Recently I read an article about Search Engine Optimization as it related to “content marketing”. Hey! ”Cool,” I thought, “A new buzzword”. Something we can all use to sound sagacious and learned to clients who are afraid of technology. It’s always useful to grow that toolkit. I know, I sound cynical, but one must learn to embrace one’s inner consultant. In any case, the article went on to discuss how the quality of your content and its proper exposition in metadata ensures that it is discoverable by all the various bots and agents out there.
Our pals over at @Steadyrain have been hammering this point pretty hard lately, too. A recent capture from their feed:
My, my. Apparently, things do come around. It was 1996 and Uncle Bill told us that Content is King. Unlike many of Bill’s works, I actually bought into this one. And here we are now, nigh on 17 years later, and content is once again king. In a perfect world, this would be the moment when everybody turns around and gives my shoulder a friendly squeeze and says “you were right all along!”
You see, in my career as a web site developer and technology strategist, I was asked many times about the proper way to optimize a web site for search engine visibility. My answer was invariably that you should build a web site with the best, most relevant original content you can produce and the interested parties would flock to your doorstep. I called it “building a community of common interest”. Mmmmm, I love the smell of fresh idealism.
I advised my clients that SEO was a good way to throw away a lot of money if you felt like you had too much at any particular time, but otherwise it was a trick for people who didn’t have anything interesting to say to fool innocent people into visiting a web site that, at best, would waste their time with idiotic flash animations and audio tracks you couldn’t turn off. Instead, I advocated for usefulness and genuine quality. Often this advice was ignored, as is the client’s prerogative to do so, but by golly if I didn’t stick to my guns each and every time I was asked. After all, I had developed a content management system. It only made sense that I should encourage my customers to go out and manage some content.
But, despite my assertion that content was king, I would regularly find myself in the room with the antithesis of my ideal. People who insisted there was a way to get the world to pay attention to you without putting in the effort of developing actual substance. Behold, the dark art of SEO. Now I know I’m being unfair. I know there’s a place for this sort of thing, but it didn’t stop me from characterizing these practitioners as fast talking twenty-three old club kids who needed the extra cash for bottle service and hair products.
But, here we are again, and the great wheel of karma has turned, and all the technology fashionistas have once again decided that the big, fat, new idea is that you should really have something interesting and useful to tell people, and when you do that, your relevance in the mystical indexes of Google and your social capital will improve. I HAVE BEEN VINDICATED.
The question I want to ask now is what we can do to make those ideas in our heads something that translates into quality content? If people who can translate complicated ideas into readable prose are such a valuable resource, how can we make more of that value? How do we lower the bar so that the act of creating this quality content is not such a chore? Dare I say it, how do we make it fun?
I don’t think we’ve done much with this yet. I’m writing this article in the latest version of WordPress, a very modern and with-it CMS. A tool ostensibly designed to get that quality content out there as efficiently as possible. And yet when it comes to the actual process of crafting the copy, it’s just me and a blank white box, and a few thousand strokes of the keyboard in the proper sequence to produce the result.
There’s got to be something more to it than that!