Just create great content. It's a phrase that's used by search engine optimization (SEO) amateurs and pros alike to describe what it takes to get Google to bless your humble blog or website with more search engine traffic.
So what's my problem with the advice? It's been bugging me lately because rarely is just creating great content the end of the optimization process. It's a great start, but you may be the only one admiring your great content if that's all you do.
Great Content is Not Enough for Google
Even Google will tell you that there's more to SEO than great content. They've listed a Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide on their SEO resource page of Google Webmaster Center. As they describe it:
Search engine optimization is about putting your site's best foot forward when it comes to visibility in search engines, but your ultimate consumers are your users, not search engines.
- Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide
Of course, Google supports the idea of providing value for your human users, but they also highlight changes you can make specifically for search engines. Changes that go beyond just creating great content.
In fact, Google goes on to list 32 pages full of specific changes you should make to your website specifically for the benefit of Google and visitors. Here are just a few of the things Google recommends:
- Creating unique and specific page titles and descriptions for every page on your website.
- Building two sitemaps of your site, one for users and one specifically for search engines
- Planning a website URL structures that employ keyword strategies
- Using anchor text appropriately when linking
- Optimizing website images for search
- Using robots.txt and the rel="nofollow" for certain types of links
Some of these changes have very little to do with the quality of your content.
SEO is About More than Creating Great Content
Ultimately, SEO is about learning about all the keywords and phrases people are using to find your products or services, developing a plan to strategically use the keywords on specific pages on your website, and then creating, measuring and promoting the best possible content to solve the problems or answer the questions of searchers.
My point in all of this is to illustrate that SEO is not as easy as some would make it seem. Countless bloggers begin and end their blogging careers under the false assumption that if you build it, they will come. A lackluster approach to planning or content strategy litters the blogosphere with blogs that never did manage to garner search traffic, despite what I'm sure was excellent content.
Success in search requires an investment in either SEO education or skill, depending on whether you have more time or money. SEO is ultimately a marketing expense. If you're not willing to overcome the learning curve or pay a professional to help you along the way, your great content may not be enough.
What are you doing beyond creating great content to help increase the amount of search engine traffic to your website or blog? Are you following Google's SEO Starter Guide? (Squarespacers, help yourself to some custom Squarespace SEO education right here on this blog.). What changes do you want to make your website that go beyond creating great content? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.