Google decided to go and mess things up on the Internet a year and a half ago by releasing its Panda/Farmer update, which targeted sites using spammy “content” devoid of meaning. It also instituted an “over-optimization” penalty to help level the SEO playing field, leaving many companies and marketers unsure of how to best promote their brand online. A recent survey shows that while content marketing takes up more of a marketer’s time than ever, this right way to do things often goes wrong.
Change, Change, Change
That’s the mantra of marketers when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) techniques; what works, what doesn’t, and what will get you in trouble seem to change on a daily basis. Content marketing, meanwhile, has a fairly simple solution set: Create content that users actually want to view instead of spam and keyword-filled diatribes. An October 1, 2012 All Voices article–discussing SEO firm SEOMoz’s recent survey of 4,000 marketing professionals–found that 57 percent of respondents said SEO was a daily task for them. Over half also mentioned site analytics, and just under half talked about social media. Only 23.7 percent said that content marketing was a daily activity, but the content created was quite varied–from blogs to social media posts to articles, guides, and press releases.
The content message, at least, is getting through to marketers though it lags behind ever-changing SEO. This focus on SEO informs content marketing, though the numbers don’t always reflect that fact. Since what best optimizes for Google and other big search engines changes, the type of content a business creates also needs to change. Even good content–even great content–is no good if it doesn’t meet basic SEO standards. But despite a promising outlook, a large number of business are still stuck in the pre-Panda rut.
No One Wants That Stuffed Bear
A recent Business 2 Community blog post poses an interesting question: Are you a content marketer, or a content carnie? The author, Mark Schaefer, says that despite a willingness by many blogs and websites to feature well-written guest content, the number of spam marketers hasn’t really declined; he’s still inundated with requests to buy back-links, place promotional content, or pay for favorable reviews. These spammers are missing the point, he argues– screaming at every passerby nets the occasional interested party, but they will likely walk away once they know the game is rigged. Instead, developing relational content that actually has value to those who read it leads to long-term gains.
It also takes longer.
And that’s perhaps the greatest disconnect: True content marketing isn’t something cobbled together from keywords and metrics. It’s informed by data necessities, certainly, but doesn’t rely exclusively on them. Instead, savvy marketers are actually sitting down to write–or hiring out to write–content users will read. This, in turn, encourages them to come back, develops trust, and eventually makes a sale. The bonus? Loyalty. The downside? Time investment. It’s simple, but simple things are often the most difficult: Content marketing is a necessity in a post-Panda world, but it’s not a 50/50 bet. The content has to rank above the marketing or companies can expect to shout on the fairgrounds until they’re hoarse.