For anyone out there who is running a company, considering starting a company, or even just managing your own blog – we have a message for you: you can no longer get away with producing a massive amount of low quality content to climb the search rankings. This may come off as obvious to you, but Google’s Panda, and subsequent Penguin updates ruined the ability for companies and websites to produce a massive amount of garbage and get away with it. Look no further than Demand Media’s stock price to witness this phenomenon first hand:
A large part of Demand Media’s business model was based on producing a massive amount of content, and making money on the margin by arbitraging certain keywords (for properties such as ehow.com). To Demand’s credit, they have made a nice recovery of late, and have a great domain registrar business that is helping them bounce back strong (and they are now profitable). That said, quality content is key, and companies like Buzzfeed, BleacherReport and others (with in house editorial staffs) are reaping the benefits.
So what did Google Panda and Penguin do Exactly?
The major takeaways from Google Panda and update (in no particular order) are as follows:
- Focus on original content – you will get hammered for “stealing” or repurposing on too high a scale (for example, lifting content from Wikipedia)
- Over-optimization kills – Google can sniff out sites that are designed solely to exploit certain key words (for example, repeating the same keyword, or variations thereof to drive traffic)
- Link to high quality/authoritative sites – while Panda focused more on a more systematic sweep of SEO, Penguin is focused on the processes around linking. Don’t over-link, and when you do create links, link to high quality sources
- Excessive Ads are Bad – If it looks like you are running too many ads against your content, you will face the consequences
- SEO is a “Bad Word” – The rise of the term “content marketing” effectively means that high quality content trumps low quality link bait.
Below: a chart from Sistrix showing the effect of Panda on certain high trafficked sites.
How is this Information Useful?
Here are some examples of how my company, Scripted.com uses content marketing and what the results have been thus far:
- Write Guest Blog Posts for Authoritative Sites
Content marketing does not just refer to content you write for your own site, but content you write for other sites. I wrote a guest piece on ‘How to Raise A $1M Seed Round’ for TechCrunch. The post was clearly not targeted to marketers and did not focus on how Scripted’s services can help businesses, yet it accounted for 35% of all referral registrations over the past 3 months. Additionally, we saw similar results when we wrote a guest post for the Content Marketing Institute. Besides the direct online registrations from these articles, numerous potential clients have told me that they heard about us from TechCrunch or CMI.
- Build Links to your Site with Original, High Quality Content
In addition to quantifying the direct response of these campaigns, content marketing also improves SEO rankings and traffic. Link building is a common SEO strategy that is always difficult to grow through a paid channel. The best way to get organic and quality links is by creating interesting content that drives people to link and share your content. Whether or not it’s directly related to your line of business, driving free traffic is always a victory. Currently due to our SEO efforts with content marketing, almost 30% of our registrations come from our SEO channel.
- Measure, Optimize
We are obsessive about measuring conversion rate across all our different channels, including our own blog (see chart below). If your own blog is not outperforming other channels, that means the content you are producing is not good. The whole purpose of your own blog is to drive the highest quality, most targeted traffic to your conversion funnel – if you are not doing that, you might as well not have a blog. Conversion rate to business registrations for our own blog is 2.2%, which is substantially higher than any of our other channels – that makes me happy.
Bottom line – you are the best judge of high quality content. Stick to producing originally, high quality stuff and in turn, customers will come to your blog, buy your product, and trust your brand. The days of using fancy techniques to short-cut the system are over!