We often hear the phrase “content is king” in internet marketing, but is it really true? Is producing content the most important thing in order to get websites and blogs to succeed? What about social media, promotion and email marketing?
What is really interesting here is that there really are polar opposite views on this from very successful internet marketers. The main issue here boils down to whether you spend the bulk of your time and resources on creating content, or on promoting that content via social media and other channels.
Different internet marketers have been very successful using both approaches, but when we dig a little further into it, their circumstances are very different. One simple rule like “content is king” cannot always be generalized to make it true for absolutely everyone who is making money online.
For new bloggers, content is king in the sense that producing a large amount of high quality content is vital to growing that site. For more established sites, then it can often make sense to put more effort into promotion and less into content creation.
Let’s look at each perspective in turn on the importance of content for success in digital marketing – both pro and against producing lots of content.
Perspective #1 – Content is Not King
We start off with the view of highly successful and respected internet marketer Neil Patel, who argues strongly against producing too much content on your blogs. He argues it is a far better use of time to focus on promoting the content you do have through social media and other channels.
Neil’s argument here is that the internet is awash with content, with millions of websites all posting new articles every day. How are you meant to make yourself stand out among all that other content? He argues it’s a waste of time trying this with the glut of articles out there now.
Here are his main points:
- Focus on an 80/20 rule – spend 20% of your time actually producing the content and 80% of the time promoting it through social media and other channels.
- There is already a huge amount of blogs and content online. There’s no point focusing excessively on adding yet more content to this.
- Also look to move away from text based content and more to other content like videos, as well as plugging courses, apps, eBooks etc.
- He has found this approach to be more efficient and scalable, and draw in more traffic for his sites.
- He argues that simply producing a glut of content for your blog will not increase traffic, or only very slightly increase it. His 80/20 approach has worked better.
His views are definitely interesting, but the one thing he seems to be missing out is that he is a well established internet marketer, and has a site well developed which is already getting lots of traffic. How did he get to this point? Not everyone is in this position yet, and everyone has to start somewhere.
Perspective #2 – Content is King (Especially on New Sites)
Let’s critique this position though with another great video from Income School, which picks apart the issue in a little more detail. Their argument is that Neil Patel’s advice is not going to be useful for bloggers building a brand new site, since it simply won’t have the audience required to really launch aggressive marketing and promotion on social media or elsewhere.
Here is a quick summary of the main points made in the video:
- New sites can of course set up social media accounts, but won’t have much of a following.
- Building a following on social media takes time and resources.
- Similarly, most new sites won’t have a large email list; again this takes time to build.
- Any time you spend on the above two points is taking away from time you could be spending creating content. There is an opportunity cost to how we spend our time if we are working alone as a small scale blogger.
- In order to build any kind of brand, you need to get traffic to your site, and the best way to do this for a brand new site is to go for organic search traffic (SEO).
- The best way to do this is simply to produce helpful content and wait for Google to rank it. Requires patience but will deliver traffic in the long run.
- Social media, email lists and other promotion can be a great complement to this, but only once you have significant traffic and followers. This takes time.
- So focus on creating as much content as possible in the early stages of a blog, to get the traffic from Google. Social media is an add on bonus, not the primary focus
- The process works for Income School and other internet marketers in producing stable and successful online businesses. It is a good long term strategy.
- The Neil Patel model does work, but only for huge websites and businesses, which already have thousands or millions of visitors a month, huge email lists and resources to dedicate to social media and other promotional channels.
- For bloggers working on their own, focusing too much on social media and promotion and not enough on the quality of your content may produce short term success but longer term ranking and traffic will suffer if your content is not the best out there.
Patel also tries to argue that the internet is too full of content, and in one sense it is too full – of poor quality and mediocre content which is not clearly and thoroughly answering the question being asked. There is a lot of “junk” content posted online for sure. It is not hard to outrank this kind of content.
There are definitely some areas online which are over-saturated in terms of blogs – usually the more profitable niches like health, wealth, fitness, recipes, weight loss, etc. It is probably not a good idea to set up a new blog in these areas, since they have already been covered from numerous angles from loads of other sites already. Most or all search terms have already been taken in these niches.
However, it is also true that there are still huge gaps in the internet in terms of under-served search terms, where the results only give poor quality posts which aren’t directly on point or only very poorly or tangientially answer the question.
This is exactly what a successful niche site internet marketer takes advantage of, setting up small websites on very specific topics which have a lot of gaps and deficiencies in terms of the information currently available online for searches related to that niche. You are filling gaps in the market for information online.
So Neil Patel’s advice comes across as quite pessimistic and negative, and doesn’t take into account the fact that there are actually still huge opportunities online to fill in gaps in the market and create very profitable sites which cater to people searching in very specific niches and sub topics.
The Answer Varies in Different Scenarios
That said, it can sometimes be true that focusing heavily on social media and promotion can provide a good payoff for an internet marketer. It’s just not likely to be the case for those of us setting up brand new sites.
It comes down to the basic issue of what is the most efficient use of time and money, on the margin, in different scenarios. Not everyone has the same access to time and resources, and so we can’t say that either “content is king” or “content is not king” in a way that generalizes it for everyone in internet marketing.
The answer varies in different circumstances. Here are two broad examples:
1. For large, established websites and companies – If you are a major company with lots of resources and writers to pour into social media promotion and other forms of marketing, then doing this can definitely make sense.
Because you have the time and resources to do it, it can help you boost rankings, get more views, shares and ad revenue, and get your brand out to more people. On the margin, it helps gives you that edge over competitors. You have the resources to create AND promote your content.
Similarly, if you already have a huge amount of traffic from previously published content, you can step off the gas a little and post less content, but instead focus on promotion and building a brand and presence on social media. This can work, but only once you have traction in terms of lots of visitors to your site. How are you going to get this traction without content?
2. For individual bloggers setting up new sites – Makes far less sense spending the bulk of your time on social media. You will likely only have limited time and resources compared to big companies and websites, and by far the most efficient use of time in these cases is simply producing high quality, useful content to build up organic traffic. This is especially true on brand new sites.
Of course for smaller bloggers, posting on social media can be helpful if you have a large audience, but it often takes time to build that audience, and on a brand new site, you won’t have one, which is precisely the point. In the early days, you are better off simply producing as much good content as possible and focus on building a community later.
Longer Term, Content is King
However, even with all these caveats taken into account, it could still be argued that in the long run, content is king in terms of where your blog posts will sit in the Google rankings over time.
Social signals and links from popular sites like Facebook and Twitter do go into the Google ranking algorithm, but they are nowhere near the only factor, and certainly not the most important long term. See our article on how exactly Google ranks content.
Having loads of social shares and linking can definitely push an article up to the top of the Google rankings quickly, but it plays less influence in where the content will sit in the search results longer term.
Long term ranking is determined more by user experience, as tracked by the Google RankBrain algorithm. This is basically capturing how useful and relevant your content is to readers through measuring a number of metrics, like how long they stay on page, whether they click through to other pages, etc.
Neil Patel’s advice doesn’t mention this at all. It assumes that if you post a new piece of content, it will just sit there and get lost among all the other pieces of content online. He is sort of implying that Google has no real way of distinguishing articles in terms of quality and usefulness, when in fact it does with the RankBrain algorithm.
The only way to really succeed with this algorithm long term (not short term “crash and burn”) is to produce high quality, helpful content which directly and thoroughly answers queries being typed into Google. If you do this better than anyone else in your niche for properly researched keyword terms, your content will be rewarded in the Google rankings.
Google will be able to see how useful your content is by the way users behave on your site. If readers stick around to read full articles, click through to other articles and don’t bounce back out to the search results, it is a sign your content gave them what they were looking for.
Contrast this with an article which is only average or mediocre, but which was heavily promoted on social media, and the Google ranking may be high intially with the flurry of activity and social signals, but will fall off longer term as the RankBrain alogrithm captures that readers just aren’t as satisfied with this piece of content as they are with others.
When we look at it from this perspective, we can see that content is king for most bloggers, and focusing on creating great content is the safest way to ensure long term and sustained success in digital marketing.
If you like the idea of this longer term approach to achieving success in internet marketing, check out Income School’s Project 24 program, which follows exactly this approach of setting up niche sites with lots of high quality, helpful content and building them up in time to be profitable online businesses.
Click here to find out more about Project 24.
How To Make Your Content Stand Out
In order to rank well for many search terms, you really need to demonstrate to Google and the RankBrain alogrithm that your content has something extra that other pieces of content don’t have for that search. Just producing OK, or even good content, will not be enough for more competitive search terms.
Here are some ways to make your content stand out:
- Post Length is a key ranking factor – longer articles do better. Aim to produce longer posts than the competition.
- Make sure you thoroughly answer the question from as many different angles as possible in your post, without straying off point.
- Break down your article into H3 subheading sections to tackle each different point, making sure each subheading is still directly related to the main title.
- Make your contenting engaging and readable. Use short blocks of text, bulleted lists, videos, pictures, infographics, tables, etc.
- It also helps if you are adding layers to the information you provide, like challenging convention, critiquing something, or playing off different viewpoints on an issue to see which is best (like this article).
- Try to go the extra mile in terms of the helpfulness of the content. Give the reader something they don’t get from other articles in the search results. Original research, tables and infographics are good ways to do this.