Recently, Michael Fulwiler tweeted something that I agree with. He said:
Unpopular opinion: SEO is overrated.— Michael Fulwiler (@MichaelFulwiler) November 20, 2020
If you post quality content and your website has a quality user experience, you’ll be fine.
“Good content” is derived and formatted from contextual based keyword themes. Without proper knowledge of how users search, it becomes difficult to create and fully optimize “good content” that is appealing to users and search engines alike.— Tyler Lane (@tlane207) November 20, 2020
I think we’re saying the same thing but differently.
Tyler seems to be thinking that “good” was intended to mean “good in the eyes of the publisher of the content.” But that’s not what I specifically mean.
Yes, it has to be good in the eyes of the publisher. But “good’ is relative to the user. What they think is good. It has to be relevant and helpful to the user, the person we’re trying to help.
“Good” is a subjective quality. I’ve mentioned before that quality content may be content that’s, among others, useful, actionable, or entertaining. But what “good” boils down to is two things: relevancy and value.
- Is the content relevant to the person’s query, and
- Does it offer more value than any other relevant result?
In other words, does the content match the user’s intent (is it relevant), and how well does it do so (does it provide value)?
By “intent,” I don’t mean just search intent. I mean the intent of having the best possible answer, from a trustworthy and authoritative source, on a site that’s easy to use, and the content is easy to find and consume.
(We all have those intentions. Unless we’re doing research about crappy content on crappy websites, nobody is deliberately looking for irrelevant content on an unusable website.)
Which is why I agree 100% with Tyler when he said: “Without proper knowledge of how users search.” That’s the point. You need to know what users are asking.
Just publishing content is not enough. For it to be “good” means it needs to be relevant and valuable to the user.
Experts, who publish thought leadership, know their audiences exceptionally well. Or they should. Keyword research or not, they will have a tendency to write content that’s in alignment with their audiences.
They will answer their most pressing questions, solve their most prevalent problems, and unstick them from their most sticky challenges.
SEO is almost a natural byproduct.
But I also agree with something my friend David Garfinkel often says in the world of copywriting. You need to find out:
- Who is your customer;
- What is their problem; and,
- How do they talk about it?
The answer, particularly to the third one, is what SEO is really doing. In copywriting, we follow the Robert Collier methodology of “continuing the conversation that’s already going on in people’s minds.”
SEO is no different.
We are answering questions that people are already asking and using Google for. Just like with copywriting, we need to do some research to find out who our users are, what they’re looking for, and how they’re asking for it.
In SEO, that may be considered keyword research to an extent. But to me, it’s more about finding out what questions they’re asking, why they’re asking them, and what kinds of answers they’re looking for. Or as Tyler said, to format content around “contextual based keyword themes.”
User experience (UX) is a little more technical, and that is what Michael meant when he said “good website.” A good website is not “good” in the design or appeal sense. It’s good in how well the content is easy to find and consume, which is exactly what Google wants.
It’s usable. Secure. Fast. Easy to use. Etc.
Again, SEO boils down to:
- The quality of your content;
- The quality of your user experience.
Give people what they want and make it easy for them to get it. That’s SEO in a nutshell. Yes, it’s that simple. Is it easy? Not always. It can get technical.
For example, with large, complex sites, such as ecommerce sites, or sites with a lot of interactive elements, it’s far from easy. It takes work, research, and technical prowess. But it’s still simple.
The reason I say this over and over is that, in the end, some people tend to overcomplicate SEO because some make it seem complicated.
There may be a lot of technical parts in some cases, and there may even be a lot of tactics you can implement that can give you a leg up — and a faster result at that. But there’s a difference between optimizing for the search engines and having an optimal visibility strategy.
Nevertheless, as Jim Thornton says, write your content, get your insights out, and publish content now. You can review it later, analyze the performance, get a better idea of what your audience is looking for, and edit to fit.