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There is no question that since the birth of the Internet, particularly during the web 2.0 age, the number of available marketing channels has exploded. Following this growth, there has been a huge influx of available and sometimes conflicting information that is growing all the time.
It can be a confusing place for businesses and brands, large and small. Information and misinformation online can lead businesses down certain routes, to join certain platforms and essentially drive their online marketing strategy. There are a number of issues that can arise from doing this and on occasions it can seriously hinder online progress.
So, what situations can arise if a brand or business chooses to follow the crowd? They can find themselves on irrelevant platforms, seeking the wrong audiences, unintentionally spamming, getting on the wrong side of Google and possibly alienating the audiences they find themselves in-front of.
A quick search on Google will give your thousands of results containing all manner of information related to the search topic. On-top of this there are informational websites, blogs, news websites, social posts and many other platforms for content discovery.
Instantly this creates an information overload, so how does an individual sift through this mountain of information to decipher what may be trustworthy or not? Google has gone some way to help increase trust with the implementation of Authorship which associates content with trusted authors; however it is not clear how much this affects the rankings at the moment.
There are of course ‘trustworthy’ resources such as Wikipedia, various other news and blogging websites and educational institutions. Certain communities will also have their own trusted resources. Having said that, is the information on these websites particularly trustworthy? (more on that below).
The culture of online discovery means that when a new platform or strategy emerges, it is followed by an influx of information and opinions during a surge of popularity. This popularity is generally followed with a few examples where individuals or businesses have seen some good results and success through implementation.
This is the online equivalent of the noise from a starting pistol resonating through the Internet that says “spammers…go!” Suddenly people will figure out ways to spam these platforms to death or the strategy in question will be used by everybody (slight exaggeration).
Generally these platforms will aim to cut down on the level of spam, but it can be overwhelming for a new platform especially.
Strategy-wise, it would be foolish to assume that a single strategy will work for everyone – or that improper implementation of the strategy will not be picked up by the likes of Google and cause ranking issues. This is one of the problems with information overload.
It is apparent that there is a problem, but what are some of the causes for these issues?
The rise of search engines has led to a mass adoption of SEO, and it is fair to say that it gets mixed reviews across the web. There is no doubt however that if you create a solid strategy and follow best practices with regards to optimising your website and managing your web presence (in particular, those that Google recommend), you are likely to improve your search engine presence.
The industry however has given birth to a number of tactics that go against the search engine recommendations in an attempt to manipulate the search results to come out on top (generally referred to as black hat techniques). Occasionally these tactics can create results and can be tempting for those frustrated with the battle to get to the top of the search engine result pages, plus everyone wants that quick fix.
Some tactics have grown in popularity and on occasions the search engines have come out to publically state that these tactics could harm your site. A lot of this information is still widely available on the web, easily discoverable by those who aren’t necessarily that experienced in SEO.
This constant changing landscape of SEO has created masses of information on the subject and an increasing level of information regarding new strategies/platforms that may offer some short term benefit but could cause problems at a later date.
There has been a huge focus on content over the past year or two, “Content is king” as they say. I do agree with this, content can definitely help a site reach new audiences and all sites should aim to create valuable content for their audience.
However this push for content has created its own problems, some of which are listed below:
Contradictory information can leave readers confused as to what they should do and how to properly plan and execute and online marketing strategy.
A recent example of this is related to Guest Blogging – following a number of posts highlighting the benefits, it started to become something that businesses needed to be doing in order to succeed online. A couple of success stories later and it seems like the whole world is talking about the benefits of guest blogging. This was until a few people start to doubt the benefit of this strategy and Google eventually released a video stating their opinion on the matter. Following that came a number of posts like ‘why guest blogging can harm your rankings’ or ‘be weary of guest blogging’.
You start to see a large number of posts that are contradictory to each other, in the push for new content it would then seem that there is no clear cut way to benefit from these strategies. Any website owner following this information can be led to following a strategy that may at some point harm their web presence.
Website owners should evaluate and test different marketing platforms and strategies for themselves. It is through this type of testing that they discover what works and what doesn’t (obviously avoiding any black hat tactics) and can help them find new audiences.
However in our content driven world, much of this testing is done for us, or so we think. It is easy to copy another strategy and hope for results especially if this saves time, but this can easily lead a site to trouble.
There are gems out there – articles that contain priceless information that has been tested and proven to work, the issue lies in being able to verify that this information is correct, trustworthy and reliable.
Referring back to the mention of content and that mentions of certain strategies and platforms can be spread around the web like wildfire. We will often see the release of a new social platform and following that, a string of posts talking about the platform.
You will then start to see a few businesses using these platforms and sooner or later the platform will be full of different businesses attempting to reach new audiences.
The most recent notable examples of this are the platforms Pinterest, Instagram and Vine.
Pinterest is an interesting example because some businesses have seen huge success from using this platform. Any success is likely to result in more businesses trying out the platform; however it isn’t something appropriate for many businesses as it is a visual platform.
A popular profile does not necessarily mean that it is good for business. Sure it can be great for some; it is just a question of whether you feel that your audience are using the platform and whether you have something to offer.
There have been some cases where exploitation of the platform has led to its eventual decline or has forced them to take action to realign the site with their values. Some include:
It is changing the shape of the web; however popular platforms continue to contain an increasing level of spam. As Google and other search engines try to filter out this type of content, from a business perspective it is even more important that content created is not evaluated as spam.
If you are a website owner, you are probably asking yourself, ‘what should I do then?’, especially if there is a risk element when following advice on the web.
As previously mentioned, there are still a number of high quality and trustworthy resources online. Generally they are quite easy to spot; if they are related to a specific industry there is a high chance that you might already be aware of them. Google has also published search guidelines that are publically available and also frequently create videos to help web owners improve their websites. Ensuring that you operate within these guidelines will help your site stay out of trouble.
To help you evaluate potential strategies or platforms, bear the following in mind:
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Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.