Shoptalk: Bring Back Relevancy, Not Basics

By: Anita Malik

Digital headlines once attributed the decline in newspaper readership to a loss of relevancy. What prevents today’s medium of choice from sliding in a similar fashion? Nothing. Digital jargon may help you sound convincing, but once the waves of “it” phrases and SEO-centric tactics die down, digital publishing success lies in the still waters of relevancy. While seemingly simple, relevancy is the only “tactic” worth discussing.

I’m often asked how my role at iAcquire as Director of Content Operations is different now that I lead a creative team focused on delivering content to drive marketing and SEO strategy rather than an editorial calendar. With relevancy at the core, the difference is negligible.

Rich in intrinsic value, relevancy speaks to tribes on both sides—the creators and the consumers. It signals quality and a focus on the reader. It drives every piece of any successful content production and distribution model, from the individual branded writer to the niche blog publisher and the mainstream digital news network. And, digital measures of success are now built to reward relevancy.            

By all accounts, relevancy is a basic concept, but this isn’t a back-to-the-basics approach. Develop a layered plan that places good editorial judgment at the core of your strategy.            

Delivering content is your business, so treat each piece of content or each category like a mini entrepreneurial endeavor. The first step for any entrepreneur, before branding or promotion, is audience identification. Not just who, but what and why. Where in the customer journey are your readers? What are their needs and what is the pain point your business (content) is addressing?

Building your audience understanding beyond standard media kit demographics means identifying personas. Fictional characters or personas are created based on data to represent different reader types.            

Personas should include basic demographic information (marital status, age, occupation and so on) but the true richness and content value lies in behaviors and consumption patterns. For example, where does Jane, a 32-year-old teacher in Chicago like to shop? How much time does she spend online and what are her social leanings? The answers to these questions will help you connect the dots and deliver content that is relevant to Jane and her counterparts with each and every post.            

The path to data-backed audience archetypes, like Jane, varies. Whether you opt to purchase audience research for your content niche and/or survey regular readers, remember not to rely on assumptions when building personas. Do the research and don’t overlook the value of social media in this process. Gathering demographics, preferences and brand identification from readers’ Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn profiles is an accessible and cost-effective approach to deep audience identification. Social listening also allows for easy modification of personas as readers or audience segments undergo shifts that may impact content relevancy.            

While audience identification isn’t new or terribly sexy, writer identification is. A writer must be relevant to your audience personas not just because the content will be more on target, but because this measure of relevancy can significantly impact SEO rankings and overall traffic.            

As a former print publisher, I placed value on writers who understood my publication’s content niche, who spoke to my audience with the correct voice and who had experience in the craft of writing overall. These factors signaled a level of trust—trust that these writers would deliver quality and would naturally promote their work and my publishing brand in their “physical” social circles.  

This type of writer relevancy isn’t new nor is it secret. It is, in many ways, simple common sense. Still, large shifts tend to cloud the judgment of even the most practical of us, and with the move to digital publishing, brands and publishers were led astray by technology woes and a sudden marketplace of on-the-cheap content producers and bloggers. Everyone had become a writer, and the quickest, cheapest solution to frequent content held court.            

But now, as Google’s growing emphasis on authorship is changing the measures that impact content reach, the industry is experiencing a return to the basics of finding the right writer with the right voice. A reader and search trust signal, authorship is a part of Google’s formula to drive more relevant search results. Does this writer have a strong voice, following and footprint on the subject matter? Is the writer’s voice relevant to your editorial objectives?            

Almost cliché now, the phrase “content is king” is bandied about as if it is the only strategy needed to effectively reach readers. Produce content and they will come? Hardly. Produce quality content? You might just nail it.

Produce relevant content by targeting the right audience with a relevant writer? Now that is a return to basics worth investing in.

Anita Malik is the director of content operations at iAcquire, a content marketing agency based in Phoenix and New York City. To learn more about iAcquire visit

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