Matt Cutts states that Google “try to make it so that you don’t have to do SEO and we still find the good content”.
Nine months on from Read Write Web using the headline “Good Content Trumps SEO”, it’s starting to show that content marketing is really working, replacing link building and some of the more black hat SEO techniques. We are not suggesting everyone gives up on SEO – you should still focus on on-site and on-page optimisation – but that many SEO techniques have fallen foul of Google’s algorithm and so we need a new strategy.
Beating the Algorithm Updates
It seems that in 2012, each time Google releases a new product or update they upset the SEO community. Keyword stuffing and link building simply don’t work these days, and the people who have made a lot of money perfecting these tricks aren’t happy. The same people are surprised that Google are actually beginning to punish them for practices they’ve used for years. This really shouldn’t come as a shock.
Last year (August 2011), Matt Cutts responded to a question on why Google favours sites that follow ‘SEO best practice’ over those with fantastic content but don’t consider SEO. The answer to this question is no different to the line Google have touted for years now and should have been a warning for the changes we’ve seen this year. This shouldn’t be a surprise – Google have always tried to rank the most relevant and useful results higher. In the past, basic algorithms made the assumption that if people were linking to a page and the page was full of relevant keywords then that page should appear in search – this has lead to years of abuse through paid backlinks schemes and keywords stuffing (both still occur and are sold by SEO agencies as viable methods of ranking).
As the Panda update demonstrated in 2011 this is no longer the case – when Google change their algorithm every day, they are refining their search for quality content by adjusting and creating different rules about what constitutes good content. In the same video from August 2011, Matt Cutts claims that “We try to make it so that you don’t have to do SEO and we still find the good content”.
The rules have changed quite radically over the past year. They have forced the SEO community to focus less on link quantity and more about social sharing, community building, great content writing and the relevance, quality and authority of the page from which a link is passed.
Content Marketing in Action – Not SEO!
Forbes published an anti-SEO article which demonstrated content marketing in action. The post prompted a response from Jonathan Allen on Search Engine Watch and so gained a valuable backlink. Because of the controversial nature of Bill Barol’s views, the article was likely to attract responses with links. His article gained linkjuice without any effort at SEO! Bill was going out of his way not to think about SEO, but in writing a blog post that led to mass social sharing and comments on other sites, he did exactly what any SEO should be doing.
Google isn’t trying to banish SEO but is simply making it less effective (even damaging) for SEOs to continue using many techniques that have worked in the past. They are telling us that what they want in the organic search results is the most relevant and best quality content for any given search term. In fact Google has never claimed anything else.
The content marketing industry is taking off, and it’s hard to fake good content. Many are trying of course – selling fake Google+1′s and Facebook likes, tweets and rubbish content. It can’t be a great long term plan though – there are ways to detect bought social shares and why spend money building up a fake fan base? If you took the money spent on buying likes and instead spent it on time building up a strong social following then you not only get the ranking benefits of social shares but have also boosted brand reputation and have a direct social marketing channel. Those fake 10000 followers on Twitter certainly aren’t going to buy anything from you.
The only sure way to avoid a possible drop in ranking, further down the line when they discover a way of detecting mass produced fake signals, is to write good content. It’s the only real sure bet.
Most SEO firms will have to refocus on thinking of creative ways in which to find good authoritative resources in which to place great content (with links of course). They also need keep their sites, or those of their customers, fresh and updated with more great content that will catch the imagination of potential sharers. They will need to focus on developing relationships with sharers, bloggers and website content managers.
Content Marketing IS now the backbone of SEO. Google have got what they wanted, a reduction of spam, link farms and content farms and a transformation of the SEO industry into one which needs to focus on how to make the internet more interesting for people. Not such a bad thing. Takes away much of the pointless robotic techniques and replaces them with much more creative tools and techniques.
Unfortunately, as with any new technique, the spammers are already circling. Worryingly, today I received an email from a reputable local SEO company asking how much we charge per link to host guest posts. This is happening more and more – companies looking for quick wins are spinning articles, adding links and trying to get other webmasters to publish them with financial incentive. If they think we will only accept the post if it they pay then that immediately flags it up as a low quality post. If the content’s good, we should be paying them not vice versa!