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The Type of Content That Google Will Never Devalue

The Type of Content That Google Will Never Devalue

In Eric Enge’s recent interview with Matt Cutts, a few important points were illuminated that deserve further discussion, if only because he spoke so plainly about Google’s mission when it comes to evaluating content and links.

Matt’s closing statement was perhaps the most illustrative:

“The main thing is that people should avoid looking for shortcuts. In competitive market areas there has always been a need to figure out how to differentiate yourself, and nothing has changed today. Think about how you can create compelling content or a compelling experience for users.”

This is a message that we find ourselves consistently reiterating to our clients and our peers.  If you expect to produce long-lasting results, you need to see your work from a specific vantage point: are you providing added value to your visitors?

Build for People, not Robots

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: content should be created for audiences, not computers.  

One way of gaining the correct perspective is to imagine that no Google algorithm exists. Instead, imagine that all the search results and rankings are curated by a human being, hand picked based on their merit and ability to add to the larger conversation.

This small change of perspective gives you a simple filter to pass any marketing or SEO efforts through. Keep asking yourself and your teams:

  • Is this good for my users?
  • Am I adding value?
  • Am I doing something special people will like?

Build your Online Business like an Offline Business

Non-virtual businesses understand the inherent need to differentiate themselves from the competition…

Without doing something special, the Mom & Pop coffee shop can’t survive with the giant Starbucks down the street… and they know this. The online world should be viewed the same way. The same is true of online businesses, though it’s often forgotten. Given two highly similar websites, Google’s has failed if both rank.

In order for the Mom & Pop to survive, they absolutely have to innovate. They need to offer a product Starbucks doesn’t sell, or offer superior service, or a more appealing ambiance. In other words, they have to set themselves apart as a valid alternative or they cannot compete.

Differentiation needs to become a singular goal, not only because this makes good business sense, but because Google has the same goal. Google has been explicit in its mission to identify and rank those sites that create something extra and give their users something they can’t get anywhere else.

Google Ranks “Special”

Your content is what makes you special…

In a virtual world, content is your tool for differentiation.  Use a variety of different types of content toward a very clear end goal: to establish your brand as a destination that offers more value than the competition.

There are many ways to do this, through a variety of content mediums, but the goal remains the same: give your audience something that nobody else is giving them.

On this blog, much of what we create adds value in one of the following ways:

  • Offer a more thorough resource
  • Synthesize and analyze data in a new way to create enhanced meaning
  • Contribute new insights from experts and respected thought leaders
  • Offer a unique perspective that provides deeper understanding or provides context
  • Use visualizations to illuminate complex ideas more clearly
  • Provide real world examples, stories, or helpful anecdotes that contribute to better understanding.

Links are the byproduct of doing something special

It’s unwise to think about link building as an isolated endeavor, or as ad hoc to a marketing strategy…

This perspective is distracting and can become a slippery slope because it encourages you to find shortcuts. It changes the goal. If link acquisition is paramount, your efforts switch from business building activities to finding methods for optimizing link acquisition. In other words, if your only goal is links, you’ll work toward finding faster ways of acquiring cheaper links.

It’s important to remember the ultimate goal of providing value. From this perspective, it’s easy to see the true purpose of links (which happens to jive with Google’s perception of links), which is that links are given voluntarily based on merit and inherent value. Links are a byproduct of creating something others want to share.

In Matt’s words:

 ”It’s important to think about producing something excellent first. If you have an outstanding product, world class content, or something else that sets you apart, then you can step back and start thinking about how to promote it.”

Over time, Google is likely to integrate social signals much more heavily into their links-driven algorithm. Fortunately, social signals such as sharing and commenting are also a necessary byproduct of great marketing. In fact, there is a high correlation between links generated and the volume of shares a post has across social channels.

Whether Google continues to concentrate almost exclusively on links or begins to heavily integrate social metrics, content strategies aimed at providing value for audiences will continue to work well.

Infographics and building your reputation

One of the major headlines to come out of Eric’s interview with Matt was his exclamation that links generated via Infographics could potentially be devalued in the future…

Matt’s reasoning deserves some addition attention because it drives our point home. If your content is truly valuable, Google intends on rewarding you with improved rankings. However, if your content provides nothing new, Google will search for ways to give you little or no credit for that work.

Low-quality, poorly researched infographics shouldn’t help webmasters rank better. They simply don’t deserve it based on their merit. In instances where they do, Google is likely to assume the links have been earned for reasons other than their inherent value.

Creating something truly valuable means more than tying up old ideas or old information in a pretty bow. If you’re going to produce an infographic, it has to bring more to the table. It has to be something people want to print and hang on their wall.

Done properly, infographics can be used as an invaluable tool for building your brand’s reputation — not just to enhance your position as a thought leader, but also as a purveyor of high quality content.

Set up strict guidelines for quality, and hold yourself accountable:

  • Build in a process for fact checking
  • Rigorously examine your infographics for spelling and grammar mistakes
  • Be careful of your sources, especially with regard to stats and figures
  • Don’t get in over your head.  If you don’t understand the data, don’t attempt to visualize it.
  • Not every topic is right for the IG treatment.  Use infographics to tell a story the written word can’t.
Just as importantly, remember that your number one goal is to do something special.  It’s not enough to simply produce content without errors.  It needs to stand out from the crowd.

Don’t trick people

Infographics should be an extension of your brand… 

Another important point Matt asks us to consider is the inherent potential for abuse  that comes with content promotion and syndication. He reminds us that Google needs to consider this potential in order to properly evaluate links. If a link is not earned based on the overall merit and perceived value of its destination, the link is not a reliable indicator for Google.

The best targeted and most effective infographics will form a ““trifecta of relevancy.” When sites share an infographic (or any content) that is topically relevant to the site they link to, the site publishing the infographic is topically relevant to the infographic they created and it’s surrounding text, and the sites linking to the infographic are finding interest in it because it’s topically relevant to them. The problem with infographics is that when they’re done poorly, they can still gain traction… just not in the right spaces.

Infographics should be used as a tool for demonstrating the value of your brand to an audience. Every piece of content you create serves as a vector for people to interact with your website and your business. When your content is shared and syndicated, the links back to your site should be earned based on the combined merit of the syndicated content itself, but also because your site is a relevant and valuable destination to visit.

For this reason, it’s important to create relevance between the infographic content you create and your brand. Use infographics:

  • To tell a story related to the goals of your brand
  • As a tool to demonstrate your ability to create really awesome things
  • As a taste of all the additional engaging and fascinating content that can be found on your site

Conclusion

The main takeaway from the Matt Cutts’ interview should be this: no matter the medium, if your content is completely irrelevant to your brand and low quality, it will be devalued.

Before Google even existed, AltaVista based rankings on meta tags. When companies realized this, they would stuff keywords onto their pages just to get traffic, even if these keywords had nothing to do with their business. As search engines evolved and penalized this behavior, these tactics became extinct (and the sites using them no doubt suffered greatly).

In the present day, this is still applicable. Going off topic of your business just to try and get traffic will never be a sustainable strategy. You shouldn’t be creating irrelevant content just as companies shouldn’t have been stuffing their sites with irrelevant keywords. Even if something works for a short time, it won’t last…

The only thing that is sustainable for long-term success is creating content that is high quality, unique, and relevant to your business. Google will never devalue links from truly valuable content.

Neither infographics nor any other single form or content are a magic bullet for content marketing. The best content strategies use a mix of content mediums, with infographics serving as one weapon in the content marketing arsenal. Each content medium —  from articles and infographics to video and kinetic typography — offer different advantages for telling a particular story.

The tool you choose should depend on the message you’re trying to convey. The uniqueness, relevance, and trustworthiness of your message is what makes all the difference to Google, not the mode it’s conveyed.

How are you creating content that is both relevant to your brand and unique? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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Comments

  1. Daniel,
    Amen! Great article. Unique, quality without cutting corners will prevail.
    SEO, design and promotion are all important but should be key factors that support great content.
    Right on!

    • Daniel Tynski says:

      That’s right Rick! It’s not a hard pill to swallow either if you understand it in the context of building a real online business as opposed to just looking to rank :)

  2. Elizabeth says:

    GREAT post. I agree. It’s just this simple…do good work. Every time. All the time. If you’re generating valuable content, you’ll get noticed. It might not be viral…but slow and steady will win the race!

    • Daniel Tynski says:

      Thanks Elizabeth. I think what people just need to remember is that we’re not at odds with Google or what Google is trying to do. If we make our end goal creating value and differentiating ourselves through our content, we can create defensible properties that don’t have to worry about fluctuations in algorithms.

  3. Jacob King says:

    Many SEOs fall into the trap (myself included) of obsessing over dominating Google. I have built many a sites solely for search engines, experienced quick ramps up and large sales from my link building tricks, but they eventually fall off.

    The real assets are built on a solid idea/foundation that is worth sharing.

    I remind myself of this thought quite often…

    If I’m trying to rank a page for something and Google is a human judge, would I have a compelling case to win the argument of ranking above all the other results. If the answer is undoubtedly yes then I have created something worth noting. If no I have created something for search engines and not people. Most of the time, haha. Great post Daniel, even though the main point here is hard to hammer home for most SEOs. Once they realize the profoundness of it this mindset, the game changes.

    • Daniel Tynski says:

      It’s amazing how a simple paradigm shift can help answer so many of the “questions” related to how you should be doing SEO or crafting your linkbuilding strategy. These ideas aren’t really new, I remember some of these sentiments being expressed in a similar way over 7 years ago. I suspect those who learned them early on aren’t having any issues with Panda, Penguin or anything else coming down the pike.

  4. Meg Williams says:

    AHH thank you – I’m a freelance blogger and recently had to walk away from a client who is obsessed with keyword research and stuffing. I should send him this.

    • Daniel Tynski says:

      You’re welcome. Share with anyone you think this might be helpful for!

  5. I completely agree with Matt’s statement that webmasters should avoid looking for shortcuts. There is no short-cut to success, just a smart approach and hard work. If there are 2 books having almost similar content, no one will read both. But if there are ten books and nine have the same content and the tenth is different, people will always pick that up to read ! I believe the same happens with content online too.

    • Daniel Tynski says:

      Exactly. Part of our job is to figure out the best ways to be that tenth book.

  6. Barney says:

    Great Post, This line hits the nail on the head for me “Neither infographics nor any other single form or content are a magic bullet for content marketing ” Its all about quality in my eyes.

  7. Ayaz says:

    Hi Daniel!

    The content should be problem solving to your readers and the images and videos should be cooperating to your point and call to action point should be concise and clear that your reader gets the message first and than with call to action he will do what you have asked him to do. The quality content and proper usage of images will never be devalued by google as well.

    Thanks for sharing great information :-)

    • Danny AShton says:

      Lol the irony of your comment and link Ayaz ;)

      Anyway… Daniel I agree with you points about quality..etc However for the most part, crappy infographics get crappy links and Google is getting pretty darn good at ignoring these.

      I feel that Google is getting a little bit annoyed about quality infographics from very commercial domains that are using them to build “keyword” anchor texts through the embed code. So say a domain about “Loans” might creating an awesome infographic about social media and celebrities… which is really well done and well researched. It then gets picked up all over the web but the embed code links back to their “money” page with their “Loans” keyword. But do the bloggers/webmaster understand that this “embed” is acting a vote for a page about “loans”? Probably not.. which is why Google isn’t happy.

      I always recommend our clients to only use the embed code to link to the infographic with it’s title… anything else is gaming the system like we saw many years ago with widgets (Google will get wise and it’s pretty easy to see that kind of pattern.)

      I also think it can’t hurt to start posting your sources so that bloggers and journalists can see if your graphic matches up the data.

      Are you doing something similar at Blueglass?

      • Daniel Tynski says:

        That tactic of creating an off topic IG, then using an unrelated keyword in your anchor text is exactly what has already been discussed in great detail with regard to widgetbait. Bloggers need to freely choose to embed IG content because it’s good, and freely choose to link to the site that created the IG because they think the site has a lot to offer as well. IG’s can be a foot in the door to show publishers that you do create great stuff…not a trick to get them to link to your site that offers little value (even if the single IG you’ve created does).

  8. Cody Wheeler says:

    Well said. It’s refreshing to read such well thought out observations and insights about the state of SEO. You guys are starting to rival SEOMoz :) To me, when you think about linkbuilding the way it is going to be moving forward, it’s going to revolve heavily around public relations and outreach – helping your awesome content spread. This is going to be tough for new sites with low budgets, so I’m wondering what strategies might emerge for newer sites in place of things like directory submissions, article marketing, blog commenting, forum posting, etc.

    • Daniel Tynski says:

      Thanks Cody! I would agree that being good at creating relationships is becoming increasingly important. You have to know how to get an audience for your content (no matter what type of content it may be).

      Site’s with low budgets hopefully aren’t competing in super competitive spaces. Arguably, if you have next to no budget to market yourself, you can’t expect to compete with sites that do. However, by going a bit more niche, and maybe starting in a sub-vertical where you can make your mark through differentiating your content and your offering, you can get some traction to build on.

  9. baby bib says:

    When companies realized this, they would stuff keywords onto their pages just to get traffic, even if these keywords had nothing to do with their business.

  10. Our business is creating website solutions for auto dealers. I regularly write blogs for our website, and recently I have been creating infographics. My approach for content is more helpful advice to auto dealers on things such as increasing sales or how to market to certain people, so they turn to us to improve their dealership.

    • Daniel Tynski says:

      That’s a good approach, Amanda. When creating content, be sure to think about ways that you can be different or special. Why should auto dealers listen to you over other businesses providing the same service as you? What do you provide (in terms of education, etc) that others don’t?

  11. Matt says:

    Cylon’s are people too!

  12. Jackson Lo says:

    Daniel, great post and well written!

    I think the biggest mistake that SEOs make alludes to your first point. We all know that people will immediately default to search when they have question, whether it be a short yes/no question, long research question or simply a question of ‘where can i go to kill 10 minutes of my time?’. With that in mind, it’s all about content and user experience. Boy, is our job description getting bigger and bigger ;)

  13. thermostat says:

    Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of
    any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet
    my newest twitter updates. I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this. Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

  14. Howdy very nice website!! Guy .. Beautiful .. Superb .
    . I will bookmark your site and take the feeds additionally?
    I’m glad to search out so many useful info right here in the publish, we need develop more strategies on this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  15. You don’t want to become so consumed with SEO that you forget who your target audience is. It’s not the search engine spiders. Create something that people will want to read and share. Optimize naturally, but don’t force it.