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Why Traditional Content Outreach Is No Longer Effective

The world of SEO is constantly evolving and the challenge is not only spotting the latest methods and trends, but also being sufficiently brave to experiment with them. In this video Lisa Myers explores the evolution of SEO, in particular the link strategies, and how it has evolved. She discusses the trends of today and why you should be bold enough to try something new, before everyone else does.

Video transcription

Hi, I’m Lisa Myers, the CEO of Verve Search. Today I would like to talk to you about content marketing, in particular, why I think traditional content outreach is dead.

Why traditional content outreach is dead

In 2012, SEOs were very much concentrating on buying links, in fact the majority were buying links. Some SEOs were still at this time doing directory link development or even forums; there was a lot of really dodgy link development going on. A few were already doing article marketing, but it was mostly bad article marketing. So creating good quality articles for outreach really did work.

The reason it worked was because it was colourful when everything else was grey. Most SEOs, in terms of link development, were concentrating on methods to get an easy fix. Article marketing in 2012 was really shiny and new, and it worked.

In mid 2012, we started getting Google updates, like Panda, Penguin, in fact they had several babies both of them, and things started to change. In 2012 and 2013, a lot of people were getting on the content marketing bandwagon, but by early 2014, most SEOs were knee-deep trying to resolve penalties, let alone thinking about what else they could be doing.

The black hats were now charging to remove the exact same links they had sold you the year before, quite clever that! By now everyone was desperately trying to jump onto the content marketing bandwagon, specifically article marketing because this is what most people still associate with content marketing. The problem with that is that we ended up with a big pile of content marketing, everyone was writing content, whether they could write or not SEOs were doing it. Article writing started losing its shine because everyone else was doing it. It’s quite likely a that lot of agencies and companies would’ve seen their link development strategies from content marketing, specifically article marketing, going something like this (see graph); you’ll see in 2011 and 2012, they were getting great results but after that the numbers started going down.

When everyone is drawing crosses, you need to draw a circle

I would say in 2015, there’s very little point in doing article marketing as a link development strategy, maybe 1 or 2 to make fills but it should not be the main strategy for generating links for your website. The reason this doesn’t work is because if everyone else is writing articles for links, it becomes extremely difficult because the most popular sites get contacted all the time about articles, and most content would be rubbish, so getting their attention becomes hard.

But it’s not time to despair because there’s always a way, and that’s what SEO is all about. When everyone is drawing crosses, you need to draw a circle. It was the amazing Dave Trott who said this. I believe this is what we need to think about as SEOs, if everyone else is doing it, of course it’s not going to give you as much authority or as much value as if you’re the first one doing it.

I like to think of us as doing ‘SEO thinking’ like a 50s ad agency, but executing as a geek, that’s 2015 SEO.

Great concepts and beautiful executions

So, how do you do that? What kinds of strategies work in 2015? Getting the big links is what you need to concentrate on because if you get the big links, you will attract the smaller ones afterwards. With article marketing, it was very much about creating one piece of content, one article, contacting one site and getting one link. That’s really hard to scale up, but if you concentrate on creating a really great idea that would get one big link, it would then attract loads more, as a result we have a totally different scaling up promise to look at.

2015, I know because in my agency we have completely changed for this, is all about creative campaigns. Creative campaigns can be anything from illustrations, animations, videos, interactive assets, supporting websites even. But what it really needs to be, is great concepts, great ideas and beautiful executions. That is very much why I used the Mad Men analogy, because it’s so much about your ideas and the way you think, rather than getting exactly the right numbers. If you only concentrate on the link, you most likely won’t be able to get a creative campaign off the ground. It needs to be attractive, awesome and really relevant to the site you are targeting.

How it works in practice

I’m going to show you an example of this. It’s a campaign that we did for our client, HotelClub. For them working in travel, specifically with hotels, we wanted to stay in the remit of what is relevant. Creating creative campaigns within a client’s remit is important; having content that is associated with them. It doesn’t need to be about hotels, it doesn’t need to be about selling, we’re not PR people, we don’t need to worry about the brand itself, it’s about creating great content but in a different way than just writing it.

For HotelClub, we came up with the idea of creating visuals of different idioms in different languages. Language is very closely linked with travel. In different languages, you have different ways of saying things, such as idioms. We hired a well known artist who has been featured in V&A to create the visuals for us. We chose a set of 8 different idioms from all around the world, including the Polish ‘not my circus, not my money’, meaning ‘not my problem’ which is quite funny. Or in Portuguese they say, ‘to feed the donkey sponge-cake’, meaning ‘to give really good treatment to someone who doesn’t really need it’. We have loads of these in different languages, in Spanish they say ‘to give someone pumpkins’ which apparently all Spanish people think is hilarious that we’re using this idiom, which means ‘to reject someone’.

These aren’t like hugely conceptual ideas, it’s not a meerkat, it’s not an idea to pitch for advertisements. They are ideas that appeal to people, that appeal to the sites that we’re targeting but also very relevant to the client’s area and subject. This campaign alone was quite simple, really well executed, and the results were staggering.

What kind of results can you expect?

In the space of 4 months, which was the amount of time that we worked on this campaign, we generated links on Mashable, MSN, AOL, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Boing Boing, Guardian, Business Insider and Design Taxi, just to name a few. The total amount of links that we generated for this campaign alone was 322. Now how long do you think it would’ve taken you to get 322 links from an article marketing point of view? Get my drift?

In addition to this, this campaign because it was appealing to everyone, generated 2 million views of which a large proportion was from the homepage of Reddit which generated over 623,000 views. It also generated a staggering amount of social shares, nearly 170,000 in total. Now this is great, as an SEO agency it’s lovely, but it’s not why we were doing it. We were doing it to generate the connections and links between these websites.

As well as social and links, this particular campaign also featured in the press. It featured in The Observer on Sunday in late November 2014; but this was just a bonus. This proves that SEOs can absolutely do content that is good enough for any other marketing or advertising. But we really need to think about the bottom line being generating those links. If you create a concept that is good enough, you can absolutely get those amount of links.

It’s time to jump out of the bowl!

The whole idea and point of this talk is to tell you that it’s time to jump out of the bowl that everyone else in. You could think that it might put you at risk, and everyone else will start doing it, but as an SEO, we have to be ready to jump to the next bowl at any minute. That is what we do, so when everyone else is doing creative campaigns, I am confident that we be will doing something else.

Which is why this year we won three awards at the European Search Awards including best SEO agency, Best Content Marketing and Best Pan-European. Which I think is not a bad going.

Thank you very much.

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One thought on “Why Traditional Content Outreach Is No Longer Effective

  1. Jeff Pederson

    I think in the last 2 years it is the folks who are brave and use new as well as outdated strategies that are the real winners still. Those are the people we can thank for finding what works and what doesn’t.