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The author

Malcolm Slade

Head of Technical SEO

Whenever I hear that immortal line I cringe. It is on a par with “If you build it, they will come!†I tried building a baseball diamond in my herb garden once, and trust me - nobody came to play baseball apart from a few cats*. <font color="#FE8D2E"><strong>So is content really king?</strong></font>

Whenever I hear that immortal line I cringe. It is on a par with “If you build it, they will come!†I tried building a baseball diamond in my herb garden once, and trust me - nobody came to play baseball apart from a few cats*. So is content really king?

Content is King, but!

In an ideal world, you would create a website, furnish it with some well-written thought-provoking content and whizz your way to the top of the rankings due to the influx of people finding your content and linking to it. Your site is a success, your company makes loads of money and your boss gives you a promotion. Your life rocks! In the real world, you spend absolutely ages trying to write something thought-provoking about mortgages and end up with a typical mortgage guide, you put your new site live, your work colleagues, scrapers and spammers are the only people to visit and you try desperately to pitch the exercise as a success to your boss who then makes you redundant as part of a new cost-cutting exercise brought on by the fact no mortgages are being taken out through the website. Your life fails to rock! The fact is we don’t live in an ideal world. Search engines only use content as part of their ranking algorithm. Other sites are already at the top of search results and are gaining momentum because of this. Some subjects are already written to death. If we were able to remove all links from the web, press the reset button on all search indices and get all the seed sites to review every site on the web and link to the best (as a starting point for spidering etc.), then there is a chance that the crème de la crème would rise to the top naturally. Or if we switched our focus away from the currently popular search engines to a new (currently fictitious) search engine that solely used text as its ranking factor and was ungameable. Then the best written, most appropriate content would rise to the top naturally. Oh what a world… Are you saying “Content is pointless� God, no! Please don’t be that guy. As an SEO consultant, I spend far too much of my time trying to convince site owners to actually add content to their new site design alongside the rounded corners, nice logo and picture of a woman with a headset on. Tell visitors what you do, tell them about your services, tell them about your products, maybe even let them tell you and each other. Oh and tell them where they land, not on some page five clicks away. Content is a very important ranking factor. If written correctly, it tells the search engines what your site is about, and adds to stickiness and visitor confidence. Alongside good architecture, structure, external links and promotion, it will put you in good stead to rank within search. I have no doubt that all other things being the same, a well written piece of structured copy featuring the correct keywords will rank higher than a wishy-washy sentence or two. But when are all other things the same? Even if they are, they never say the same for long. What I am trying to say is “Content is King!†is not enough. I have however found a way of explaining content which actually allows “Content is King!†to still be used as long as it backed up with the rest of the explanation. Here comes the science bit! So content is king if you think in terms of chess. I will endeavour to explain.

  • In chess, you need a king to play and if you lose your king you lose the game. You need some form of content to rank in search. If you lose your content (you have no site), you can’t rank.
  • If you only have a king, you can only get a non-loss outcome from a game of chess by forcing a draw. This is very hard to do. In search you can only get rankings with content alone in very niche subjects and long-tail terms.
  • You can only win a game of chess with a king and some other pieces.** Content, and the use of other ranking factors will get you rankings. Good links are definitely a queen, the title tag is maybe a rook and so on. Notice I haven’t used pawns in my analogy as pawns are pretty darn powerful and can be upgraded. Try marrying that back to a ranking factor.

My memories of various Jakob Nielsen articles are screaming at me, saying I am about to lose you now as you have read enough, so I will conclude. Content is only part of the solution and the term “Content is King!â€, stands in the context of chess but not in the context of a monarchy. In terms of a monarchy, links are king as from experience you can make any old crap rank if you point the correct links at it. I hope this blog post helps at least one person understand the role of content better and I bid you adieu. Malcolm Slade / SEOMalc * I didn’t really create a baseball field, and the cats that do frequent my herb garden certainly don’t play baseball. ** Easier with a queen, even easier with a full side, pretty darn hard with just one pawn.