Content Marketing: Then and Now

Laura Ginn

Content marketing has had to evolve to keep up with the changes in search engine algorithms. Shifts in customer expectations, search patterns and technology are altering how search engines and, as a result, internet marketing work. How much has content had to change, and how will it change in the future?

Ask Your Information Appliance

Conversational SEO started to become an issue when people not only asked for driving directions to the hospital in their cars but asked about drive through restaurants on their way home from work and reviews of each before picking which one to visit. Now information appliances like Alexa are in your home, allowing you to ask for and pay for audiobooks, cleaning wipes and meal kits.

Your content marketing now has to take conversational search engine optimisation into effect to capture these spoken queries in natural language format.

Your product descriptions on sites like Amazon need to answer the questions people ask about a product when deciding between their options so that they are likely to pick your product. Your website’s location information must include not just the address but questions like “Where is Joe’s Pizza in X neighbourhood located”? to capture the customers looking for you right before they buy.

Another result of conversational SEO is the split between quick answers and deep content. If your key search terms result in content that answers the person’s question in one or two sentences, the AI behind the search engine will likely skip your content and give the person the short answer instead. You now have to tailor content marketing for the deeper questions that can’t be answered in two sentences or less like “compare X to Y” where X is your product and Y is the competitor.

Searches on the Move

We’ve already addressed how information appliances are altering the content on websites and product directories. More than half of all internet searches are done via smart phones. This results in people searching for information, products and services while on the move. This raises the importance of local SEO. One way of improving local SEO is using properly formatted information placed consistently in many different business directories. Another way of improving local SEO is including location based search terms in your content marketing. This means your article on how to kill bedbugs talks about the species most commonly found in your part of the state or when termites swarm in your county.

Another shift in searches is the now common practice of searching for information on a product when someone is standing in front of it in the store. They want to avoid regretting the purchase; this means they look for product reviews, adverse information about the product and product comparisons while standing in front of the item. Content marketing has to take this into account by creating content that addresses concerns about a product, details why your product is the better choice over your rivals without mentioning them too much by name and racking up positive reviews by verified buyers.

Quality Over Quantity

Search engines have developed the ability to determine the quality of content. They penalise not just plagiarised text but poorly written text – and this includes keyword stuffed content to the point of being clunky. You also can’t make the content “fluffy” with repeated phrases. If you are going to have a long piece of content marketing, it needs to go deep and answer multiple questions at length or provide answers to dozens of questions few others can answer.

Google Dominates Despite the Competition

The consolidation of the tech industry has resulted in Google owning not just a search engine with 70% or greater market share and the deep content well of Google books but sites like YouTube as well. This means your content marketing needs to play by Google’s rules, as well as your podcasts on Google Play and video marketing on YouTube. This more than offsets the slowly growing market share of search engines like Bing and DuckDuckGo.

One of the issues this creates is censorship of content and products. Google Shopping censoring legal products like guns, ammo and accessories in 2012 are one example. Google censoring sexual enhancement products simply led to widespread rebranding as male enhancement products. You have to keep up with what Google allows and doesn’t allow or you won’t just find your ability to publish ads gone but your site’s search engine rankings tanking, too. Conversely, you have to be careful of your content’s SEO so that it doesn’t accidentally land in a class of products or services like payday lending Google severely censures.


Google may not control 90% of all world searches, but its continued dominance of search engine traffic, ads and other content channels requires internet marketers to stay abreast of its rules. The increasingly intelligent AIs behind the search engines reward high quality and unique content over everything else. Local SEO and conversational SEO are becoming increasingly important because of the shifts in when and how users search for information.