Spotlight on the Elite with Simon Penson

In this week’s Spotlight on the Elite, we catch up with Simon Penson, founder and MD of Zazzle Media, one of the UK’s foremost content marketing agencies.

From the importance of content for SEO to maximising your return on investment, Simon gives us his expert insight into the future of content marketing.

Hi Simon, thank you for joining us today. So, tell us…why is content so important for SEO?

Zazzle was created as a reaction to what SEO was back in the mid 2000s; all smoke and mirrors and shady link deals.

For me that looked nothing like marketing, and as I had spent a decade in print media beforehand, it was obvious to me that content had to play a significant part in its future. After all, content is the only conduit with which you can create an audience of any kind, and that is precisely what marketing is about – building targeted audiences of value.

Can you give us a brief answer to the question ‘how do I maximise ROI from digital content?’

It starts and ends with a true understanding of your audience. Who they are, specifically where can you find them right now and who is serving the product, service or informational need they have at present. Not enough businesses understand its importance or are willing to invest enough to answer that question thoroughly enough.

We have spent a fortune building and buying tools to do it as it’s critical to any content plan to know who/what/where and why before you start! Get that right and your plan is made for you and you can then deliver content effectively and efficiently to maximise ROI.

Zazzle claims to have invented content-led SEO, what does this mean?

When we came into the market no one was investing in content for any other reason than ‘because Google needed it’. Our approach was to work content first and get brands investing in a quality content strategy and promotion so that they had something to build audience around.

Spamming Google was not good business sense as far as we were concerned as we knew it would all come crashing down eventually and those that had shone in the early days would be replaced by brands that had invested in their audience. It seems crazy to say that now but that is the reality of what we were looking in on.


It was a hard sell of course when pitching our positioning into brands, as spamming was working, but by 2011/12 Google had become smarter at rewarding good marketing and punishing those that tried to cut corners.

When Zazzle was bought by IPG – was there an impact on how you felt about your company – was there a difficult transition period for example?

Anyone that has sold a business is lying if they say there was no impact, but we knew we had found the right partner and that in doing so we had laid out the foundations for the next chapter in our vision to do what we had been doing but for the biggest and best brands on earth.

I still very much believe that now and it’s why I’m still very much jumping out of bed every morning to go to work there, as I care passionately about our mission and the people that worked so hard to get us there. IPG obviously saw that and want to help us build that future, which is very exciting indeed.

What was your biggest lesson during the acquisition process?

There are so many. One of the biggest I think is to take a realistic view on timelines. It takes a long time to properly integrate two businesses, as both are running at full tilt doing it. In most cases it’s not like the acquiring business hires several people to work solely on that process; everyone has full time jobs already so it takes time! But then that has its benefits also as it would also be a mistake to rush things as people need time to adjust to their new surroundings and process how they can add value to something even bigger.

What does the future of content marketing look like?

It’s exciting! As I write this I’ve just finished penning the foreword to our annual State of Content Marketing survey and in it I talk a lot about why it is such a brilliant industry.


Because change is ever present and competition keeps on improving, it requires total focus and commitment to be truly world class. And with new tech opening up new channels and opportunities to reach audiences, there is never a minute to rest. In the last year we’ve launched a voice consultancy offering and have plans for another in 2019. If you’re not moving forwards then you’re moving backwards in this world and that’s so energising.

Why should digital marketers attend Digital Elite Day 2019?

For the very reason I outlined in the last question! You snooze you lose, and Digital Elite is a brilliant place to ensure you are downloading the very cutting edge of digital.

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