Has it already been a month since SES NYC? What a fantastic show! It certainly did not disappoint, with four great days chock full of the latest and greatest in SEO and search marketing.
I had never been to an SES before, and looking back on the show, there were a lot of things about it that surprised me. Oddly, the thing that may have surprised me the most was the number of times I heard the term “content is king”. Between search engine reps, speakers, and attendees, the phrase kept getting tossed around the show, like a beach ball in the bleachers at a baseball game.
It probably sounds so silly to be surprised by something like that, but think about it for a second; here we are at a show dedicated to the newest tactics and techniques in search, and you keep hearing this cliche that’s practically as old as SEO itself. It’s like going to a car show where people keep talking about an ’89 Yugo.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in great content as much as anybody. It’s just that, the longer I work in search, the more I find the phrase “content is king” to one of the worst things to ever happen to SEO.
Why is “content is king” bad for SEO? For me, it boils down to two reasons. First is good old-fashioned cynicism. I know search reps didn’t coin the phrase, but they do use it a lot, and it makes me nervous. This is probably due to the fact I’ve always believed listening to search reps talk about content is a little too much like listening to a priest talk about sex.
Secondly, and more importantly, “content is king” is bad for SEO because it takes the attention away from where it really needs to be, the person doing the searching. Focusing on “content” draws the focus of the campaign inward when it really needs to be outward. For SEOs, what is truly paramount is the searcher, why they’re searching, and what they want out of the transaction; not the content you’re hoping to put in their way.
It’s the searcher that’s the king, not the content.
Isn’t saying “content is king” really talking about the searcher? You’d think so, but I don’t think that’s the case. At one point it may have been true, but from a practical perspective, the “content is king” mantra has resulted in too many SEOs and marketers trying to generate “good” content with as little incremental effort as possible. The searcher has been removed from the equation, and now it’s simply about crafting something that will just rank.
This is completely the wrong mindset. The SEOs who are successful today and down the road realize that content can’t exist in a vacuum; they need to figure out what searchers want when they use specific keywords, and much be able to help their clients (or themselves) meet those needs while differentiating themselves from the other sites on the search results page.
That’s the key to good SEO and that’s the stuff more people need to be talking about.