How does Google rank branded content? In some cases, the answer is: Very well. This is one reason savvy brands are trying to use it to operate at a level above the type of basic search engine optimisation (SEO) we saw for a five-year spell. The idea if to be useful for humans, especially potential customers, and rank highly.
But recently research by Collective Content and DWPub has unearthed a range of views from those in PR, people who are gate-keepers to contacts and information that can make content exceptional – what we call media-grade. In particular, some PRs don’t see the same value in working with brand journalists as opposed to traditional journalists.
One of the big differences between most media content and most brand content – we could use the catch-all content marketing – is that the former will often appear in Google News.
One PR told us: “There are SEO implications. Google (et al) will keep on top of marking down paid-for content and so it will far less valuable [to my clients].”
There is clearly truth in this. Two and a half years ago this excellent Slideshare felt like a watershed moment. It explains more than a few things about content marketing well but I’d particularly focus on its main hook, namely how IBM Midsize Insider got so good that it was included in Google News (where you can still find its stories to this day) and “…Sent Traffic Soaring”, as the piece puts it.
If that really was a watershed, then we’d expect other brand publications to follow. It wouldn’t be many – for one thing Google knows it has to keep standards high (that term media-grade again) and for another it isn’t easy for brands to produce content that well, even when they hire publishing and editing experts. (That’s another blog post.)
We haven’t been able to find out from either Google or any other content marketing experts why other brands haven’t broken through to being included in Google News.
If it were an exclusive club, only for traditional publications and journalism, we’d never have expected IBM to be included. But if it’s not, why not more by now?
Our hunch is that this will change, over time, as consumption habits move away from favouring what we’d consider traditional content and publishers. In the world of social media, which in many ways competes with search for eyeballs, this is already happening. We are all more promiscuous finders and consumers of content than we were a decade ago.
So we’d say to the PR who spoke about the value of taking part in terms of his client’s voice being heard – or not – because of good/bad SEO: You’re right – for now.
Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent
Download our report ‘PR’s love-hate relationship with ‘brand journalists’ – and why it matters’