There’s a common misconception among many business owners and some marketers that SEO has become easier the past couple of years – that “good content” can substitute for, or replace, search engine optimization (SEO).
Although this idea has been around for sometime, it understandingly gained momentum and traction in late 2013, after Google introduced the Hummingbird algorithm.
It has since been perpetuated by countless blog articles, ads, and social media discussions – like the one below from an Insurance Marketing Google+ community.
Just to clarify – I’m a strong proponent of using content, particularly blog posts and video, to market your business online – blogging and video are among the best SEO tools available to most small businesses. In addition, Brett’s suggestion of creating content around client questions and interviews is great advice, particularly in light of hummingbird – but it should be as part of an overall SEO strategy, rather than in place of it.
Suggesting otherwise either reveals a limited understanding of SEO – this is not meant to be a criticism of Brett, Joey, Jason or Brian (from above discussion), they are insurance experts trying to help each other market their businesses – or worse, represents an attempt to mislead the reader.
Why “Content” Alone is Not Enough
1. Competition: More businesses are waking up to the importance of content creation for marketing and are producing more content everyday. Assuming that some of your competitors are also capable of creating “good content”, what is going to differentiate you in the eyes of the search engines? It will be ranking signals such as keyword choice and use, meta data, authority signals, and technical indicators (loading speed, mobile friendly, etc) – all part of Search Engine Optimization.
2. Backlinks: While Google has become better at identifying high quality links – disregarding or even penalizing the low quality backlinks that were so abused a few years ago – backlinks are still the most powerful signal of a website’s authority, and “authority” is an important ranking signal.
Proponent’s of the “Good Content” myth counter the backlink argument with these two points:
- Good Content will Attract Backlinks: this is Google’s stance, and while a nice thought, it does not reflect the reality of most industries. Within the marketing/SEO industry, many writer’s link out to other content, creating backlink signals for that content. However, how many advisors, realtors, or plumbers, link out to other authors or blogs? Not many, in fact a very small number of people create the majority of links within most industries. Rand Fishkin labeled this group the “linkerati“, and it is important that you identify and attract the attention of this group, or develop your own community, to build/attract backlinks to your content.
- Social Media Signals: there is a lot of confusion around social media and SEO. Although social media can be a great marketing tool, one that can indirectly benefit your SEO, social signals (likes, +1s, shares) are not ranking signals, nor are social media links the same as other backlinks. Social media cannot substitute for an SEO strategy.
3. Website vs. Blog Content: Many discussions around SEO and Content focus on blog content. While blog articles can be an important source for broad or long-tail keyword optimization, internal linking, and link building, they are not the only content on your website. The pages on your site, particularly your homepage and Product/Service pages, need to be optimized for search. They usually represent your business/industries broadest and most competitive keywords. For the majority of websites, the homepage is the most authoritative page – relying simply on “good content” is a very risky strategy on these pages.
4. Local SEO: For any business that relies on local foot, phone, or web traffic for revenue, local optimization is a must. Local rankings are highly reliant on very specific signals. Although “good content” can support and amplify these signals, the signals must be in place.
5. Technical SEO: Technical SEO has increased in importance and complexity over the past couple of years. From helping to determine what pages to include in your site, to making sure that site loads quickly and is mobile friendly, to managing user experience, and creating content silos, SEO solves issues that ‘write good content” doesn’t address.
6. Google is amazing, but . . . : Yes, Google is definitely getting better at identifying related keywords, understanding context, and determining a user’s intent, BUT . . . its still far from perfect.
For example, a real estate site that I’m helping currently ranks 14th for Henderson Property Management, but 43rd for Property Management Henderson, two terms that use the exact same 3 words and describe the same service, yet Google doesn’t see them the same. I see this all of the time with Finanical Advisor sites as well. An advisors site might rank high for Financial Advisor, but not for Financial Planner, or visa versa. Google is still dependent on keyword selection and optimization for ranking.
I’m not suggesting every blog article needs to be the result of keyword research, or that your writing should be stuffed with keywords. You may identify and target some specific keywords that you want to rank for, but ultimately your content should address the interests and needs of your readers. In doing so, you will naturally cover the topics that are important to your industry and readers, and address many different keywords that will help draw traffic – but don’t stop there. Developing “good content” is a time consuming task – don’t waste your time or content. Use search engine optimization to amplify your content, website, and products/services to the search engines and your audience – good content alone is not enough.