In our sit down with Steve Rayson, we asked hard-hitting questions when it came to bots in the publishing industry and what that really meant for writers.
(Spoiler: Your jobs are safe and come with even more opportunity)
As the Director of BuzzSumo and the Anders Pink App, Steve is constantly looking into new data and trends to help build the platform, and dictate their content strategy. Whether you're a writer, business owner, or part of the marketing team, his tips for amplification instead of content creation will convince you to take the leap and create the content that simply works best for your audience.
Introducing Steve Rayson
It's no small feat being the head of a major search engine that rivals Google Search in giving better industry information based on important filters, including the type of content and shares. This was accomplished with his clear startup mentality...
In a startup, you do anything that's needed.
Adding to the startup hats that he wears in a team of 7, his main job is broadly strategic. Steve focuses on partnerships like the one with Majestic.
As a self-proclaimed data nerd, who loves to spot patterns in the data, Steve does all the research for intense data posts. With a passion for data and research, he has been able to communicate these trends to BuzzSumo partners and prospects.
In this recap of the Content Marketing for the Future Podcast on Roberts in Publishing, learn how publishers are using bots and what you need to do to compete.
Steve Rayson's View on Robots in Publishing
Blogging with your data in mind
If you use your data to blog, then you know some of the pains Steve goes through in gathering and analyzing information into easy-to-digest and actionable steps for his readers.
In fact, starting his process with a hypothesis doesn't always lead to the results he expects...
"It's hard to find stuff that's relevant, often you find things that don't have a particular pattern."
Last year, BuzzSumo's team wrote a large post that hypothesized that shares were correlated with links. They had the theory that if you got more shares, then you'd get more links.
Sounds like it could be true right?
Well, thanks to the data that they uncovered they found out that there was actually no relationship. Woah!
Steve starts by creating his hypothesis from first thinking about what would be useful to people and then looking into his data. With his goal to always to give his readers some insights into how they can improve their content, Steve has an educated guess as to which posts will do well. Sometimes they unfortunately don't.
This is the reality of the content marketing industry.
When Google Search produces results, the first page shows only websites with top domains. This can skew your perception on what quality content is because they aren't showing you other sites that might have even better information. You'll have a distorted view of the internet.
Seeing the top posts from sites including Moz, who have lots of shares, and then finding out that their averages are really low, means that you're not actually getting the best results. So by pulling lots of data like what BuzzSumo does, you get a better picture of that page's worth instead of being swayed by lots of the top sites.
To get an even better picture of what quality content you should be using in your publications and how you can be keeping up with the content demand, we now need to turn to intelligent technologies.
Looking to the Future of BuzzSumo and Intelligent Content
With the purpose of delivering content that has a lot of shares and really resonates with audiences, Steve's focus is creating content that encourages engagement. He does this by using advanced statistical tools to conduct his research, giving him results that include topics like:
- Viral quizzes getting more shares, but no links
- Posts with questionnaires are worth learning and get much higher levels of links and longevity
- List posts have high shareability, but because there are so many of them (particularly lists of 10) people are becoming desensitized to it
Taking his toolkit further, he is also able to answer the challenging questions that pop up when you're creating content.
- Will this post have longevity?
- Will this information help conversions?
- Will it get more shares?
- Will it get more links?
For everyone that publishes content, we know that these questions are extremely important to answer. Seeing clear patterns in your audience's behavior will help you reduce on creating content that creates no return, and removes the guesswork on the topics you should be publishing.
The way BuzzSumo uses intelligent technology is slightly different than most businesses. They're using algorithms and AI to help the team classify content. By using machine learning algorithms to crawl billions of posts, they are able to classify topics to bring users better and more relevant results.
These algorithms help to identify posts that don't necessarily mention a certain keyword but are about the topic you're searching for. For example, if your searching 'e-learning' in the BuzzSumo platform, their algorithm is able to identify articles about the topic without the article actually mentioning in!
BuzzSumo vs. Google Search
For many, the first place we go to if we want information on a topic would be Google Search. As the creator of BuzzSumo, Steve fully endorses both engines- there are pros and cons.
Steve uses advanced search features in Google Search that many do not actually know about.
Google helps us find domains with the highest authority. This is extremely helpful when we're trying to build links within our content.
At the end of the day, it really depends on what you're looking for.
"People generally say that they prefer BuzzSumo to Google, which is funny since we're really small, but if I want to see the most shared content in my industry this week, BuzzSumo will give you that."
Data and Tech: Impact on Quality Content and Visitor Growth
In a blog post written by Steve, he talks about the Washington Posts' move towards tech...
When Jeff Bezos took over, their focus shifted to long-tail content. This type appeals to your core audience, which leaves other niche categories unattended.
Contrary to that notion, we do see new stories on niche topics on large publisher websites, and to top that off they publish quite a bit of content throughout the day. How do you think that's possible?
It's time to bring in the bots.
These smart algorithms are capable of producing much more content at a faster pace. As a writer, though, Steve tells us that your writing job are safe. Bots have a long way to go because they lack the most quintessential attribute which a writer has going for them - Empathy.
With bots as a part of the team, Steve believes that it actually creates more opportunity for writers.
While robots write about stats-based stories like 'Apple shares dropping, and baseball events', writers now have more time to write detailed opinionated stories!
"I think that we're going to see more and more people use automated content"
I think we're going to see more and more people use automated content, but only for very specific niches. For example, you can take BuzzSumo's data, automate the process of finding out what 'the most shared content in e-learning was for that week and who shared it', have a bot write it, and then use a human editor to add a bit of flavor.
From Steve's experience, he's seen people use algorithms to do the first draft really quickly, and then using a writer to tidy it up.
Taking that notion further, bots might be well on their way to create content that looks very much like a person wrote it, but what he then forecasts will more attention towards the content your favorite writers produce.
"As long as we are good writers and have opinions, we can synthesize things like bringing back a story from 3 years ago, knowing if it's relevant or not."
From his point of view, readers will flock to the writers they trust rather than read everything about a topic from anywhere.
Technology and your Content Strategy
Contrary to what many marketers are saying, Steve believes that we should be producing more content...depending on where that content seen from within your funnel.
"The key to content success is to have more, so that you're able to know what sort of content you need to be writing, and which topics people really resonate with."
Steve sees that technology has made it easier to produce content, like using Facebook to produce video really easily. Short pieces of content like this can be published quickly and will spread awareness and introduce you to people. On the other side of that coin, he then encourages people to produce long-form original content with original research. This type of content is for those you're looking to convert further down the funnel.
Amplification Trumps Content Creation
With all of this content, it's now more important than ever to give your work a boost in engagement.
To stand out from the crowd you need to amplify your content. Try some of these practices:
- Email your select group of interested subscribers
- Sharing your content on social media
- Reaching out to those you've included in your article though email and/or social media
- Paying for social media amplification
If people spent more time on amplification they will get better results.
Content that's worth amplifying means that the information fills a content gap and tries to fix it in a unique and new way.
The best type of content to amplify would be Research Posts where there is original data and research.
From Steve's experience, these posts will get more links than other forms of content on average. As for their small company, BuzzSumo attracts between 150-200 domain links!
Creating this kind of quality content comes with the price of time, but it will be time well-spent because of their amplification strategy. It puts their content in front fo the right pairs of eyes.
The cost of creating such amazing content, and the variety you could be producing, depends on the size of your team and the goal of that content, but always have time to amplify it."
Go and Build Your Audience and Standout From the Bots
Sooner or later if you practice an amplification strategy, tied to producing original content, you'll become one of those influencers that people turn to, and reference within their own writings.
Creating a core audience or Alpha Audience will help you promote your content even further.
When it comes down to it, write for and connect with your core audience first, and if you have a team that can help increase production, do it. As we work with bots in the industry, the line between machine-made and "real" content made by humans will continue to be defined. At the end of it all, we should be working together to create content that truly connects us with each and every person online, which now means diving into personalization.