Google algorithm changes game for sponsored content sites

Last Friday I posted about the major overhaul in Google's algorithm that is going to cause headaches for SEO consultants and practitioners.  Over the weekend, as I was thinking about it, I realized it is going to cause even more problems for media companies and corporations moving to a branded content methodology.  


Lots of media companies, including UBM, Extension Media, Hearst Electronics, Open-Systems and Tech Design Forum are moving to a curated community model where editors spend most of their time managing the content of the community rather than developing original content.  It sounds like a great idea because the plan is that the best stuff (most read, most shared, most commented on) will rise to the top of the community and the least engaging will drop to the bottom.


The problem is that most of that content has been vetted by marketing and sales companies to make sure the messages get across, and not according to what customers are actually looking for.  Some media companies, like UBM, actually put filters on the content so it doesn't show up in Google searches, only within the medium's sites.  The content on these communities is not going to be found easily, if at all, unless the searchers are in those communities.  And that is getting very fractured right now, especially in the semiconductor realm,


This week, Ed Sperling dissolved his partnership with Extension Media creating sponsored subject portals within Extension, and has moved them under his own brand, Semiconductor Engineering (www.semiengineering.com).  Ed was one of the first to jump into the sponsored content concept in this industry (which Footwasher Media helped him understand, ahem).  He was followed by Kevin Morris' Tech Focus Media, The Curation Company, UBM, Hearst and a host of smaller operations.  They all develop content, they all have different means of developing content, but they are also not funded by advertising.  They are sponsored by large companies who get to have input into the subject matter produced.  Most of these sites make it easy to see who is funding them and once you see that, you can see where their influence is.  Some, like SemiWiki, don't really let you know who is funding them, but you can guess from the tone of the articles.


The problem with these highly focused sites is their audience is very focused and, therefore, very small.  The audiences for Hearst and UBM are potentially very large, but they run into the same problem as the smaller sites


 


To be successful online, a publication has to engage the audience, which means the readers/viewers have to be willing to read the entire article, or a large portion, comment and share.  If they don't the content will not be searchable in Google unless the content contains the exact terms that the audience uses in search.  For a company like UBM that filters much of it's content from Google, the audience has to rely on the UBM internal search engine, which even UBM'ers say sucks.


Then there are the branded-but-independent corporate sites.  That's another post, coming soon.


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