The Role of Content Creation in SEO
It never fails. Every time I see a blog post with "death of SEO", I skip right over the post and jump to the comments. Because there's always a boat load of them. Scanning them tells me exactly what I need to know about the post, as the author spends time clarifying and talking overreacting SEO consultants's off the bridge.
Case in point was Ken Krogue's blog post on Forbes on July 20. Titled "The Death of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR and Real Content," Ken writes about how the focus on SEO has changed from old-school tactics like on-page optimization and link-building to continuous, high-quality content creation. And it's not just him saying it. He quotes an SEO consultant who he respects, Adam Torkildson, who says that "Google is killing the SEO industry." Here's what he meant.
“We hardly do any of the old SEO stuff. It still brings results, but not like it used to. Google is pulling the rug out to provide better search for their audience. They are routing out the counterfeiters. Now it must be real, valuable, content, and lots of community value and interaction.”
In a clear and compelling way, Ken wrote about how social signals have become a much bigger part of Google's algorithm and that link-building, which over time became more shady, is less important. What generates social signals like Google +1's, tweets and shares is great content that is generated on a continuous basis, which Google also rewards now through other algorithm changes that looks for freshness. This regular stream of great content generates an "opt-in" audience of followers that engage with it and share it.
UPDATE 8/1: To further validate this point about social signals being more important to Google, it's interesting to consider why Google purchased Wildfire Interactive yesterday for $250 million. Jay Baer of Convince & Convert had the best analysis of the deal, particularly this piece about one of reasons being access to social signals:
This gives Google an end-run way to get Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Linkedin activity signal into the Google search algorithm, since they’ve been unable to keep that stream alive via biz dev deals. You may recall that Facebook never signed a deal with Google to incorporate behind-the-password activity into Google, which is why Facebook activity doesn’t show up in Google much, and also why the Facebook/Microsoft (Bing) alliance was theoretically a counter-balance.
Twitter used to have a “firehose” deal with Google, whereby all tweets were indexed, but that deal expired over a year ago, and led (at least indirectly) to the rollout of Google + so that the big G could have their own source of social signal.
What’s driving this is the fact that “pages” and “links” are no longer the primary way we vote for the accuracy and reliability of online content. Now, we vote with tweets and +1s and likes and shares, and Google doesn’t have a good source for that information (until now), which puts the mothership of search result accuracy (and thus, Google Adwords) at peril.
While SEO consultants may have disputed what Krogue was talking about, many other marketers validated this view, as a chart published last week by Marketing Sherpa clearly illustrates.
This chart shows the result of a survey of B2B marketers on their most effective SEO tactics. What stands out in this chart is not just the fact that content creation ranks number one, but the wide margin it holds over the second tactic on the list for most effective.
I've held the position for a long time that PR is the most experienced and the most qualified to lead the kind of content creation efforts that matter. Google is rewarding freshness and social signals. Success depends on creating content that is incredibly timely, that is relevant to the conversation and to real-time trends among both influencers and buying community members alike, and that provides insight or actionable advice readers can take with them to do their jobs better.
Specifically, here is what I wrote two years ago when Google became a real-time search engine:
To Google, reputation is the most important thing. This is true of basic web content, but now there is the added dimension of social content. This is determined by how important others think you are, how credible you are to your public, and how much you help meet the needs of those in your (buying) community.
To me, this points to the importance of reputation management, something that communications and PR has owned for a long time. As with many other things in business, reputation management is becoming more critical than ever now that a company's buying public can turn to peers for information and opinion as easily as traditional sources of information.
So none of this is really new.
SEO is alive and well -- just look at how fast SEOmoz and its community are growing. It's just changing and the most recent set of discussions is just another reminder of how valuable PR is in this "new normal" marketing environment. The fact is that PR and SEO pros can benefit by working together to deliver the best service to its marketing clients.
Do you agree or disagree?
Image credit: ProsperWithTess.com