If Content is King, Context is Queen

Context: a person’s best friend or worst enemy, depending on how you look at it. Nowhere is this more the case than in the world of online content. Written a witty and well-thought out blog post about how skateboarding is the new way to get around town? You won’t want to publish it on a specialist cycling website, then.

Context is a powerful thing, and not just in the world of digital marketing; it applies to the ‘real’ world too. A dig at someone’s unfortunate choice of hairstyle is pretty funny when your friend turns up at the pub having lost his battle with the home-bleaching kit. Crack out the blonde jokes in a job interview, however, and you might find yourself at the bottom of the candidate pile.

Context is defined as "The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully assessed” by Google’s online dictionary.

In our world of online marketing, this can be translated into two broad angles:



  • Audience context: what circumstances surround the person who is engaging with onsite content?



  • Content context: what circumstances surround the production, promotion and position of onsite content?



In the seventh of our ‘If Content is King’ blog series, we take a look at the vital role context plays in the creation, promotion and reception of effective and engaging online content.

Who is engaging with your content and how did they find it?

The way in which onsite content is received, no matter its level of quality, will be influenced by the context in which it has been found. This in turn will, or at least should, influence the context in which content is presented. Still with us? Looking at it simply, it’s important to consider the environment your audience is likely to be in. For example, is your reader at home chilling out or at work sneaking a cheeky five minute break? (We won’t tell anyone, promise.)

Caroline Stanley, managing editor of global cultural news and Flavorpill spin-off site Flavorwire, explained to The Content Strategist:

“A lot of people reading our site are at work and they don’t want to feel like they’re doing work. They want an escape. The post can have a lot of meat to it, but it’s gotta have the eye candy as well.”

It makes sense. Considering the context in which your audience is searching for and viewing your video, infographic, image or article can help you choose the best way to present it.

Stepping it up a level, the context of a reader’s searching behaviour will also have an impact upon the way he or she interacts with onsite content. Has your reader used a search engine to help them find out what DVD player would best suit their needs? Or does the searcher already know he wants the latest Sony model and is just looking for somewhere to purchase it? Again, our Queen context is providing the parameters for content engagement.

Timing is key

Context is not just provided by the audience but also by timeframes, for example, there is little point creating an infographic about how many iPads were sold last Christmas in July. Editorial content calendars will vary depending on audience and industry, but it’s important to know what events and seasons matter to your target readers. Check out one of our earlier ‘The New Scurge of a Bloggers Existence’. Taking the time to consider where content will be published, and the context that publication provides, can help prevent you wasting valuable resource on something that is unlikely to ever see the light of day, let alone get you those precious backlinks you’re looking for.

Mind the gap

What about where content sits in the context of its surroundings, either on a page or site? We’ve mentioned the importance of approaching the right bloggers with guest posts. Considering where content will appear on a particular site is just as important.

By keeping related content, and indeed links to other related items of content, in an appropriate place it should be easier to prevent readers falling through the gaps and losing interest. It works the other way too – no one wants to be likened to a Google Ad placement gone wrong. Choosing to place a gallery of fabulous looking cakes and confectionary next to an article that covers the dangers of obesity on a food and drink website hardly gives either item of content the context in which it can work its hardest.

By considering our Queen context, in terms of where an audience is coming from and how it got there, as well as in terms of the content itself, online content creators can bolster the reception and engagement of their efforts.

If content floats your boat, you might like to take a look at the other articles in our ‘If Content is King’ series.