content marketing explosion thumb resized 600This blog originally ran as a column in the San Diego Daily Transcript.

The SEO game is changing.

The old “black hat” techniques of link bombing websites to improve website rankings no longer function the way they used to. Today, Google is putting the focus back on user experience with a content-based ranking system called Penguin.

Penguin is redressing the way websites are ranked by now positioning quality content higher – and deservedly so! Potential customers find the content by conducting searches for a topic they are interested in. They stay there longer and consume the content because it is high value and informative, not self-serving.

By great content, I’m talking about well-written blogs, white papers, e-books, podcasts, bylined articles, as well as visually appealing videos, infographics and graphic design. Social media is also weighted heavily by Penguin because it assumes that if something is shared on Facebook or Twitter and other platforms, it must be valuable. And if you’re thinking about faking the social media part of the equation, don’t even think about it. Apparently Google can tell.

Sound familiar? Penguin uses the same principles of content marketing for its ranking system. In fact, the two are becoming one in the same.

Content marketing has many aliases — branded content, corporate journalism and branded media to name a few. It is essentially the process of creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert leads into customers and current customers into repeat buyers.

In fact, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) revealed that 93 percent of marketing professionals create or plan to create content marketing as part of their overall programs in the next year.

Unlike the blatant sales pitch, content marketing delivers high-quality information with the intent (and hope) that a prospective buyer will interpret your industry prowess as a precursor for a working business relationship.

According to CMI, content marketing follows the belief that if businesses deliver high quality content, customers will reward them with their business and loyalty.

Case Study

mint life

Personal finance startup Mint.com launched six years ago with the intention of becoming a market leader in online personal finance. The novice company had major competition though – the now defunct Wesabe and Quicken.In order to stand out from its more established peers, Mint made its blog MintLife an integral part of its company operation, hiring an entire editorial team and becoming regular fixtures in the social media realm. Mashable reports that just after a few months, the company began noticing some real changes in its clients. For starters, they had some! And secondly, they were endorsing Mint on their personal social media accounts.

Clearly, Mint stood out from its competitors because they educated their prospects and positioned themselves as a thought-leader in their industry. They even put their competitor Wesabe out of business!

Final Takeaways

As public relations professionals, we know the importance of quality content and strong relationships, and now content marketing allows us to put those skills into action in a more practical way than ever before. Always remember:

  • On-page and technical SEO won’t go away entirely so stay consistent with best practices.
  • Produce high-quality content that your target audiences not only want, but need.
  • Don’t forget social media – Penguin ranks social shares!
Images via CyberCom and Mint.com