We come now to a discussion of earned media, which we will attack in two parts. Today were going to look at search results as earned media.
We've touched on this in earlier discussions. Not all search results are earned media, especially if you've paid for placement, but they can be considered earned if you've put the effort into making your content accessible through proper SEO practices.
One of the main ingredients in proper earned media is effort. Earned media takes more effort to get than paid or owned media, but is an order of magnitude more valuable than the others because people tend to trust it. As I've said earlier, the aspects of search that can be paid for (keywords, SEO gaming and outright pay for placement) have lessened the value, but if done right, it can be very beneficial to your communications program.
A few months ago, Google announced that it was changing the way in approached search and while a few people have made pronouncements of doom, few people who have actual responsibility over search have expressed any concern. Which tells me they are clueless or just ignoring the problem.
In short, Google has realized that search as they created it has been gamed out of its value. They are revamping the way they do it to diminish the importance of keywords in search and increasing the importance of what people do with information on the net. That will include what they consume, what they buy, who they are friends with, who they share with and what they share. In other words, social media is going to be the key.
I don't want to get into whether this is good or bad. It just is. And combined with the next point in this post, it will take SEO search out of the realm of earned media almost completely. Now, point two.
We've recently survived what could be the death of a free internet in the US over the PIPA and SOPA legislation that died in Congress last week, in no small part to the widespread online protests. But even if those kind of laws never come back to haunt us, we still have the virtually unknown ACTA that has snuck in on us internationally.
In short, ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) is currently before the Senate and EU for ratification and is essentially the same as the PIPA and SOPA laws... only we don't get a say in how it is enforced. It gives international governments the right to shut down websites for the alleged theft of intellectual property. That means all someone has to do is level a charge of theft against you. That means trouble for a lot of sites that feature contributed articles.
I've been involved in developing contributed articles for corporations for many years and realized how deep the problem was when an article I wrote for one corporation showed up in a major electronics trade publication under the byline of an executive of another corporation, who never worked for my client, 10 years later. Doing an internet search I found the same article three times attributed to three different authors. PIPA, SOPA and ACTA mean an end to that practice. Companies will have to create original content for their sites or face having their websites shut down.
A hallmark of a successful social media strategy is sharable content. If you fill your sites with plagiarized material you not only face the possibility of being shut down, but you end up with a site that no one will share with others. Original, interesting and focused material keeps you safe from copyright infringement but starts you on a path to creating real earned media.