We recently spoke with Andrew Boer with Movable Media on Google's "Author Rank" and the pros and cons of posting blog content from the “neutral” corporate voice vs. individual authors. It was such an interesting conversation that we asked him to share his perspective in a blog post for us. Here are his reasons why posts from individuals can benefit everyone. What do you think?
By Andrew Boer
As readers, we are well accustomed to companies speaking to us as if they are a person. As marketers, an anonymous “Team” as a byline is also convenient, because we can always swap in a new writer or post frequently. So is a ghost-written corporate voice a good approach for a corporate blog?
Maybe. Perhaps yours will be one of the few successful and compelling corporate blogs.
But the odds are against you. For the most part, successful corporate blogs (Marc Cenedella, Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, Fred Wilson) are all run by successful people. Here is why the odds are against the team-written approach.
1. The corporate voice lacks spark.
Creating interesting and provocative content while acting as the voice of an organization is fundamentally challenging. Just consider the editorial page of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal compared to the Op-Ed page. Which would you rather read? The organization’s view, or the people?
There are certainly exceptions -- GroupOn, for example, has been uniquely successful at developing a corporate voice that is regularly funny, fresh, and entertaining. Or possibly, that cat is a hell of a writer.
2. Google doesn’t think your company is an author. They are right.
Have you noticed that when you do a search today, Google displays pictures of the authors next to the content? This feature is called “Author Rank”, and search experts are saying it is poised to radically transform how Google will rate and rank content for the next decade – based primarily on the influence and expertise of the author who creates it.
Author Rank is created when authors link their content to their Google+ profile using author tags, and author tags are only available today to individuals. Sites also have a tag called a Publisher Rank, but in the end Google think it is the authors who really matter. They are probably right about this, since it is authors, not brands, who ultimately create content.
So, if you only publish a blog with a corporate voice, you are missing out on building up the rank and reputation of your writers.
3. The corporate voice confuses your mission.
In order to attract a loyal audience, many successful content marketers are recommending that your brand should try to put the needs of your readership first. But helping readers is not the traditional purpose of advertising and marketing copy, it is to promote the needs of the brand. By using distinct authors with by-lines on your content, you can draw a clear distinction for readers as to when your brand is meant to be helping, and when your brand is selling. This, in turn, builds trust. One caveat here: to maintain this trust, it means that your authors should avoid promoting the brand or selling directly. If you want to post about a new feature or event -- then that is a good time to use your corporate voice.
4. Authors are the key to social distribution, quality, and engagement.
You should always identify your authors, but one of the most effective ways to use featured or guest authors is to create a direct distribution channel to your audience. Say, for example, your B2B business is looking just to attract interior decorators to your site. You might hire a generalist freelancer, but instead you could also start with an author who is already reaching 3000 interior decorators on her blog and twitter feed. These influencers are available in nearly every demographic -- and many welcome the opportunity to create custom content. Plus, you can provide featured authors with performance incentives to encourage sharing and promotion of content. On average, content from featured authors outperforms freelance content by three to five times. As author rank and social networks grow, that ratio will only increase.
5. Recognition is the best way to control quality.
Earlier in my career, I spent some time working at what became known as a “content farm”, We had some talented freelancers who seemingly could churn out two or three articles in an hour. Their secret, of course, was that they didn’t care.
Part of the appeal of copywriting, for those who choose to do it professionally, is the freedom of anonymity. Once someone puts content under their own name, they are putting their own reputation for quality out for the world to see. Brands and publishers may feel that putting a byline on an article or a link shares value with the author, but in reality, the reverse is the case -- the byline is the best way to ensure that the author maximizes value for the brand.
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