Content is no longer king. As much as SEO practitioners love to say that it is, creating good content, while important, is no longer good enough. That content must be in demand and, most importantly, it has to be discovered before you can even think about it being found in search engines. Content discovery is the ultimate goal of SEO.
There are still those, however, who will argue that revenue is the desired outcome of solid SEO practices. While growing revenue is what the business wants, controlling how many people convert to buyers from viewing your content is more directly aligned to the efforts of your content creators, conversion rate optimizers, product team and of course your brand. As SEOs, we should focus on directing the highest quality traffic to the most relevant content and let the website do the rest.
You may ask: How do I drive that traffic? In my eight years of SEO experience, I have learned the many on- and off-page nuances of search engine optimization: keyword research, URL structure, crawlability, keyword-friendly URLs, page element inclusion and – of course – the now-infamous guest post link building to drive rankings higher.
Previously, the focus was solely on content. Great content is incredibly important because links are the biggest driver of rankings, and there is no better way to get links than to naturally acquire them with great content. When I launched an apartment search website a few years ago, my quest for free, organic search rankings led me to ask the co-author of Insider’s Guide to Austin to write neighborhood profiles. There was nothing like it in the market and it was part of my grand vision to combine local information with apartment listings. One of those very well-written and informative profiles was randomly linked to by two bloggers from the LA Times and the New York Times and it was off to the races – the “great content = great search rankings” races, that is. Since then, I have been a proponent of putting great learning content within the business side of a website to create a wonderful combination of relevant traffic and conversions.
But over time, more of our industry’s focus shifted from great content to link building, content marketing and more link building. And of course we had the slew of algorithm changes like Penguin and Panda.
The Times, They A Changin’
And now times are changing yet again – for the better, in my opinion. We are seeing a fundamental shift in the industry. Many of those previously-mentioned traditional SEO tactics are losing efficacy as best practices in content marketing become more widespread among web developers and authors alike. Numerous web platforms are being designed with SEO in mind, or have SEO modules that make them search engine friendly.
Another shift has risen from the fact that traditional link building is becoming harder to accomplish, if not outright banned in some instances. The good news is that this means great content is making a comeback. But links are still important if you want to keep growing your rankings, so the link-void from diminished guest blogging has to be filled. The bad news is that the influx of better content is making it harder to stand out to influencers. The result is to shift link building efforts into content promotion efforts like digital PR and earned media.
Digital PR and earned media efforts are more difficult than traditional link building because they require a lot more relationship building. But they are more in line with Google’s desire for naturally-occurring links, instead of those that were built by an SEO. This model also requires more in-depth research prior to content creation. If you can identify content that is in demand from your target audience, then it makes your content outreach efforts that much easier, not to mention more effective. The good news is that we can handle this new work load by taking the time we previously used to work on traditional tactics and reallocate them to the activities that lead to earned media.
Since Content is no longer king, let’s call it a prince in this Content Discovery Optimization royal family… and remember that Research and Promotion are the king and queen.
I have found success with these new efforts, but it has taken a lot of communication, changes in reporting and stronger relationships with fewer standard stakeholders. Coordination of your efforts with these teams is paramount. To begin optimizing how your content is discovered, start working more closely with your content marketing, social and PR teams today.
Have you made this shift in efforts at your organization? Comment below and share what is working for you.