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Picks of the Week: Feb. 19-25, 2011

This week, we take a look at: Google's algorithm update and its affect on content producers and curators, three myths (and realities) of content marketing, why blogging still isn't dead, using social media to build customer engagement, and a call for better email practices in the PR industry.

Search Marketing

Google Forecloses on Content Farms with “Farmer” Algorithm Update

In January, Google announced its intention to quash the rise of “content farms,” which it defines as sites with “shallow or low-quality content.” On Thursday, it launched a new algorithm update that reduces the rankings of low quality and copied content. Specifically, the following types of websites will be affected by the change:

  • Content farms — Sites that quickly and cheaply pump out content tailored to popular search terms in a particular category (e.g. news, help topics).
  • Scraper sites — Sites that pull content from various sources, rather than creating their own.

This is a major move by Google. While most of its algorithm updates are hardly noticeable to users, the search engine anticipates that in this case, 11.8% of U.S. queries will be affected.

While the update is mainly aimed at sites looking to game the Google system, companies using content curation as a means to establish expertise and build a following around a specific topic should also be cognizant of its effects.

Curation is a common, legitimate tactic used by marketers, but if you don’t include original content to support your curation efforts, your rankings may suffer.

Content Marketing

The 3 Big Myths of B2B Content Marketing

Compelling, informative content can help B2B companies attract customers, increase brand awareness, establish thought leadership and drive website traffic. In fact, content marketing has proven so effective that more than half of B2B marketers are increasing their content marketing budgets within the year.

However, that doesn’t mean everyone is using content effectively. In this article, Rachel Foster shares the realities of three common content-marketing myths:

  1. One distribution channel is not enough. To reach a larger audience, repurpose your content to make it available in different formats and across several channels. 
  2. Write for readers, not search engines. Optimization is important, but instead of stuffing your writing full of keywords, focus on creating remarkable content that people will want to share and link to — which will please the search engines as well.
  3. Content should not be written to sell (directly). Though the end goal is generating leads and sales, keep your content educational. Information free of blatant sales messages will have a greater chance of gaining the trust of your prospects, and gradually leading them through the purchase process.

Blogging & Social Media

Blogging Is Dead (Again)

In response to a New York Times article, Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter, Mitch Joel explores the fading popularity of blogging among today’s youth.

Blogging used to be one of the only ways an individual could publish content on the web. With the rise of social networks, quicker and more direct forms of communication have captured the attention of the younger generation. The skills that go into writing a blog — reading, critical thinking, writing and editing — aren’t the same for Facebook updates or Tweets.

Joel refers to blogs and social networks as “different beasts,” which cannot be compared. Rather than being competitors, they are actually complementary, as bloggers often use Facebook or Twitter to promote their blogs.

Key Takeaway: Blogging is hard. Social media is easy. Thought leadership takes a combination of both.

Social Media

Facebook May be Your Worst Option for Consumer Engagement

In this article, Neicole Crepeau discusses the effectiveness of social media marketing, suggesting that the most popular social sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) may not be the best places for companies looking to truly engage their customers. In fact, customers are more likely to follow or "like" your brand for special offers and coupons, not ongoing dialogue or customer relations. 

According to Razorfish's recent Liminal study, consumers ranked the most popular social networks among the least important channels for brand engagement. On the flip site, the following channels were at the top:

  • Individual email
  • Company website
  • Word of mouth
  • Face-to-face interactions
  • Review websites

So, while it's valuable to establish a presence on social sites, often in these cases you’re asking customers to come to you. Therefore, Crepeau suggests that if engagement is your end goal, a more effective approach is to find where your customers have already established communities, and go to them.

“Identify where your customers are in the largest quantities, understand their goals in those communities and the kinds of social offers you can effectively construct in them, and then pick the most beneficial ones for your purpose."

Media Relations

PR Professionals — Clean up Your Industry

In the final article of Josh Bernoff’s email-analysis series that we mentioned last week, he goes no-holds-barred on the email pitching policies — or lack thereof — in the PR industry.

Bernoff is so bothered by the absence of relevance and respect he sees from public relations firms that — after calling out a few of the worst offenders in his inbox — he requests the “PR Society of America to create a certification for responsible PR emailers, and withhold certification from violators.”

The PRSA responded, citing that though the society agrees that overall PR pros should employ better email policies, its “mission is not to kick people out of PRSA for ethical lapses.”

We’ve been discussing this topic for some time now. (Ironically enough, about two years ago Christina Capadona-Schmitz published the post, Despamming Publicity Campaigns, in response to a similar email analysis Bernoff did way back then.) But for some reason, things haven’t changed yet.

Key Takeaway: Fellow PR professionals, it’s up to those of us on the front lines to hold ourselves to higher standards, and get vocal about the importance of smart, respectful and ethical email policies and practices.

What were your favorite articles of the week? Comments are open for your opinions.

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