With Google’s free traffic handouts disappearing fast, the content farm industry is in peril. Over the past two years, Demand Media’s market cap has fallen from $1.9 billion to $500 million, while seeing traffic to its sites drop nearly 30%. It’s just the latest reminder for brand publishers that relying on a high-quantity, low-cost, SEO-focused content strategy is as good of an idea as building your data center on the polar ice caps.
That’s not to say that SEO doesn’t matter; it does. Search still drives a lot of traffic to publishers, and SEO optimization is brand publishing 101. But Google has been making a concerted effort to surface high-quality content and push out the barely literate SEO spam; for the search giant, it’s a necessity if they want to reverse the trend of people turning away from search and towards other channels, such as social media, for their content discovery needs. To cite just one example of Google’s efforts, upon recently discovering that 10% of searches were made by people looking for in-depth content, Google created a special results box to a prioritize in-depth articles.
That’s good news for brand publishers creating high-quality content. And it’s bad news for content strategies built upon a junkyard of keyword optimization. In the prophetic words of Contently VP of Content Sam Slaughter, “The future holds not more, but less. Standing out means slowing down and taking the time to create something meaningful.”
It’s good news for the rest of the Internet, too. As the hyperbole goes, there are about 90 gajillion pieces of content created everyday on the web. Would you rather publishers churn out a dozen pieces of hastily-written $10 pieces of SEO slop, or one great story that a writer got paid a fair and decent wage to report? Two years ago, it seemed like the eHow emperors would reign forever; now, it looks like high-quality content will rise again. For all of us off the farm, that’s reason to smile.
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