Don’t be evil – what Google’s ditching of sidebar ads means for content marketing

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Don’t be evil – what Google’s ditching of sidebar ads means for content marketing

You may have noticed that Google has removed its pay-per-click ads from the right hand sidebar of your Google search page, and has replaced them with at least one additional advert on the top.

The reason is that ads at the top of the page get far more clicks for Google than ads on the right hand side, and therefore they cost more. This is partly because they look like organic search results, but also because ads on the right hand side don’t work for the increasing proportion of people browsing the internet via mobile phones and tablets. So what does this mean for content marketing?

Good content marketing achieves top rankings in the organic search area. Essentially Google’s switch in tactics, which combined with the local business lists that line the top of each page, pushes more organic search results below the fold (that is, below what appears on your screen without scrolling down).

Positively, maybe?

This is an unadulterated dollar grab by Google, but should we expect anything less? Most people seem to be under the mistaken impression that Google is pure of motive and a public service – they’re not. They’re a business like the rest of us and at the end of the day are in this for their shareholders (read, money).

Of course this raises the prospect that good content and well constructed and promoted websites, as well as the low cost pay-per-click market, will find themselves up against big budget spenders and will simply be priced out of contention.

Then again, maybe the buying public are not as stupid, or lazy, as Google is hoping and will be happy to scroll past the paid stuff to the ‘real gold’. Or maybe not. Perhaps Google will then look to counter this in some way so that we are almost forced into clicking on their ads. Maybe everybody will revolt and new challengers will rise up and take chunks out of Google’s market share.

That’s a lot of maybes, but Google is going to be hard to beat. So maybe we will just go somewhere else, like back to paid content.

Is Google doing paid content providers a favour?

While there will always be a need for search, what Google’s commercial push may inadvertently do, is force more people to paid media and information sites to aid decision making – where the user pays to access good quality content and research, like — sites that have built their position and reputation on quality content rather than buying their way up the ladder. are of course unbiased, independent and objective — their reputation and market can only grow as the Internet fills up with junk quicker than plastic litter in the Pacific Ocean.

Brands will be able to piggyback on the reputation of such sites – like adverts in newspapers – but your content will be branded and identified as paid e.g. through native advertising and content discovery platforms like Outbrain. The native ads that are based on good solid news, education and inspiration will do better, most of the time.

Don’t be evil

The more I think about it, the more I think the only way forward is to build your reputation, your brand and your market position with high quality, relevant content, outstanding customer service and of course good product and service offerings — the old staples.

In this way you build your reputation and status independent of the the manipulations of the likes of Google. People will go to you first because they know about you, like you — because you put their interests first – and they trust you for it.

Through proper content marketing, brands can build reputation and trust by putting the public interest first. Trust your product to stand on its own merits and look to provide high quality, thought leading content to separate yourself from the crowd. Advertise too, of course. But make sure you clearly distinguish between your value added content and your advertising. As Richard Liew said in a previous post, “Use your content to inspire, educate and inform. Use ads to ask them to buy.”

Build a reputation and trust for being a venue for good, honest, useful information. Don’t betray that confidence, instead work to become a destination of choice based on your expertise and your ability to carve niches – one that is less reliant on Google search rankings and paid prominence.

Earn your way, don’t try to buy it (at least not all of it), because there’s always somebody with a bigger budget. The commitment to excellence is a far harder road to travel, but a lot less cluttered.

By Colin Kennedy, Content Strategist