There has been a lot written about the state of content marketing in 2014. And there is a fairly good chance you’re doing it wrong.
Before we get to 2014, let’s review a little history.
Ancient times (in social terms):
Circa 2006 to about 2010, forward-thinking brands would develop blogger relationships by sending a product for review or asking for posts on relevant themes. If the product or theme appealed to the bloggers, they would post for the brand. It was new territory for brands, and most bloggers hadn’t become a brand in their own right…yet.
The rise of the Influencer:
Starting in 2010, and continuing today, we see the rise of the Influencer – not just bloggers anymore, they often have massively bigger audiences on other social channels (Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc.).
With that rise in influence came an expectation that the Influencer would be compensated for their time. They still write great content, and are very protective of their personal brand, as well as their audience. At its best, it is an honest exchange of interest, payment, relevancy, and mutual cooperation between brand and influencer.
Content Marketing goes wrong:
Fast forward to 2013 and the explosion (and impending implosion) of content marketing. Some agencies hit on the idea of creating massive quantities of branded content, then syndicating it everywhere (think “guest posts,” content farms, etc.) in order to generate back links for SEO. Questionable content, paid links, and a whole lot of spam. From my inbox today:
We create a profile for you on high Page Rank blogs, and add a link to your website in each profile.
These links are permanent and are never removed.
- Submission to blogs with Page Rank 5-7
- Permanent One-way Links
- Ownership of all the accounts created
- Complete in 10 business days
- Detailed Submission Report
We offer different packages at different prices.
As a brand, you may not even be aware that this is being done for you. This tactic is a favorite of many SEO agencies as they try to generate back links to boost your organic search rankings.
The problem? Simple. You (or your agency) paid for the link (or post), so it isn’t organic and therefore is a violation of search engine Terms of Service. This wasn’t a big deal when all this was relatively under the radar, and the links being generated were a byproduct of a campaign to drive awareness, connect with an influencer’s audience, and generate real traffic back to your site. But doing it for the PageRank authority? You can’t go there.
How bad is the problem? We highly recommend checking out this post on Matt Cutts’ blog (he heads Google’s Webspam team): http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/guest-blogging/
As we enter 2014, can we declare content farms and guest posting for links dead? We’ve never done it, and you (or your agency) shouldn’t either. Our advice: if you are doing any type of content marketing, you should ask these 3 questions:
- Does the program, and all content, meet the latest FTC guidelines? For example, disclosures must be clear and conspicuous, sponsorship relationship is clearly explained, and disclosure language is understandable, etc.
- Is the post (or content) consistent with the site’s overall content theme, relevant to the audience, and a high-quality addition to the site?
- Does the program track all legitimate organic amplification to accurately measure the impact of the paid strategy on earned content?
Done right, content marketing is an awesome way to reach your audience. Just make sure you (and your agency partners) are doing it the right way. And yes, there is a way to use content marketing to generate legitimate links to your content.