January 8, 2014

Why content marketing will ultimately triumph over link building

BigStockPhoto image by Andrey Armyagov

Two radically different paths to getting discovered in Google search

Target audience: Marketing professionals, SEO specialists, PR pros, brand managers, businesses, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

Chris AbrahamLike Reese’s, link builders and content marketers need to combine forces because they’re two great tastes that taste great together. Link builders tend to be more left brain — technical, logical, analytical, and objective — while content marketers tend to be more right-brain — creative, artistic, intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective.

Without the content marketers and copywriters, there’s no there there. Without copy, there’s no text, and without text, Google is blind. Without well-written, high quality, descriptive and easily understandable copy, link builders tend to compensate by doing keyword research and writing clunky but functional hooks that used to work well enough luring the bots, spiders, and indexing agents.

Content marketers generally suck at distribution. And self-promotion. And shamelessness. And even optimizing copy for both online consumption and index comprehension. Content marketers love to write but often are lost deep in the technology behind the scenes, whereas link builders can go to town on tracks of copy and content but don’t actually want to write all that content themselves, especially if that commitment required needing to write new a few times a week – for years.

Organic SEO needs both link building and content marketing strategies and tactics to get, and keep, Google’s attention

Circa 2014, organic search engine optimization is going to need both link building and content marketing strategies and tactics in order to get, and keep, Google’s attention. In fact, you will probably need to hire an information architect, a copywriter, and a community manager, too.

Google is becoming a Turing test for organic search. In the past, the test wasn’t hard. Now, Google is tightening the screws. In some ways, Google is slowly implementing the online equivalent of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services‘ E-Verify. The only way Google can do this is by making it harder and harder to make it to the first page of Google search if you insist on maintaining anonymity, that part of Google’s background check requires that some or all of the folks responsible for each site are “validated.” However, Google’s almost never throws babies out with the bath water; and when it does, it tends to roll back or revise algorithm updates that go too far and diminish the quality of the search results instead of improve them. As a result, Google’s been caught in a lot of untruths and lies by omission.

Don’t believe what Google tells you about search

In other words, Google tells us what they want us to believe — sort of like parents who want you to get straight A’s but who would really just be happy if you could somehow just pass. Everything that Google says officially about its search algorithm is just classic misinformation.

I don’t trust anything that Google tells me about search. One thing I do know is that Google loves it when you spend money on contextual advertising. That’s true. Another truth is that Google really wants us to use Google+. Really badly.

And Google has a dynamic tension between its goals and its slogan, “don’t be evil,” and needs to ride the fine line between the misinformation and disinformation required by a the command and control regimen required to maintain a $340 billion publicly traded company, all the while still keeping Google’s culture in line with what people expect, in order not to be evil.

However, I have long considered Google disingenuous when it comes to how their search index algorithm works when it comes to whether or not metatags, alt tags, keywords, descriptions, page rank, and inbound links still carry influence.

The long and short of it: It all matters!

Google just wants us to spend less time trying to game the system, a system that can still be gamed if you pour enough raw resources, intellect, agility, creativity, and craft into the game, and more time feeding it what it wants, which is simple: useful content fast.

All the ingredients are still in the Google Pie, though in varying proportions over time. Google used to be indiscriminate, sucking down sites as quickly and as often as possible. It was hard enough to keep sucking, slurping, digesting, indexing, and serving up pages as near-real-time speeds. Now, Google’s been better able to map out the interrelationships not only between sites but also within sites.

In much the same way that Google used to favor .org sites and still does favor .gov and .edu, or how Google used to really care about how old your domain was as an indicator of maturity and reliability, Google now is starting to favor your online community involvement: Are you popular, are you timely, are you social, are you generous, are you consistent, and are you integrated?

Google is indiscriminate when it comes to where in the network your site exists. It understands context, interconnection, history, and the way organic systems actually do grow over time – rather than the way inauthentic, false, spammy networks tend to behave. Real growth is slow, while fake growth is is too time-, money-, and resource-intensive. Inauthentic networks of sites and links tend to rush, then tend to explode over a weekend or a couple weeks, as though produced in a movie set by a cast of thousands, and then, when they’re built, they tend to show the sort of predictable  pattern indicative of clockwork, of automated systems.

What’s more, it seems obvious that Google has the resources and the archive to check your homework against all other historical content to see whether you’re pulling too much of a Rand Paul by just plagiarizing all of your content from other sites or taking a large tract of content and having robots and scripts mix and match them into something entirely new but still suffering the traces of other people’s work.

Google is way too smart for you to get away with cheating. If a simple high school English teacher can run her student’s essays through a plagiarism-checker before awarding grades, don’t you think Google is always checking our work?

So, if you spend all your money on techies, then you’re not spending enough money on creating new content, new words, new essays, new resources for Google to offer to its users.

Google is on a vision quest for useful, high-quality content

Instead of bringing in SEO specialists, why not turn to storytellers, strategists, designers, writers and artists to convey what you’re about?

Google is lying to us aspirationally. Google is on a vision quest to make us better-trained at offering more and better content on their behalf but also up to their standards as well. They want us, on our own and out of our own treasure, talent, time, to give us Google-quality content: original, useful, educational, informational, wise, accurate, truthful, entertaining, but also quick, optimized, responsive, and also perfectly-rendered on any device.

Lacking that, Google will always go around you — or so someone else.

If you don’t feed Google what it wants, Google will choose Google+, Yelp, Wikipedia, or the news instead of you, your products, and services.

And, if the current trends can be read into the future, the noose is tightening.

While the current crop of SEO specialists (who are often closer to black hat no matter what their websites state) are still well worth their paychecks — at least for now — why not spend a little more time hiring story tellers, strategists, designers, writers, and artists to better convey what you’re about, how you’re different, and why Google’s users would be better served to visit you than some “better” site that Google made on your behalf, if you’re lucky, or your competitors’ superior sites, if you’re not.

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Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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One thought on “Why content marketing will ultimately triumph over link building

  1. Awesome article! Thank you for the insight! I have really been struggling with the balance of choosing more link building versus more content lately. This really puts some of that into perspective. There might be a bit of both in today’s world, but the majority of our time should definitely still be spent writing for the humans that might find our site. Nice Breakdown! Will be sharing this! :)