/// Is Google’s love affair with content marketing usurping SEO?
SEO is the mathematics of marketing. The science, the algorithms, the numbers, the data… you know where you are with the measurable beauty of SEO. Or at least, that used to be the case. Nowadays, thanks to the irrepressible rise of content marketing, SEO’s cut and dry quantitative approach is evolving to incorporate its opposite number: quality.
Brand websites used to gain SEO brownie points by link building in volume. But links from poor quality sites and content just won’t cut the mustard anymore – these days it’s about quality of links, not quantity of links.
It looks like Google has tired of its old friend SEO and is instead cosying-up to the new kid on the block, content marketing. The introduction of Penguin (which removes link authority from spam sites) and Panda (which dishes out penalties to over optimised and over adsensed sites) certainly implies that SEO is becoming a less gameable practice. To keep in line with Penguin and Panda, SEO now requires a much more varied skill set, something more akin to high quality writing and PR. Despite striking fear into hearts of some less respectable SEO practitioners, Penguin and Panda are no bad things as they ultimately ensure consumers receive better content.
There’s even a case to be made that Google’s love affair with content marketing is leaving not just SEO in the shadows, but also ‘traditional’ online media. Take supermarket brands as an example. The likes of Waitrose and Sainsbury’s have quite an affinity with food-based content, generating everything from recipes, diets and forums through to events. Google and its competitor search engines heavily favour brands – brands are, after all, a source of revenue.
So we are now in a position where content from brands could usurp smaller, niche content from bloggers? Type ‘small business funding’ into Google and Barclays’ content marketing strategy pays off because the brand ranks highly with an advice page. Likewise, type in ‘diets’ and both Sainsbury’s and Tesco appear high in the rankings, creating opportunities to further sell their products and increase brand loyalty.
These scenarios do not herald the ‘death of SEO’. Far from it. The future lies in collaboration. The relationship between content marketing and SEO only reaches its true potential when it’s designed to be symbiotic. This means that brands need to underpin their content with SEO strategies like strong internal navigation. So the user finds a recipe via search term, then purchases all necessary ingredients and equipment, then participates in a social communities around the recipe. The idea is to use varied skills to build hubs around interdependent content and search terms in order to nurture cross-selling potential.
Google is and always has been a smart operator. If it wants to put content marketing on a pedestal, then so be it. The SEO industry will adapt, as it has done in the past. But if prioritising content marketing over SEO marks a seismic shift from quantity to quality, one has to wonder how Google will pull it off. Google is, after all, an algorithm (albeit a very complex, intelligent, successful and vast algorithm). But the question remains – how can the objectivity of algorithms account for the subjectivity of quality? Do any of you have the answer?
The Guardian – Jonathan Piggins