They’re there, in the dark, waiting for fresh victims. You know they’re out there, waiting for you. They stumble and shuffle, slowly and inevitably aiming to take your most precious asset – your content! Yes, the moon is high and the content zombies are out in full force.
Is Your Content a Zombie?
SYMPTOM: No pulse.
While you wouldn’t get so close to a human zombie, content zombies don't transfer their condition to humans.
Lean in and see if your content lives and breathes.
Does it interest your target audience? Does it garner social media attention?
Manufacturer’s product descriptions, generic topic information, and some evergreen content are the largest segments of this portion of the zombie content population. If your content doesn’t have a pulse, it may be a content zombie.
CURE: You may want to burn your old, lifeless content and replace it entirely. Review your content for customer focus. Rethink the purpose of your content.
Product descriptions should identify customer’s needs and show how this product is the solution. Evergreen and how-to content can still have personality, so try to present your recommendations with a unique spin.
If your content continually strikes only one note, for example, “Buuuuyyyy” instead of “braaaaains,” you might have a content zombie. Nobody wants to read yet another list of reasons why your product is better than the other guys’.
CURE: You don’t have to decapitate your content to remove the zombie curse. You want to stay on topic, of course, but do it in an engaging, interesting way.
Get into your clients’ heads. Recognize and understand their problems and interests and propose solutions – even if your product isn't the solution. Bring in outside references and themes to liven up your content.
SYMPTOM: No original thought.
Zombies are effective because they easily fall into groupthink and overcome obstacles by sheer numbers. In a world where there can be only one – or only 7, depending on the number of ads – you can’t win on mass reproduction of one article.
With the latest Google updates, rewriting the same concept with different words isn’t helping you rank as easily. This is truly zombie content; it looks like content, but doesn’t show independent thought.
CURE: Shoot spinning software and basic rewriting strategies right between the eyes. Instead, show your human side by bringing fresh ideas to the table.
Take a different approach to an old problem. Refute someone’s claims. Bring two sources together to create new insight. Add to the knowledge graph, don’t just regurgitate someone else’s ideas.
Unlike vampires and fine wine, zombies and content don't get better with age. Freshness updates ensure that current information stays on top of search.
Pages that haven’t been touched in years can easily be overtaken younger, sprier competitors. Sites with incorrect figures and outdated strategies not only get buried, but lose credibility with their target audience.
CURE: These aren’t zombies due to some hideous infection but the traditional voodoo zombie. It’s content under a spell. Break the spell by making a change, even if it’s a small one, like a headline here or new chart.
Keep your evergreen content truly green by updating on a 6-month or yearly schedule. If you think that there’s nothing new about your topic, think again. Even ancient civilizations have new research and discoveries.
Why Content Zombies are Dangerous
Until about six months ago, zombies were annoying parts of the web. They were only dangerous in that they could outrank you with massive links and keyword stuffing. Penguin made content zombies contagious. Every link from an infected domain is a bite, poisoning your ranking and putting you at risk for penalties.
What to do if You Encounter a Content Zombie
If you notice links from zombies, ask for link removal and take other steps to defend your site. Assuming that you have a quality site, eliminate your links to undead content. You could consider a negative SEO campaign, but you risk infecting your own sites.
As a last resort, you can report the page to Google with either the “Give Us Feedback” link on Google.com or via Webmaster Tools. While it’s dubious that Google will take action on a single report, the aggregate data will show trends to help sculpt the next update.
The Virus is Still Active
The latest algorithm updates have been Google’s attempts to prevent the zombie content apocalypse. We can debate how well these attempts have minimized the threat and whether they were fair to the uninfected, but containment was and is necessary.
Help combat this epidemic by preventing content zombies from arising in the first place:
- Rework manufacturer’s product descriptions to uniquely address the needs of your clients.
- Give evergreen content a personality.
- Understand customer problems and present solutions.
- Address topics related to but outside your scope.
- Avoid spinners and basic rewrites.
- Contribute to the knowledge graph.
- Update content, even evergreen items, on a regular basis.
With your help, we can quarantine the infected and stop the walkers from overrunning the web.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!