I was listening to an NPR program last weekend about the success of sharing sites, like Buzzfeed. It opened up with the statement that "it used to be the key to success online was success in search..." Going forward the program succinctly laid out how important of search in modern internet communications strategies.
The program went on to talk about how sharing, or even "borrowing" content is the new key to success... even if it wasn't quite honest. Point taken. However, the discussion brought to mind something I've said over and over (and that seems to be making progress in the minds of some) that real, honest, sharable content is what will bring people to your website and do business with you.
Page rankings are important to companies that are selling iPhone aftermarket accessories and boner pills. They are also important to large corporations who want to make sure that no one sees links to the lower tier competitors. In the latter case, the larger companies spend a lot on SEO to keep the competition at bay. Take for example, Xilinx and Altera, both of which spend a lot more money on SEO efforts than does a company like Lattice, which spends relatively little. In the end for SEO, that's all it takes: Money. If you have it you win. But that does not mean you get more business, necessarily. It just means the search spiders will find you more often and push companies with less investment down.
If your goal, however, is to actually create connections with willing customers, improve the quality of your content. That's why sites like Buzzfeed and Reddit are going gang busters. They find out what people like to read, watch and listen to and they get that stuff up. That's also why most firms in the semiconductor world are generally disappointed in what their web programs produce. They make no effort to pay attention to what their customers are paying attention to.
There have been many websites that have tried to put together a successful program rehashing the marketing content of the industry they serve with limited amounts of success. Amazingly enough, the sites that continue to thrive are those who maintain a certain level of separation from the companies they cover. EDN's relaunch recently is a good example of a company listening to what the readers want. Conversely, it looks like their parent company, UBM, has also figured out how to make money off of giving the companies what they want in the new "Community in a Box" program. We'll have to wait and see which does better.
In our own back yard, however, we've seen first hand what creating sharable content can do for a corporate website (boosts it every time) and what happens when they switch back to product announcements (crash and burn). I'm happy to say that the more companies we talk to the more they are realizing that putting most of their eggs into boosting marketing content and SEO is not creating the business they were hoping for.
If you are among those companies starting to get it, drop us a line.