Goodbye Mass Communication, Hello Custom Content

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Jun 24, 2015

Article ImageI have to admit that much of my early SEO success could be attributed to dumb luck. When I started writing for the web, Danny Sullivan had just started his Search Engine Watch website, Google didn't exist, and SEO hadn't even been given a name. It turned out the websites I created were optimized for search because the content was optimized for our readers. In the early years, this wasn't the result of a strategic plan on my part. It was just a result of editorial instinct--years of magazine editing, ad writing, and PR. Without knowing it, I was practicing content marketing in the broadest sense of the word.

Now we know that the digital age has taken content production to a hyper level: We've got corporate websites, downloadable white papers, blogs, YouTube channels, and social media that place the focus on consumer-friendly, authentic content. It's a significant departure from the sort of advertising we saw with mass media, and content marketing has become the prime driver of sales and sales leads in a widening range of B2C and B2B industries around the globe.

With organic search engine referrals as a primary source of today's website traffic, a whole new industry has formed around global Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and its close partner, content marketing. The secret to successful content marketing is no secret at all: a commitment to producing a continuous, quality stream of useful, engaging information, hyper localized and-if needed-in multiple languages.

From the beginning of online communication, there were those who instinctively resisted mechanical, quick-hit tricks to spam the search engines. These were the pioneers of content marketing, whose long-term commitment to creating and publishing valued content has given them a growing market advantage. As Google and other search engines seek to penalize search engine spammers and reward those who produce original, authentic content, content marketing has become the gold standard for online success.

Google's Global War on Superficial Content

Around the world, the click-tricks forces are in retreat, and producers of honest content are the clear winners. Google, whose dominance in so many markets makes it a de facto arbiter of search standards, has escalated its war against search engine gamers. Their targets are the lame content creators and spammers who are seeking to capture the world's most highly-valued web territory: top ranking on the search giant's search engine results pages (SERPs).

There is a lot at stake for these link farms, black-hat SEO agents and link-spam bots. With organic search accounting for well over half of all visits most websites receive, and with Google accounting for up to 90% of that traffic in many markets, the stakes are enormous for businesses around the world.

When Google discovers websites that don't add value, those whose content fails to meet their quality standards, they have the means to punish them-even banish them completely from the Google search engine realm. A series of Google updates-in particular Panda and Penguin-have affected those who took the quick and easy path to SEO. Those who turned to low-quality blogs or link farms, whose only purpose was to increase a site's inbound links, have been hit hardest.

Of course it's not just Google that's on the lookout for search spam, or that judges content for its originality and relevance, right down to its linguistic nuances and application to a specific location. Russia's Yandex and China's Baidu are both hyper-local in their approach to search results and sensitive to regional language differences.

If you want to be found on the web today, you have no choice but to become a publisher of quality content. And you have to figure out how to make that content travel well in markets that don't speak your language.

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