“Produce great content”
That’s what we need to do, right? Content Marketing is the new black, and we need to be bloody good at it if we want our sites to rank.
Sean recently proposed that some SEO folk are waiting with baited breath and crossed fingers that Google’s next update will reward quality content that deserves to rank. I sincerely hope that people don’t actually believe such garbage, and would like to dig into why it could never actually happen.
For the purpose of this discussion we’ll consider only the content medium of copy, since that is the most basic form of content, and most easily digestible by our spidery friends.
How can Google go about detecting quality content?
It could run through various checks and comparisons:
- Is this copy identical to another page?
- Are there chunks of copy that are largely similar to other places online?
- How is the text positioned on the page?
- Does this copy occupy a central theme or does it contain semantic oddities?
- Is this copy sound in terms of grammar, spelling and syntax?
Hmmm, so Google knows how to tell if content is duplicate, poorly structured or incoherent. Of course, we know this – it’s exactly what Panda has been hammering sites for over the last couple of years. Google attempts to surface better quality sites simply by removing the lower quality ones.
But can Google look at two unique blog posts written on the same subject and determine which is of the higher quality? I sincerely doubt it.
A more pertinent question might be: ‘can humans do it?’
The literary world
The best selling books of all time, according to Wikipedia, contain amongst their top 10 writers such as Tolkien, Dickens and Lewis. A fair shout, many would argue. Yet nestling in at the number 9 spot is none other than The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. Those familiar with Mr Brown’s work will know that his use of language is…clumsy, at best. His writing is painful to read, and he is not without criticism, evidenced by this collection of his ‘worst sentences‘.
Other works that have achieved massive commercial success yet are notoriously badly written include 50 Shades of Grey and the Harry Potter series. I must admit to enjoying the travails of Master Potter, although the prose can’t half make you wince at times.
The thing is, having discussed my distaste for such poorly written works with quite a few people over the years, some people simply don’t notice that the writing is bad. Others don’t give a shit. Well educated, highly intelligent people no less. I know this makes me sound pompous and arrogant, but hopefully is getting my point across – everybody has a different definition of quality.
Google MUST rely on external factors
Content is made to communicate meanings, and communication is an exchange of information. Content is only effective if it is successful in communicating its meanings to its audience. But the audience is not a robot.
Since every person has fundamentally different experiences, opinions and ideologies, it follows that they should disagree on ‘what is good.’
The notion that content can, in itself, deserve to rank is flawed.
If people can’t agree on content quality, then Google certainly can’t make that call algorithmically. And we’ve only considered text! Imagine Google trying to grade images qualitatively, never mind animation, music or videos. This is art not science.
Google must rely on good old external factors, such as links, social shares and author associations. And at the end of the day, Google doesn’t give a shit that a Dan Brown book reads like a soap opera on steroids – if their users want it then Google will give it to them.
So apparently there has been another Google update…
There will have been a few SEO’s going into last weekend worrying about whether they will be getting a bollocking about their clients come Monday. A few of the more dedicated of this bunch probably completed a few ‘keyword’ searches to see whether their sites had bombed or not. These poor fuckers are going to be up against it. I mean after all the quality work they’ve been doing recently how will they be able to explain this to their clients?
Lets be honest (for once) and say that the majority of SEO agencies have probably got used to explaining indifferent results to their clients over the last couple of years. So one more panda update won’t really make a massive difference. Will it?
This thought process led me down a foggy road, one where I thought “Would an SEO agency rather ‘strive’ to get #1 results for their clients than actually rank for them?” Yes, an SEO campaign is more about traffic and conversions these days but the fundamentals of organic traffic comes from rankings (I feel I have to add this because some idiots usually comes out and say that rankings don’t matter when they quite obviously do.)
So lets think about this for a second. SEO agency A are currently ranking #1 for their clients priority terms. What sort of things will they probably consider?
- Forever checking ranking results to see whether they are still ranking 1st for their “priority” term(s).
- Shitting themselves every ranking update regardless of how white hat their campaign has been because of the unpredictability of Google.
- Running out of sources to get organic traffic.
- Frustrated clients who will soon get bored of the same results (however good they are).
Now you work for SEO agency B and you’re striving to be #1 for your clients priority terms.
Striving to be #1:
- The results above us are spam… We could easily replicate them but it’s not a good idea for you in the long term.
- We create quality content that gets plenty of social shares and links, we’re just waiting for the links to pass authority.
- We get quality links from websites with high authority, we’re just waiting for the links to pass authority.
- “We are looking to offer a risk free organic search campaign that has your long term business success in mind. We wouldn’t want to ruin this by building links too quickly or poorly, like your competitors”.
I can imagine a large number of SEO suppliers who are currently striving for the #1 spot because they are either:
- Too afraid to do anything to drastic (especially around anchor text)
- Don’t actually know what it takes to rank a site in 2013
- Have been penalised by Google and are trying to get back or have taken a client on in a similar situation.
- Are miles behind the competition but will lie about the clients chances of ranking to keep the money coming in.
But business wise there are benefits to this, we may pretend that there isn’t but we know it to be true.
Selling the idea to a client that they will rank once Google changes their algorithm to reward ‘quality’ is currently a utopian one. Let’s ignore the fact that we can’t seem to define quality content. Have you ever really believed that Google will be able to do this, let alone choose too?
I aim to create the best content to get more shares, more links, more visibility and my client out there. Not because it might one day help me rank better. If this ‘tactic’ helps me in the future then so be it.
One things for sure though, you can bet your bollocks this ‘quality algorithm’ anticipation has been and will be coming out of the mouths of agencies around the world in both selling to prospective clients and keeping clients happy. I know that at the end of the day any supplier that tries to do something like this and doesn’t back it up by traffic or conversions will be caught out in the end and likely binned but it won’t stop some agencies from providing a sub par service in the name of risk management, being clueless and/or being afraid to try.
Sorry I’ve got kind of lost here. Time to stop typing I think. Any thoughts are as always appreciated.
Oh yeah that’s it. We’re looking to accept guest posts here at The Saloon. Ideally some of you guys that don’t normally post on your own blogs let alone anyone else’s. We are after fresh ideas and voices within the industry (even if this post proved otherwise). If your down to write get in touch with one of us.
How do consumers qualify your brand as a reputable source and consistent supplier of sought goods and services?
Your products and services ‘need speak for themselves,’ but before purchase your brand needs to make a great impression.
What kinds of qualifiers presently strengthen your brand?
This brand celebrates its grace upon the pages of the New York Times. Of course, the exposure is a huge win, additionally allowing the brand to remind future readers of the profile.
Who wouldn’t want the exposure in addition to the ‘as seen in’ trophy, qualifying the brand and making an impression on present and future consumers?
HARO, help a reporter out, hosts reporter and editor queries, creating great PR opportunity for those who can use it well.
To start, sign up for free email alerts from HARO from the service’s homepage.
Emails feature several categories, such as Business and Finance,
but best practice warrants finding those most befitting to one’s PR wishes.
Do you have time to search through multiple emails per day while attending to core business matters?
Search operation increases time efficiency when owners do not have preferred in-house or third party PR direction and service. Furthermore, using operators sheds light upon queries placed in obscure categories or emailed at inopportune times.
Creating a separate Gmail account allows for expedited roving. Gmail search operators help identify key terms and brand associations.
For example, a busy head officer may not have time for searching HARO emails in the diligent manner success warrants. But one searching for a real estate query, as featured above, may latently find it by exercising the following search operation:
From:HARO “real estate”
This elicits all emails from HARO with real estate appearing in text. Moreover, one can further define.
Combine real estate with other terms such as ‘California’ like so:
From:HARO(real estate California)
This elicits all emails from HARO with real estate AND California in text.
However, even with the provided power of accelerated perusal, timing needs more attention regarding key terms and phrases; particular key terms are worthy of immediate alert.
For additional help, see this search operators resource.
Key Terms and Alerts
Attention to timing is precedent in PR. Aside from search operation, alerts aligned with key terms need further attendance. Create an email filter for your business’ key terms and phrases.
For example, here we’re setting a filter for all emails coming from HARO with the key phrase, “green energy” in text.
Being extra attentive to queries accelerates chances of having offered insight selected and your brand featured.
We can archive, star, and forward queries to chosen addresses.
Sometimes business owners and smaller outfits do not have the opportunity to field live PR opportunities, asking third parties for aid in crafting good pitches and addressing reporters’ time-sensitive queries.
Rather than hire an ongoing service or in-house PR person, business owners can create a separate Gmail account allowing outside parties access; the third-party may act as both a counselor and as a brand-associated PR person, increasing the professionalism of the exchange.
Benefits of PR include:
– Increased sales
– Ongoing brand relevance
– Expression of brand strength and authority
In-house PR people and third-party agencies come at cost, but leveraging free and available resources, such as Gmail and HARO produce PR success as well.
– Use search operators, unearthing specified queries related to important key terms and publications.
– Instill processes of increased urgency for special brand-focused terms and phrases, forwarding messages and further filtering them.
– Consider using outside counsel to strengthen pitches and increase expressed professionalism.
All the Coolz Authorz Boxz
My Name is Willie. Recognize. This is MY place…along with Revell, Hathaway, and Pensabene (I taught that dude all he knows about PR by the way.) I write just to get links; because, really, that’s how businesses have succeeded since the beginning of time..by attracting links. Forget PR, exposure, making impressions, and CONVERSIONS. It’s about links and creating fake, transparent relationships.
I observe some people in SEO (and their clients) to be quite full of shit, saying whatever it takes to put cash in pocket while trying so hard to make others think well of them. I’ve been around the block a time or two; I smell something foul in the state of online marketing. 😉 (But, what the fuck do I know- I’m just a
toy action figure.) Ta-ta for now, kids.