It’s a simple question. Read any SEO blog today and you’ll find dozens of industry veterans and thought leaders telling you that the best way to rank and get noticed is to produce quality content. It’s all about the content. Google themselves say that you need to provide valuable content to your users; writing for the search engines will get you demoted.
Yet all of this constant advice is necessary, because there is a constant flow of new businesses and new webmasters getting into the field, trying what they can rank, taking advice that may nor be valid and forgetting the importance of pure content. Why does it keep happening?
For a moment, pretend you’re a new users who has never investigated the world of Internet marketing. You’ve just created a new site and now you want to get it ranked on a Google search page. You’re past the phase of the grandparent questions; no “How to I call Google to tell them about my site?” questions. Think more on the order of a Google search for “How do I get my site on the first page of Google?”
You’re going to find a wide variety of websites, depending on how you phrase the question. Some of them are going to be marketing companies with their pitch, trying to get you to pay them. Some of them are going to be blogs, offering advice on how to do it yourself. Some will be ebooks, some will be forums and on and on. You have a decade’s worth of information to sift through, and much of it doesn’t have a date listed on the page.
The problem here is a combination of Google’s decision not to deprecate old content, and the ability for SEO professionals to ensure their content ranks with or above newer content, even if the advice is out of date. From the perspective of a new webmaster, there’s a ton of available advice and it’s all overwhelming. Picking the top few results and running with them – particularly if you’re not going to pay a marketing company – might work, or it might have you following advice that hasn’t been valid in five years.
Bad Content Problems
Another problem is that content is not guaranteed to get your site to rank. If the content you publish isn’t very good, you’re not going to pull in any traffic. It’s why so many blog posts talk about quality content, not just content volume. Above all else, your content needs to be valuable.
Even if your content is valuable, what about your competition? If they have more content, of a higher quality, published more often, there’s not a lot you can do to fight back. You don’t have the resources, the history or the data to produce the sort of content they do. It seems like a losing battle.
There are solutions to this, of course. You can do research to pick keywords and niches your competitors don’t target. You can crib off their content by writing your own perspective on the subjects they cover. You can attempt to work with them as partners rather than competitors. All of it takes time, however, and it can be a while before you see any results.
Too Little Focus
One trap that new webmasters fall in using one of those workarounds is the loss of focus. You try to find a niche that doesn’t have content and you search in vain. You search wider and wider, investigating keywords with lower and lower traffic, finding the occasional empty niche and filling it with content. Maybe the content is even valuable.
Then you take a step back and look at your site. You see a blog that has advice on polishing car ties, a section of gluten-free cake recipes, instructions on how to salsa – both the dance and the food – and travel guides for places you’ve never been and are unrelated to your niche. All of it brings in a little traffic, though not much. All of it is disjointed and disconnected. None of it relates to your primary business, which was selling shoes all along.
Content needs focus to succeed in a blog. You need to focus everything around a central theme, a sort of pillar upon which your whole site can be supported. Like a tree trunk, your pillar is the base and your blog post categories are branches. Twigs and leaves are your individual posts; minor individually, but essential as a whole.
Focus is how you build authority, which is really what you’re after with your content. You want to establish yourself in a position where users come to you for advice on a given subject. You can claim to be an expert on a dozen different things, but no one will believe you. Even large blogs with multiple writers, a global audience and multiple daily posts still keep their focus relatively narrow. Just look at any of the Gawker properties; Kotaku and Gizmodo could easily have been the same blog, but splitting them emphasizes the focus and further establishes them in high positions.
Too Much Saturation
Another problem with content is the sheer volume of it present on the Internet. For example, the query “the value of content” has 1.8 billion results. Not counting sponsored results, only ten of them are displayed per page of Google results. The same is true of nearly any query you can name.
Of course, not all of those nearly two billion results are relevant to the actual query; many just involve one of the keywords in some minor way. Many more may even be spam or scraped pages left to the pages numbering in triple and quadruple digits. Even so, clicking back as far as page 10 still presents a few interesting results.
This is the problem with free publication online and the idea that content marketing is the way to bring in an audience; there are so many blogs pushing so much content every day that it’s hard to find anything that doesn’t already have half a dozen good resources already published.
How do you defeat such pure saturation? In part, you just need to put out enough effort to make your content better than the majority. From there, it becomes a matter of volume, unfortunately. You would think this adds to the problem, and it does, but it’s the only way. Make yourself somewhat relevant for enough queries and you’ll gradually rise as a whole. It’s all you can do, because it’s incredibly difficult to take the top spot away from an established site with a single piece of content, no matter how good that content is.
Eventually the content saturation will reach a limit and the value of content will collapse, but that time is still a ways off. So much of the content published today is of such low quality that it can stand to be replaced.
Black Hat Works
Of course, then you have this problem. Black hat techniques are black hat because they work, at least temporarily. It’s a constant battle between black hats and Google, but it’s one that Google can never truly win. There will always be a technique that can game the search results, even if it only boosts a site for a month or two. For making a quick buck, though, that’s all it needs. As long as such options are available, some businesses will forget that the white hat way is through content marketing.