Content is Not King, It’s More Like a President

Below is an article I authored for Rio SEO’s Expert SEO and Social Media Insights blog.

Content is Not King, It’s More Like a President

 

contentisnotking

It seems that every industry article I read these days mentions the value of quality content. If you’re like me, over the last year you’ve heard the term, “Content is King” so frequently that you’re ready to pull out your hair. While I do believe this is a grossly overused statement, my objection is not solely targeted on the frequency of its use, but also with the accuracy (or lack thereof) around the statement itself.
Content is Not a King.

Google defines the word king as, “The male ruler of an independent state, esp. one who inherits the position by right of birth.” In relation to content, it’s the final detail of the definition that troubles me. Content does not inherit search engine ranking position by right of birth. It takes a number of signals to elect that content into a highly ranked SERP position. Essentially, the web population or searchers, vote the content into its respective position. We vote with our page linkage, our social sharing and page click through rate on the SERP’s. Content is not a monarchy, but an Internet democracy experiencing a continuous election for SERP presidency

This is why Social has become so critical to search engine optimization; not that we need any more reason to utilize the progressive SEO channel. Social is the ability to vote content into position. This is also why I respectfully disagree with Matt Cutts’ belief in an exclusive focus on content creation for elevating search rankings. Content is only one part of a now larger initiative as SEO Managers become Online Marketers. Consider newly published content as candidates running for office. Although the candidate may be highly qualified and capable, the people still need to know their identity and the knowledge they offer. This is why candidates, at least the successful ones, will campaign for political elections. Attaining a worthy background holds no value for candidates with minimal exposure; so instead of sitting at home waiting to be discovered, candidates use campaigning to promote themselves and their intentions. It is also why great content creation must be followed by great content promotion, which includes link building and social distribution. You are essentially campaigning your content to be viewed and consumed by as many people as possible, with the expectation that you have something unique and valuable to offer. In turn, they will vote your content into desired search positions with their linking and social sharing.

Let’s take another example, one that looks at more traditional marketing techniques around brand management. Companies like IBM and Microsoft have some of the most recognized brand names in the world. Yet they still run ads? They still promote their brands? Why? Because even with internationally recognized brands promoting still provides significant value in controlling the brands identity and communicating its importance. Content is very similar. Great content can be just like a great brand, requiring regular promotion and audience engagement to maintain business success. This is why social is so critical to SEO. You could forget about chasing SEO algorithms, dismiss the fact that they are increasing their social inputs, and still find success with this approach. That is because it’s the same approach traditional marketers have been applying for years and years.

Want to win the ranking position election? Make sure you focus on proper content promotion in addition to quality content creation.

Are Interactive Infographics the Next Generation Marketing Tactic?

Image Source: swishseoagency.com
Image Source: swishseoagency.com

The Content Marketing Institute published an article today about infographics asking six experts their opinions on the future of this content strategy in the long haul. The general consensus was that as long as infographics are of high quality and design, they will continue to be useful forms of content generation given their ease of consumption, high degree of going viral, and informative presentation.

I tend to agree with this concept but I do believe that the popularity of their presence will eventually shift to next generational infographics as technology and interactivity merge. My personal belief is that we will begin to see new forms of interactive infographics begin to appear and rise in popularity.

  1. Interactive infographics would be great for the rise in tablets and touchscreen devices
  2. Perhaps, interactive inforgraphics would be able to track and report their viralness. Unlike a static image, interactive “code” might report how many times they have been shared, how they are being distributed and really give better visibility into the questions many marketers would love to understand.
  3. When viewing a straight image infographic, the data is usually pretty light to make it simple to review. This is great but what if someone wants to know more? The infographic cannot provide any further help. Interactive infographics could offer further information about a subject and perhaps even allow marketers to being to promote their brand without appearing overly “advertisy”…something many consumers do not tolerate and is generally considered a no-no in infographic design.

If you want to read more on the article and what the experts had to say check out The Future of Visual Content: 6 Predictions About Infographics

Google Doodle: A Victim of Their Own Success?

Google-Doodle-Petri

I found today’s Google Doodle quite creative. If you didn’t catch it, the image above shows what I mean. It was a tribute to Julius Richard Petri, invetor of the Petri dish. But the thing I found even more interesting was the results when you click on the doodle. See what I mean below:

(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)

Almost every single result, except for the bio on the right and the Wikipedia article was about the fact that Google did a doodle about Julius Richard Petri. Google Doodles were meant to pay tribute, and educate the public about the men and women that made tribute to the advancement of humankind. It seems in this case the success of the doodle pushed all that great information down the results and instead offered results about how great the doodle itself was. Whoops.

Filter Bubbles

 

Recommended Video: Filter Bubbles

Ted Talks: Eli Pariser – Beware of Online Filter Bubbles

Software strives for more and more personalization. Yet this video describes the concerns with allowing software to determine what information we are presented and more importantly, determine what information we are not presented.  Eli Parser defines this scenario as a filter bubble and has concerns that this will be a growing trend and more technologies strive for automatically determining the most relevant piece of information for us.

Google Updates Organic Search Algorithm To Emphasize Breaking News!

Below is a contribution to Adotas.com that I co-authored. 

Extra, Extra: Google Launches New Organic Search Algorithm To Emphasize Breaking News!

Google is very busy these days. In addition to the recent changes announced for how paid search advertisements will be listed, Google also rolled out a major change to the way organic search listings are ranked—the new Freshness Algorithm.

The goal of this change is simple. For queries conducted by searchers where information changes constantly—which Google estimates is about 35% of the queries—there is a new rendering of the organic results page starting with “news for QUERY.” Two examples are used below: “greek debt crisis” which is obviously going to have recent news and “the history of money,” which is not.

googleoldgooglenew

Why Is Google Doing This?

Speculation is that this is a strategic response to Facebook and Twitter—i.e., provision of real time information through directed queries on relevant topics (as opposed to open stream of incoming information, albeit timely, from competing social media platforms). Also, at a technical level, Google is rolling out some new technology to Googlebot that helps the system better index AJAX/Java Script commenting systems like Facebook, along with Google+.

What Is the Impact?

Google indicated that it would impact 35% of search queries. To be more specific, queries that will be impacted fall into three categories:

• Recent Events and Hot Topics. This includes examples of breaking news, socially trending topics or sports scores and related information.

• Regularly Recurring Events. Political elections, annual or periodic conferences (Davos, WEC, G10, or even… INFLECTIONPoint) where there is repetitive and predictable query volumes that require monitoring.

• Frequent Updates. This includes queries for products and services where there is an on-going flow of changes to the underlying landing page, such as price updates, SKU changes, reviews, etc. Queries like “best camera,” “cheap airfare to San Diego,” etc. where there is volatility in the underlying content.

How Will This New SERP Be Rolled Out?

The change began Nov. 3, 2011, and will be rolling out as Google tests the impact of the change—as they always do. However, advertisers should expect this to become a new optimization variable in their SEO analytics for any effected query.

So What Should Advertisers or SEO Specialists Do?

We have a couple of recommendations for our customers to help them understand what impact this will have on SEO results, and what they need to do to address this change.

First, social media will be more intertwined into SEO. Remember 18 months ago, Google rolled out the “Latest” function; a secondary page that users could activate on the left hand navigation to see social media data. We wrote about that update and said at the time “that if more than 10% of queries ultimately go to this secondary page, then optimizing for “recency” as well as “relevancy” will become the key to SEO. And how will that be done—integration of social media programs with SEO.”

This is an upgrade to this function that a) moves the “latest” to the main SERP and b) does so only for a subset of queries where recency is relevant. So social media programs—i.e., updates to Facebook and Twitter comments by advertisers, updated reviews, and any time of blog based content generation will require infusion with high-value SEO keywords and link backs to other content pages in order to align with the high value queries and command the newly available premium shelf space.

Second, the high value generic keywords will make up the majority of the frequent updates (“Best camera,” “cheap laptop,” “best tablet”) category of affected queries. If advertisers are going to build their processes—we recommend this. Identify the top 25 queries driving traffic to their site. Conduct queries and see if the “News for” box is appearing.

If so, monitor competitor and advertiser presence on a series of queries over a week or two and see what happens. If there is degradation in corresponding web traffic during this time period, then these become the priority for the social media programs content generation.

Last, reputation management will also be impacted. Industry announcements, including company wins and losses will find their way to the top of the rankings and may begin to overtake historically high ranking pages for branded search terms. This is both positive and negative depending on how good the news is on a given topic. Reacting quickly to negative publicity, while promoting positive news, through the systems by which “News for” reacts will become a key aspect of public relations.

This change clearly is salient for advertisers. It impacts a large number of queries. It provides prime search engine real estate to content that is “recent” and “relevant”—which requires continued integration of advertisers social media programs (to provide the “recency”) and SEO (to provide the “relevancy.”).

Selling Links? Google’s not buying it.

Below is an article I authored for Covario’s Actionable Insights blog.

Selling Links? Google’s not buying it.

Google recently announced a change to their natural search algorithm in an effort to fight spam sites. This rides on the coat tails of their other spam fighting efforts introduced, such as a blocklist extension application for their Chrome browser and the “public hand-slapping” of companies like Forbes, Overstock.com and JC Penney…all for using paid links. This change is more significant than their ongoing algorithmic adjustments that occur and advertisers should expect some variance in their natural search ranking as a result.

What’s clear is that Google is aggressively fighting growing concerns and comments that their search results are being overrun by spam (see Washington Post article). Google continues to adjust its efforts to target and penalize SEO techniques that don’t offer value to searchers, but instead game the system to increase rank.

“Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information, such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

Read Google’s Blog Post: Finding more high-quality sites in search.

Bing and Yahoo! – Same Algorithm, Different Results

Below is an article I authored for Covario’s Actionable Insights blog.

Bing and Yahoo! – Same Algorithm, Different Results

Yahoo! and Bing are now driven by the same search algorithm for natural results. That means that when you search for a term on Bing, the results you see are the same as if you were to search on the term on Yahoo…right? Wrong.

There’s still a difference and I suspect that there may continue to be a difference moving forward. Right now the variance appears to affect positions on the first page, just below the fold. Ever since Bing introduced the concept of related searches, they have been showing only a subset of results for the term being searched. The rest of the first page is populated with results from related searches.

For example, check out the term “laptop” on Bing. From the image below, you can see that there are only five organic results from the term “laptop.” The rest of the page is populated with results from related searches like “laptop brands” and “laptop buying guide.”

bing-and-yahoo
Note: Some paid results have been removed.

 

 

So who missed out appearing on the first page for a term as valuable as “laptop?” Anyone in position six through ten is not on the first page.

However, if you run the same search on Yahoo!, you get all ten results from the search term. As you can see in the image below, the entire result set is focused on the search term entered by the user. The algorithm driving results for the term “laptop” is the same now, but as you can see, the first page (the most important page) is not showing the same results.

yahoo
Note: Some paid results have been removed.

 

It’s important to point out that these related searches do not always appear on Bing, however if your SEO efforts are targeting popular, non-branded terms, you are most likely experiencing these results.  So at the very least, do not expect the rankings on Yahoo! to suddenly be the same on Bing for all of your terms.

What if we explore this concept a little more? What exactly does it mean to have related searches on Bing? Certainly this is nothing that new, these results have been around for quite a while now but as Microsoft and Yahoo! begin to grab more market share through this integration, SEO Managers are beginning to ask more questions on what they need to consider for optimization efforts. Case in point, using the example above. One could argue that owning position three for the term “Laptop Brand” is much more important than owning position six for the term “laptop” even though “laptop” has a much higher search query volume (last I checked “laptop” had roughly 1100 times more search volume than “laptop brands”). This is simply due to the fact that position six no longer shows up on the front page and is replaced by positions one, two and three for this other term. When you begin to look at the competitiveness for these related searches, you begin to understand the trade-off efforts for making sure you appear on this page. If you can move into a high ranking position for a related search, you can potentially leapfrog over the competition and onto the front page. Even though Yahoo! and Bing are powered by the same algorithm, the results you see, and the conversions you track, can still vary greatly from these types of examples.

Is your SEO glass half full or half empty?

Below is an article I authored for Covario’s Actionable Insights blog.

 Is your SEO glass half full or half empty?

Last week, Twitter announced that it is in advanced talks with both Microsoft and Google to help incorporate Tweeter data into search results pages. The announcement seems to be tied to the push by major search engines to incorporate real-time results into their search pages. As an end user, I think this is great. This is another step in Universal Search results and having only one place to go to find the information I want only makes it faster to find what I’m looking for (who here has found information on some breaking news announcement through Twitter?).

As an SEO Manager though, this can be met with mixed emotions and here’s where you get to find out if you are an optimist or pessimist when it comes to SEO. Let’s start with the bad news first for all you pessimists out there (I’d like to think of myself in the other group). That page you’re trying to optimize just added some new competition to battle with for rank. Any tweet using your keywords now has potential to out rank your webpage. If the algorithm logic for the search engines is anything like recent changes to search.twitter.com then the search engines will take into consideration the tweet relevancy, the authoritative rank of the tweeter and perhaps even the relevancy of any pages that are linked to in the tweet to help determine ranking. That’s a tough blow to be out ranked by 140 characters for a business critical term.

So where’s the silver lining you ask? Simple, the optimistic (or perhaps opportunistic) SEO Managers asks, “Why can’t I be that tweeter?” This is actually a great opportunity for your organization. Let’s assume for a second that you’re optimizing perfectly for a critical non-branded term. In many cases, the best you’ll rank is position one and possibly position two for that term. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s a great place to be but there are still eight other rank positions that appear on the first page of the SERP which can steal traffic from your results. The reasoning being that search engines like to provide variety with their results so having multiple domains appear for a term is in the end user’s best interest. Measuring how many positions you hold on the first page of a results page is what we call shelf space and the more of it you can obtain, the higher amount of traffic you can guide to your pages and the less your competition can guide to their pages.

Having your twitter results appear in the SERPs is another opportunity to establish more presence or shelf space for critical terms. The same concept works for Facebook or YouTube. Imagine one of your important unbranded company terms having the first two results from your website, then a mention or two on Twitter, then a YouTube video and a Facebook fan page, all owned by your company? That’s total domination on the Shelf Space for that results page.

In the end, it’s still a bit unclear on how all of this will play out but that doesn’t mean now’s not the time to start planning for the future. Of course, I could just be optimistically speaking.