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How to Win at SEO and Earned Media with Horrible Content
Posted on March 31st 2014
Any content marketer worth their salt has seen "Crap. The Content Marketing Deluge" - a slidedeck that serves as a call-to-arms for only producing quality content online and a condemnation of the alternative. What Velocity Partners may not have predicted, however, is a successful B2B content marketing strategy that relies solely on crap. The Movoto Real Estate blog seems to have cracked this code.
Movoto, founded in 2005 by former marketing director Henry Shao and recently acquired by Tokyo-based Recruit Holdings Company Ltd. takes a unique approach to content marketing in their efforts to unseat Trulia and Zillow at the top of the online real estate brokerage world.
Their blog "The Lighter Side of Real Estate" frequently publishes articles with titles reminiscent of something you might see on BuzzFeed or Upworthy - "You Might Pack Up Everything And Move To St. Louis After Watching This" or "These Are The 10 Best Places To Live In Colorado."
The content is pithy, sophomoric and (perhaps purposefully) unauthorative (it's not uncommon to find the misspelling of a local landmark) so as to provoke readers into dissension. This, as you might imagine, generates countless tweets, shares, and even blog post responses.
For example, one of their favorite listicle templates is "10 (City) Stereotypes That Are Completely Accurate." Typically written by a non-resident, these posts instantly draw the ire of current and former residents, who take to social media to voice their outrage.
I think I have a different definition of "completely accurate" -- 10 Tulsa Stereotypes That Are Completely Accurate http://t.co/nhjFzD844h— Jaclyn Cosgrove (@jaclyncosgrove) March 18, 2014
The result? Links, which lead to even more social shares and links. A typical Movoto blog post proudly displays social shares in the thousands and "views" in the tens of thousands (although, the authenticity of these metrics is somewhat questionable).
It's not just individuals feeding the manufactured controversy. Local and national news outlets, and even publicly traded companies, are compelled to either respond directly or invite their readers to comment.
In a recent interview, Movoto blogger Travis Sawrie stated "It's fun. That's what it's for. This is just for entertainment." But students and practitioners of modern SEO and content marketing know better. There's a clandestine strategy at work that thrives on clickbaiting and trolling.
One Movoto blogger, Natalie Grigson - a California resident, has written (supposedly expert opinions) about life in Oklahoma, West Virginia and Washington state, among many others. The Duncan, OK Convention and Visitors Bureau was so enamored with her praise that they issued a press release nationally *facepalm* to thank her for listing them as one of the best places to live in Oklahoma. Nashville Scene was less impressed with her ranking of Atlanta, GA as "the most redneck city in America."
Whether it's applause or criticism, the result is the same: referral traffic and link authority.
What makes this strategy so insidiously effective is a certainly deliberate lack of author bio information. While some author information appears on their "masterminds" page, most blog posts do not contain author bios or any information at all about the writers other than a name and gravatar. A quick Google search for any one of the Movoto authors bears little fruit - if you are able to find a LinkedIn or Google+ profile, they are curiously devoid of information.
Not only does this veil a remote and possibly outsourced workforce, but also supplies plausible deniability to any questions of qualifications their content instantly draws. Interestingly, authorship assignment seems to be fluid. "The 10 Most Redneck Cities in America" is no longer attributed to Grigson, despite several external references to her as the author.
99.9% of modern content marketing advice advises "building authority" and only publishing "expert, educational content." Movoto eschews this strategy in favor of short-term gains in traffic and links - but is this sustainable?
While few would actively recommend this sort of strategy, it does seem to be paying off. Their content is almost unavoidable on Twitter and Facebook and their homepage boasts a PR5 and a domestic Alexa rank of 1,356. It just goes to show you that content doesn't have to be good to win - and it may never need to be.
P.S. Natalie: the east side of Indianapolis is actually pretty great. Let me know when you're in town next and I'll buy you a beer.