Build Content and They Will Come … Really?

by Aaron Bradley on June 3, 2009

in SEO

A brief rant here, in the "if I hear this one more time I'm going to scream" category, occasioned by a Matt Cutts Twitter comment via Kevin Newcomb on Search Engine Watch.

As Cutts himself Twittered this morning: "Hey, did you hear our latest inside tip? Make relevant content. ;)"

Let me start off with an analogy here. You're a great cook. Everyone loves your food. You quit your day job delivering fliers for Fast Fatty Crap and open Chez Moi. No throngs appear at first but, hey, these are early days. Those days pass, and turn into weeks, then months. Why do you have no customers? You've done no advertising and made no promotional efforts … but who needs that? The food at Chez Moi is so much better than any restaurant in town. Surely the few customers you've had will spread the word, and you'll soon find yourself inundated with hungry masses demanding good eats … right? Instead, unknown and unmourned, Chez Moi closes, and you're now working two lousy jobs instead of one to pay off your debts.

Relevant content (or even great relevant content) does not make a site successful in search, anymore than great cookin' is a road to multiple Michelin stars and offers to star on the Food Network. Just like a restaurant, a website needs to be advertised, promoted, hyped, pimped and polished. And like a restaurant with great food that nobody knows about, a website with great content that nobody knows about is doomed to search engine obscurity.

Content is (sort of) a necessary but certainly not a sufficient condition for achieving high rankings in the search engines. You have to make the world aware of that content, and the world has to be sufficiently receptive to the superiority of that content. And if you want Google to take note, you have to make sure that your site's internal linking structure, navigation, on-page code, head tags, URLs, server responses and load times are all optimized for the search engines – to say nothing of your manipulation of the off-site universe to collect external links.

Optimzed. Get that? SEOs do not create content, they optimize it. Nine times out of ten (or maybe ninety-nine times out of a hundred) SEOs have no more control over the creation of quality content than a bus boy does choosing the ingredients or determining the cooking methods employed by a restaurant. You have to work with what you can see on your screen, not with the fantasy universe of fabulous minions pushing out fabulous content.

Sure, SEOs in their broader role as Internet marketers can – depending on their currency in a company – help push those who control strategy and purse strings towards the creation of more and better content. But there's a reasonable expectation that a organic search engine marketing professional should be able to improve the rankings of website when those avenues aren't available. Sometimes "making relevant content" simply isn't an option, and in the absence of that option you still have to get on with the job at hand.

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