Content? WTF is that Anyway?

by rishil on January 17, 2010

WTF Content Photo Credit:

WTF Content Photo Credit:

Ever since I have joined the SEO industry various techniques and ideas tend to be the flavour of the month.  And as we learn more, as we pseudo test more, these ideas evolve over time. Different schools of thought crop up and in fact there aren’t any real agreements about guaranteed routes to killer rankings. Even a survey of 72 well known SEOs didn’t manage to get to a 90% agreement. What does this tell us about our industry? Glaringly one thing stands out. The lack of authoritative information. And one of the most confusing concepts that you have to present to clients is “great content” is necessary for good rankings.

What is the deal behind “great content”?  What does that mean anyway? For years we have been hearing about “content is king” and “create unique content”. What does that mean? Why, what is the importance of content?

Well for starters, we know that search engines filter through similar or copied content. I don’t argue that they do it well, but the fact exists that they do. I actually think many SEO’s misrepresent the two varied concepts, uniqueness and greatness.  Uniqueness is the ability to separate your content for that of another site. Mr Spam Killer himself describes the potential of having unique content for SEO purposes in an article from 2006 where he is describing capturing long tail traffic.

In general, any time you look for an answer or some information and can’t find it, that should strike you as an opportunity.

Sometimes it’s easier to take a series of smaller steps instead of jumping to your final goal in one leap.

But I am not interested in talking about the uniqueness of content. I want to talk about the “greatness” of it. In the same article, I think Matt puts across the point, albeit slightly disguised:

The utility of an article is paramount. If you write 2000 words about mortgage loans and never discuss the industry landscape or impart some useful, concrete knowledge to your reader, that should set off a warning flag in your head.

Jill Whalen Argued for good content way back as 2001:

If you spend the time it takes to create great content, you’ll naturally be able to obtain high rankings.

What many SEO’s sometimes fail to do is they don’t look beyond the existence of necessary pages of content. They fail to work out the “link worthiness” or the potential user interactions or call to actions that make some content “great”. Brent Csutoras has some very useful tips in creating good content over at Search Engine Land (BTW case and point – that was good content hence I linked to it!). UPDATE: Just saw this post via Twitter and it makes really good reading : Writing for the Web: The Right Strategy

So as SEO’s where should we turn to find “great content”? Well as a starter, big brand SEO’s shouldn’t find it so hard. Many big brands work with large PR firms who specialise in writing stories that catch the attention of news publishers. These are the guys you need to work with. They specialise in getting into people’s minds. They are the ones with really good distribution channels. So what if some of them don’t “just don’t get” online marketing? Teach them some of your tricks. Let them get into the head of a link baiter. And you in return learn what they have spent their lives doing. Build a two way relationship that works to creating content that isn’t just publicity material, but often highly link worthy. (more on PR+Linkbuilding=Win for another post :P )

For small businesses, sometimes, they need to leverage their internal skills and sometimes just get a bit creative.

In short, Great Content (to me anyway) is any information created that serves a useful purpose for the community it was created for. It inspires conversation, thought processes and encourages the reader to take some sort of an action. It could amuse, inform, shock, amaze or inform, whatever the reaction, it increases the chance of the reader to SHARE that information.

However, remember,  just creating good content isn’t enough, you need to know how to seed it. If you know Tad (@onreact on twitter) then you know his 2.0 blog. He has a pretty interesting article Top 10 Reasons Why Great Content Fails on Social Media. In it, he inadvertently references what I call the “seeding effect”.  Some good tips there, and I will hopefully soon follow up with a post on seeding…


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Rishi Lakhani is an independent Online Marketing Consultant specialising in SEO, PPC, Affiliate Marketing and Social Media. Explicitly.Me is his Blog. Google Profile

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa Rach January 18, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Thanks for the great article Rishil — if it helps, I usually describe great content as content that is:
- USEFUL: Something the user wants and/or needs
- USABLE: User friendly: Easy to use, easy to read
- PURPOSEFUL: Has a reason for being on the site (in addition to SEO!); achieves a business goal, because the user requested it, etc.
- PROFITABLE: Pays for itself in one way or another

And, in addition to looking to folks like PR to help create good content, large organizations should strongly consider having an internal content group (or at least an editor) that understands the business, content, and how to incorporate SEO well. Then, we can all be pals.

p.s. thanks for the link to my article… I didn’t even see that until right now!



rishil January 18, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Hi Melissa, Welcome to my mad world. I think your tips are pretty spot on. Organisations need to start realising that they have huge potential within their own teams before farming out content externally.
This is especially true for small businesses as big ones.


Tad Chef January 19, 2010 at 9:19 am

The term content is not really a helpful one. It’s too broad and in many cases it’s even derogatory. You don’t tell a photographer, writer or artist that s/he does create content. S/he creates an image, writes a story or creates a work of art.
So in order to create “great content” you should forget about creating “good content” and create an image, write a story or create a work of art instead.
The great content thing is a way business people think of those, a very technocratic one. That way of dealing with it really obstructs you from creating it.


rishil January 19, 2010 at 9:31 am

I think you are right Tad. We need to define this term that we are so fond of throwing around. I would consider ANYTHING on th eweb as content – even if it’s a video game, or a cartoon.


Fariz Abasov June 25, 2010 at 10:50 am

Rishil, if we talk about content – how important to have good domain name in coupe with unique content. How it will affect SEO stuff?


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