In my post yesterday about the content marketing articles we've most admired in recent months, you'll see that the over-arching theme was the ongoing efforts of Google to ensure that the search results it serves are as free as possible from pages that have achieved their ranking by any means other than true relevance and authority.
It feels very much like a corner has been turned, notably with Google's "Panda" update on 22 January 2013, which had a far-reaching effect on the rankings of many websites which had been using certain search engine optimisation ("SEO") techniques to climb the listings.
The truth is that "content marketing", the process of publishing, curating, and sharing high quality content, has always been the best way to impress Google's algorithm over the long term.
The trouble is... human nature. Content marketing is a long term strategy for visibility, traffic and brand engagement. If there's a cheaper and quicker way to get to the waterhole, who wouldn't take it? Only, perhaps, those who could afford to take a risk on whether the waterhole would still be full of water months or years after the early arrivals got there.
This isn't a story of hares and tortoises, because in that story, the hare won nothing, the tortoise everything. There was only one winner.
In our story, the hares have been drinking deep from the waterhole for years. Through their edgy SEO tactics, they have benefitted from masses of search traffic that the tortoises could only dream about as they crept slowly towards their goal with their content strategies. But now many of the hares have fallen back and the tortoises are getting the edge, with their slowly-slowly approach to the goal. Different race leaders at different times.
The real winners? Those who made intelligent use of SEO tactics that brought short term advantages, whilst also working on a content marketing strategy in parallel to shore up the long term position across search and social channels.
But how many could afford to follow both paths at the same time?
If you're starting now, there's really only one path to follow. Short term tactics to "game" Google are doomed to failure. You need to embrace content marketing and win a new race: the one against your fellow tortoises. They will be doing their own thing, with their website, blog, social media accounts and email marketing. Their customers will be using Google to search, but spending most of their online time in social spaces like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. So are yours.
We're all tortoises now.