For some time it is been conventional wisdom that the quality of content on a particular website is one of the most important factors in driving traffic to that site. It seems that the adage “content is king,” has been almost universally accepted without question. However, what if we were to stop and think about it?
Let’s consider the world of advertising for a moment. This multibillion dollar industry is the driving force behind all of the most popular products on the market. It is rare that news of a great product circulates solely by word-of-mouth without and still manages to escape a small geographic area. Just consider the infomercial as an example. Infomercials don’t sell the highest quality products in the world or even moderately useful products. In most cases, infomercials sell junk. Nevertheless, everyone is acquainted with the Little Giant, Jack Lalanne Juicer, and the Clapper. What is more, they sell enough of these products to sustain a booming infomercial industry that raked in an estimated $91 billion dollars in 2006. The point is that quality is not necessarily the driving force behind sales of these products, advertising is. In other words, getting the message out is more important than building a quality product.
While it is true that a website needs decent content in order to attract return business, it is not true that websites with the highest quality content necessarily have the most traffic. Websites with the most traffic are those that offer “just good enough” content that is advertised and linked to heavily. The key concept with content is to produce something that exceeds the threshold of quality for attracting return customers, and nothing more. Producing stellar, highly complex content is not a recipe for high site traffic.
In the world of SEO, 70% of the ranking criteria used by all search engines depend on links. The key to content development is to produce information and pages that are just good enough to encourage other users, bloggers, and websites to link to your work. One study found that the top five ranking factors for the most popular search engines are the following: key word focused anchor text from external links, external link popularity, diversity of links sources, keyword use anywhere in the title tag, and trustworthiness of the domain based on link distance from trusted domains. Four of those five factors deal with links from other sites. What is more, those four criteria make up roughly 70-75% of the criteria used in search engine ranking.
Just like everything else in life, merit only gets one so far. The best product in the world will languish in isolation if no one knows about it. By the same token, some of the best websites on the Internet will lose out to “just good enough” websites that are heavily linked. Perhaps the old adage “content is king” should be changed to “links are king.” The simple truth is that stellar content gets one less than 25% of the way to one’s goal. In order to drive a high volume of traffic to any given website, it is necessary to acquire a large number of high-quality, highly reputable links. The content need only be good enough to attract and hold the coveted links.