Google has released the first complete overhaul of its world-famous search algorithm, which now rewards web sites that promote engagement and make it easier for users to find what they want. For digital marketers, the implications are clear: post a static web site that never changes or self-serving advertising that doesn’t engage users, and you will drop in the search rankings. Over time, competitors – both today’s competitors and those who see an opportunity in your space – will overtake you because they do a better job engaging with your customers online.
My Biznology colleague Chris Abraham has already done a good job explaining why the Hummingbird algorithm is going to make old-fashioned SEO tactics (such as link-buying, manipulating the HTML coding behind web pages to get an edge in the search rankings, and larding web pages with keywords) obsolete.
This post is about the other part of the equation: the content that web users actually find on your site when they arrive. Just as Google’s update is putting a shiver down the spine of SEO company executives, it should make content factories shudder as well.
You basically have two choices to generate content for your site: do it yourself or outsource it. If you do it yourself, it will be easier to be authentic but you still have to actually engage with users and tell them what they want to know, not what you want to tell them. That takes time and some degree of talent.
If you outsource content production, you can also have an authentic voice, but only if you choose your outsourced provider wisely and maintain an ongoing relationship with them. You need a contractor you will actively manage and who will essentially become an extension of your team. Set-it-and-forget-it programs, blog-posts-by-the-pound, copying other peoples’ original content, and other cheap and quick tricks to boost your search rankings are also obsolete.
If you are not onboard with this now, you will be soon. Every business that uses the Internet to attract customers needs a content strategy and needs to devote some resources to keeping it current. Deal with it – it’s just another cost of doing business.
Many companies have already gotten the message, if the job ads on LinkedIn are any indication (and they are). Check out the job titles: community manager, content strategist, content marketing manager. If you don’t already have someone with one of these titles in your shop, you should either put out an RFP for a contractor or ask yourself when you will be creating such an in-house position.
But don’t take my word for it. One of the pioneers of the Internet, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, recently told a Silicon Valley audience that his venture capital firm had hired a full-time content partner to “fully articulate how we think about the world and what we are like to work with.” Andreessen and his partners were “amateurs” at creating content, but they’ve now brought in former Wired.com editor Michael Copeland to “up-level and professionalize” their effort, which is aimed at “trying to explain and be more transparent” about how the firm selects investments and works with its companies. More detail about Andreessen’s views on content marketing are on my blog, in addition to the audio of his comments.
As I’ve been preaching since I started blogging here, fresh and non-promotional content that engages your audience and tells them what they want to know is the “new normal” in web marketing. Google says its time to get with the program – or face the consequences!