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Content Trumps SEO and Links

Posted by Bob Warfield on August 23, 2010

For marketing, content trumps SEO and links back to your site.  That’s not to say there is no value in SEO or links, just that if you have to choose or prioritize, content is at the top of the heap.  If you’re a big company, you can probably choose to invest in all with far more resources than perhaps are even needed.  But the smaller your budget, the more likely you had better choose and make the right choice.  Pssst: the right choice is Content!

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks.  Several great articles came out that reinforced my gut feel about content, or raised the question in other forms:

Leo Laporte’s BuzzKill post wasn’t the first thing I read that start the juices flowing, but it was the one that made me realize I had to write a post today.  What happened to Leo is that his Buzz feeds to Twitter quit working because his blog feeds to Buzz had quit working.  And nobody noticed.  Leo realized the real value was in the content he produces on his radio show and blog, because people notice immediately when he is absent there.

Paddy Moogan suggests that the cornerstone of getting people to link back to you is creating content similar to what they already like and link to.  So even if you wanted to focus on links, the way to do so is through more and better content.

– Paul Carr, after reading Leo’s post, discovered that Twitter is no substitute for real content.  He compared his pre-Twitter blog posts with the combination of Twitter and later posts.   Lo and behold, the quality later was much lower.  The reason?  It takes time to Tweet, time that takes away from producing content.   Paul (and Leo reports much the same) had unconsciously made the prioritization decision I refer to above.  Making decisions without realizing you’ve done is usually a bad idea in business, but focus on this idea that your time and energy are zero sum games.  The time you spend on Twitter is not available for creating content elsewhere.  The same is true of any other service.  Facebook is much the same lots-of-not-enough-content posts.  Are you getting enough time to produce great content?

RedMonk (thanks Cote!) writes about documentation as a source of sales leads.  There is a link back to the original Forbes article that actually did less for me than the little blurb from RedMonk.  The reason is that my own bootstrapping experiments have shown me full well the value of online documentation for lead generation.  It really works well, as a matter of fact.  This is real authentic content, not marketing spam. Why are we surprised that someone out there is searching for it.  When they find it, they are hooked.  I’ll have more to say about sources of great content in a future post, but for now, let me tell you that product documentation, change logs, and a host of other things you would have thought were only interesting to folks who are already customers are dynamite lead sources because they’re interesting content.

–  Should you trust a blogless marketer?  Something I’ve wondered about for a long time.  If, in the Internet marketing era we live in, producing content is King, what do you do with marketing people who don’t love producing content?  One answer comes from Seth Godin.  Great marketers have limitless content about whatever they’re selling.  They’re passionate about it and know it deeply.

–  Apropos in some way I am not completely able to articulate, Dan Zarrella discovers through blind testing that people want to Retweet something new and fresh.  They want to be first to discover the content.  They are not just lemmings (kind of refreshes confidence in your fellow man) looking to Retweet only what others have made safe by Tweeting ahead of them.  It’s hard to be first and fresh unless the content is new and fresh and worth Tweeting about.

–  Rohit’s #1 bullet point for Social Media Optimization:  The better your content is, the more people will want to share it with their entire social networks whether they link it, like it, dig it or share it.

Rob Cottingham at RWWeb asks who would win if you had just SEO or just Content.  His cartoon at the end makes the answer clear to me, at least.

– From Hubspot’s 12 Amazing SEO Infographics:  First step for SEO–content quality and value. 

– Do you think Seth Godin’s internal monologue would choose SEO or great content?  As a loyal reader, I have no doubt which way he would swing, but if there is any doubt, he says SEO isn’t worth the money.

I could go on like this for a long time.  I read a lot of blogs, but I have not cherry picked these examples.  The world is discovering what Leo Laporte experienced first hand:  content trumps SEO and links.  Suppose you’re fantastic at SEO, but you have nothing to say.  No content.  You own tons of top slots for searches people do every day.  They’re clicking that first result like crazy, and coming to your site in droves.  But there’s no content there.  The crowds are massed to watch the Emperor parading with No Clothes. 

Now look at  your own organization’s content.  Do you have a resource that anyone interested in the space (forget interested in your products) would want to be aware of?  Or do you simply talk about your products and expect that people who come there are only interested in you?  It’s pretty amazing how poor most marketing content really is.  When was the last time you found a press release that was really interesting and worth passing around to your friends?  When was the last time you saw an ad that qualified to be passed around because of what it had to say about the products or an industry (not just because it is funny in an unrelated way like Old Spice)?  You’re going to have to figure out how to get around that. 

If you’re a bootstrapper, this realization is particularly urgent for you.   You don’t have the luxury of dabbling in a little bit of everything.  You have very few resources and no money.  Yet, you need to get your idea discovered fast.  You need to produce great content. 

Look at some of the premier bootstrappers like 37Signals.  They probably wouldn’t like it put this way, but 37Signals is almost better at producing content than products.  They created Ruby on Rails and gave it away.  That’s content.  BTW, it has nothing to do with project management software like Basecamp, it’s just great content.  They have written best-selling books on Bootstrapping.  That also has nothing to do with Basecamp, it’s just great content.  They take interesting stands on issues while blogging.  Most of the time it has nothing to do with their products, it’s just great content.

Apparently, you don’t even have to write about your products so much as create a community (what Seth Godin will call a tribe) that wants to connect with what you have to say, and hopefully with what you have to sell. Boostrapper’s, you got time to produce that great content while you’re building your product.  Get on with it!

What’s your strategy to produce great content for your business?  Who will create that content?

Bootstrappa’s Resources

Links to the Bootstrappa’s Paradise blog series as well as other useful resources for Bootstrappers.

10 Responses to “Content Trumps SEO and Links”

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  8. Content is the right choice indeed. It has trumped SEO and links for marketing the website and is sure to be used when it is needed. Both links and SEO are nothing without it. Both will be useless without content.

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