What’s the Value of Great Content?

May 21, 2010

All good digital content has purpose.

If you sell ads on your website, the purpose may be to attract traffic and increase page views. If you run a museum website, it may be to educate the reader, or to attract visitors. If you’re a freelance consultant, it may be tweets or other social media content to help establish your reputation, trust, and expertise.

A quantifiable value can often be placed on the end result (additional sales, click-throughs, RSS subscribers, enquiries, or whatever it is), but the causality – and hence the traceability of value – is uncertain and messy.

If you’re selling content-based services (writing, editing, etc.) – like we’ve started to do – how do you price your services? More importantly, how do you communicate the value of great content, and therefore the value of services that produce it?

Yesterday, we published a blog post (“An Analysis of UK Parliamentary Language: 1935-2010”), the purpose of which was to generate backlinks to our site. Our site is new (less than a week old), so our short-term goal is to build-up relevant trust in the site (e.g. PageRank), so that we can start to rank for our target keywords, and ultimately sell our services.

Our strategy is a mix of SEO-optimized content (which this was not) and link bait (which this was) i.e. we don’t expect this particular content item to show up in search results, but we do want it to generate backlinks from relevant, trusted sites, so that our trust increases, and hence our other SEO optimized content ranks well by association.

It seems to be paying off. This one blog item has already gained us backlinks from trusted, relevant sites, including Boing Boing, Visual Thesaurus, Vocabulary.com, and an .edu domain; for those that don’t know, .edu backlinks are probably the most valuable and difficult to gain.

You can’t buy this quality of backlink – so how do you value it?

Some might suggest a simple daily rate, but great content is as much about the creative idea (the reason that it’s link bait, and not just good content), as the writing itself.

For example, looking at the blog item in question, you may think, “Oh, it’s just a few graphs in Excel – that probably took a few hours – so I wouldn’t pay more than a hundred quid”. But the actual process was more complicated.

Amy originally found a transcript of the UK leaders debates, and later a quote from George Orwell about political language, and connected the two, suggesting an analysis of the leaders debates. I mis-understood, and thought she was talking about parliamentary debates.

After some hunting, I found the data sources on They Work For You, but the API didn’t provide the access we needed. I then wrote a PHP script that downloaded the many gigabytes of raw data from the website, and a second script that parsed these thousands of XML files for individual words and inserted them into a database. This process – of data munging – took about four days non-stop on my laptop.

We then had to create queries that we thought would be interesting, and double check all of our statistical reasoning, to ensure that we weren’t publishing false results.

We could then create and edit the blog post. After publication, it wasn’t a simple case of ‘sit back and wait for the traffic’: Amy wrote a bespoke message to Boing Boing, prepared a PDF press release, and sent it out to a pre-researched list of journalists.

It’s all worth it of course – these links are invaluable and will have a significant impact on the future of our business – but how do you position the ‘value proposition’ of great content to potential clients?

One Response to “ What’s the Value of Great Content? ”

  1. Jim on June 2, 2011 at 6:00 am

    This thesaurus dictionary usually helps me in new content writing. Maybe it will be helpful for you too!

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