Why content marketing is not the future of SEO
Cast your mind back to 2009 and imagine a round faced young woman gleefully spinning content in the sunlight. Then picture her, slightly later down the line, getting all her clients hit with Panda because of it and quickly readdressing her tactics to become more white hat. In case you hadn’t guessed it, that woman was me, and since then I have successfully addressed the thinness of my content, though never quite managed anything with my face.
So in 2011 I became a little more white hat in my approach, though during that time legitimate, future proof white hat SEO looked a little different to what it does now.
The wonderful Kev Gibbons wrote an article in Econsultancy about how to use infographics for SEO.
So besides having an increasingly stronger response on social media websites how can you use infographics to your advantage? […] there are a few ways that you can use them to benefit your site’s search engine optimisation, and this mostly comes down to the link bait potential that info graphics have.
Now let me be clear; I am not saying that Kev was wrong here, at the time, he was absolutely right and at the forefront of his game – infographics were awesome and if you made one you felt like the shit and your clients thought you were a data adonis. The same goes for widgets, if you were making nifty little widgets as a link building tactic in 2010, you were doing future proof, spam free SEO.
After all, we were using content to attract links through legitimately adding value and we were so creative it’d make your eyes water.
Guest posting was pretty rad then, too. Like everything else, the recommendation was to guest post in moderation, but it was a totally legitimate tactic. Here’s everyone’s favourite white hat SEO Rand giving some excellent tips on how to get started guest posting to earn some lovely links. Likewise, for the most part, with badges, competitions and giveaways, social bookmarks, forums and reciprocals.
Some of these of course still work today and can be done well, but nobody is talking about them as being white hat, future proof SEO tactics in the way we once were.
I remember feeling like David Ogilivy when I suggested a client runs a charity competition to earn links, because I was thinking about people and content and relationships. However nobody would feel that suggesting a competition for SEO now, because it’s become old (and consequently grey) hat.
Because things change and this happens.
And this happens
And this happens
The market changed and so did we.
Our link building strategies morphed in to content marketing strategies and with it, our infographics suddenly became interactive maps, and our widgets became parallax scrolling content on the history of cheese and our guest posting became influencer outreach.
We starting thinking about how to use content to attract links through legitimately adding value and we are so creative it’d make your eyes water.
The point in all of this is that I can’t help but feel history is repeating itself, only this time in HTML 5.
What happens is we find something that works, we all do it and as a result, devalue it.
Content marketing, in the sense that we create content that legitimately earns
links engagement, is not the future of SEO. It is SEO right now, today and we’ve been doing it for years. The colour of the content is different, but the premise remains exactly the same, and in the same way we thought infographics were a brave new world, the interactive infographic is exactly the same.
We cannot call an interactive map a “future proof” SEO tactic (despite what I say all the time) because they are the evolution of the infographic and what is considered Google friendly today, is just one Cutts tweet away from being debunked*.
Google cannot add “content” to it’s ever growing link schemes list, but patterns in current SEO behaviour can and will be identified. The notion that content marketing is the future of SEO forces brands to create an abundance of mediocre, samey content and it’s this sameness that will form the basis of a pattern.
It’s working and legitimate now, but there is zero justification to suggest this is the future and that we’ll all still be churning out interactive maps about the most likely place to see a kitten on stilts in another five years.
So what is the future of SEO?
I can make an educated guess that the further future of SEO lies in facilitating good behaviour within other specialisms, getting better at understanding real intent, using our knowledge of consumers and ability to adapt to new changes and technologies to transform businesses and, of course, using content and creative to legitimately add value when relevant, as opposed to having to create content to be relevant.
*NB whether they work is a separate discussion
(I stole the image from this post here: http://www.verticalmeasures.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Content-Marketing-and-SEO-a-Marriage-Made-in-Mountain-View.jpg)