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The Hackgate technique: Giftwrap that content!

Visitors to your website (including Google’s crawlers) will love you for making a bigger deal out of your content categories.

Ellerby: Cui bono, who benefits?
Colin Sullivan: Cui gives a shit. It’s got a freakin’ bow on it.

There’s a sea of content out there, but some publishers (website owners) are helping people to navigate that sea better than others. I’m thinking specifically of site owners who organize and flag their content around topics that are vital to them.

I call it the Hackgate technique.

Why? When the UK phone-hacking scandal blew up this summer, the Guardian newspaper – which had driven the story – took great advantage of its position.

They did so by packaging the vast amount of content they were producing on the story into one terribly informative web-page. Those new to the story could get the background quickly, and those immersed in the minutiae could get the latest twist.

The page was played up on the Guardian’s own site, as the ultimate resource on the topic. It quickly became the go-to place for information on the scandal, and naturally Google gave it a great ranking for searches on “phone hacking”, “hackgate” and the like. What works well for information consumers gets reflected virtuously by search engines, and much SEO-love ensues.

What the Guardian had done was simply to organize its content in an intelligent way, and then present it well. It was modern web curation at its best.

On the surface of it, the Hackgate technique is quite simple. It’s basically using the existing content categories you as a website owner already have, and presenting them nicely.

The easiest permutation of the Hackgate technique is simply to surface your content categories as site navigation. Bloggers and standard blog engines made this type of thing practically automatic. We use this in our “Topics” column.

But that’s just the child’s play of the Hackgate technique. Here are four virtuosos of the technique:

Point Carbon
These Scandinavian carbon market analysts did a great job packaging their expertise and knowledge into buckets with descriptive names (I say “did” because they stopped giving content away and turned those buckets into paywalled landing pages).

Nonetheless, each of these content buckets has climbed to the top of Google’s search rankings for relevant keyphrases, such as “Power Market Trader” or “Carbon Market Trader”.

Econsultancy
It may not be surprising to find these guys here, but it’s interesting to see how extensively they use this technique. Specifically for their big annual Internet statistics compendium, content is bundled by geographically or by area of interest, and then occasionally rebundled to make you drill down.

Marketo
These guys are, like their cousins at Eloqua, keen to power content marketing engines worldwide, and thus want to serve as a display window for how it’s done. Notice how they package their topics to include all of their aggregated eBooks, white papers, webinars, videos and blog posts on that topic.

If you want to know more about lead nurturing, for example, what better place to look than their aggregated “Lead Nurturing” content page. Google agrees, giving them an SERP of 2 and 3 (first goes to Eloqua, using the same tactic). This is the Hackgate technique in full effect.

TechCrunch
It’s not surprising to find digitally native media houses doing this well. TechCrunch uses the Hackgate technique very high up on its home-page and styles it like “trending topics”. However, these trending topics are unlikely to change much (who’s going to dislodge Facebook, Google and Apple there?). So basically these are high-level go-to pages for the latest on these areas of interest for their readers.

Which brings us back to the epigraph that opened this post. It’s from The Departed (if you haven’t seen it, see it) and it raises a very good point. To people visiting your site, it’s not a question of “why is this there”, it’s simply the fact that it is there. They will click on it, and it will define their experience and you.

So give those content buckets descriptive names, fill them well and package them for easy consumption. Both your site visitors and Google will thank you for it.

Now check out part two of this story – Hackgate Technique: Content Marketing Skill Part 2 – in which we explain how you can employ the Hackgate technique on your content site.

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