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Producing content just to satisfy SEO targets and pressures is dangerous because that’s when you get into the realms of publishing content for content’s sake and clearly, Google doesn’t like that given its recent Farmer Update.

More importantly, your website users don’t like that. While SEO clearly has its place, it shouldn't get in the way of producing great content... 

I was going to start this blog writing about why having quality content is so important and I’m still going to do that, I just hope I don’t eat my words in a few weeks time.

My opinion on content is and always will be this: if you’re in the content publishing business, always have content that you genuinely believe is interesting, that is useful, that is informative. It has to have a purpose, else why are you doing it?

Don't publish content for content’s sake

No-one can deny it’s easy to get pushed along by ideas that get chucked at you from within a business but sometimes you have to push back.I completely believe you shouldn’t be producing content for SEO; you should be producing it because it adds something to users of your website.

For example, say you’ve dropped in the rankings for one of your target keywords; the business’ automatic reaction is to want more content around that keyword. But, I’d fight against that, unless there is some relevance in producing content around said keyword. 

Producing content just to satisfy SEO targets and pressures is dangerous because that’s when you get into the realms of publishing content for content’s sake and clearly, Google doesn’t like that given its recent Farmer Update. More importantly, your website users don’t like that.

Google is obviously punishing content farms, so don’t be one. If you feel you’ve strayed into this way of publishing content then seriously think twice about what you’re doing and why.

Put yourself in your customer’s or reader’s shoes

For me it’s simple. What is it you want to see when you visit a website? And are you doing that?

For example, if you sell car insurance then have a 30 second video on how to cut the cost of car insurance. That’s useful isn’t it? Don’t send customers an email with content they can read in a thousand other websites, that’s just insulting. Give them something they can’t get elsewhere. Give them quality.

Whatever you do when deciding what content to generate, don’t just do it for SEO. Don’t write an article and stuff it full of keywords because you have keyword targets to hit or have committed to producing x amount of articles about your products.

Some SEO agencies believe this is the way forward, I don’t. I believe this forces you to produce content that’s not necessarily relevant or interesting. Dreaming up ideas just to tick SEO targets isn’t how content is supposed to be produced. That’s not how the best publishers do it, and it’s not how you should do it either.

Getting the right people to help you produce content is also part of getting the content production process right, but that’s a discussion all in its own and one for another blog.

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Published 18 March, 2011 by Sharon Flaherty

Sharon Flaherty is Editor at Confused.com and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

3 more posts from this author

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Steve

Fair enough for big companies that already have a large following and a well-known brand, such as Confused.com, but what about small businesses and start-ups interested in using content to attract prospective customers or clients? I like to say "there's no point having an amazing website if no one ever gets to find it," and you can easily substitute "website" with "content" as well. I've had first-hand experience writing a great article that hasn't had a keyword or SEO focus that's completely flopped, while an alright article geared towards what someone's actually looking for (based on prior keyword research) that's performed much better. SEO isn't everything when it comes to content, I agree with that, and there are plenty of people who go overboard (no one wants to type in "how to [something]" and be overwhelmed with 10 results all saying exactly the same thing), but if it doesn't have some sort of focus then people are less likely to find it through the search engines.

over 5 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

While I agree that you shouldn't stuff your content full of keywords, I don't think you should leave out SEO entirely. The trick is to write the article first, and then go back and see where you can seamlessly incorporate a few keywords to make the content more SEO friendly without coming across as spammy.

The content and human reader should always come first, but there is nothing wrong with incorporating elements of SEO to help deliver that content to more audiences. You just can't go overboard.

over 5 years ago

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Jeff Fogliano

I would consider tweaking the title and focus of this article a bit. Renaming it: "Don't ignore SEO, but produce good content."

In today's day and age, developing content tailored for SEO without keeping your website's focus in mind is just as bad as developing excellent content without keeping SEO in mind. The key is relevance - striking a balance between developing content optimized for search while not disregarding your visitors' goals in accessing your site in the first place.

A successful web content developer will keep BOTH important best practices in mind - not ignore one in favor of the other.

over 5 years ago

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Mike Busby (Top-Results SEO)

While I agree that the best way to get high positions is via good contents. However, in today's competitive market, it takes lot of time to develop the amount of content required to compete with established sites. A good SEO company will always advice that your site's contents are relevant to your business, and can help write it in way which matters to SEs. Additionally SEOs can add onto the effect of good contents by making sure that the www knows about it. Link building (careful and to the right sites) is still the best and correct way to bring more visitors to your site, until google starts to do that itself.

Atleast those are my too cents!

over 5 years ago

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Ian Anderson

People make links, they only link to relevent, useful content and they do it naturally.

Ergo, your content must be useful and help people, not bots.

It takes longer to rank, but the results are more stable and likely to rank for longer than an article that has clever SEO 'tweaks' but content that doesn't draw natural links left by real people.

Most SEO principles are common sense anyway, keywords in the title, headings and opening paragraph, who woulda thunk it eh?

Content was, is and always will be king. Simples.

over 5 years ago

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Matthew Oxley

The key to this discussion is around following a strategy.

Building links for links sake is equally foolish, as is, for instance, deciding to tweet 5 times a day.

However,The reality when we look at many potential client websites is that they (and their customers) could benefit from having a great deal more content.

Where many in-house teams (and occasionally agencies) go wrong is by making SEO a target driven, process based practice.

All good SEO is driven by a sound strategy, that is followed through and well implemented.

over 5 years ago

david carralon

david carralon, Head of SEO EMEA & APAC at Career Builder

The impression some people have about the SEO is totally wrong : 'ignore SEO, just produce good content' hey! that's great advice, thank you! but it is not going to help many... I actually think you can do both without causing any harm to the originality or integrity of your content.

No SEO professional would be against producing good, original content, like you suggest. On the contrary, having such great content can lead you to garner votes from the community, including SEO votes, namely 'links'.

Further I dont see anything wrong with allowing your in-house SEO to look at that content you are producing and make a few recommendations (both technical and editorial). If the content Manager knows what she/he doing, they will know how to use those recommendations, which do not necessarily have to be keyword stuffing, which is currently a thing of past, in many ways.

The main problem I see with your approach is that often great content is developed only to fall in oblivion a few months later, as there is no easy way to make it known in their medium.

over 5 years ago

Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger, Director of Media Strategy at Unique Digital

For SEO content is not king. Links are king. Content itself is not going to get you enough links to push you up search engines.

Ensuring people know about any unique products, a sharp price or some especially good promotions will be more successful at getting links than relying on content.

It is also a fallacy that all SEO content is poor and all editorial content is good. The quality of both is more reflective of the investment you put into it.

over 5 years ago

Mark Chapman

Mark Chapman, Director of Client Strategy + Services at White Hat Media

Time and again, it is clear content is king online; Google is clearly focused on this, showing sites that are great sources of information about ACME products, services, paper clips, whatever.

However, to achieve top SERP rankings, it is necessary to know 'good content' is only one part of the puzzle. And then, even though content is a large part of the e-publishing mix, it is also important to know there are many other variables.

To respond to Sharon's argument, it must be accepted that to be commercially successful in the online era, it is necessary to be good at SEO. At the moment, there is no other way to be visible to millions on the search engines - perhaps even to dominate the SERPs.

Mark.

over 5 years ago

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Richard Coen, Owner at Emarkable.ie

A balance is needed between Quality content and seo opportunities. I think its naive to suggest ignore seo. I agree quality content is king,especially when you expect a conversion or wish to instill trust but the writer needs to craft seo principles into the content. This is the challenge.

I agree content just for seo is not a good tactic. Seo needs to be strategic though and not just about the content. There are so many other aspects that need to be considered. Conversion architecture, links, social media etc.

over 5 years ago

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Sally Kavanagh

I don't disagree with the basic tenet that there is no place for poor quality content, no good white SEO would. But what do you do if

"you’ve dropped in the rankings for one of your target keywords"

I would say that one of several legitimate responses would be see to if there were another angle we could come at the target keyword and add something new, useful, unique and interesting.

And the flip side of that is that however new, useful, unique and interesting the new content, it won't get found unless it is presented so that Google will see it as such, that is SEO'd - because as Aatif says, Google is still only a robot, albeit a very sophisticated one.

over 5 years ago

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Simon

I couldn't agree more its becoming more about quality content on sites. I have always focused my own and my clients SEO on providing quality informative content. However I have never been rewarded for my efforts until now. The Farmer update has boosted my page rankings dramatically as it has binned the auto content filled sites ABOUT TIME! thus paving the way for honest quality sites.

over 5 years ago

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Aloysius Carl

I find it hard to listen to anyone in the digital marketing space that tells you an absolute like content is all you need, or links are all you need....

In this space there are very few absolutes and the ones that do exist may not tomorrow. A good balance is typically the best approach. Create great content for readers, shape it some for the bots, and also work at getting links to it.

over 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

I don't think Sharon is saying that SEO should be ignored altogether, just that it shouldn't get in the way of producing content that is useful for visitors.

Without SEO, Confused.com would find it very hard to rank well on some very competitive search terms.

over 5 years ago

Mark Chapman

Mark Chapman, Director of Client Strategy + Services at White Hat Media

This is a very good 'editorial content'-led blog post - some great 'editorial content' is now online here... "Good one, Sharon" is what I say.

Reflecting on what's been said so far... I think there has tended to be a trade off (in the history of online) when balancing SEO and quality content (not least due to amount of resource available to do both 100%).

My focus 'in the office' is that, going forward, the best online editorial content must also be best optimised for the search engines. Think that's just one of the many e-challenges all of us in the commercial digital field face every day.

:-)

m.

over 5 years ago

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Dawn Richards

SEO is like a great shopfront. It makes your clients stop and look but if there's nothing of interest in the first few seconds, they move on. Easy-to-read copy that provides benefits for the reader such as answers to questions they may have, free reports, informative videos, and so on, keeps the client interested and wanting to know more. Updating your site regularly keeps your clients coming back to see what's new. A great shopfront is no use if the store is empty... and good copy is wasted if noone reads it, so both are necessary for success.

over 5 years ago

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tim akinnusi

Hi Sharon, I support your views taken in the article, marketers and business owners need to be more cognisant of the fact that a far more holistic approach needs to be taken when it comes to how to content is presented on a website. Yes SEO is important, but it should be implemented in such a way that it doesn't impede on the userabilty of the website and isn't counterproductive to creating a great online experience.

over 5 years ago

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tim akinnusi

Hi Sharon, I support your views taken in the article, marketers and business owners need to be more cognisant of the fact that a far more holistic approach needs to be taken when it comes to how to content is presented on a website. Yes SEO is important, but it should be implemented in such a way that it doesn't impede on the userabilty of the website and isn't counterproductive to creating a great online experience.

over 5 years ago

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Max Power

I agree with Sharon that we need to focus more on content and not be so concerned with SEO. There are many other ways to get traffic, and we need to start thinking outside of the box.

For instance I will now be going to look at Sharon's site due to her doing some guest blogging here. Obviously guest blogging on a high traffic site is one great way to get traffic.

Another example - I did not search for this site or this information on google. Clickbank sent me an email, I clicked on the link and then I saw a couple of article headlines. This one looked interesting so I ended up here. My point here is there are many other great strategies that we can use to get traffic. We do not have to be at the mercy of google.

Google will keep making changes, with the goal of producing (in a sense) artificial intelligence that will identify quality content. Instead of always being a step behind them and trying to catch up, why not stay one step ahead and produce what they want?

over 5 years ago

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Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2

Writing with SEO in mind is a pain in the ass.

I'm still resisting it. It's hard enough making sure that your lead makes a big entrance and captures your readers attention without having to be concerned about catching Google's also.

But then again, maybe I'm just being lazy and need to find someone to coach me on the easy way to easily get all H tags happy without sounding robotronic in your copy.

Thanks Sharon for calling it like you see it!

over 5 years ago

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Russ B

Writing for the search engines is a fool's errand anyway- especially considering how often the search engines change the game. If you write for your readers by offering valuable content that is well written and relevant to your website's services or products, you'll attract the search engines by default. It's only when you start to think about Google too much when your writing begins to suffer.

over 5 years ago

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Tony Crawford

A very nice article. But i still believe that we need have the right number of keywords not just for SEO but also for relavant google ads to be displayed on your page if you are using adsense

over 5 years ago

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Adi

I think this is the best way to go. I hate SEO and I hate spending time and effort on it. Any SEO that isn't also good for user experience is time better spent elsewhere.

I have seen so many sites and blogs by people who just do it out of passion for the topic and their only goal is to gain a following. They have no clue about SEO or back links or anything like that and they're still very successful because they care about the visitors and not about search engines.

about 5 years ago

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