Search Engine Marketing in 2014: Focus on Content
One of the most important things to know about search engine marketing is that Google doesn't exist for your company's benefit. They don't care if your website ranks highly or not -- frankly, it's not their problem. Google focuses on their users conducting searches and providing the best and most relevant results for them. Sure, you can buy ads to increase your website visibility and traffic — and paid search is still a key component in online marketing — but organic search results generate as much as 94% more clicks than paid ads.
A good example of how Google focuses on end-users and not websites is how they treat these paid advertisements in their search results. Google (and other search engines) make it very clear which results are advertisements and which are organic rankings. Although paid ads are often placed above organic in the SERPs (search engine results page), end-users are used to this and often skip them for the organic results.
And while that in and of itself paints a rather descriptive picture of Google's intentions, their last three algorithm updates — Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird — take this a step further.
Simply stated, Google changes how their engine displays and ranks websites periodically to improve their results and provide more relevant websites for their searchers. Google Panda was released in early 2011 and aimed to reduce the rankings of "low-quality sites" with a poor user experience while improving the rankings of high-quality sites. Similarly, Google Penguin was released a year later and penalized sites using unethical SEO techniques including link schemes (purchasing a large quantity of back links from irrelevant websites). Most recently, Google released their Hummingbird update, which claims to place higher value on content written in a more conversational or "human" tone.
Although these updates are significantly more complicated than this, the bottom line is that Google wants to be the best search engine in the world for their users. They want to provide the greatest and most relevant content based on a specific search query, and they will go to great lengths to penalize low-quality sites, or sites that try to game the system to achieve higher search results. But what does this mean to us folks in online marketing?
The answer is simple (and has likely been drilled into your heads at this point): you must focus on providing high-quality content for your target audience, specifically through strategic web copy and content marketing.
As Jayson DeMers points out; "Content marketing will move from buzzword to mature marketing movement in 2014. From an SEO perspective, Google will be looking at companies that have robust content marketing efforts as a sign that they're the kind of business Google wants to support."
I previously wrote about the top 5 goals of content marketing which include thought leadership, building trust, lead generation, lead nurturing, and improved search engine rankings. In search engine marketing, higher results is the name of the game. Content marketing can support this effort not only by offering high-quality content to your users, but to the Google bots as well, giving them more pages to crawl and rank. It also gives you a chance to focus on secondary keywords that may not have a prominent place on the main pages of your site.
Your search engine marketing efforts in 2014 need to focus on content marketing — it's a simple as that. Without providing high-quality content to your target audience, your website will plummet in the SERPs and (most importantly) lose traffic and relevant leads.