Google’s search algorithm updates, like Panda and Penguin, are raising the bar for content marketers, as content marketing and SEO continue to converge.
Content marketing is unquestionably one of today’s most powerful inbound marketing methods, not only for the healthcare industry, but for anyone trying to make themselves, “discoverable” online. Content Marketing is the practice of creating and distributing relevant, valuable content to attract and engage targeted audiences, in order to drive positive (and ultimately, for businesses, profitable), customer actions. Content marketing creates interest through the provision of educational, entertaining or informative material (videos, blog articles, whitepapers, infographics, etc.), the most successful of which, help solve people’s problems.
Lately, there’s been a great deal of discussion about how content marketing is the “new SEO” and how “SEO is dead” (at least as many have come to understand SEO over the past 20 years). This is largely due to Google’s continuing algorithm updates, such as Panda and Penguin, which are increasingly forcing marketers to focus on optimizing content for their customers’ benefit, as opposed to relying upon technical “tricks” (link schemes, keyword stuffing, invisible text, etc.), to manipulate search engines into pushing out thin, low-quality content for those seeking information on the Web.
This is a big, positive step forward for all users of the Internet, and perhaps particularly so for healthcare marketers (I’ll explain my theory why, a little later). But of course, just as with most large shifts, there typically comes with them many bold, LOUD proclamations- many often made by advocates of the particular changes at hand, others by those simply hoping to attract your attention for their own inbound marketing and SEO purposes.
So, is SEO really dead? Has content marketing taken its place?
I would suggest not. “Black Hat SEO” that focuses exclusively on robots may be mortally wounded (a good thing), but “White Hat SEO” which focuses on humans is alive, well and growing stronger every day! Thank you Google!
Now, marketers can spend less time (and money) trying to game search engines and instead focus their energies on providing more real value to their customers, by providing them with substantive, useful content.
A better description of the changes afoot are that SEO and content marketing are converging, just as marketing and PR did years before them, with the onset of the digital communications revolution. The goals of both SEO and content marketing are the same- to draw traffic to a website. And you must pay attention to both. Otherwise, you risk ending up putting significant time and effort into creating fantastic content that no-one will ever find or end up with bad, over-optimized (for old-school SEO) content, that offers little value for your audience or “stickiness” for your business or brand. Not to mention that, based upon the latest changes, this kind of low-quality content will still be pushed to the bottom of search engine results pages!
So what’s one to do?
My suggestions are as follows:
- Make sure that your website is properly constructed from the onset. After all, it is your home base and the primary distribution center for your content. Make sure that Google can easily find and index your site by using proper page titles and meta-tags, intuitive navigation and logically structured URLS.
- Remember that content is everything on your website, including all foundational copy and graphics. So think strategically from the onset.
- Listen to Google! Before creating and optimizing content, go straight to the horse’s mouth to understand what they want from you. They actually make this very easy by sharing solid foundational recommendations in their SEO Starter Guide. What better way to succeed is there, than by simply minding the rules and following Google’s best practices and suggestions?
- Always put the User first! This, in its most basic form, should be both your core content and SEO strategy. This is Google’s Holy Grail, and has always been a cornerstone of most successful businesses. Create content that is useful, relevant and unique, that provides real value for your targeted audience! This, more than any other tactic, is what will positively impact your site’s reputation, influence and discoverability.
- Be strategic with your keywords, but use them naturally in the ways that other humans (not robots) use them. Consider what kinds of words and phrases others might be using to research information related to your business and lace them into your content, without repeating the same keywords over and over. The threshold ratios for keyword density have been ratcheted down with Google’s most recent updates. (P.S. And if you serve a local market, then don’t forget this when creating your content!)
- Don’t rely upon link schemes (buying links, excessive, low quality link exchanges, automated programs, etc.) to increase authority. Leverage effective PR outreach, partnerships and other promotions, instead.
- Focus on quality publishing over frequency. Yes- search engine web crawlers are hungry little creatures, always yearning for new information! But don’t feel like you have to publish every day, to rank highly in search results. As long as you are keeping your site and content fresh and up-to-date with some modest level of effort and an eye towards quality, you’ll be just fine.
For healthcare marketers, the continuing evolution of content marketing and Google’s related SEO algorithmic changes should not be cause for anxiety. While many different kinds of businesses may be negatively impacted, and have to reconsider how they have been operating online, the new rules of content marketing are in much closer alignment to the way most medical and healthcare professionals have always operated- with a focus on simply doing what is right for their customers (aka, their patients).
The values that Google is trying to advance are already embraced by many smart, successful companies around the world, but medical professionals in particular have always operated by more stringent (and regulated) ethical codes. What the content marketing evolution (revolution) means for healthcare marketers seeking to remain competitive in the future online marketplace is that there will be less pressure to devote time and money attempting to understand the quantum physics behind Google’s PageRank and other SEO algorithms, and more to doing what probably comes naturally- providing patients with relevant, high-quality information, education and tools relating to the diagnosis, treatment or management of medical ailments- and your, or your organization’s ability to treat them.
Does your online presence need a checkup to ensure that you are following Google’s new best practices, while making yourself competitive in the marketplace and “discoverable” by those who may be searching for the product or services you offer? If so, call, contact Darrell Hacker at Web.com (Nasdaq: WWWW). Web.com is one of the world’s online marketing leaders for small and medium businesses. Darrell can be reached at DHacker@web.com
Tim is Director of Social Media at Web.com. A deeply experienced integrated marketing professional, former creative director and writer who operated his own full-service marketing, branding, public relations and design firm for 15 years, Tim provides a wealth of experience in nearly every area of marketing communications encompassing both new and traditional media.