What role does content now play in SEO?
A lot of people in SEO seem to be very fickle. A phrase I often heard when I began working in the industry was that 'content is King', and it was used liberally in blogs and in internet marketing forum threads by people lacking in imagination.
RANDOM DISCLAIMER – I used the phrase 'content is King' in the past, but that was when I was fresh-faced, young and naïve. Now, after about 2 years working in SEO, I am a dead eyed, world weary and haggard old man who knows better than to apply such inane platitudes to such complex topics.
Anyway, now people are jumping on the 'content is NOT King' bandwagon, and preaching it like it's some kind of revolutionary ideal. The truth is, I wouldn't be surprised if the people now telling us 'content is NOT King' are the same people who were pontificating that 'content is King' a few years ago. Still, the people saying 'content is NOT King' are closer to the mark. Content isn't King, it isn't God, it isn't President, Prime Minister or even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is simply a tool.
Yes, at least to me, content is purely a tool – and this is from someone whose job it is to create content. It's a very important tool, and it is certainly multi-faceted, but without the assistance of other tools in the average web marketers belt, it is largely redundant. Without online marketing – SEO, social media, PPC etc. – content, no matter how 'great' it is, will just get lost among the myriad of other people publishing content and trying to get noticed in the same space as you.
Let me give you a quote from Google's Amit Singhal:
"It’s not just about content. It’s about identity, relationships and content […] There’s a lot more. It’s not just about content. It’s about identity, and when you start talking about these things and what it takes to build this, the data needed is much more than we can publicly crawl."
What does Singhal mean 'identity, relationships and content'? Well it means that people working in SEO and search marketing need to be thinking more seriously about establishing relationships with key figures and organisations within an industry, and how people visiting your website identify with your brand.
If your relationship with your demographic is that they identify you as an authority, then you are in an incredibly powerful position. If you are starting to build a brand, you need to start building the relationships that will eventually help you cultivate a powerful brand identity. It is once you have done this that the content you are creating – be it written articles, infographics, video content – can really achieve its full potential.
Derek Halpbern, who runs the hugely successful Social Triggers blog, has said in the past that when he was starting the site, he would spend more time trying to get his name on other people's websites than writing content for his own site. Why? He was creating relationships and building an identity as an authority for himself. He creates brilliant content, but without first establishing relationships and creating identity, I doubt he would have risen to success so quickly. You can throw hundreds of articles a month at a site, but unless you're marketing properly and building your brand reputation, that really won't have a huge impact on the success of your business.
So, that's my thoughts on content in a current SEO strategy, but what role do you feel content now plays in search engine optimisation?