I was thinking about the different types of content the other day and how you to organise your approach to it – in terms of both building content and acquiring links from that content. And now, I present to you the result of my deliberations: The Content Pyramid.
At the top of the content pyramid are the real ideas guys – people who have resources, time and the sheer smarts to come up with things that can change your perception of an issue. Not wishing to suck up to Dave, but he's the kind of guy I mean. In a 60 word post he can put out an idea or observation that sets lightbulbs off over people's heads.
At the second level of content are the people who follow the originators. Often they have more audience reach because they dedicate more of their time to honing their style or are attached to a big publication.
They're still smart – because they not only understand what the originators are saying but can contextualise it for non-specialists. They can also see the implications and will often put together something that speculates on where an idea will end up.
The difference between these guys and the originators is probably like the relationship between a chef and a restaurant critic. The critic probably has more readers every week than the restaurant could sit in a year. This is where ‘word of mouth' really starts.
Case in point: our original story about the Twitter hack got a fraction of the retweets that the rewrite on Mashable did over the first days as the story was breaking.
The third tier are people with an interest in a subject but with no real insight of their own. The kind of people who retweet the aggregators or make a list of "10 Great Resources" from stuff they've read in the papers that week. You’re looking at the kind of content that is read just by a small circle of people.
I class my own blog in that kind of sphere – I could probably give you the names of 50% of my daily visitors and I don’t really write anything of consequence there. But! The people who come there have a laugh and remember it. There are a lot of these blogs out there, and they touch each other in unexpected ways. You might not get relevant links from a site like this, but the ripples can spread quite widely. These people are probably also susceptible to a little flattery or cash
The bottom feeders of the content chain are those who outright steal from any of the points above. It could be a direct content scrape or a respouting of an opinion or fact without any real addition. The people who visit these sites are probably accidental, one-time only visitors.
Where do you sit?
Arguably, being at the top of the content pyramid is the best place of all. You're the domain expert. People can't talk about the subject without touching on your work or ideas and it is your content that goes out through the aggregators. But, the aggregators might be where the traffic and exposure really is to push down into the volume sectors.
As a general rule, very few of us sit at the top of the pyramid (that’s why it’s a pyramid, doofus). We should all aim for it when writing content – because from there your influence can spread through and define a whole market. Realistically, most markets are saturated and you’re swimming in an ocean of Same – who really needs another article on link building, ferchrissakes?
If that’s you, then you need to look for a longer term strategy. You need to have opinions and develop a writing style that engages an audience. You need to spread the word so far and wide that people will learn about ideas from you, even if it all proves is that you subscribe to the blog of someone much smarter. From that comes traffic… and links from lower down the chain… and ultimately authority: the holy grail.
Finally, if you’re looking at getting links from people, think about where they sit in the pyramid. If it’s a splog, move on. If it’s an aggregator you need to get in front of them. If it’s an originator, you probably need to sidle up to them at a bar the next time they’re speaking at a conference and ply them with booze.