SEO Regicide: Content the King is Dead
Content content content.
“You need more content.”
“You need to rewrite news articles every day!”
“You need to blog more.”
“Publish or perish.”
“Google launched Hummingbird – you need to write FAQs!”
Psssssst . . . . lawyers . . . all of the SEO experts are telling you (and all of your competitors) the same thing. And like compliant lemmings, you are all doing the same thing.
Psssssst . . . It doesn’t work anymore.
The Rise and Fall of the Content Dynasty
The genesis for the focus on content began about 5 years ago. Changes in consumer search behavior gradually took effect – whereby users began looking for increasingly specific answers with increasingly granular content pages. The “long tail” of search became the industry’s hottest new buzzword. SEO experts, ninjas, and mavens started churning out pages with very subtle differences – “Best Seattle underage DUI Attorney”, “Top 10 Settle teen DUI Attorneys” “Great Seattle Drunk Driving Lawyers for drivers under 21” ad nauseam. The industry adopted the boorish practice of rewriting news stories and vomiting them back onto blogs that quickly became poorly written rehasings of yesterday’s news.
And for a while it worked (at least in generating traffic for the SEO consultants to return triumphantly with “success metrics” for their misguided clients – the fact that the phone never rang didn’t seem to matter – but I digress, that is a topic for another post.) The legal industry became publishing sweatshops – with individual firms churning out hundreds, even thousands of articles a month.
Eventually, the search engines, as they always do, caught up with the SEO spammers. Penguins and Pandas and most recently, Hummingbirds were let lose on the algorithms. Content, the King, was under attack.
The Succession of the King: Quality Content
The search engine talking heads defended their King – retreating back to the ever-popular refrain – “write quality content and we will reward you with a bounty of traffic.”
So the SEO experts and mavens and ninjas did as they were told . . . infographics and guest blogging were born. Top 10 Lists proliferated like bunnies on a steady diet of Viagra. In time, most legally focused news stories was dissected and built into beautiful graphical statistical displays. Guest blog brokers were born. Just like with King Content, the disciples of his son, Quality Content initially did very well. But as others caught up, they became increasingly less effective. Because everyone was doing it.
So the search engines sent warnings about guest blogging. The cycle repeated itself again.
Quality Content is NOT Enough
This death of King Content and his prince son, Quality hit me square in the face a few weeks ago at Webcam – a small but amazing conference in Bend Oregon. Marshall Simmonds, who used to be the in-house SEO for the New York Times (arguably one of the most high quality original content publishers) heralded the end of a dynasty: Content is no longer King.
Eu Tu Simmonds?
And he’s right. We are now at a point in the evolution of the web where generating quality content is no longer sufficient for success. There’s frankly just too much of it. The trick, the real hard part of marketing, today’s unscaleable solution and the successor of the crown is marketing content. And by “marketing content” – I don’t mean “content marketing” – the aforementioned practice of vomiting out hoards of webpages. I literally mean undertaking marketing efforts to promote your quality content. This can take the shape of many different channels – social media, networking, the dubiously named “author rank” or even the marketing pariah of the SEO world – Public Relations. Marshall’s pronouncement was utterly confirmed for me when I looked at the referring traffic for some legal sites and found that Press Release providers (PRWeb etc.) frequently showed up as the #1 referring site. For years, I have mocked the press release tactic as a dying relic of yesteryear – but I’ve been wrong – because now, the genuine distribution of content is what makes the magic happen.
The reality is that the Quality Content mantra assumed that when you have quality content, links are going to happen. This is no longer universally true – especially in hypercroweded content landscapes like legal. To be successful, you must embrace proactively marketing that very good, high quality content.
Content is dead, long live Content.