Typically, words from Matt Cutts draw the attention of web marketers everywhere. Whether it’s a Tweet regarding the latest algorithm shift from Google or a Webmaster Help spot on YouTube, wisdom from Google’s resident search spokesman is often taken as gospel for SEO campaigns. However, Cutts’ appearance last Wednesday on This Week in Google, a web radio show hosted by Leo Laporte, drew little fanfare – even as he provided some insights that can help content marketing strategies.
Discussing the company’s Penguin algorithm, which first rolled out in April, Cutts said that one benefit from Google’s perspective has been less credit given to low-quality guest blogs on the web. On the show, Cutts said any tactic used to flood the web with inbound links will negatively impact a site on search. Frequently, he observes black hat SEO methods related to guest blogs using the same piece of content on multiple sites with minor adjustments. The only objective of the content was the link.
Guest blog insights from Google and content authority
Brafton reported that guest blogging, however, can be beneficial when it’s created with a focus on delivering important, relevant information to a target audience. Finding contributors with an expertise that improves user experience and or writing for another site to build authority on a topic will help any brand. The secondary benefit of a new inbound link will only drive success in the current searchscape when the primary role of a guest blog is user education. Frequent inbound links from low-quality guest blogs will likely hurt a site’s standing in Google search. As Penguins becomes more advanced, it’s inevitable that it will spot and penalize sites engaging in this practice more aggressively.
Guest blogging, like most kinds of web content, should be a tool to drive thought leadership as well as search standing. With SEO becoming more about relevant information for searchers, the idea of niche and brand authority will gain more prominence. Despite the best efforts of black hat search marketers, it’s impossible to fake authority. To reward content writers and others on the web that have successfully demonstrated their grasp and authority of a certain industry, Google integrated author badges onto web content earlier this year. Google formalized it for the first time this week, emailing writers who have demonstrated authority to inform them that they have received authorship.
Google puts links to other content from writers along with their Google+ profile image below listings on SERPs. At this point, it’s still unclear why some writers received these emails and others didn’t, but the idea of rewarding good, quality content and directing users to it is likely part of the motivation.
SEO alert: New ranking factors
More than anything, Cutts’ comments and the Authorship emails demonstrate Google’s ongoing effort to filter low-quality content from SERPs. The company will continue to iterate, rolling out new search quality algorithms to detect the latest practices from those use black hat SEO. In fact, on Friday, Cutts tweeted that a new algorithm focuses on exact-match domain names that feature low-quality site content. Moreover, the company continues to offer guidance that marketers can use to improve their ability to drive conversions from site content.
Mobile optimization must-haves
Last week, Google released some of its most recent hints at SEO success in the form of a study detailing the value of a site optimized for mobile access on its Mobile Ads blog. It revealed stats related to conversion frequency for sites that smartphone users can interact with seamlessly. According to Google, consumers are 67 percent more likely to convert on sites designed to function on their smartphones. Moreover, 61 percent said they’ve gone to other sites to purchase items or otherwise convert as a result of problems with mobile access.
Brafton highlighted the growing frequency of home-based smartphone web access as an even greater reason to ensure seamless optimization for mobile devices. Prospects expect sites to perform well no matter their method of browsing the web. Any issues can lead to lost sales and a poor reputation among web users.
Social marketing for reputation building
Improving reputation on the web was the subject of a study from the Ethical Corp last week. The report found that companies using social media marketing are frequently unprepared to handle criticism. In fact, 20 percent of respondents said they were completely unprepared to respond to negative feedback. While 15 percent said they were fully engaged with the problems brought up on social, many fail to develop a strategy to avoid the engagement from hurting perception of their brand on the web.
Using this content to make improvements to products or services and responding quickly to customer issues often tells clients their problems are important. In general, social marketing must be viewed as a two-way conversation that brands actively participate in to improve awareness and reputation on the web.
Brafton reported that negative comments and complaints on any social network don’t have to be a major point of concern if marketers try to turn them into engagement opportunities to turn around negative perceptions of a brand. Using this content to make improvements to products or services and responding quickly to customer issues often tells clients their problems are important. In general, social marketing must be viewed as a two-way conversation that brands actively participate in to improve awareness and reputation on the web. It’s almost inevitable that some fans or followers will have a problem at some point. However, like any other channel used to express frustration, dealing with it in kind prevents the issue from lingering.
In the early stages of of any web marketing strategy, it can be difficult to deal with scrutiny or adjustments. This is especially true in content marketing, where brands face growing competition and an evolving web – and many marketers will head to New York for the Online Media, Marketing and Advertising Conference (OMMA) and SMX East to get expert tips. Starting today, Brafton will be at OMMA in New York presented by MediaPost to discuss best practices throughout the life cycle of a content marketing strategy. On Tuesday, October 2, Brafton’s Head of Marketing Content and Communications Katherine Griwert will be sharing thoughts on the best practices and common problems encountered. Brafton will also be sharing insights on infographic marketing at SMX East on Wednesday, October 4. Additionally, coverage of further insights shared at both conferences will be available on Brafton.com.