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Increase your search engine rankings by using trashy content

An SEO Parrot Banging on about great quality content

You hate Pandas, you hate Penguins, what about Parrots?

Sit with a group of SEOs for long enough and the subject of backlinks will arise and someone will inevitably pipe up and say something like ‘it’s all about creating great quality content that people want to link to and share and that’s how you get high authority backlinks pointing to your site.’

Stop being a parrot!

When people parrot the ‘great quality content’ phrase after watching a Rand Fishkin seminar, it really annoys me because it doesn’t actually offer a solution. It has become a horrible cliché in the online marketing industry. It’s like saying the best way to create a painting that sells for millions is by creating a masterpiece that everyone will want to buy.

Rand’s Magic Button

You may have heard Rand mention a few times that he has a magic button that allows him to quickly get 400 linking root domains and that button is the publish button on his blog. I don’t dispute for a second that Rand could get this many links by just hitting the publish button, but I bet it doesn’t matter if the content is good or bad, he is still going to get these links because he is a trusted source and an authority in his field as a result of being a total genius.

It would work with anything

If Rand was to put a post on his blog simply saying ‘can everyone please link to this blog post, share this with all their twitter followers  and I’ll love you forever’ accompanied by a picture of his face, I bet he could still get those 400 linking root domains.

So Rand’s magic publish button may work for him as he has a large cult-like following in the industry but the same method is not going to work for the little guy that is just starting out and has a limited budget even if he is able to write a masterpiece.

What is the alternative to great quality content?

Due to the ‘great quality content’ phrase spreading throughout the community like a cannabis joint in the rehab section of a prison, people have now became fixated on the idea that for content to spread it has to be great quality, this is not the case and never has been the case.
Let’s take a look at old media for a second and think about what types of newspapers do well.

Do you think the bestselling newspapers are newspapers such as the Herald or the Guardian that both offer you great quality, well written articles that people want to read? No!
The newspaper that sold the most in 2011 was The Sun, followed by the Daily Mail and then the Daily Mirror.

Let’s use The Sun as an example

They make their money by writing new stories such as the one about Prince Harry on holiday and print pictures of him bollock naked with his hand over his nut-sack. These are not a high quality well-written article that is truly worthy of sharing.

It’s trashy content but everyone has an opinion on it and when The Sun decided to write a ‘piece’ I bet they sold loads more papers and their website hits would have increased massively.

Still don’t believe me?

Let’s take another example from the Daily Mail.

Remember Samantha Brick?

Samantha Brick

Well she wrote an article in the Daily Mail talking about how hard it is being so beautiful. This article caused so much outrage that it was trending on Twitter and at first glance it seemed like a silly thing for her to do, but in actual fact, she knew exactly what she was doing.

Samantha has been in the business long enough to know that content that provokes a reaction, even a negative one, tends to spread and get people talking.

Content that provokes a reaction

Samantha’s article doesn’t leave you feeling uplifted, well informed and enlightened eager to point 100s of backlinks to, but it does make you want to shout, scream and tell your friends about it and that’s why Samantha started trending on Twitter, got lots of high authority backlinks and made lots of money for herself and the Daily Mail as a result.

Solution?

Start thinking about what types of content spreads online. Find inspiration in old news stories that spread and try to make it work in the online world.

Someone who writes great quality online marketing articles and provokes a reaction at the same time is Michael Gray.

I don’t know if Michael does this intentionally or not, but he is really good at getting stuck right into Google and making people angry at them in his blog posts and I bet this attracts a decent bit of traffic / backlinks. It doesn’t matter if it is intentional or not, the net result is the same – backlinks and social shares.

Although making people feel angry can be a great way of causing content to spread, it probably isn’t the best idea in most situations but if you sell to a niche that doesn’t mind a bit of controversy then it might just work.

Don’t worry be happy

Making people happy and making them laugh will also work. Think about emotions or feelings that motivate others. Sadness is probably not a good angle to take as people are usually much less motivated to do anything when sad or depressed.

Build Relationships

Also, you want to build relationships with people that can help your content spread once you have created it. It will be much easier to get your content to spread if it is seeded properly by people that have a large following.

I bet whenever Rand Fishkin puts out a tweet it gets loads of RTs before anyone has even had a chance to judge the content because he is so trusted within the community.

Great Quality Content

So the next time someone tells you that the way to attract backlinks and improve your search engine rankings is by creating high quality content you can call them a parrot and then tell them that although high quality content can sometimes attract backlinks the real focus should be on creating content that spreads and it could even be the trashiest content ever.

Find me on Twitter – @gorcampbell

Gordon Campbell

Gordon is an SEO, PPC and Social Media Consultant based in Glasgow, Scotland.

15 Comments

  1. I prefer the phrase ‘compelling’ content to ‘high quality’. Lots of things are compelling, from a brilliant movie on the telly to a horrific car crash on your road to work and plenty in-between.

    I think there needs to be an element of quality though. Even the trashy tabloid press generally spell their words right and use appropriate (if basic) punctuation.

  2. I love this! One thing is great articles and they do for sure attract links. But what to do if you sell blue widgets? It is hard to write up compelling content about those freaking widgets, right?

    But you can rank if you can spread it – and spreading equals links. Ergo: Links was the King, is the King and ill continue to be the King ;-)

  3. I use the phrase “valuable” content. If people find trashy content to be entertaining or that it inspires them to say something, that’s valuable.

  4. Absolutely… and valuable content is different for everyone. I guess, like you say, it’s tapping into what makes people want to share your content. I tend to find funny stuff that I put out there tends to get shared far more than properly researched and ‘great quality content’.

  5. Awesome article.

    Of course we all know it doesn’t have to be “trashy content,” it just has to force a reaction, good or bad.

    More specifically I prefer compelling memorable content. I want to force a reaction, but I also want to be remembered for it and ultimately in a good way.

    You should check out James Altucher’s blog, he is a genius at creating compelling content.

  6. I agree with you here. I think that the search engine Google is missleading people in to thinking that just becasue they have written some good content on their websites that peopel will somehomw start linking to their site and also about the rand thing, I agree that this guy can say pretty much whatever he likes about anything and instantly get a shed load of hits and links to his site simply because every SEO person out their thinks this guy is the guru on SEO.
    When I read through SEO Moz I think most of the stuff is very repetative and also allot of the ‘guest posters’ are posting stuff that has nothing to do with anything real – they post stuff all day long about how to increase hits to your blog but they never really give any good advice about how to rank well for your run of the mill website like joe the plumber etc.. Not everyone has blog type sites and not everyone cares about blogging and constantly adding new content to their websites. 99% of my clients dont blog and simply use their website as an online advert so asking them to blog totally pointless..

    I could go on but its been aloooong day and i need sleep.

    Ill be back though ;)

  7. Hi Barry,

    Thanks for the feedback:)

    I see you are climbing the rankings for SEO Dundee – good work!

    Gordon

  8. Interesting to know other way of creating awareness. Thank you. Either motivate or create controversy.

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