite the avalanche of content and the social networks to feed with something, the destination sites have become even more selective about what they post as curated links. Every given Sunday I share six, grouped by themes or threads. This past week it was about Lessons Learned.

Your customers only have 1,440 minutes per day. They dedicate the largest portion of that time to their lives. As Thompson says:

Nate Silver’s manifesto for his new site is 3500 words long, meaning it would take the average adult just under 12 minutes to read. That 12 minutes is then gone forever, a bit of attention taken from whatever other activity said reader would have otherwise consumed, and instead gave to Nate Silver. That is why Nate Silver is so valuable.

Writing more content or posting it to more places to get higher search value is only part of the answer. Making the product better so that they can do something with it, draw inspiration, see things a little differently, now that is a goal worth pursuing.

The social Web and mobile reading are demanding that kind of sustained commitment. One that long form bloggers who are still publishing have known from the start. Publishing is a privilege, and when treated as such it becomes a destination.


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.

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