When Content is King Are You The Peasant?


In the era of “content marketing” everybody needs to become a publisher it seems and focus on content creation. Big media moguls love content. They don’t create it themselves though. Large corporations tend to make money off other people’s content these days. Just take a look at who said “content is king” in the past long before every blogger:

  • Ruport Murdoch of Newscorp said it in 1999
  • Bill Gates of Microsoft in 1996
  • Sumner Redstone of Viacom in 1994

Google will tell you that “you need great content” all the time. Do you need the content or does Google and other media corporations need it?

When it comes to SEO you still get ranked mainly by links. Just yesterday I have seen a company rank #5 on Google.com for [SEO] mostly by building site wide exact match footer links.

By now the “content is king” mantra has been adopted far and wide and people are repeating it all over the place. Heck, even I have to say it to make my point here.

The “content is king” metaphor is the oldest Internet meme it seems.

It’s clear that you need a whole team of people to actually practice content marketing. It’s costly as I have noted before here on the blog but you know it better than I do. That’s why you still engage in SEO not just in content creation, marketing or strategy.

  1. The pressure rises while everybody seems to agree on the value of content.
  2. More and more clients will ask you for content instead of SEO services in future.
  3. Demand for SEO has peaked in 2009 and is dwindling ever since according to Google Trends.

When you listen to fairy tales or watch fantasy movies you are probably identifying with the heroes, the medieval knights or kings. You’ll notice some ugly peasants around but they are either victims or really invisible as people, they are part of the background. There aren’t many stories of poor peasants toiling all day on the fields.

We have been reading a lot about so called “content farms” before the Google Panda updates.

These algorithm changes allegedly targeted mass produced low quality content.  One of the main sites used as an example of a content farm was Ehow from Demand Media back then.

Ehow had been optimizing its thousands of articles for Google by selectively targeting keywords, interlinking and ultimately by adding a large quantity of articles to the site. Writers earned just a few dollars per article.

Many other sites had to give up ever since but Ehow and Demand Media are still here and fare pretty well. They had lost some traffic initially but quickly recovered according to independent observers. The approach to content has shifted from quantity to quality afterwards though. Many SEO firms even rebranded as content marketing agencies.

Lately it’s about sheer size as some prominent pundits advocate “big content” to overcome the noise loudest signal. Where does all the noise from? It’s all the people joining the content marketing bandwagon and producing lots of “great content”.

It’s maybe not cheap or even automated anymore but the large amount of it is overwhelming again. It’s too much for the readers who get more selective each day. Who wins all the time while you are working hard to be able to make your content fields grow enough to feed you?

It’s the large corporations again that profit, it’s Google, Facebook and even Apple when it comes to music.


As a small business owner, an SEO or even a startup you wouldn’t engage in large scale quality content production unless Google and others demanded it from you. Your customers don’t want all the content either. They are perfectly satisfied with your products in many cases.

The content creation is mainly a tool to get more people to find you and stay with you in an ADHD attention economy. People are fickle. They take a quick look and move on fast to check out another dozen items similar to yours elsewhere.

So how do you reconcile your goal of earning more money by selling your products and services with the demands of large corporations controlling the content distribution like Google, Facebook and Apple?

How do you stop the vicious cycle of creating more and more content to compete with more and more small business people like you?

It’s not about creating more content, it’s not about creating bigger content, it’s not necessarily about content at all. Focus on the attention people have less and less of and help them to sift through the piles and piles of noisy and big content from everywhere.

Content curation is one direct way to deal with the onslaught of articles, images, ebooks, videos etc.

Don’t just create huge list of even more items to check out though. Make sure to reduce the actual number of items and to summarize them. You readers will be glad to save the time of doing it themselves.

Of course content curation is just another way of toiling on the fields of large latifundistas like Google. Ideally you want to return to SEO in the sense of focusing on the outcome not the process. The outcome of SEO is getting links, ranking high and getting targeted traffic historically. Content is just a means to get there. Content is not the only means to get there.

Your products or services are good enough ideally to get that attention.

Sometimes you need to help them a bit to get it by giving them away. In the music business it has been done for ages. Clothing brands have been giving away their products to musicians for free to wear publicly. These days bloggers get inundated with freebies. That’s OK but won’t suffice soon either when more people adapt this strategy.

Not all business owners are even able to give away their products and offer their services for free to get attention.

It’s about going where the attention is then. It’s an ages old marketing tactic: branding in stadium has been around as long as mass media have provided images from sports events. Nowadays attention waves are faster. News events are often huge attention waves. While many brands fail miserably trying to piggy-back on negative headlines others provide useful solutions for these occasions and go public at the right moment.

It’s not about hijacking a hashtag on Twitter when tragedy unfolds, it’s about providing an ad hoc resource for those in need of help. Helping people speaks for itself and many more than those you helped will remember you for it. It’s more than marketing but it also works as such, on the Web and beyond.

A great example of riding such an attention wave was when Google announced to kill its Reader service and Feedly stepped in right away.

So instead of being the peasant toiling all day on the content files focus on the attention, where the attention waves appear and by providing solutions for the people negatively impacted. It’s by far better than adding another article about what happens to the thousands that are already there. A recent study also shows that social media users like to share positive news. So don’t tell everybody how disaster strikes but how you help out.

We’re living in a democracy, the times of kings and peasants are gone luckily don’t mimic them in the digital age. The people choose those who are leading by example not just talking all the time.

Creative Commons image by tpmartins.



2 responses to “When Content is King Are You The Peasant?

  1. Wow! How fantastic blog on SEO content. I likes all the blog posts in this blogs section.
    Creative content!!!!!!!!

  2. Wow! How fantastic blog on SEO content. I likes all the blog posts in this blogs section.
    Creative content!!!!!!!!

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