It’s been a long time since I went on a rant, but the time has come to set the record straight on two things: the idea that “great content” is the next link graph, and the notion of corporate/company “transparency”. David Harry’s Google Rage 2012 post on SEO Dojo (whether he likes it or not) was the genesis of this post, because really isn’t it time we all had a little “real talk” about these heavily spread myths being disseminated.
Because, if we don’t, all it’s going to lead to is a bunch of soured relationships with clients and a bunch pissed off digital/online marketers. Folks who’ll only find a polished turd at the end of the rainbow instead that pot of gold. You’re getting your fair warning now: this isn’t going to be nice.
I’m not going to be gentle, empathetic, and ease you into the big idea, taking you through the finer points. That’s for people who are trying to sell you something.
The truth doesn’t need a tag-line.
The Great Content Link Equity Myth
The only thing you seem to hear about today is how “great content” wins in every phase of the battle.
Great content keeps Panda off your butt, great content engages the user, but most importantly, great content is going to win you links. I’ll be the first to admit that great content is invaluable; whether you’re talking about products, services, or articles, having well-written, unique, and engaging content never has a downside.
But, let’s cut the crap about “great content” being a link magnet. Because we all know that great content has varying levels of greatness. Content can be great for this niche here or that niche over there. And, yeah, it might generate a few retweets and few shares. But, for 99% of all the great content written everyday across the web, it ends there. RTs and Shares. No real, tangible links: read and forgotten.
Actual link building has become a KOD (Kiss of Death) thanks to Penguin and Disavow, and so everyone turned to the social link graph as the savior. Let’s face the facts: people are incredibly lazy.
Why spend the time to link back through content on an actual web page when you can hit a button, and presto, you multiplied “reach” and “velocity”?
I’m as guilty as everyone else. However, I’d like to remind you that social shares are fractional inbound links. A social share is not the same as a true inbound link. Period end of story.
The issue is rampant enterprise-level down to small business owners. All of them have this credulous belief that a social link has just as much equity as a web page content link. And, no matter how untrue, it’s perpetuated never-endingly by just about everyone.
If You Want Great Content to Earn You Links
There’s plenty of great content written everyday by people who care and are invested. Consider it like the Lotto: only one in a few million pieces of that great content is going to hit the jackpot. This is exactly how this myth stays alive: “I did it. You can do it too” type mantra.
It’s the illusion of hope, folks. If you want to bust this myth, you’ve got to be willing to break boundaries. You’ve got to leave your comfort zone behind you and stretch. You’ve got to create content that challenges the status quo, emotionalizes the staus quo, or overplays the status quo in some way, shape, or form. That’s a tall order for any brand, small or large. And, frankly, no one’s gonna bite because safe is easy.
And, well, safe. However, if you can sell the brand that there’s no such thing as bad press, then you’ll get your link boon.
Well-written content isn’t enough, targeted content to an audience isn’t enough, and content that will actually keep your niche audience informed isn’t enough. And, unless you have a naturally risqué brand like AXE or Victoria’s Secret, or work with a brand that isn’t afraid to try on different personas, get used to the fact that writing “great content” will be writing that for content’s sake.
The Magic Act of Corporate Transparency
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m seeing this word being thrown around a lot lately by business.
Just so we all start off on the same page, here’s the definition: “(of a material or article) Allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen. Easy to perceive or detect”.
In the past year, there have a been a few RATs (Random Acts of Transparency) in the search world that have been everything but transparent (not naming names, but you know who you are).
Businesses want to be “transparent” as an offering to the public that is used as mechanism to earn trust. And, people want it so they can feel good about their choice. It’s nonsense. Transparency is simply the new crutch to absolve wrong-doing. It’s the business world’s simile to confession; they tell you they suck and were wrong , and you forgive them.
It’s garbage. Transparency is the equivalent of the “nuclear option” for a business: once the company is exposed, and silence will only compound the injury, the company goes “transparent”. Let’s all stop pretending it’s something noble. It’s a calculated effort save their ass and what’s left of the client roster.
Demand More from Transparency
Transparency should be the rule, not the escape hatch. If being honest is the continual second option for your company, you’re doing it wrong.
There are companies out there that actually breed transparency into their culture, most notably SEOMoz with TAGFEE, and a couple others. And, they should be commended for encouraging it and fostering transparency. But, the way many businesses use transparency is simply as a magician’s scarf.
While you’re attention is focused on flashy object, they’re busy rebirthing themselves under it so they can walk away unscathed when they lift it. You’ll be none the wiser but amazed at the “transformation”. That’s not infusing into the culture; that’s just a way to buy time, save face, and re-brand your company without public scorn and punishment. It’s a “Get out of Jail Free” card.
Demand that transparency be real and not just something companies do after they’ve been busted. Sorry if I burst your bubble about these myths, and sorry if it goes against the grain of what you think, but it had to be said. And, going into 2013, hopefully we’ll be better for it.