By Chris Abraham
Link Builders are from Mars, Content Marketers are from Venus
Without the content marketers and copywriters, there’s no there there. Without copy, there’s no text, and without text, Google’s blind. Without well written, high quality, descriptive and easily understandable copy, link-builders tend to compensate by doing keyword research and writing clunky, but functional hooks that used to work well enough luring the bots, spiders, and indexing agents. And, content marketers generally suck at distribution. And self promotion. And shamelessness. And even optimizing copy for both online consumption and index comprehension. The content marketers love to write, but often are lost deep in the technology behind the scenes, whereas link-builders can go to town on tracks of copy and content, but don’t actually want to write all that content themselves, especially if that commitment requires needing to write new posts a few times a week, forever.
Circa 2014, organic search engine optimization is needing both link-building and content marketing strategies and tactics in order to get, and keep, Google’s attention. In fact, you will probably need to hire an information architect, a copywriter, and a community manager, too.
Google is becoming a Turing test for organic search. In the past, the test wasn’t hard. Now, Google’s tightening the screws. In some ways, Google is slowly implementing the online equivalent of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services‘ E-Verify. The only way Google can do this is by making it harder and harder to make it to the first page of Google search if you insist on maintaining anonymity. That part of Google’s background check requires that some or all of the folks responsible for each site are “validated.” However, Google almost nevers throws babies out with the bath water; and when it does, it tends to roll back or revise algorithm updates that go too far and diminish the quality of the search results instead of improving them. As a result, Google’s been caught in a lot of untruths and lies by omission.
In other words, Google tells us what they want us to believe — sort of like parents who want you to get straight As (but who would really just be happy if you could somehow just pass). Everything that Google says officially about its search algorithm is just classic misinformation. I don’t trust anything that Google tells me about search. One thing I do know is that Google loves it when you spend money on contextual advertising. That’s true. Another truth is that Google really wants us to use Google+. Really badly.
And Google has a dynamic tension between its goals and its slogan, “don’t be evil,” and needs to ride the fine line between the misinfo and disinfo required by a the command and control regimen required to maintain a $344.7B publicly traded company, all the while still keeping Google’s culture in line with what people expect, as in not being evil.
However, I have long considered Google disingenuous when it comes to how their search index algorithm works when it comes to whether or not meta tags, alt tags, keywords, descriptions, page rank, and inbound links still carry influence.
The long and short of it: it all matters!
Google just wants us to spend less time trying to game the system, a system that can still be gamed if you pour enough raw resources, intellect, agility, creativity, and craft into the game, than more time feeding it what it wants, which is simple: useful content fast.
All the ingredients are still in the Google Pie, though in varying proportions over time. Google used to be indiscriminate, sucking down sites as quickly and as often as possible. It was hard enough to keep sucking, slurping, digesting, indexing, and serving up pages as near-real-time speeds. Now, Google’s been better able to map out the inter-relationships not only between sites, but also within sites.
In much the same way that Google used to favor .org sites and still do .gov and .edu, or how Google used to really care about how old your domain was, as an indicator of maturity and reliability, Google now is starting to favor your online community involvement: are you popular, are you timely, are you social, are you generous, are you consistent, and are you integrated?
Google is indiscriminate when it comes to where in the network your site exists. It understands context, interconnection, history, and the way organic systems actually do grow over time, rather than the way unauthentic, false, spammy networks tend to behave. Unauthentic networks of sites and links tend to rush, then tend to explode over a weekend or a couple weeks, as though produced in a movie set by a cast of thousands, and then, when they’re built, they tend to show the sort of predictable pattern indicative of clockwork, of automated systems.
More deus ex machina than the messiness stops and starts — the random seeds — of the human touch. Batch process and blind watchmaker versus the messy expansions and contractions so indicative of human creativity.
What’s more, it seems obvious that Google has the resources and the archive to check your homework against all other historical content (maybe ever produced) to see whether you’re pulling too much of a Rand Paul by just plagiarizing all of your content from other sites or taking a large tract of content and having robots and scripts mix and match them into something entirely new, but still suffering the traces of other people’s work, of their words.
Google’s way too smart for you to get away with cheating. If a simple high school English teacher can run her student’s essays through a plagiarism checker before awarding grades, don’t you think Google is always checking our work?
So, if you spend all your money on techies, then you’re not spending enough money on creating new content, new words, new essays, new resources for Google to offer to its users.
Google’s lying to us aspirationally. Google is on a vision quest to make us better trained at offering more and better content on their behalf, but also up to their standards as well. They want us, on our own and out of our own treasure, talent, time, to give us Google quality content: original, useful, educational, informational, wise, accurate, truthful, entertaining, but also quick, optimized, responsive, and also perfectly rendered on any device.
Lacking That, Google Will Always Go Around You
If you don’t feed Google what it wants, Google will choose Google+, Yelp, Wikipedia, or the news, instead of you, your products, and services.
And, if the current trends can be read into the future, the noose is tightening.
While the current crop of SEO specialists (who are often closer to black hat, no matter what their websites state) are still well worth their paychecks, at least for now, why not spend a little more time hiring storytellers, strategists, designers, writers, and artists to better convey what you’re about, how you’re different, and why Google’s users would be better served to visit you than some “better” site that Google made on your behalf, if you’re lucky, or your competitors’ superior sites, if you’re not.