I want to let you in on a little secret about Copyblogger.
We are very competitive. Not in a “we win, you lose” sense, more of the simple “we want to be the best.”
And one area we tend to be a little obsessive about is search rankings — especially when it comes to our cornerstone content.
So, it may come as no surprise that one of those terms we obsess about is “content marketing.” In fact our content marketing landing page ranks very well on Google.
But recently, it didn’t.
Oh sure, that landing page has more than 21,000 links and many social media shares. But on December 22, 2012 all of that SEO goodness no longer mattered.
On that day, another site ranked higher than our page … and they did it with miniscule backlinks and no social media shares.
They accomplished it by being fresh and authoritative.
The content marketing ranking battle begins …
So who was this competitor that set their sites on our prized position in Google for the term content marketing? A group of black hat SEOs? No. In fact, it was much more benign.
You see, Mashable decided to create a category page on their site to aggregate all of their content marketing articles.
From all appearances, this was more of a year-end house keeping job to help properly classify some of their content. In no way did it appear that they where actively targeting the term to rank, since the number of links the category page obtained was less than 30, and it had earned no social media shares.
But when this page was indexed by Google, it suddenly ranked higher than all Copyblogger content marketing posts.
A quick review of Ahrefs.com clearly showed the vast difference in the core SEO metrics for each page.
And yet, while our content marketing landing page clearly had very strong links and shares, the page at Mashable outranked us.
How is this possible in the land of SEO — where links and shares are the very currency of the trade?
The answer lies in two core principles we’ve taught over and over — authority and freshness.
Query Deserves Freshness. Huh?
Unless you’re steeped in SEO terminology, you may not have heard of the acronym “QDF” or Query Deserves Freshness.
QDF, simply stated, is that for every query (“search term”) a search result list should include one (or more) piece of content that’s been recently published.
As we experienced first hand at Copyblogger, the sheer act of Mashable creating a category page on their site completely negated all of the SEO factors we had achieved.
It was as if links, shares, and the age of the page didn’t matter. Because — in this particular case — it didn’t. What mattered more than anything else was the fact that Mashable.com had published the page.
A quick check at SEOMoz shows that the Domain Authority of Mashable is 97 out of 100, with Copyblogger coming in at 92 of 100. Domain Authority is a feature of SEOMoz that “Predicts this domain’s ranking potential in the search engines based on an algorithmic combination of all link metrics.”
In essence, because Mashable had a higher Domain Authority than Copyblogger, Google determined that (for the term Content Marketing) the landing page at Mashable had higher relevance than our page.
This is the true power of QDF. For sites that have a strong Domain Authority, the simple act of publishing content around a particular term could supersede the benefits of in-bound links and social media shares.
But only for a little while …
Losing the battle, but winning the war
Inside Copyblogger, we were a little perturbed by this development.
Not so much that we were going to declare war to gain back ground on the term “content marketing,” but enough to wonder what was going to happen.
You see, while QDF is a powerful benefit to those with authoritative domains, it does not last.
Within 30 days of the Mashable page first getting indexed by Google, the listing had fallen off the front page and our content marketing landing page resumed its previous position.
Write with authority, and for the long term
We’ve often shared the principles and value of building authority at Copyblogger.
And, as content marketers, we use tools like our own Scribe content marketing software to research and analyze our content — ensuring that our keyword strategies align with the content and site we are publishing on.
This is one reason why Copyblogger.com ranks so well for a variety of search terms.
But as our experience shows, a quick spike in a search ranking is not enough. Establishing connections with other authoritative online sources is crucial for long term content viability — helping you build the links and social media shares to your content from authoritative sources.
While tools like Scribe can help identify these connections, it takes time and patience to build those quality links and social media shares.
And in the long run, these temporary ranking spikes due to factors like QDF will be replaced by the authoritative content.
Now, if we could just out rank Wikipedia.