’Tis the season for year-ahead predictions! Here are two forecasts for 2018 search engine optimization (SEO) trends that I think are especially relevant for financial companies.
Twitter and LinkedIn will both take active steps to reduce the amount of traffic they refer out to other sites
(From Rand Fishkin at Moz)
Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are already doing it—and now it’s possibly on the horizon for Twitter and LinkedIn, two platforms which often form the core of social media strategy for financial companies.
The typical content plan usually goes something like this: Create something cool, then promote it on social media, which means writing tweets and LinkedIn posts that direct traffic off the social media platform and back to the authoring company’s blog or website.
Time to re-think social media strategies?
If it’s true that LinkedIn and Twitter are going to reduce the visibility of external links on their platform and prioritize content that keeps people on their sites, then 2018 content marketing plans would need to be revamped accordingly. Which topics and types of content are best suited to being posted only on LinkedIn? Maybe you can take a concept that was originally meant to be a white paper and instead create a SlideShare presentation for LinkedIn. Or could you commit to consistently having a thought leader write articles on his or her LinkedIn page? Lastly, maybe it’s time to re-visit the benefits of adding platforms like Quora and Medium into the mix.
Guest blogging should be approached with a healthy dose of caution
Here’s the backstory: A key objective of SEO is driving traffic to a given site, and one of the most popular techniques for driving traffic to a site is getting a bunch of links to point to that site.
Guest blogging is one way to get links: You write an article which includes links back to your site, then submit the article to be posted on another site. Guests blogs can also be known as contributor posts, partner posts, or syndicated posts.
When guest blogging first took off, bloggers would load their pieces down with a bunch of keywords and links, resulting in low-quality content. The content was crappy but at least it boosted rankings in search results.
Google frowns on spammy content
Nowadays, Google penalizes these low-quality articles. In 2014, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, even declared, “Stick a fork in it: Guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”
Google has since posted several more warnings, including one in May 2017 which called out key signs that an article violates Google’s link scheme guidelines:
- Stuffing keyword-rich links to your site in your articles
- Having the articles published across many different sites; alternatively, having a large number of articles on a few large, different sites
- Using or hiring article writers that aren’t knowledgeable about the topics they’re writing on
- Using the same or similar content across these articles; alternatively, duplicating the full content of articles found on your own site.
What about contributing to higher-authority sites?
For respected financial companies, the spammy article problem might seem irrelevant—you’d never consider submitting a fluffy piece to low-quality websites. But what about being a guest contributor for well-known outlets like Inc, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, or Forbes?
Before you get married to the idea of being published in Forbes and spend hours sweating over a pitch, I encourage you to check out this revealing piece written by Jon Christian for The Outline: “Bribes for Blogs: How Brands Secretly Buy Their Way Into Forbes, Fast Company, and HuffPost Stories.” He also wrote a follow-up article: “These Are the People Paying Journalists to Promote Brands in Articles.” The contributor game is not what it seems.
Does guest blogging serve any purpose?
High-quality guest blogs and contributed content do have important benefits. Guests posts can establish you as a category authority and lend credibility to your brand. They can also be great for overall exposure and reaching your target audience. If these are your objectives—not generating coverage and links at any cost—then guest blogging can certainly have a place in your content strategy. But if you’re going to pursue it, know that quality and selectivity are paramount, and the waters at many high-profile publications have been muddied.