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Content Marketing is more than just a buzzword: in a post link building world, it’s now all about quality over quantity. 

In the quest for the ever elusive Page Rank, Google has been quietly changing the rules again–and probably for the better. In short, Google quietly updated their Ranking article, as highlighted in Google Changes Ranking Advice, Says Build Quality Sites Not Links:

Previously, the article had a line that read:

In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.

This was changed on 27 May 2013 to:

In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.

Chasing Elusive Page Rank.pngThis means that whereas Google used to rely more heavily on links, it’s now shifting towards evaluating content directly for determining search engine rankings. While this makes perfect sense, we have to remember that Google had to rely on other indicators (or signals), such as links, until more sophisticated methods were introduced with the Panda and Penguin search ranking algorithm updates.

As a content author, your primary goal now is to create quality sites and content that users will want to read, use and share: this is where content marketing  comes into play.  And, as a word of caution, content marketing shouldn’t be treated as an SEO or social media tactic: it’s its own discipline and it’s here to stay.

What is Content Marketing

Content Marketing is the creation and sharing of content (text, video, sound) to help your organization or website achieve its goals, whether it be acquiring customers, increasing sales, building awareness, educating, and so on.  It isn’t a new concept and actually precedes both the internet and the Mad Men era: custom publications by the likes of John Deere, Michelin and Jell-O have been around for more than a century (Content Marketing | Wikipedia) and has continued to expand and evolve in the era of UGC (user generated content).

Why Content Marketing so suddenly?

Google. Google’s whole business pretty much depends on the quality of it’s search results and this service they provide is constantly evolving, sometimes in leaps.  For while, having lots of content with lots of links worked really well for SEO. With time, publishing content became easier and cheaper so there was a proliferation of content farms with so-so content (never mind all the fake or bought links). Panda and Penguin provide Google with new ways of measuring content quality,which has been evolving ever since.  SEO success has gone from having lots of linked content to providing quality content. It’s really happening and we’re now at a pivotal moment in search marketing.

What this means for online authors and marketers is that they are now publishers, as Mike Moran describes, and must attract their audiences with content that holds their attention and makes them want to come back for more.  Oh, and it’s better if it’s all provided for free and not a fee, and accessible on a mobile device. 😉

We have to change our mindset from thinking that link building, SEO and social media alone will drive traffic: the content has to stand on it’s own to succeed and links, SEO and social media are there to help create and promote.

  • Create quality content to rank higher in search results, because Google is getting better and identifying quality content and is increasingly ranking based on that.
  • SEO know how for guidance on creating and identifying quality content: keywords to target, optimize titles and URLs, etc.
  • Leverage social media to connect with your audience and collect quality feedback (content).
  • Share good stuff on social media to provide valuable signals to search engines.
  • …and so on.
    SEO+Social+Media+and+Content+Marketing.jpg

Less Is More: Curating Content and Streamlining Channels

Quality content is just one part of the story: curating is another.  It’s important to look at content inventories and streamline the channels where possible. This is especially true for UGC sites with lots of content being added to daily.

Blogs are a special case and stand apart. They’re meant to be a place where authors regularly create blog posts containing their opinions, new information and thoughts on a given topic.  It’s not a resource like a document you consult but a destination to see what’s new. Readers and subscribers also anticipate some exclusivity of what’s shared: the authors are thought leaders, there’s always fresh and timely content, it’s something that entertains and brings value. Keep and eye on these and treat (groom?) them as you would the editorial section of a newspaper.

As for everything else, it’s going to be increasingly work in your favor to curate more aggressively: remove or hide old stuff that no one visits or needs, eliminate redundancies, optimize what’s already there, nurture blogs and encourage thought leaders to participate…think more like publishers.  And at the heart of this is the audience (people!), who are diverse in their interests and tastes: think about how many ‘tribes’ the audience can be organized into and how to cater to them all.

It Was Always About the Content

Basic marketing: providing your consumers with what they want, when they want it, how they want it and at the right price.  Things seemed to have gone astray for a while (few years maybe) but it seems to be coming full circle now: it was always and is still about the content. Of course, the landscape and technology has evolved and this has benefited us by allowing even more good content to get online faster and to provide search engines with the ability to provide better search results.  Well, for now at least.

Treat Content Marketing (or strategy) as something separate and don’t forget to link your Google+ account to your SCN content 🙂

Some Good Reads

Content Marketing makes marketers the new publishers’ and vice versa | Biznology

Google Changes Ranking Advice, Says Build Quality Sites Not Links

10 Steps to Content Marketing That Converts 

5 Ways to Combine #SocialMedia and #ContentMarketing

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2 Comments

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  1. Tom Van Doorslaer

    The way I interpret the change, is that nothing changed really.

    Posting a link to an article, whether it’s on twitter, or in your own blog, is and always has been a way to share that article.

    In my opinion, they reworded their ranking strategy, to indicate that they also intend to use statistics from social media to count the number of references there. (and the Google plusses)

    A link reference is still the best indication that your content is good (I.e. has good quality)

    The biggest problem they have though, is that they can’t index Facebook references and are not allowed to index twitter (unless that changed meanwhile). So the only thing they can do is incorporate their own Google+ statistics (which they do already)

    So I wonder why they changed the wordings. Just an update, or did they really find a new way to extract those social shares?

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    1. Jason Lax Post author

      Share information from Google+ is proven to be very helpful. However, the way I and others are interpreting the change in wording is that Google is focusing on evaluating the content itself rather than being dependent on links (that can be abused) and social shares (that can’t always be accessed): it’s looking at the text, structure, terms used, presentation…all these little things you and I would look at consciously and sub-consciously to determine if what you’re reading and seeing is any good.

      This is what the Panda update introduced and Penguin brought further along. Google is still employing human evaluators to tweak the algorithms being employed, which are increasingly incorporating AI like analysis.

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