Ever since the roll-out of the Google Penguin update last year, there has been a debate going on among online marketers as to what is the right way forward with regard to promoting websites on the internet. Some say that because of Penguin’s clamp down on low quality links and web spam, old-skool link building is dead, and that content marketing is only way forward. Others say that content marketing is a red herring, and that traditional link building is still a viable strategy. Still others proclaim that a combination of the two is only way to go; this is my view.
The Growth of Content Marketing
Content marketing is not a new concept – it has been around for over 100 years. One of the first recognised forays into content marketing is seen as the Michelin Restaurant Guides, made for the first time in 1900; they were made by a tyre company (!), for the benefit of motorists who travelled the country, and were looking for places to eat. Michelin tyres were early pioneers in producing content in a “boring” industry; they did the now common tactic of looking for content ideas in a niche adjacent to theirs (restaurants), rather than endlessly struggling to say something interesting about tyres.
The term “content marketing” has become very much a buzzword in SEO circles over the last couple of years, and is sometimes treated as if it is a new idea, when obviously it’s not. It is a new concept to many SEO’s however. The main idea behind content marketing is that rather than spamming Google with thousands of low quality paid for, automated, links, or manually going out and begging, buying or stealing links for your website, you actually provide something of value to your users on the web. Rather than using the traditional “push” or “outbound” marketing of old, where it’s all “me, me, me!”, pushing marketing at people who don’t want to see it, you instead meet people where marketing has traditionally said that they need to be met – at the point of the customer’s need.
Example: a luxury holiday company has been trying traditional SEO tactics to some success, but wants to take things to the next level; so they start hiring writers to write content for their site; specifically, histories of the countries they are selling holidays to. Users start to click on these histories as they research and plan their holidays, and trust begins to grow between these users and the tour operator, and they are more likely to purchase with them because they have engaged with the content and trust the brand more. That’s the concept in a nutshell; it’s all about earning interest and trust with users and customers, rather than begging, borrowing or buying it. It’s about being a great brand, not pretending to be one.
The Death of Link Building?
IMHO, the death of SEO and link building has been greatly exaggerated. Yes, since Panda and Penguin , a certain type of link building has been consigned to the waste bin (where it had always been, really – Penguin just nailed the last nail in the coffin) – I’m talking mass directory submissions, article marketing, forum and comment spam, plus all the other automated crap that black hatters seem to pollute the web with. Since Penguin, very few SEO’s are selling these tactics to their clients. Talk of content marketing has taken over.
But white-hat link building is different – these white hatters take the manual approach, sourcing out link prospects individually, tailoring outreach individually, and looking to partner with sites, not just spam them with crap. This type of link building, which is more aligned with traditional marketing, has a future. Indeed, the future seems to be in a hybrid of content marketing and link building….
Content and Link building Together – The Future?
Many content marketers seem to forget the fact the term “content marketing” has the word “marketing” in; they just presume that if the content is good enough, then the “build it and they will come” philosophy will prevail. This is true in some cases, in most this is simply not true.
Yes, you have to build great content, but you have to market it as well. One of my favourite definitions of marketing is “creating something remarkable, then telling people about it,” This so true – you have to push your content out there, bang the drum, and get the word out there. In the online world, this largely means link building (in addition to social and other promotion – basically inbound marketing).
So we can see that the battle between content marketing and SEO/link building is not really a battle at all – the best long term strategy for success is a combination of both.
This post was written by Kevin Morley, lead SEO at Searchpath, a leading digital agency in the South West UK. Visit http://www.searchpath.co.uk for more info.