Last month the Guardian newspaper ran an article in its ‘Comment is free’ section, entitled ‘Content marketing is ruining the web. Its decline will be poetic justice’. Written by JR Henessy, the piece is a full frontal attack on content marketing and SEO, which is apparently, “the toxic fuel which propels the internet forward [and] needs to be eradicated for mankind to reach its true potential.”

And breathe. The article, which can be read in its entirety at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/15/content-marketing-is-ruining-the-web-its-decline-will-be-poetic-justice, demonstrates both a wilful misunderstanding of its subject matter and the depth of the author’s disillusionment with his own career path.

Some of the main points made by Hennessy, who is himself a self-proclaimed writer of content marketing, include:

  • Content marketers and web copywriters are, “expendable grunts…who dedicate their working lives to tricking Google’s spiderbots with boring subterfuge – keyword spamming, elaborate HTML structures and impenetrable hyperlink webs galore.”
  • “The websites at the top of any given search are the ones which have most effectively leveraged SEO tactics, forcing themselves into the listings through technological sophistry.”
  • That interesting, relevant, useful and interesting content, “is anathema to the content marketer.”
  • That we are, “moving to a new internet paradigm where Google responds to questions with answers, rather than redirections to bog-pits of branded content… people want to read things that are relevant, interesting, and not predicated on barely veiled advertising guile. Mercifully search engine technology is catching up.”

Which might be true… if it had been written ten years ago. But this was written in August 2014, long after Google and its search engine brethren had cleaned up shop and given the black-hat web copywriters and spammers the boot.

The fact is that all these things that Henessy equates with content marketing and SEO are no longer practiced by respectable marketers and have been banished to the dark corners of the internet (where one suspects the author himself works). It is widely accepted by SEO specialists and copywriting agencies across the globe that in order to get a client’s page to the top of Google, you need to produce high quality, informative content.

‘Keyword spamming’ and ‘impenetrable hyperlinks’ meanwhile have been dealt with by Google long ago, and have in fact triggered a new golden age of content marketing where high quality content is king. If you call a copywriting agency today for advice on how to be discovered by more people online, most of them will tell you the same thing: invest in content.

Content marketing – what it really means

Content marketing 2014 isn’t about ‘tricks’ or overloading pages with keywords, it’s about providing people with information they can use and building solid reputations and relationships through trust.

Search engine optimisation (which is not interchangeable with content marketing as Hennessy suggests) has an important part to play alongside this content marketing revolution. It’s about optimising a site, overall and page by page, to ensure that it reflects what both the search engines and actual people are looking for. And helping people to find useful, relevant content can only be a good thing, right?

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