Thursday, December 20, 2007

Enough With the "Just Write Good Content" Nonsense Already

Yeah, I said that out loud.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you might be surprised to hear me challenging the "just write good content" mantra. After all, I'm a writer. I believe in good content, I try to maintain high standards and I'm a very vocal proponent of the idea that artificially constructed obstacles should be roundly ignored.

I know where the "it's all about content" school of thought came from, and it was an honorable place. In the early days of search engine optimization (SEO)--or what once passed for it--there was a theory that things like writing meaningless strings of relevant key words would do the trick. Eventually, someone noticed that it didn't do a lot of good to bring people to your website if there wasn't anything there for them when they arrived, and search engine algorithms started to take that kind of thing into account, and the next thing we knew, you needed to actually have something to say if you wanted to run a successful website.

Thank God.

And then the pendulum shifted. Thousands of people came out of the woodwork to declare "content is king".

And it's still going on.

The problem is, something like realistic balance has come into the world and no one noticed.

There are still people devoting full-time hours to gaming the SEO system instead of producing content anyone wants to see. And on the other end of the spectrum there are people spouting platitudes about how "all you have to do" is write good content.

The fact that you need worthwhile content to keep bringing people back to your website is a no-brainer. It's not even worth talking about anymore. I don't use language like this lightly, but...well, duh.

Is that enough?

Well, let's look at some other scenarios. If you're a great mechanic, do you print up business cards and put an ad in the local newspaper and commission an attention-catching sign for your shop, or do you say, "All you have to do is do good work" and then sit around and wait for people to notice that you're there?

If you're a writer in a context besides blogging, do you produce good content and then save it to your hard drive and move on with your life, confident that since you're writing good content, agents and publishers will eventually find you?

The backlash against promotion without substance has gone too far, into a kind of "popular wisdom" that advocates substance without promotion. And that brings us back to my initial point, to the headline on this post: NONSENSE

You need good content. But the best content in the world won't do you a darned bit of good if you don't know how to--and don't make the effort to--get people to look at it.


blogtommy said...

Well said and I think you're right...I admit to having said as much myself. Yep, the best damned content in the world won't do ya a bit of good if nobody sees it. Point well taken.



Jon said...

Good content is essential, but with that you need quality links from other sites with good content, that also have quality inlinks.

Sites with duplicate content / keyword stuffed etc will be ignored, but well written sites need a leg up from other sites.

Once you have built an attractive site with good content, the real work needs to be done "off page", i.e. building links from relevant sites in your niche.

Jack Payne said...

The tired terms, "Content is King," and, "It's all about cotent," drive me nuts. I suppose this language is so commonly used to somehow mollify all those bloggers who maintain personal blogs. Those who constantly have the problem of how to marshall flashbacks without selectively sanitized nostalgia.

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistant one.

RockStories said...

Actually, Jack, I don't think it's "meant to mollify" anyone. I think it was meant to shock people into reality back in the days when the top half of many web pages (and sometimes the whole page) was just a list of dozens--or even hundreds--of key words without context, and those that did have actual content on their pages hid dozens of repetitions of relevant key words by making the text match the background color so that spiders could see them but humans could not.

Mark Stoneman said...

Okay, nonsense. Fine. Now what's the next step?

I think I've tried before, but here goes again: have you considered joining the Blogging Straight Talk group at BC? Its value to noise ratio is pretty high, especially by BC standards.

RockStories said...

Glad to see you back in the blogosphere, Mark.

Unfortunately, the answer to "what's next?" varies from site to site and goal to goal. There are a million sites and blogs of varying value out there telling people how to drive more traffic, increase subscriptions, etc., but you're the second person to suggest in response to this post that I should have provided more direction, so I'll start thinking about how to do that in a way that's meaningful and not "one-size-fits-all".

Re the group, I actually am a member, just haven't had time to participate given the depth of discussion and length of posts. I have reason to hope that might be changing soon.