In SEO, Content DOES Matter

Ian Lurie

Be very, very careful when you read claims by bloggers and SEO ‘professionals’ that fresh content no longer matters.

Content matters. A lot. Ignoring it will doom your efforts to get a high ranking, 99% of the time.

I mean text content, by the way – text that you can cut-and-paste into a word processor. Search engines can’t read images, they can’t watch video, and they don’t listen to podcasts.

Darren over at Problogger wrote “frequently updated content isn’t quite as important a factor as other elements of SEO”. While he may have been right about the one site discussed (more on that below), you need to take his statement with several thousand grains of salt.

A Quick Case Study

Here’s proof, if you need it: One of our clients consistently ranked #1-4 for a very competitive phrase. They achieved that ranking by adding a keyword-rich and well-written article to their site 3 times per week. Then, in July of 2007, they stopped writing.

Their rankings remained OK for about 2 months. They even went up in September.

That created a false sense of security. The client assumed that new content was no longer a factor for rankings.


Unless you’re, there’s probably a delay of days (or even weeks) between posting new content and any lift in the search engine rankings.

Here’s the proof:

content posting 1

In September, the client’s rankings plunged. Nothing helped.

We started writing 3 articles per week again. For 6 weeks, nothing happened. Then, a Christmas miracle: Their site started popping back into the top 4:

After fresh content posting

Content isn’t the only factor in search engine rankings. But it’s the most important. Without it, search engines can’t easily determine why your site matters.

But What About Links?

Yep, everyone talks about links, link baiting, link happiness, link juice, link love and every other form of link joy. Links are important.

But guess what? Getting lots of links requires that people you don’t know link to you. If you think that your shiny new online store is going to collect 4000 links overnight, you’re kidding yourself. Are you really so unique, so unusual, that reputable, relevant sites are going to leap at the chance to point you out?

I’m not being nasty here – if you’re following some internet marketing strategy, be it Conversation Marketing or something else, your site certainly has value.
I am being realistic, though. New sites spring up every minute. If you want links – more of them than your competitors – you’re going to have to work hard, over a long period.

While you’re waiting, why not write some great content?

The Only Surefire Way to #1: Content

Here’s how you can get that #1 ranking:

  1. Find the top 3 sites for your target key phrase.
  2. Use a Google site: search to figure out how many pages Google ‘sees’ for those competitors. Or use the SEOQuake plugin.
  3. Write down 50 questions you get from customers.
  4. Turn those into article topics. This is your editorial schedule.
  5. Using that schedule, write 3-4 articles a week, 200-250 words each. Make sure that 1-2% of words in those articles are some permutation on your target keyphrase.
  6. Repeat until you have more pages than your competitors.

Yes, you’ll still need links. But your content strategy will attract links at the same time that it increases your site’s relevance.

What About Darren’s Site?

Darren’s statement referred to Weblogs, Inc. site Weblogs is an enormous network of blogs, including one of the top 5 blogs on the internet, Engadget.

His complaint: Digital Photography remained in the top 10 even though it hadn’t been updated in months.

This site’s one of the few exceptions you’ll find: It has 600,000 incoming links. That’s over 10x most of its competitors. The site only has 600 pages of content. But most competitors have only 2-3x that.

So, in this case, the sheer volume of links outweighs the lack of content. There are other factors, too, but you get the idea: Digital Photography just steamrolled the rankings.
If you think you can get 600,000 incoming links, go for it.

Otherwise, keep writing. It’s your one sure ticket to a good search ranking.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Wonderful post. It’s so refreshing to see blog articles about SEO and have them contain data to back up their opinions. I have a follow-up question: So you’re saying that simply having other pages that have new content, like on a blog for example, did the trick, not changes to their home page or other main pages, is this right?

  2. Hi Jill,
    Changes to existing pages matter, too. Really any kinds of updates to content will help.
    But more pages equal more links, which equal more leverage, so adding new pages can have the biggest long-term impact.

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