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Content is indeed king, but not for the reason you think

Earlier this week, I had a great conversation with the heads of PR for a large automotive conglomerate. It was refreshing to discuss public relations in a non-traditional manner (e.g with a strong focus on how PR, SEO, and social media overlap). And perhaps even more impressive was the fact that these folks also understood that in addition to creating content – in the form of interviews, articles, and other mainstream press mentions – it was critical to also create and distribute online content via their own domain (e.g. blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates, etc).

As the conversation turned to SEO specifically, I explained how just as content creation is critical for public relations (and social media engagement) it is also critical for long-term SEO success. In fact, I suggested that we first outline a concrete, ongoing content-creation strategy as a prerequisite to ongoing PR, social media, and SEO efforts.

In other words, “content is king.”

Those of you with a strong SEO background are more than familiar with this old, Google-coined phrase. And I’m sure that many of you have likely come across a myriad of opinions declaring that this old SEO maxim is no longer applicable.

But here’s the thing; if you believe (as I do) that link building is the backbone of long-term SEO success, and if you’ve spent any real amount of time doing the daily grind that is link building (finding targets, reaching out to them to try and establish rapport, figuring out win-win situations that lead to new inbound links, etc.) then you know all too well that without a vehicle for creating custom, niche (and remarkable) content, it becomes damn near impossible to secure the really juicy, authoritative links that are the hallmark of a successful link building program. Sure, you can cash in on directory listings and other low-hanging opportunities (or just buy your way to link building bliss) but the really big opportunities rarely if ever materialize.

Note: Some might suggest that guest posting is the exception to this rule, in that you can secure very authoritative links without having to build out content on your own domain, but I disagree, because at the end of the day, a guest post is just alternative form of content creation.

So in the end, I do believe that content is king. Not necessarily because of the content itself (even though truly remarkable content is hard to beat as a marketing instrument) but more so because of the power that great content can wield in terms of driving long-term SEO success.

(And it ain’t to bad for social media and PR purposes either)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Branko

    I am a little bit confused. Was there any reason to think content is a king in SEO, other than in the link building context? Have i been missing something all these years?

    • Anonymous

      Well there is an old argument that more or less goes as follows: If you build a lot of content, you can then rank for a lot of varying keywords by targeting each piece of content for said keywords (since the theory is that long-tail keywords can be secured via on-page alone in many cases)

      There’s also the old idea that if you create a lot of content and simultaneously implement an intensive internal linking strategy (e.g. the Wikipedia method) you can achieve some sort of critical mass that allows you to rank for both competitive and long-tail terms.

      • http://www.linkalchemy.net Asim

        Yea that’s what I figured with building more content on a website, also from my understanding, it helps build a stronger domain authority giving your website more weight and value to the eyes of Google.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks for the comment, Asim! My point with this piece is that there are other, less direct, reasons why content is king.

  • http://twitter.com/jasonkintzler Jason Kintzler

    We created PitchEngine partly for this purpose. The biggest reason we see “content as king” is because humans now play a roll in search. Meaning, because the major search players, like Google, have confirmed that social now plays are part in search rank, content has to be the driver. The better the content (multimedia, conversational, etc.,), the more shares, RTs +1 and likes you’ll get. Obviously this translates to more traffic and authority. The days of “robot news releases” are over!

    Great post!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the comment and compliment, Jason! While I think that the impact of social signals have some impact, I still think that physical hyperlinks are the main driver of search results.

  • Anonymous

    Is it not true that Google +1 type citations/endorsements are already affecting the SERPs and one’s entire linkbuilding strategy? So content marketing to an influential person with large network leads to re-shuffled SERPs in your favor for members of the voters’ networks. Bing with Facebook, Google with Twitter and +1. And someday, someone with LinkedIn and/or Quora. The new content marketing may well emphasize social sharing over anchor-texted authority links. Echoing a bit of what Jason said before.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming in, Scott! I do think that social signals (as well as local ones) will continue to influence search results, but I don’t see physical hyperlinks (and associated anchor text) as going away anytime soon.

  • Jim

    I’ve come to believe closer to what I think scottclark and jason are saying, namely that social media signals will continue to gain importance (even possibly over links, but that may be a ways away).

    The main reason I’ve come to feel this way is that links can and have been manipulated for years with a new ‘scheme’ every few years (directory stuffing, then robo asking, then buying them . . .) Social media signals are much harder to manipulate (though it can and will be done), especially if the SM signal algorithm is advanced and takes into account many SM channels

    So I agree, content is king and always will be, since good content is the core of a good experience (whether its a 140 character tweet or a 10,000 word blog post). But I think the measurement of what constitutes good content is moving towards what gets shared, liked, +’ed, retweeted, commented on, etc. in addition to just what gets linked to.

    Nice article.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the insights, Jim! You’re opinions are always welcome here (no politics please, though, I can’t take the back and forth battles anymore). I do think that social signals are becoming more prominent (not on par with physical hyperlinks yet but who knows what will happen moving forward).
      But regardless of whether the physical link or social vote is the conduit, the key point I wanted to make is that it’s content that facilitates the relationship building (e.g. you can’t link build or attract social votes with stagnant, corporate, or otherwise unremarkable content).

  • http://www.ContentEqualsMoney.com Amie Marse

    This is a lovely post! This discussion is interesting as well. I agree that social stuff is going to have more weight at an individual level. If I get a link through a friend via twitter (like I did with this article) I am more likely to check out the rest of the domain then just seeing it down the page on Google. However… I probably won’t be in the mood to buy. BUT, when people come through that way they are in the “funnel” and if you impress them enough to sign up for updates, you got yourself a winner.

    I realize that is slightly off topic as this is about SEO. I wish I knew the answer about hard links and SEO stuff. It seems to me that Google is moving toward social, especially now that trending topics have twitter/real time results above all the established links. So maybe the answer is social is the answer for short term, hard links for long term. Oh wait… SEO is always long term, lol. Wish I could be more helpful, keep up the awesome work!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the comment, Amie.

  • Miguel Salcido

    I think that everyone is missing the point of your post because of all the hype around social signals influencing organic rankings. I’m laughing because you keep steering commentors back into the lane and they keep swerving off the road into the social signals fueling SEO lane!

    What I took from the post was that content is currency used in paying for links. So instead of actually paying $$$ one needs to develop good content and offer that in exchange for links. The better/more useful the content, the more its worth. You can have an article on how to setup voip service in your office and it might be worth $20 (theoretically speaking). Or you might have a widget that calculated your savings on switching to voip services which would be worth $200 in equivalent links.

    But the good thing about content marketing is that you don’t just spend your content currency once. That $20 article could be syndicated across 20 different sites, stretching the resource MUCH more than if you had $20 to buy one PR2 link. That $200 widget could get you 8 PR5 links instead of just one if you paid for them with dollars.

    • Anonymous

      Ha! I’m glad you picked up on that as well, Miguel. I really appreciate the added perspective on valuating content in terms of $$$. Could make for a great stand-alone blog post.

      • Miguel Salcido

        LOL, already working on it! Of course I’ll cite you for the inspiration.

        • Anonymous

          Nice! You know I’m always down for a little citation love.

  • http://polidigital.org Josh

    I love it! I hate to hear people talk about how “content is king” is a cliche. All the SEO is world is great, but with great content you’ll kick ass in SERP’s and retain visitors.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming in, Josh!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the idea of SEO that you’ve given.

    Good article!

  • http://www.turnthepage-onlinemarketing.com Lindy

    Nice Post- I do agree that it is important to finding targets, reaching out to them to try and establish rapport, figuring out win-win situations that lead to new inbound links …. I stress this to most of my clients

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming in, Lindy! Glad to hear that this approach works well for you and your clients.

  • Adam

    In other words, “content is king.” – you write

    Everybody saying that – Content is a King but very little amount of people distribute really great content.