‘Content Is King’ vs. the Emperor’s New Clothes


If you’ve spent even five minutes searching for a business content provider, you’ve seen this phrase: “Content is king.” Everyone from article spinners to ESL writers uses it, but if the aphorism is true, not everyone is an equally loyal subject to the monarch. Content means more than filling space with the requisite number of keywords and just enough surrounding text to stitch them together, yet content creators that cling to old SEO rules about keyword counts and simplistic back-linking strategies still hold out their wares like the finest cloth for the emperor’s latest robes.

Content – real, meaningful, engaging content – deserves better than promises. Take a look at some of the ways in which old-school SEO differs from SEO 2.0; once you’re familiar with some of the old-fashioned tactics still in use, see if you can spot the emperor’s new clothes on sites that think they’re well-dressed – or even see bare spots in your own site’s content coverage.

Conventional SEO

SEO has become a moving target as Google and other major search engines become more sophisticated, but it wasn’t always that way. In earlier years, any back-linking strategy was enough to draw traffic to a website. Search engines hadn’t yet learned to penalize link-buying and link-trading strategies, nor did they pay attention to the text surrounding keywords.

Optimization meant getting as much traffic as possible regardless of the value of that traffic because visitors’ numbers boosted page rankings and moved sites above their competitors. Top-down construction put the emphasis on a single, keyword-stuffed main page with a meta description hundreds of words long. Meaningful content was soon swamped by black-hat SEO tactics that released page after valueless page of keyword-rich, information-poor text. Search engines responded with vastly improved algorithms that largely did away with insubstantial sites.


The New SEO – All Hail King Content

Links are still just as important as they ever were to modern SEO, but now they happen naturally and add another dimension to content that already has intrinsic meaning. When they come from or connect to authoritative sites, these links carry greater weight. A link from a university or government site is like a royal seal of approval, conferring its value to any site it graces. Commercial B2C and B2B sites can also aspire to greater authority, but only when they’re rich in content.

Keywords now feel organic, and so do link infrastructures. Instead of a top-down site design, pages interrelate to make navigation easier for visitors. Those links also interconnect with social media channels and industry networks. Content becomes a repository of information, not just a vehicle for back-links.

Content is also contextual. Search engines don’t scan your website and blog posts the way human readers do, but they can now piece together a clear picture of what your site offers using semantic indexing. Latent semantic indexing, or LSI, is the tool search engines probably use to decide whether an article referring to “Giants” means the Eli Manning-led NFL team or the big guy Jack found when he climbed a beanstalk. Note that “probably” in the previous sentence: No one really knows for sure how Google’s algorithms work, and any SEO specialist who promises otherwise is selling fictional finery.

What Is Your Site Wearing?

After you read sites in highly competitive markets and in your own industry, you probably have a good feel for those that treat content like a king and those that leave their back-link strategies bare for all to see. If you aren’t sure how your site or blog measures up, look for the following signs that it’s time to focus on high-value content:

  • Egregious grammar and syntax errors, misspellings and incorrect idioms
  • High keyword density of over 3 percent
  • Fluff words and phrases that contribute nothing to the writing’s meaning or personality
  • Stilted writing that came from an automated spinner, not a human writer
  • An inconsistent voice throughout all content channels
  • Lack of social media presence
  • Bargain-basement prices – professional content creation can be economical, but it isn’t cheap

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