I recently came across an article on The Guardian about how SEO experts are ruining the web by making commercial low quality content appear on top of Google search rankings, denying users the pleasure of enjoying good content. You can find the article here.
The article is based on the premise that "only" low quality "commercial" articles are ruling the web. The real "poets" are losing out in this battle as they are not using sophisticated SEO tactics.
The argument makes me feel that anything that is commercial is bad, anything that is competitive is bad.
Marketing Gimmicks have been part of our lives since birth
If content marketing is so bad, then why allow commercials to be on Televisions, Bill Boards or anywhere else? Why do we allow celebrities to endorse a brand? Why do companies like Coca-Cola or McDonalds be allowed to promote? After all sugary soft drinks or deep fried burgers and fries are never good for society. Why do we allow companies to use preservatives in their food packaging? Why can't the Tesco's and Sainsbury's only provide fresh healthy organic food?
Why do we need to allow multiple brands in the same industry produce commercials, when essentially they are all trying to outdo each other and get the same person to buy their products?
What JR Hennessy needs to realise that humans are not fools and he needs to have confidence in the intelligence and knowledge of the human race.
When we are provided with a good quality product and a low quality product, we know which one to go for. When a celebrity endorses a brand, it does not mean, we will go gaga over it and buy the product the very next day. When multiple brands try to convince us that they are the best, we have our own ways to understand and research which brand we should go for.
Before we banish "Content Marketing" as something evil, let us understand:
What is content marketing and why it is necessary?
We humans have an inherent need to be heard, to be acknowledged and make ourselves feel important. Be it in a relationship, or a social setting, we like to be cared for, like to feel important. Cross your heart and tell me, if you were given an award by your company for "outstanding" performance and the award is given to you in a ceremony attended by over 100 people, would you feel "bad"? Would you crib and complain as to why on earth did this happen to you? I am sure most of you will rejoice.
Content marketing is an extension of that feeling on the web. We publish videos, blogs or photos in the hope that people like them, talk about them and share with their friends. Web has given a voice to the voiceless. Web has made it clear that everyone's opinion counts.
Gone are the days of shady marketing gimmicks and paid Press Releases that influenced us. Now, brands are more cautious than ever to maintain a good public image. They listen to their customers on social media and address their concerns. A disgruntled customer can do more harm to a brand’s image through the power of the web.
So when we publish something on the web, we want to it to be discovered by people, we want it to be read and shared by people. Be it individuals or brands, we need our content to be read by as many people as possible. Therefore content marketing plays a very crucial role in getting our content in front of our audience.
Using SEO principles and Social Media channels, we have the power to market and distribute our content more effectively. Does that mean, we are killing the web by publishing low quality articles? No.
It would have been the case a few years back, when Google was the only player in the market. However, with the advent of numerous social media channels, we have multiple ways to distribute our content and engage our audience.
If our content is bad and of low quality, no one will bother liking or sharing our articles. In today's day and age, where everyone is out there producing content, only the good ones stick around. The low quality ones which provide no value to people and are simply out there to earn money through shady tactics will not have a long shelf life.
Why is SEO important for your Content Marketing Efforts?
SEO techniques should never be treated as ways to game search engine rankings. We cannot expect to dance with Google, tread a thin line, yet expect to establish a brand in the long term.
SEO should be treated as best practices that one should employ to make his/her content discoverable in search engine rankings. We have to understand that Google does not read a content like humans do. They have spiders/crawlers which visit all webpages globally, analyse what each page is about and store that information in Google's database. Therefore, it is our job as content producers to create and organise content such that it can be easily read and understood by crawlers. Therefore Google has given certain best practices one should follow to achieve this. This is known an SEO in the true sense. And every content producer should abide by it.
So let us stop complaining about what is bad and what is low quality. Let us trust in our own ability to analyse quality. We have been doing these for centuries and will continue to do so. Technologies and platforms will change, but our perception of quality will stay with us and that is what will drive our evolution forward.