Let’s play a game. A kind of online marketing “Would you rather…?” If you had to have good content with bad SEO, or bad content with good SEO, which would you take? “Both,” you’re already saying. “Good content and good SEO… I want both.” And so you should. They’re not mutually exclusive, and both important to online success. But in rolling out website content, many organizations – out of neglect or necessity – prioritize or otherwise limit their options: they focus their efforts on optimization techniques without researching the needs of their customers, or blog relentlessly without a direction on positioning themselves in terms of SEO. So what are we talking about here?
Good vs. Bad SEO
In looking at what makes for good SEO we can we can focus on on-page best practices with properly optimized elements, including:
- Page Title (don’t forget about the recent title tag changes)
- Meta Description
- H1 Tag
- Image filenames & attributes
- Minimal sufficient word count
These elements should all utilize relevant keywords within reason. Bad SEO, on the other hand, can mean anything from unnecessary, over or under-optimized, or even missing site elements. These are the pages that have multiple H1 tags because the web developer used it as a design element instead of a semantic markup; the pages with 200-word content or URLs like www.domain.com/index.jsp?categoryId=4815&page=162342.
Good vs. Bad Content
So what makes for “good” content? SEO aside, it’s content that is correct, relevant, and – this is important – useful. It’s the product page with user reviews and a video demo of the product in use. It’s an article that delivers on the promise of its title without making you jump through the hoops of a 30-image slider navigation. It’s a page that exists because it has a really good answer to your question, not just a really good keyword. And you know bad content pages – the ones where on first blush you struggle to discern the content from the advertising; where instead of a concise, purposeful answer you’re offered a fever dream of strung-together tangents; where the content very well may have been constructed by IBM’s Watson instead of a human being. So which is better – good content or good SEO? It’s important to consider the benefits of each.
What Good SEO Gets You
You’re speaking Google’s language here. Search engines seem to love these several things, so focus on those several things to get them recommending your content. Users are conditioned to browse the top-shelf search engine recommendations, so if you can optimize your way to the top of the search results you can ride to success on the backs of those unwilling to click deeper. And it may work. Content that is well-optimized, fresh and on a relatively authoritative domain may get some love in the search results. But will it stay there? Many brands have relied on early search success to carry their content marketing weaknesses, but the balance is shifting on what Google and other search engines are considering a good recommendation – not to mention users on social media and other content sharing platforms.