Rise of the Writer in a Google World

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The pen is about to become mightier than the sword, as they say.

Ever since Google introduced Internet users to the magic of search, enabling a straightforward and direct way to ask Google to find what they want from the Web, content publishers have been beholden to the mystical Google search algorithm.

In that obligation, a whole discipline of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has emerged to do battle with this algorithm. These SEO mercenaries seek to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the algorithm, attempting to exploit it to gain a tactical or strategic advantage. In this constant battle for favorable position within Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) many have relied more on “the sword” (i.e., technical, mechanic, even automated practices) while neglecting, even bastardizing, the proverbial “pen”, all for the dubious purpose of trying to game a Googlebot for a short-term pop on SERPs.

It is my opinion, and I think there are threads of support emerging, that “the pen”—more precisely, the writers that wield them—is about to become increasingly weighty in the Google search algorithm.

I’ll start with a few assumptions that undergird my opinion on the emerging importance of authors and their authority:

  • Google is intensely interested in returning relevant results to users’ searches,
  • And a critical component of that relevance is the credibility of the content,
  • And the credibility of any content is highly dependent on the expertise of the content creator;
  • Furthermore, Google increasingly has the ability to assess the validity of that expertise, if it exists

Now, let’s walk through what I think this is going to mean for your SEO and content marketing strategy in the not-too-distant future—and maybe sooner.

Google is going to become increasingly demand-driven when positioning your content.

They’re going to continually bump your content up against the demand of searchers for your topic and the quality of the content that already exists in that space. If there isn’t an unmet demand or a significant improvement in quality over the existing content, you will have just produced an expensive piece of Internet litter (I truly believe this is how Google views this kind of content).

Google probably knows your topic better than you. So, you’d better come with your best stuff.

Before you start to craft any content for publication on your website, even if you think it’s critical to support your existing customers, take a brief moment to do a couple of logical searches about that topic. What do you find? Does it sufficiently and expertly address the topic? Is it better than what you can produce? If the answer to one or both of those last two questions is, “Yes” then you need to find an angle. Think like a journalist being given the lead on a major event that every news outlet in the world has already covered. You have to find a unique approach. Otherwise, again, you are just littering the Web with content that will never see the light of day, (i.e., get any appreciable traffic from Google).

Google has been indexing writers and author profiles with as much intensity and curiosity as it does content.

You can assume they know your writers and, even more specifically, know if they know what the heck they’re talking (writing) about. It is in this regard that I think the most change is about to occur in the SEO and content marketing game. For a very long time, publishers have given far more consideration to the ability of a writer to deliver an error-free article in a timely manner than to whether or not they have any idea what they’re writing about.

However, Google has been so artful in flooding the market with hints, leaks, promises, discussions, and flat-out PR around the concept of author rank that publishers, SEOs, and savvy writers have been working Google+ to beef up their author profiles and link them to all their publications. Google has certainly been devouring all this data and readying it for optimizing their search algorithms.

One of these days, the OK-to-marginally-good writer, who churns out whatever someone will pay them for, will begin to struggle.

Their content will not be worth the browser they are rendered in. Just in case you missed that subtle prophecy—browsers are free! This brings us to the part when I suggest how to respond. I’ll be direct on this one. This is what we’re doing…

Stop manufacturing content for the sake of producing content!

This, in both theory and practice, is viewed as littering the Internet and Google will penalize you for this kind of behavior. Begin to more closely monitor your industry and communities. Understand what’s available and what’s missing. Then serve the demand.  If this calculus becomes the driver of your editorial calendar, Google will reward you handsomely by routing that demand to your new content and website.

Start finding (or demanding from your agency) writers that are experts in your field.

I recommend that you conduct the same review that Google probably already has in their databases. What are your writer’s professional credentials? How did they acquire their expertise? Is it represented in their published works? Where have they published in the past and are those publications respected and credible? Hire the most experienced writers you can afford. You’ve got to make a mental pivot from quantity to quality and that’s an SEO sea change for many content creators.

Begin to select writers and produce content with a preference for depth over breadth.

It’s pretty safe to say that the “back to the basics” and “ten ways to start doing something” has been written about a million and one times. As a result, Google doesn’t really want or need another one of those in their index. However, a comprehensive or well-designed and visually-assisted presentation of a topic is likely to be highly prized by Google.

This point alone has all kinds of implications for your editorial process, timing, and tempo of publication, as well as the intensity of your content production process. As for us, that means that every piece of content produced is now the result of a lot more strategic discussion, market and topical research, editorial and journalistic rigor, and writer development.

Not everyone subscribes to my prognostication and even more are willing to cut corners and pinch pennies to the very end of the Article Pumping and Spinning Era. But, I warn you, I think this is a natural and logical evolution of content marketing and, consequently, a dangerous one to ignore. Authors and their authority in your particular industry and market are going to be increasingly valuable. I recommend investing early and consistently in the best of the breed.

If you’re a brand, I would recommend you focus on retaining directly, or through an agency, these influential writers for your content production needs. If you’re a writer, I recommend you start focusing on and building up your professional credentials and portfolio to support credible and observable expertise in the areas that you write about.

If you have any questions or want to discuss any of these topics, feel free to contact me directly at bill.rice@kaleidico.com. If you need help with your digital marketing strategy and execution—visit us at Kaleidico.com.

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(photo credit: Mystery Writers by Nana B Agyei, on Flickr)