Less is more: Agencies drop specialist tags and eye the content pie

By AdNews | 20 June 2014

Performance agencies, as well as their customers, are recognising the gains to be made from focusing on quality - and other disciplines. Instead of handing money to Google to drive people to sub-par websites, they are investing in the destination rather than paying everything to the taxi that takes them there.

Less is more, reckons Robert Rose, chief strategist at the Content Marketing Institute. He thinks Australia has largely avoided the mistakes made in the US, which became “wrapped around the axle of how to feed a content machine [the myth that] if you are not blogging loads and stuffing it full of key words and blasting out thousands of tweets you are doing it wrong”.

“We got wrapped into the SEO trap and marketing teams are now stuck in the machine trying to produce so much content that they are not producing much content at all.”

Regardless of geography, a better customer acquisition and retention strategy is to create “as much content as you are great at. It is not about optimising for a click to your website, but about what do they do when they get there? I would much rather have 100 engaged users and do something when we get there than 1000 that just bounce out.”

Engaged audiences are more likely to become brand customers than those that don't stick around. That's better for brand's bottom lines, and also for agencies that were once fixated on SEO.

They have cottoned on to that locally, with agencies increasingly becoming content creators. Dentsu-owned Columbus has moved out of pure play search and into performance. Content creation is the fastest growing part of its revenues.

MD Rebecca Tos said the agency now has four full time content writers and is hiring a fifth. Twelve months ago that capability was non-existent. Now its revenues are “nudging into double digit” and within the next 12-18 months will likely make up 30-40% of revenues. Given that the agency has a total workforce of 70 staff, that suggests a far more lucrative revenue stream.

“It is more profitable, and that helps, but it is not why we are do it,” says Tos. “The future is content marketing as well as everything else. You can't drive people to a site [vie SEO] if the content is no good when they get there.” And increasingly, with changes to Google's algorithm, driving people to sites with dud content is becoming increasingly expensive. So for SEO to become more effective and less expensive, Tos said clients when they see the costings are realising that it's better to invest in their product, web properties and content. “I advise them to invest in the brand. [when the cost reaches a tipping point] you can't just keep throwing money at Google.”

But if they are investing in the brand, and throwing money at agencies to do so, wouldn't they be better off doing it in house?

“They can, but it's not necessarily any cheaper and it's difficult to do well,” but she sees a “hybrid approach” with the team sitting “half with us and half with the client” as a growing trend.

With brands becoming publishers, publishers becoming content marketers, PR agencies becoming social and digital agencies, and agencies of all types becoming content creators, curators and distributors, Tos thinks that specialist shops will become less common.

“Industry likes to pigeon hole, but you can't really do that any more.”

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