Thursday, February 16, 2012

Myths And Misconceptions: The Real Truth About Content Marketing And The Search Engines

[Editorial Note: The below is a copy of the article I wrote for my blog on Enjoy!]

Lately I've been hearing a lot of people saying things such as: 'Google doesn't like content or article marketing since they changed their algorithms' and 'article directories are not useful for search engine marketing and link-building efforts anymore.'

I like to remind people of a few fundamental rules of online marketing, specifically involving content, that virtually never changes and is extremely helpful to know (and do!) ...

· 'Mix' it up. It's always a smart thing to have a diversified online marketing mix. I suggest to clients to look at their online marketing plan like a pie, and each slice is a tactical allocation -- organic and paid for strategies. As with your financial planning ventures (such as with your retirement account), it's always safer to diversify than put all your eggs in one basket. The same holds true for your online marketing plan. Mix it up and keep it diversified. Some allocations may be smaller than others, based on budget, objective, and other variables. But it's good to spread it out across many tactics and online marketing channels such as organic search, paid search, social media, online PR, content marketing, etc. Then if one tactic is a laggard and others are leaders, it all balances out in the end. This also helps compensate for algorithmic ‘bumps in the road’ that may temporarily affect your search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) efforts.

· Doing It 'Right' Can't Be Wrong. Google and other search engines often change their algorithms to as keep search results relevant and fresh to related queries as well as impact unscrupulous 'black hat' practicing marketers who use no-no tactics such as gateway pages, keyword stuffing, link baiting, link farming, content farming and more. These are the folks that link to irrelevant sites with irrelevant content to the equivalent of content spamming. For compliant content marketers or those using the SONAR Content Distribution Model -- the core strategy is to leverage high quality, useful, content through synchronized, synergistic and relevant online distribution. SONAR and content marketing, when implemented correctly, include 'white hat' SEO principles. And if you're using quality, original content with either of those marketing tactics and distributing your content to targeted, relevant sites, you really can't go wrong.

· Quality And Relevance Are Key! According to, when Google released their official statement about the algorithm change in 2011, the Farmer/Panda update was aimed to help more quality websites be higher in the search results versus content farms with irrelevant, unbeneficial content based on the keywords being searched. Article directories may have initially been stuck in the cross-hairs losing some initial value, but again, if you are putting out ‘UVA’ (useful, valuable, actionable) content into numerous organic online channels, the diversity and balance will offset any temporary side affects which may occur versus doing article directory marketing by itself. Based on my experience, if you push out quality, original content in several places including article directories, your articles should appear in pages 1-5 of Google search results. And with Google’s latest ‘freshness’ update, the most timely and relevant content should appear in descending order by date from the top of the search results. Quality and relevance are key.

· Targeted Link-Building. Links, whether it's one way back link or a reciprocal back link, are still links. Quality links help SEO, and that is undisputable. But again, there's some ground rules to do it right within best practices ... and do it wrong. Links should be quality links, and by that I mean on sites that have relevant content and a synergistic audience as to your own. It should also be a site with a good traffic rank. I prefer to do link building manually and do it strategically. I research sites that are synergistic in all ways to the site I'm working with (albeit one-way or reciprocal links). Doing it manually allows more targeted selection and control over where you want your links to go. Manual selection and distribution can also lead to other opportunities down the road with those sites you're building relationships with including cross-marketing or editorial efforts such as editorial contributions, revenue shares and more. In my view, this approach is both link building and relationship building.

· Location, Location, Location. Where you link to is important. When doing SONAR or content marketing, I always tell clients to deep link, that is, not just link to their home page -- which to me, doesn't make any sense anyway, as there's too many distractions on a home page. Readers need a simple, direct call to action. Keep them focused. It's always smarter to link to your source article, which should be on one of your subpages, such as the newsletter archive page or press release page. Now you have a connection -- the article/content excerpt you pushed out and is appearing in the SERPs (search engine result pages) and its redirect links to the full version on your archive or press page. You’ve satisfied the searches expectations by not doing a ‘bait and switch’. There’s relevance and continuity. And to help monetize that traffic, that newsletter archive or press webpage (which you're driving the traffic to), the background should contain fixed elements to 'harness' the traffic it will be getting for list growth and cross-selling such as fixed lead gen boxes, text ads, banner ads, editorial notes, and more. These elements should blend with your overall format, not being to obnoxious, but being easily seen.

· Catalyst Content. It's always important to make sure you publish the content on your website first ... I call this your 'catalyst content'. This is the driving source which all other inbound marketing will occur and be focused around. Your website articles should be dated and be formatted similar to a news feed or blog. Also, posting timely press releases will work favorable as they will be viewed by Google and human readers as the latest news (again favorable to Google’s latest ‘freshness’ update). At the same time, send your content out via email (i.e. ezine) to your in-house list before external marketing channels see it. This helps from an SEO standpoint, but also helps with credibility and bonding with your subscribers and regular website visitors as they should get your information before the masses.

There you go. My best practices for marketing with content. I don't practice nor condone 'black hat' marketing tactics. I've always been lucky enough to work for top publishers and clients that put out great, original content.

It really does all boil down to the quality of the content when you talk about any form of article and search engine marketing. Content is king, and when you have strong editorial, along with being a ‘creatively strategic’ thinker, you don't need to engage in 'black hat' or questionable SEO/SEM.

Algorithms are always changing. It’s good to be aware of the latest news, trends and techniques, but also not to put you’re your eggs in one basket and build your entire online marketing strategy based on the ‘current’ algorithms. Using solid content, analyzing your websites visitor and usage patterns and keeping general best practices in mind are staple components that will always play an important role in content marketing.

In a nutshell: I believe articles can have the same theme and have some content overlap, but should be tailored to each platform it's being posted to and to each target audience/niche group that will be reading it. That will keep the content relevant and specific. With content marketing (and especially with the SONAR Content Distribution Model) I like to think of leveraging UVA content and it's targeted dissemination on the Web as 'relevant repurposing and redistribution with a purpose'. It should also not be 'fluff''. Content, in my opinion (in article marketing), should be 'UVA': useful, valuable and actionable.
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