Recently we've discussed the shift in site traffic referrals from primarily SEO-driven to more socially-shared content marketing.
Since T324 is a business that has done incredibly successful SEO campaigns for a lot of customers, this shift actually means we need to review our own products and services.
What we have been doing simply isn't working as well as it used to, because the link ecosystem has changed. Our company model is about always finding the best technology recipe to get something done, and that takes staying up to date at all times.
We want to make sure our customers are aware of transitions in the tech environment, so we're sharing our experience of this sea change!
What happened to traditional or "brute force" SEO the last two years?
Basically, Google released updates called Panda, in 2011, and Penguin, in 2012. These updates changed the way Google search surfaces results, essentially penalizing crappy content. That means content generated by farms like Demand Media, keyword-stuffed and advertising heavy, is deemed by Google to be "not useful". It also means that republished or pirated content is subject to the duplicate content "penalty", because it "creates a bad user experience". Google is fighting for the user, kinda! Or maybe they just hate having their system gamed.
Google's SEO guidelines also reweighted social proof, as noted in the quote below from a Forbes article with the not-at-all search-baiting title of "The Death of SEO".
So crappy content is no longer going to drive the same traffic to your site. What will drive site referrals?
Socially shared content marketing. And what, exactly, is that? It's articles, videos, podcasts or guides that showcase your expertise in the area you do business, and maybe some funny stories about how weird running a box company or crop duster service is.
These articles or videos have to be interesting enough that people will want to share them on social media like Facebook and LinkedIn, creating positive backlinks to your content on your site.
It's these positively weighted backlinks to your site that will drive the traffic. So you want the content on your site- your blog should be on your domain, not on a separate blog, and you want to make sure that sharing them is easy. You need social share buttons all over your website, next to every piece of content you have.
Here's a great elevator pitch for content marketing:
The idea is that by being authentic about your business, you draw ideal customers- the ones who really want exactly what you're selling.
And they already know much more about your product than a customer who found you by organic search, because the content marketing message has educated them as well as filtering them. Theoretically, your longterm conversion rate should be much higher.
However, you will want to build traditional short-term conversion opportunities (like signing up for a mailing list or downloading a white paper) into your site around the content marketing.
You want to capitalize on the attention of your content viewer. And you will have to do traditional marketing work to create distribution channels for your content- people, ideally influencers, who will tweet, Facebook and reblog your content. You may be sending these folks gift baskets or ballgame tickets. That's right, you could be sending a blogger a gift basket in appreciation for the 500 site visits their repost of your article gave you. Here's a great article about how to keep the marketing in your content marketing.
And whether you buy the concept or not, there's no doubt that everybody's doing it. Check out the startling stats in this article.
It may sound crazy to business owners to start spending chunks of your time and money telling stories about your business or sharing your hard-won expertise for free.
But imagine how crazy it sounds to a 22-year-old fresh out of marketing school to hear that only fifteen or twenty years ago, a company that makes boxes had to have a full-time ad department that did physical pasteup with tools like Letraset to make ads that were printed in newspapers that would thrown be away the day after they were distributed. Businesses demonstrated their knowledge base with articles in trade journals that might reach ten thousand people.
Now, a piece of evergreen content you create for your site can reach the whole world, forever, for free.
And the bottom line is, Google owns the playground, for now, and for now, content marketing is the ball. So get in the game.