Mediocre Isn’t Good Enough
After months of speculation from search engine optimization (SEO) firms, regarding the impact of Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, leaders in the industry are keen on developing strategies that will enable them to ensure the success of their clients. That said, the “create great content” mantra proselytized ad nauseum by digital marketers as the best way to generate new business for ecommerce sites has been nearly exhausted.
Just last week, Forbes writer, Patrick Spenner contended that the business model of content-creation-drives-demand is one that fills up the web with mediocre garbage, and ultimately becomes part of the problem overwhelming consumers: information overload.
“You’ve unwittingly sacrificed content quality to get quantity and coverage…across all those personas, across all those channels, across all those weeks and months. That’s content marketing’s dirty little secret,” Spenner wrote.
If an online marketing strategy is one that uses Big Data, i.e, blogs, social media, articles, cloud services, and others to generate content in order to drive business, and in most respects, it has been effective, then why should those strategies be revised? Deluging the web with content–any content!!–as a means of driving web consumerism is an example of a strategy that misses the point.
Raising The Bar?
One of dozens of strategies employed by digital marketers, link building/SEO firms includes guest blogging, and despite debates around the practice, it works. However, where black blogs initially allowed companies to get better search engine results, Google has essentially crushed that practice with its updates. Likewise, as the information being created streams onto the web, the systems (whether by human curators or Googlebots) developed to identify and assess content and its usefulness to web users are becoming more sophisticated and sensitive by the day.
If Spenner is right about subpar content, and as Google’s neo-monolithic systems become more sensitive to these strategies, lackluster guest posting and its unspoken rule of “just about anything goes as long as there are words and it has a backlink” are in trouble. Some argue that guest blogging isn’t effective, and it means that aspirations of mediocrity will leave publishers in a veritable online desert and are likely heading for extinction.
In terms of increasing web traffic and search engine results, if creating more content is not better, then where does that leave companies interested in audience engagement? Black blogging no longer works, black/grey hat SEO practices are arguably in Google’s line of sight, and content farming had its day. The New York Times is ditching its well-known content farm site, About.com. The answer to that, at least by initial estimates, seems to be not more content, not better content, but the best. Even the social media giant Facebook, a site that can easily be described as authority-lite, has taken aim at ensuring that its content is more reliable by removing fake “Likes.”
At Search Engine Strategy Expo and Conference (SES) in August, the spiel was the same across the board. It’s no longer about creating content, but creating reliable, relevant content that serves a purpose and provides reliable information for web users. Google’s Matt Cutts explained that very point at SES, and said that the links to information the search engine returnshas to be useful, ultimately, to the web user.
Web Spam, SEO and Publishing
Online marketers don’t want to hear it, because it’s easy to write a post about the merits of “being creative” and then argue that ever-more-content justifies the creation of sorry content. (Someone’s making money here, right?) The web is full of blog posts that are vague, incoherent and sloppy. Marketers write up blog post after post on “How to create great content” or advise using another flash-in-the-pan trend like (oooohhh) an infographic. Why are they so loud and protective of a strategy that is self serving? These publishers don’t see the big picture.
At SES, Internet Marketing Ninja CEO Jim Boykin said companies need to be writing for college professors, to aim for content worthy of those coveted domains, the .govs and .edus. This superior content frenzy poses a new dilemma for link builders… if the trend of mass content generation is ultimately a way to pass time until it, too, is targeted in the goal of better serving the web’s users, then the only effective links are those that reside on authoritative websites, with expert-written, relevant articles for an educated, discerning audience. To that end, link builders and guest bloggers especially are at an advantage if the posts they write are of the caliber that Google intends to reward with higher returns in the search engine results pages.
At the end of the day, SEO is SEO and its companies exist to make money for their clients. And there’s money to be made. (Interestingly, web ads alone are estimated to be worth a staggering $35 billion a year). The exact direction of the market hasn’t been established, however it would seem that mass content generation as a marketing strategy is one that is growing less feasible. That, in turn, puts web startups and SEO firms in an interesting place. If higher quality content translates to better rankings for their clients, then SEO companies (at least those that adopt a professional quality content tactic in light of the changing search environment )–long-known as web spammers–just might be in a position to be taken seriously.
To that we say, let the content wars begin.