Every now and then, I hear SEOs loudly proclaiming that content isn’t king. That content marketing is dead. And that even the phrase ‘content marketing is dead’ is dead.
After all, everyone wants to be ahead of the curve. Everyone wants to be at the forefront of big changes. Everyone wants to write the next headline that goes viral. And, guess what, that’s what content marketing is all about. Being at the forefront, announcing it with a catchy headline, and funneling traffic toward conversion—sounds like a content marketing strategy to me!
Can we finally be realistic about it? Content isn’t going anywhere. It’s still an integral part of search ranking. It’s still critical in generating traffic. It’s still a key component of conversion. Without it, you’ll have nothing. Clients won’t even be able to find you.
So, yes. In 2021, content is still king.
Read on as we explore the reasons why!
Why Do People Think Content Is Not King?
In the early days of the internet, and even into the present, the internet was understood as a content delivery system. Learning was democratized. Everyone had equal access to information. And it was thought that consuming information was the number one reason people used the internet.
When Bill Gates declared that “content is king”, that’s what he had in mind. And people ran with it. For many years, the internet was nearly synonymous with blogs, forums, and websites devoted to producing content.
The thing is, if no one can find your article or blog post, it doesn’t matter how well researched or critical it is. You might spend hours, days, and weeks carefully writing something. But it all comes to nothing if no one can find it. If you’re investing all that time and energy, you want a good return on investment.
After all, with the advent of social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, the way that content was found changed dramatically. At the same time, Google’s search engine was being progressively tweaked in favour of relevance to users.
It became clear that the internet was, in fact, a content delivery system, but that the delivery system itself was more important than the content being delivered. People declared that quality content was unnecessary and even a bad ROI. They wrote articles about it. They wrote blogs about it. They wrote social media posts about it. And they all agreed that content was dead.
But they were mistaken about one thing. One very important thing. The most important thing.
They had misunderstood what content was.
What Is Content?
I want to propose a definition here. I want to try to define what content is. At the very least, I want to try to explain what content is at LinkNow Media.
I want to argue that content is both information and the information delivery system.
This is what makes content different from, say, the information you’d get from reading a book or going to school. When you read a book, the physical book in your hand is the information delivery system. When you attend a lecture, the school is the information delivery system. It’s where you go to get the information you’re looking for.
Content is different because of its deep connection with digital sharing platforms and search engines. Sure, you might go to Google or Facebook to find the information you want. But in order to find the article, video, or image you want, the content needs to have its own built-in searchability. And once it’s found, it needs to either convert or be shareable—or both.
Searchability includes things like tags, categories, keywords, backlinks, formatting, and more. By creating content that makes use of all these elements, you create content that the search engines can find, that the news feeds will suggest, and that people will share. Content needs to be produced with its own delivery system in mind.
My point is that information delivery (aka your marketing strategy) is not separate from content. It is the content. Without it, all you have is information. Information that no one will ever read and videos that no one will ever watch.
In conclusion, content is both relevant information and its own delivery system. Understanding that this intertwining is the basis of content marketing is the key to understanding the way that content must be produced in order to be a successful ROI.
Since my specialty is content writing, that’s going to be the focus for the rest of this article. However, the ideas can be extended across different types of content too.
What Does Google Say About Content? Revisiting Trust.
Over the past few years, Google has made significant changes to its search algorithm. We’ve covered a lot of those changes in our articles on the September 2018 algorithm update and helpful strategies to improve your SEO. But I’ll reiterate the basics just to be clear.
Every time there’s an algorithm update, however big or small, SEOs totally lose it. They start making wild guesses about what the algorithm is really trying to do. They start speculating on things they could improve. The blog posts, threads, and articles accumulate.
And all Google ever says is: “Make good content.”
And everyone responds: “I am, but my pages still dropped from the 2nd to the 72nd position!”
And Google responds: “Make good content.”
In 2015, Google made their quality rater guidelines public for the first time ever. Since then they’ve updated it several times, so that by 2018 we already had a very clear idea of what Google’s algorithm was trying to do, even where they needed humans to step in to make corrections. If the algorithm has badly ranked the page in question, they’ll make the correction.
When one of Google’s Search Quality Raters looks at a website, they ask themselves whether the content exhibits expertise, authority, and trust. These three things make up Google’s E-A-T formula. It goes as follows:
- Expertise: Is the content truthful? Does it exhibit expert knowledge? Does it conform to scientific or industry-specific standards?
- Authority: Is the writer qualified to write on the topic? Are they an authority? Are they certified to provide knowledge or services in this field?
- Trust: Is the page trustworthy? Is the page consistent? Is the page spammy? Can you trust the expertise and authority presented elsewhere on the page?
If your content fulfills all these criteria it will be considered good content. It will also be relevant to readers who are searching for it. And it will rank well because of it. All because of the content.
The August 2018 Medic update is a great example of this. It was aimed at medical, health, therapy, and complementary medicine websites. Rankings plummeted across the board.
It wasn’t until a few weeks after that people started to realize that the real target of the update wasn’t health services, it was untrustworthy websites. It was websites that appeared spammy or didn’t present the credentials of either the writers or those offering their services. It hit the supplement industry especially hard because of its fondness for obscure ingredients and unsubstantiated cure-alls.
What we learned from that update and the September one was that establishing trust in your content is the number one most important thing for Google. It doesn’t matter what content you’re writing, offer content that people can trust and you’re sure to hold onto your rankings during the next update.
This means that ‘good content’ isn’t simply well researched information. It is content that conforms to the requirements of the algorithm. In other words, content must be programmed with the algorithm in mind for it to qualify as ‘good content’.
And as the algorithm continues to improve its indexing in favour of human readers and the websites they can trust for relevant information, it’s clear that ‘good content’ isn’t going anywhere!
How Does Trust Relate to User Intent?
When a Google user enters a keyword into the search bar, they expect to find a specific type of content. It’s either going to be informational, transactional or directional (as when you type a company name into Google).
By creating content that is written with a searcher’s intent in mind, you immediately establish trust. If you’re trying to sell something, make sure your content is aimed at conversion. Don’t hide a sales pitch in a long informational piece. This kind of deception is not just unpleasant for the reader, it tells Google that your page cannot be trusted.
So, jump right in with the sales pitch! Make it clear to both the reader and Google that you’re selling something and that you want them to purchase it. If you’ve created a keyword strategy that’s designed to generate leads, then there’s no reason to beat around the bush. The user already wants the product, now they’re looking for a company they can trust who offers the best possible version.
The same goes for informational content. Be upfront. If you’re providing information such as a how-to, advice, an opinion, an update, or whatever else, stick to one subject throughout. Don’t confuse the reader by digressing. Don’t hide the information they want at the end of the article. Produce your content so that it’s relevant to the searcher that you want to find your page. And don’t forget to show off your credentials!
By doing so, you’ll establish the trust, authority, and expertise that Google uses to rank your site. Not only that but your content will also be relevant to searchers. And because it’s relevant, it’s much more likely to be shared on social media.
To reiterate the same point again: content is never just about information, even when it’s informational. It’s always both the information that’s relevant to searchers and the strategy that makes them rank on search engines. It should always be produced within the constraints of a strategy. At the same time, you wouldn’t have a strategy without your content. They are one and the same thing.
Until people stop reading online, searching for things online, and purchasing things online, content is always going to be king!
Keywords, Backlinks, and Content
Every SEO knows that an effective keyword strategy and a solid backlinks profile is essential for ranking well. But neither are possible without content.
People who have been using the internet since the 90s will no doubt remember websites stuffed with keywords. Instead of including content that users would be looking for, SEOs realized that they could game Google by simply jamming their pages full of keywords. And it worked. For a while.
Nowadays, Google uses keywords mostly for indexing, not ranking. Jamming your content full of keywords is not going to improve your ranking and Google will severely punish you. To avoid this, it’s important to think long and hard about what kind of reader you want to be reading your page. Are they looking for information about a particular topic? Are they looking to sign up for a newsletter? Are they looking to book an appointment?
Then develop a keyword strategy that targets the searcher who would want to read your page. Your keyword strategy will help you create content that will be found on search engines. Sure, it will put constraints on your content, but that’s kind of the point. A solid keyword strategy will help you to structure your content and help the right people find your content.
The same goes for your backlinks. Like keywords, backlinks are impossible without content. Backlinks give your site authority by linking your content to someone else’s content.
And how do you get other websites and blogs to link back to yours? Write great content! Write content that people want to read, that users are able to find, and that they might even want to share.
Conclusion: It’s All About the Content
Whether you’re writing content that will define your brand or writing the next viral blog post or simply trying to make your website searchable on Google, it always comes back to content.
Content is both information and the way that information is presented. It’s the reason people want to share it and it’s the reason people are able to find it. It will define your business and it will push clients toward conversion.
Forget all this stuff about content being dead. Content is alive and well. And until people stop reading online, until people stop purchasing things online, until people stop searching for things online—content will be your best friend.
So, make sure you give it the care and attention it needs! Take time to craft a content strategy that suits your business. Create a set of goals and see if you can get there. If not, revisit it. Each time, your content is sure to improve and eventually you too will dominate your market!
If you’re not sure about all this content writing stuff, it happens to be one of the things we do best. Contact the LinkNow Media Content team and Organic Marketing team to get help with your content strategy!