Interflora has become the latest victim of Google's clampdown on paid links, with the brand disappearing from Google searches due to its excessive use of paid advertorials.
What's more, Google also punished the publishers of the advertorials, dramatically decreasing their PageRank.
So what can websites and SEOs do? Stop seeing links as the goal and rather as symptom of achieving the goal. While links have a massive impact on search engine rankings, the reason for this is because people tend to link to useful and interesting content.
The search community knows content marketing is the future, but there is a reason so much link buying still going on - content marketing is bloody hard.
So why is content marketing so difficult - and how can those difficulties be overcome?
Integration with other disciplines
Not only do you need to create compelling content, but you also need to get people to read it without resorting to buying their attention.
Getting free publicity has long been the role of public relations, just as creating compelling campaigns is usually the job of creatives and advertisers. Increasingly, SEO Executives also need to also be a creative, a marketer, a press officer, a copywriter - as well as still having the technical skills and expertise to manage the on-page elements of Search Engine Optimisation.
Communication between the SEO team and marketing, advertising and PR department is vital. SEO concerns need to inform these strategies and these disciplines must be part of a successful SEO strategy.
Understanding the brand
Many people talk about creating good content like it's the simplest thing in the world - but if it was, paid for links wouldn't still exist.
Content doesn't just have to be easy to read, contain good keywords and be useful. It has to also embody the essence of the brand, promote positive associations with the brand from the reader, make the reader feel good about engaging with the brand by reading the article, offer something beneficial to the reader.
There is a misconception that your customers are dying to talk about your brand, but if you want anyone to
If you are to do any of this, a deep understanding of the brand is needed.
A shift from short-term to long-term goals
Countless SEO companies guarantee to get their clients to number one in Google searches. Aside from this being impossible to guarantee, it focuses on the wrong thing. The whole point of SEO is to generate traffic, which will in turn generate business. Being number one in Google may get you traffic, but if you're website does not actually offer customers something compelling, they are just going to leave again.
Chasing links is a short term strategy. Content marketing is designed to have long term benefits, to plant ideas and associations in the customer's mind that will have them returning to the website more than they would by just seeing a name flash up in Google. By all means have short term SEO goals, but don't forget why your are doing it in the first place.