The Business of Content & The Secret Sauce(s) to dominating your niche.

If you are a startup or established business in the content business in Pakistan, you already know that the CPM Rates from AD-Networks really suck. Yet most people continue down the path of building content alone and praying that they start getting international traffic that commands higher pay outs, that may remain a panacea because the content being pushed out is neither creative, timely nor distributed across all relevant channels. The ones who have marginal to decent successes in terms of revenue are click-baity and continue to produce 3rd tier content, driving views on objectionable and culturally and morally inappropriate content. They no less have discovered what you still haven’t. Video is king, short form content is a close second but specialized long form is also in that category. You cant evaluate any of these without knowing your audience and structuring your content for instant-mass propagation.

Lets look at a few under served segments in no particular order both content wise and technology wise.

Recipe’s: This is by far my favorite segment and one that continues to be disorganized, yet it has a fantastic number of organic traffic potential and a vast spectrum of searches. Whilst content is available both in Urdu and English from Pakistan origin sites, its haphazard. But it shouldn’t be, if you are in the content business, even if you aren’t but are looking to get in, what will set you apart is fairly simple. Google has pages and pages of documentation on it. Perhaps it’s time for you to get in to this space. Most sites, copy content off each other, half of it is in image form particularly the Urdu content, scanned recipe-book content. That shit doesn’t work online. It drowns the site. The second is English recipes but in roman, something that domestic publishers and content creators aren’t really focusing on. I wonder why? It opens the path to audio delivery on assistant.

So let’s start at the beginning.

Mark up your recipe content with structured data to provide rich results and host-specific lists for your recipes, such as reviewer ratings, cooking and preparation times, and nutrition information. Your page is eligible for different features depending on how you add structured data to your page:

Search: Add recipe structured data to drive better engagement in Search with rich results.

Guidance: Enable the Google Assistant to guide users through your recipes on Google Home and smart displays. (This is one to focus on, every android phone has built in assistant, when will you build for that? You need to get started today, especially in a market where text search volume is lower in Urdu than it is in English, but you can surely do some basic items to make your content discoverable in audio)

Carousel: Add carousel structured data to enable your recipe to appear in a carousel of rich results. This can include images, page logos, and other interesting search result features.

AMP: Build your recipe pages with AMP to provide instant-loading recipes.

The Difference between doing it right vs doing it wrong:

Korma Search Without any relevant local formatted content
Korma Search with a relevant local formatted content

Imagine if your content was formatted the right way. Had all the check marks, you would rule the category. At the moment, sadly whilst search volume is very high on the subject of Korma the reality of where that content is being served up from, is any where but Pakistan. Take a look below.

See that the search volume is coming from High Paying CPM Markets Yet no content is available from Pakistan to cash in on that.
If you dig deeper you can see the rising trends and associated categories and areas where you must focus to dominate this space.

An other overlooked space is some thing that started very strong many years ago.

A discovery engine for Unique Places, Products & Events so no not a Google Business Listing or search for one-off things. Think of it as a grown up version of the infamous Khi Snob page + Yelp + Recommendations paired with relevant content(not mass produced) and not a check list of features or listings. Consider the size of the middle class population, consider their age, consider their connectivity. FB doesn’t serve the need for authentic consumer driven reviews nor does it curate things in perpetuity in a single place. If you were a business the way it works is that past your 1% of followers you gotta pay to be relevant.

Consider the salaried millennials, like many most don’t have  big liabilities and want  to explore the city and see what different parts of the country have to offer in terms of culture, entertainment, and dining. And guess what? Contrary to what Telenor, Jazz and Zong would have you believe and even sprite, its not about finding a Karahi chicken or holding a DSLR and looking cool. Beyond that garbage, options are generally severely limited when it comes to Friday night out plans. No one just wants delivery recommendations or listings for this one thing happening at this one place, or an event near you via Facebook, there is more to a city than these tv advertisement idiots would lead you to believe, based on their marketing prowess on television.

The Urban millennials  who, unlike their predecessors, study hard, work hard and want to party harder. They have a good spending capacity on account of being part of a well paid working class or having turned entrepreneurs and making sizable incomes.

This crowd wants to look beyond information – provided by FoodPands or EatMubarak or discounts by BOGO apps or other credit card discounting platforms,  for numbers of local businesses and go-to places.  To date nothing exists for restaurant reservations and barely two or three ticket booking sites for entertainment regarding the latest films, plays and other events taking place in town. They(the urban folks) want to  zero in on specific events and exciting undiscovered places that are the pride of every urban area and which are as yet, not on anyone’s radar. In other words, places that are cool and awesome enough to spend an evening with friends.

Build it and they will come. This also plays in to aspirational visitors to your site and aspirational folks who want to re-live a virtual experience when the real thing is either expensive, out of reach or some thing that drives nostalgia. But please don’t go out and do yet an other f**ing episode on BurnsRoad. Please know your audience. Don’t just make BuzzFeed type videos for food reviews only. Think bigger, think at scale and make sure you build for the mobile and voice web. Content is king, build audio, video, short and long form once you know the audience you want to cater to.

Pro tip: Build event booking, reservations, delivery and payments all into one location, don’t try to build a closed loop ecosystem, the more partners you have once you have your content and discovery strategy figured out, the most incremental revenue you will make past ad $s alone. Think affiliate networks.

An other all time favorite of mine, that is very often overlooked is the absence of a Shared Blog/Content Network in a place like Pakistan.

This is not an easy one, this requires some common sense and or some serious capital.

On the common sense piece, I’ll elaborate more:

There are a few dozen individual run blogs, sites, news portals, content plays etc that all do marginally well. Some are in the business of toxic reviews, others are in the business of the 3rd tier click baity business (you know who you are). Irrespective there are others who have good content, a good fan following; yet individually they will only scale to a point where they make money off it as a side hustle or as a very basic form of monetary growth. Yet if these blogs and their custodians got together and agreed on forming a consortium, they would give the established players a run for their money. Be the Baskin Robins of content, 32 flavors. The media companies, traditional or the Lahore variety funded by the fumes of fertilizers continue to only bring readers using paid facebook tactics or by spending ad$. You can completely change the equation and turn it on its head.

If you are the owner of a blog or content play:

  1. Get together and choose a leader (Please don’t build a society or nominate the oldest person in the group, they likely know the least, also stay away from any brand name big media players-they will be irrelevant soon if not already)
  2. Work together to define content standards and technical standards
  3. Bring all your work under a new brand or figure out cross domain sharing arrangement where by you preserve canonical references
  4. Yet build/deploy technology so advanced that if a user comes to say a tech review site, they should have the ability from your site to navigate to your partner member site for other related content like the best place to get a falouda.
  5. This way you will own the user(and their cookie) as long as they continue to stay on the merry go round, which is your “shared consortium”
  6. Over time you can build your own ad-network should you be that successful (I hope you are)
  7. Stay away from hard news instead integrate dozens of sources from twitter etc, based off keywords that interest your audiences.
  8. Focus on multi lingual content in Urdu and English
  9. Agree on content frequency and freshness, agree on cross network integration and banner promotions.
  10. Hire a lawyer and contract this stuff in to place. You will only get one shot a this. You can try and get UthoDaikho.com (its available at the moment ) and build the first shared content creation and delivery platform that will eventually out live, out maneuver and out grow traditional news/content players. They aren’t innovating for shit. This is your chance to all get in a room and make more money as a collective. Strength in numbers.

Be under no illusion all this is a lot of hard work, both technically, organizationally and whilst content is king, architecting this the right way is equally important. Google tells you how to do all this, you don’t even have to be above average to get the basics right.

There is one more thing you could do, if you were in this space and had cash. Just buy into the blogs and aggregate them. Give the owners a fair piece of equity and acquihire every one. Not like any real Valley VC money is about to show up any time soon. Also most folks may want to raise 500k and 1m$; the thing is, you could get some thing like this going for 1m$ total and give every one an earn out. If only people were smart enough and took the money and went on to solving other problems. The thing is, whilst they may be making 4k$ a month, in their minds eye every entrepreneur thinks they are at cusp of greatness. Make them an offer they can refuse and serve some reality on a platter and let them cash out a bit.

Key technical take aways:

AMP AMP AMP

Follow the markups Google tells you to do

Stop focusing on AD$s alone, focus on what people want and then build for that.

1000 Visitors or orders a day is not big enough, the magnitude that matters in 200 million people is far from that.

Focus on the ex-pat market, their ad$ and their engagement is higher figure out ways to build, deploy and cater to their needs.

Keep it simple, don’t over complicate it. Know your audience and ask the question, “is there a google help forum article on this”

Video is king. (But not the 2 cassette tape variety on which your mamus valima was shot) Keep it brief, bold and brilliant.

I promise to add a few more segments to this. Verticals I think would do well if executed right along with the technical marshaling you could do to smoke your competition. Ill be sharing thoughts on :

  1. Maps
  2. Last mile delivery + some interesting plays on integrations and APIs
  3. Consumer ratings
  4. Comparison and data led resource providers
  5. Matrimonial’s
  6. Business and Finance
  7. Non-Traditional Classifieds + Payment Integrations
  8. Education

“It’s in our biology to trust what we see with our eyes. This makes living in a carefully edited, overproduced and photoshopped world very dangerous.” 
― Brené Brown

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