“Content is King” is one of the most familiar and enduring statements about SEO. At its simplest, it means that content — text and images and multimedia content — is the most important way to make sure that your website is easy to find with a search engine. Check out Google’s guidelines for human Page Quality (PQ) checkers, and you will find out that content quality and quantity are the most important characteristics for determining page quality.
Content, according to Google, is “any part of the page that directly helps the page achieve its purpose… text, images, videos, or page features such as calculators, games, etc.”
And quality content comes ahead of the other elements Google wants to see, only one of which is about design: “Functional page design which allows users to easily focus on MC (main content) and use SC (secondary content) as desired.” So that’s really still content, since the design’s job is to present the content well.
There’s one more item on the list: “A website which is well cared for and maintained.” Certainly, that includes keeping the content fresh and current.
Since we’re a content-focused firm, we don’t have any problem with the idea that content is king, but I thought about it this week while working on a new website for a long-time client. This website is different from the other websites we’ve built for this company because it is intended to be a sales site, with most of its traffic coming from ads.
SEO is our business. Search optimization is baked into every website we serve up. In our internal discussions, we had to take some extra mental steps.
“If we structure it this way,” Rosie would say, “it’ll be better for search.”
“The client doesn’t care about search,” I’d say. “That’s not our focus.” We’d have a moment of silence to contemplate the odd idea of building a website without planning for search.
But the more we discussed the site, the clearer it became that we really couldn’t use a completely different approach, even if we wanted to explore the freedom of designing without thinking about SEO. If, for example, we went with a giant photo and navigation that appeared only when the user hovered over the logo (yes, we thought about that), then the user experience would be poor and that would affect conversions. If we used one bold image and minimal text, the quality scores for ads would suffer — and that was not an acceptable outcome.
“The goal of PQ rating,” Google says, “is to determine how well a page achieves its purpose.” In this case, the site’s purpose is to provide a top quality user experience that performs well in paid search. That means that the content has to be compelling for human visitors, so they’ll make that purchase. The navigation has to be smooth and functional, to make the path to purchase equally smooth and successful. The content must also communicate well enough with search engines to perform well in Adwords auctions and other pay per click situations.
If you’re planning to rely on community-building and social media to bring traffic to your website, you have to do that with content: text, images, video, conversations, games… quality content is still a requirement. You can’t build community by repeatedly telling people to Like your page. Content makes the connection.
Planning to use that super smart email marketing plan you heard about at a conference last week? Email converts well, by and large — but it’s content, isn’t it? Text and images, maybe a movie. If you’re not bringing a message readers want to hear, no amount of automated email will lead to success.
Look closer at any marketing or brand awareness plan you develop for your company or organization, and there will be a need for excellent content. Don’t think that a cool animated function or blazing fast load time will make your content unimportant. Don’t save most of your budget for development and figure you can cut and paste the text from a brochure. Don’t imagine that you can offshore content provision or scrape it from other sites.
Your website needs great content to perform well. The king has spoken.