Content is King – the title of an article Bill Gates wrote in 1996 – is an expression used to mean that without original and desirable content any web venture is likely to fail. “The best SEO is great content” is another popular expression used to mean that websites with quality content will become popular purely as the result of the content alone.
On the other side of this coin is human nature. We love to be lazy! We want to know the latest tweak, the coolest plugin, the guru’s trick to get to the top of Google without having to put the hard work in.
Added to this, there are endless stories from unscrupulous internet marketers of “how I made $2,000 in one day with just a few clicks!”, that cajole us into thinking: “maybe if I create great content, do some kick-ass link-building and beg/buy/borrow social signals … I’ll be crushing it!”
One possible champion of the “Content is King” camp would be Guy Kawasaki, Silicon Valley venture capitalist, bestselling author, and avid blogger. Guy has been around for a long time, backed the right horses and seen a lot of success. He explained recently How Entrepreneurs Are Getting Social Media All Wrong and said this about SEO:
"My recommendation for SEO is very simple. It’s Write Good Stuff. In my mind, Google is in the business of finding good stuff. It has thousands of the smartest people in the world, spending billions of dollars to find the good stuff. All you have to do is write the good stuff; you don’t need to trick it. Let Google do its job and you do your job."
We’ve heard this before. But is it really that simple? Is the world so perfect that, for example, if I write a great article entitled “Great Content vs. SEO” I’ll be top of Google for “Great Content vs. SEO” supposing that there isn’t a better article? Is the web a perfect democratic reservoir of knowledge that serves up what you want when you want?
Of course, not. And in fairness to Mr Kawasaki he probably only meant this as the starting point. The internet is more complicated than “Content is King”.
If you’re Guy Kawasaki you can create great content and be rest assured that it will be popular. For the rest of us, creating great content simply isn’t enough.
As Rand Fishkin explains in his article - Great Content Equals Great Rankings, Right? Wrong., great content doesn’t necessarily garner links and rankings, instead, those who have “better optimized” content for attracting links tend to far outshine their peers.
"The “best” restaurants are often family-owned, hole-in-the-wall, never-marketed-themselves joints whose fabulous epicurean creations are a secret to all but the most diligent culinary Clouseaus. Meanwhile, the affront to humanity and cooking that is Olive Garden advertises relentlessly, conducts impeccable market research and appeals to the lowest common denominator in town after town to achieve geographic and market-penetration ubiquity"
(Not being from the US, I’m not familiar with Olive Garden but I guess they’re a sort of Pizza Hut?)
Rand is making a crucial point that is easy to miss. All great content is not created equal. One page with great content, great links, great authority, great social signals will out-perform better than a page with just fantastic content alone. Every time.
If you create great content without marketing, you’ll end up like one of those out-of-the-way restaurants, popular with a very few people but never making any money. If that’s OK with you, fine. Otherwise…
It is, sadly, not enough to create great content. Always be thinking of ways to market that content (actually, most of the following bullet points will only take you 5 minutes to do!):
Google's recent Panda algorithm updates have weeded out many low quality sites from the SERPs but SEO is not dead. It just never looked that good anyway.