From Garbage To Gourmet: Fixing SEO Content Strategies

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

Site Owner: I want to rank higher in the search engines!

SEO: OK, you’ll need to fix a few things… produces a list

SEO: And you’ll need to start a content strategy. That means 10-20 pages of new content per month, minimum, plus work to promote it.

Site Owner: OKAY! I’m on it. Site owner goes away.

Two months later:

Site Owner: SEO, you totally ripped me off. I haven’t seen any improvement in my rankings.

SEO: Did you make all the changes?

Site Owner: Yes.

SEO: Did you start work on the content?

Site Owner: Yes.

SEO: Can I see?

Site Owner shows SEO their site. It has 70 pages of new articles.

SEO: Wow, that’s great… Wait a minute. This article is only 150 words. And the author used the wrong ‘your’ five times. And this article is almost identical to these other five…

Site Owner: So?

SEO: Well, this isn’t exactly great content.

Site Owner: Hey, you told me to get new content. You didn’t say anything about great content!

Search Engines Aren’t Garbage Disposals

I suspect that most people see search engines as a sort of content garbage disposals. You feed them a random assortment of leftovers, hard-to-identify and vaguely smelly things, and the occasional rotten egg in one end, there are some grinding and crunching sounds, and you’re all set.

Well, they’re not garbage disposals.

Half of SEO is a long list of things you must do to make yourself visible, help search engines classify your content, etc..

But, in the pre- and now more importantly, post- Panda world, the other half of SEO is all about differentiating yourself from competitors with great, unique information.

You know… Marketing.

No More Garbage

You have to stop serving garbage to your visitors, and to search engines. Here’s a couple ideas to get you started:

  1. Write stuff that hasn’t been written before. There are already 999,999 articles about SEO and title tags. Try something else, or a new spin on your topic.
  2. Be interesting. Put some thought into how the article is put together. Use visuals where it helps. Use humor, even.
  3. Hire quality writers to write quality stuff.
  4. Ask your visitors and customers what they’d like to read. Then write it.
  5. Follow production best practices. Use good line spacing and typography. Place subheads to organize your story and make it easier to scan. A 500-word article vomited onto the page with zero formatting makes it look like you don’t care. If you don’t care, you don’t deserve to rank.
  6. Brainstorm and maintain a list of headlines you can assign to writers.
  7. Assign target topics and phrases to specific pages on your site. Think through how you’ll interlink new content with those pages to build authority.
  8. Integrate content into your site. You probably won’t make much progress if you hang a bunch of lousy articles off your site like some kind of growth. Content has to be in the flow of a normal visitor’s movement through the site.

In short: think about it. Make content strategy part of your overall Internet marketing strategy and invest in it. You can’t outsource your writing to eLance for $5 per article and expect progress. Nor can you somehow automate or fake your way into the rankings. Yes, there are always the lucky few who manage it. But it’s not the norm.

But It’s Hard/Expensive/Time-Consuming!

I know, huh? If you want to gain a top ranking, you have to work for it, and invest, and really dedicate yourself to it.

But have some perspective: 20 years ago, the minimum required to reach a national audience was $250,000, a fantastic sales letter and a lot of luck. Now, you can reach a national audience with a well-coded website, one decent writer and a good idea. That’s nothing short of miraculous.

So switch your content strategy from garbage to gourmet. It’s worth the effort.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO


About The Author: is Chief Marketing Curmudgeon and President at Portent, Inc, a firm he started in 1995. Portent is a full-service internet marketing company whose services include SEO, SEM and strategic consulting.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • Scott Golembiewski

    Great post! I like the dialogue style at the beginning.

    Brainstorm a list of headlines…. this is one I started doing a few months ago and it’s really helped. Though some of them tend to go unpublished because they become old news so if you make a list of headlines, put expiration dates next to them unless it’s evergreen of course.

    But I disagree with assigning these to writers because in terms of high quality content, those writers should be the ones coming up with their own titles or it doesn’t come across authentic or original. Or it could be my titles have always been too abstract. I find that accepting guest posts can have great results.

    I think what we need is a checklist for a high quality post that can be used if a site wants to maintain quality. But then we get into a problem of content unrelated to the written text that the author / writer can’t or shouldn’t be burdened with. Image resizing, alt tag set, nofollow links, heading tags, call to action, twitter or facebook sharing, keywords, tags, category selection, internal linking, related posts, etc.

    In my opinion, the only way to get this accomplished is to assign these tasks so that one person isn’t having to do them all. In some industries, you have to start out doing the repetitive and boring work and get promoted into positions with more free thought and planning your own schedule. So someone who’s job is to just manage images, another one who just manages links, another one who just manages promoting, another one who just tracks conversions, another one who manages the site content strategy, another one who schedules posts from guests.

    Maybe thats a bit extreme, or maybe not. But does this mean that only the content that has the highest ROI will see the highest quality? The only industry that can sustain this type of content is what, the insurance industry, legal, etc? What if two blogs create very similar quality but blog 1 can do it in 1.5 hours and blog 2 can only do it in 3.5 hours but blog 2 is more qualified on the topic. The algorithm would have to adjust for this, somehow in order to rank blog 2 over blog 1 despite a missing alt tag or a broken link. So Demand Media is graded like blog 1 where every detail must be met, but blog 2 gets a bit of slack so they don’t die from dehydration in their little content production sweat shop.

  • Jan

    I loved this article, and so true. “vomiting content on a page” – just love the metaphors :-)
    Great job here. Wish I had thought of it first. :-)

  • Joomla Experts

    This was a great article. It reminded me of an article I wrote earlier in the year called. NEVER piss off a Search Engine Optimization Specialist.

  • Sharon

    How can I apply this theory to my photographic blog? The main content is photographs. My viewers are not interested in long articles, they want to see my latest work.

  • Andy Kuiper

    I had to laugh, however as funny as this article is, it should be mandatory reading for business owners. Ian, you are spot on when it comes to the thought process of so many decision makers when it comes to content creation. If it isn’t duplicate content, it’s often something thrown together that would have most grade 10 English teachers rolling their eyes. Thanks for shining some much needed light on this topic.
    Andy :-)

  • Desiree Sanchez

    I love that this article is short and sweet. Great job! I’ll be pointing my clients to this page to reiterate the importance of original, well-optimized content—which is all too often forgotten about.

    @Sharon, although pictures are worth a thousand words, you’ll be surprised at how many people are interested in the story about the photo. Why not talk about why you decided to take those photos? What were your inspirations? Why are those photos important? Describe the photo in words. Think of walking through an art museum, where they have a tiny plaque next to the picture, and give you the short story behind the art. Be sure to optimize your photos before you upload them to your website. Your content doesn’t have to be lengthy, just original, relevant and creative writing. Good luck and keep testing different methods to see what works for your readers.

  • Luke Garfield

    Excellent article which I’ll be passing onto our staff and clients. A very well written piece of content ;-).


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide