No SEO expert would advise you to compromise on content or promise top rank with mediocre content.
If you are in communications, research analysis, online marketing, or working with any sort of web publication, I bet you often come across a lot of discussion on SEO, digital marketing, information technology, social media and all other things related to digital publishing. And, many a time, folks talk at length about how SEO and its paraphernalia are all that is required to get noticed digitally.
From my experience, being in communications for more than a decade and being a curious researcher all this while, I feel that there is some gap in one’s understanding, when someone asks a question comparing SEO and content. Research shows that customers or clients, whichever term you may prefer, perceive information in their own way, which may not match a messenger’s or a marketer’s expectation. A few days ago, I was watching Prof. Itamar Simonson, a professor of marketing at Stanford University, on YouTube delivering a lecture on how consumers are becoming more rational in their selection. This study was part of my current stint with research analysis at Humber College, Toronto. The video had some interesting insights on consumer trends. Simonson said, “When consumers can predict the absolute value of products, relative quality proxies and the ability of marketers to control things lose.” In other words, consumers now act rationally. The assumption that a communicator or a marketer can direct their “audience” in any direction does not hold strength anymore. Rather, the trend is the other way around.
Market researchers and communicators work hard to collect data on consumer preferences. By the way, I am talking about market researchers and communicators simultaneously for the simple reason that both professionals try to get their audiences’ attention to develop an understanding and for more informed decision making. Their search leads to demand for various analysts (research, market, marketing, etc.) and big data experts. Data, in simple words, is the trail of activities of the more than seven billion people on our planet. Of course, that has some exaggeration but you get my point. For instance, service providers are maintaining my records on traveling, health, food habits, likes, dislikes, and anything else that I may think of, to offer me tailored services and products. This data, when aggregated, cleaned and analyzed (through text or visualization) reveals some trends and patterns. These patterns and trends are not only of things that are existing but also of things that are not existing! By not existing I mean, for instance, during an analysis a researcher may find a few things that they never thought about researching or they never thought existed.
Coming back to the content part, all this research is then communicated in the form of insights to management and stakeholders. Eventually, it travels to the masses as product-related news and/or marketing, depending on a messenger’s intentions. At this stage, communicators come into the picture. Specialists in SEO and digital marketing apply various tools to strategically deliver this content to the audience with a goal to start a trend or rank high in organic search on Google. It would not be incorrect to categorically mention Google because Google still dominates the search engine market. These SEO tools, however, are double-edged swords. If used genuinely with authentic, honest and new information and content, it anchors the audience. On the other hand, if these tools are applied on fake, duplicate or mediocre content, the messenger may not only lose their audience but also their rank in organic search.
I would like to add here that Google refreshes its search algorithms regularly. SEO specialists are always on their toes to make the best use of existing algorithms and to predict changes when these occur. One thing, however, is common in both old and new algorithms and that is the weight attached to content. The crawlers that scan the entire message for keywords or the paid plugins that boost SEO for an article need quality content to perform their functions properly. No SEO expert would advise you to compromise on content or promise top rank with mediocre content (If you know someone who promises ranks despite poor content, you may want to find a replacement).
Content Stays, SEO Follows
So, content and SEO, if I may use a metaphor here, are like an athlete and the game. One can coach an athlete for a game, but all that coaching would work only if that athlete has the physical constitution to support the game. Similarly, SEO techniques work well only when the content is strong. You may say that every athlete needs training and you are right. However, training comes after you have a conditioned fighter!