How Google Ruined Content Marketing
Fresh off the heels of this year’s Content Marketing World, many of us are feeling rejuvenated and excited for our industry. There were countless takeaways to be had, but the biggest wasn’t from any speaker. The greatest takeaway I learned was from my content promotion session audience – Google ruined content marketing.
That’s right, ruined it.
Some might even go so far as to say it’s created a race to the bottom – rewarding quantity over quality. It’s also responsible for the nearly impenetrable wall between digital paid and owned media that exists at so many brands, today (more on this later). The good news is that the problem can be fixed, but it’s going to take some serious rethinking on the part of marketers.
Build It and They Will Come
For this industry, some might say I’m old school. I remember last decade when content marketing was literally a ‘build it and they will come’ phenomenon. That was the age of content deficits in most industries – meaning, there were more people on the internet looking to solve their problems than content to satisfy their needs.
For early adopters of content marketing (think Moz and HubSpot) this proved to be a great time. Search engines drove significant traffic to their websites. The more they published, the more traffic and leads they received. In fact, this held true up until around 2012 for digital marketing as an industry. Here’s the numbers I tracked for three years.
To this day, HubSpot’s own data analysis shows that there’s a direct correlation between total blog posts and inbound traffic. It makes sense, too. Every page on a website represents another opportunity to show up in a search engine.
Steve Rayson, of BuzzSumo, in his article, The Future is More Content, opines this as the long tail theory. He goes into much more detail and legitimizes quantity over quality content as a strategy by using the Washington Post as an example.
While one high quality article might drive a thousand shares, 10 articles that drive 120 shares each is more. Replace shares with traffic or conversions. It’s the same concept. In this way, Google is actually encouraging us to commoditize our content in lieu of creating great content, whether it’s purposeful or not.
This flies in the face of one of the main overall messages at Content Marketing World. The collective wisdom of the community says that quality always trumps quantity. However, the incentive via organic search isn’t necessarily there.
As a result, tactics like article spinning and press release spam were prevalent as early as four years ago. It’s also the main motivation behind content syndication and bulk curation. Today, articles written by machines and algorithms are quickly r