Content is NOT always King & SEO is not always bad

Ok if I put two sites side by side and I told you that one ranked much better than the other given these stats, which one do you think would rank highest?

Site A Site B
Site Theme General Dircectory Wine ONLY
Advertising 3 Adsense Blocks + Banner None
Last content written about wine 2 years Yesterday
Comments per year 1.25 456 in 3 months
Del.ici.ous 1000 (generic site) 1500+ (niche site)
Subscribers ?? 11,000+
Technorati Rank ?? 998

If you said site B you'd be wrong. Even though the stats KILL site A it is just not the case that the best content always wins out.

How can Suite 101's page on red wine (Page A), that is a general site with no theme, outrank Winelibrary's Video on California Pinot Noir (Page B) on a search for California pinot noir??

Because content is NOT king, maybe someday it will be, but right now, that is NOT the case!

What kind of sparked this research was simple, I was following Jason Calacanis' twitter feed (yes I am addicted to twitter now, see me here) when he praised this video of Gary Vaynerchuk.

Right off the bat, I like Gary. I met him briefly at Affiliate Summit in Vegas but really got a dose of his personality in this video (I have NEVER heard of Winelibrary TV but now I am hooked).

If you watch the video, I LOVE everything he is saying but then… I hear this at 2 minutes 15 seconds: “don't worry about your SEO rank or how to title your blog posts”, What!!!!!!!!! (Disclaimer: this comment is about 2% of the whole video, I know I am focusing on a small part. The other 98% is awesome.)

Don't obsess, yes, but don't worry at all?! I think that is bad advice.

A search for “content is king” on Google showed me this:

In this video where Matt Cutts himself recommends that webmasters think about what users are going to type to find their content. He even recommends getting those keywords into the site. Optimization is NOT bad.

But the search engines are just not smart enough “yet” to make sure that the best content always wins out, and we're not talking about #1. There can always be more than just 1 site with great content on a topic and there can only be one #1!. I get that.

What I'm talking about top 10, top 20 where so often lower quality sites can creep in. Often times replacing great content sites who have chosen not to optimize and stick to a "content is king" philosophy, where basic best practices are not followed.

Not following best practices as it relates to SEO leads to:

  • Poorer results for users all over the web
  • Allows lower quality sites to outrank you and pollute the web

Lets give an example of how far the search engines still have to go to determine relevancy:

Have you ever searched for a plural versus a singular and saw the difference in the SERPS? Here's an example, check out a search for nursing college and nursing colleges.

There is a wide disparity, and I can't image that Google really believes that should be the second most relevant result for "nursing college" and not worth being in the top 100 for the word "nursing colleges" (as of my search) what if we complicate things by searching for "nursing university"?

With that said, search engines definitely still have a ways to go, and while they are not perfect they NEED a boost now, they need a little help, and honestly I think that that is what good SEO does.

Here's a step by step example of WHY people with great content who are NOT doing SEO basics, like how to title your blog posts are hurting and not helping! I'll use as an example:

When I type in “red wine” I get this:


  • A relevant page (they do SEO basics)
  • 2 sites about health
  • A Wikipedia page (of course)
  • And redwine audio's site

No wine library in the Top 100! I think they deserve to be somewhere in the top 100, don't you?!!!

I can't tell you the countless times I have used search engines to help me find a good bottle of cheap wine while out at the wine store or before I head out for dinner and I NEVER saw Gary's site. Why are you holding out on me bro?

OK, MAYBE this is not a term that winelibrary should rank well for. So, I did a search for “wine reviews” – This seems to be LOCK STEP with the idea of the show. I love Gary for not being a freaking wine snob, I hate those guys too!

Do a search for “wine reviews” or “wine reviews online” on Google or Yahoo, and they will not show and I think that is a BAD thing for wine enthusiasts and people who want to learn about wines. I honestly feel that if were to rank well for these terms that it would help wine enthusiasts all over the world.

At this point, forget the business equation of: higher rank = more traffic & more traffic = more business for (which is not part of the 80/20 principle Gary mentions) And forget the ego boost: higher rank = more visibility & more visibility = more notoriety (also not 80/20)

I kind of imagined a Gary & Matt (Cutts) Conversation going something like this:

I could see the conversation between Gary & Matt Cutts right now: Matt: I love wine man, your site is great! Gary: Thanks man, its all about just being real about the wine and the Jets bro, glad I could help, You a wine guy? Matt: A bit Gary: What kind of wines you like? Matt: Well I love pinot noir, but the other day I wanted a great California pinot noir and did a search and found this site: Some pretty BLAH content, I noticed that you had this video & this video, good stuff. Do me a favor man, please put the title of the video in your title tag and post a transcript so me and millions of others find your stuff instead of suite 101 and a stale page. Gary: We don't need no stinking titles, just good content man! Content is KING, didn't you see my gigaOM video? Matt: Well man, you know I do have to take some time out of my schedule to chill with my wife and play with the cat! We're working on it but for now, just a few best practices will make sure I get better wines after a long day fighting spammers, not to mention you'd actually push the crap further down by helping your stuff move up. Gary: Content is King man, I don't need to optimize, that's SEO stuff! Matt: Darn, oh well, let me go talk to these 400 spammers who are going to tell me they did nothing wrong, but in the meantime, make my job a bit easier and optimize just a little bit, k? Gary: Yeah, Go J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets!

Comedic Interlude Over:

Seriously, by not optimizing your site with just basic best practices you are allowing: Thin affiliate's, scrapers, and low authority sites to get information (possibly poor information) out to wine lovers & possibly giving them a bad experience with wine.

To his defense Gary didn't crap on SEO but in passing he briefly mentioned not to worry about putting the right keywords in and let content win out.

So I quickly wanted to respond by saying, I think this new approach to saying hey I am not going to optimize my site and you shouldn't either can lead to a bad user experience when searching for things on the web.

I also look at the best buys section of wine library (cause I am always looking for a good cheap wine) and notice some good stuff there too, yet because the site isn't following basic best practices it is not ranking well.

Gary, while I don't like the Jets, (Go EAGLES) here are some tips to help you sell more wine to help you buy the Jets maybe a day or two earlier: I would take the best buys section and first do some keyword research to see how people search for lower cost wines, starting with Google Suggest:

Then a little Yahoo Search Assist:

This exercise took me about 3 minutes already has a page that has great wines called “best buys” When looking at the admittedly quick research it seems that people search for wines under $10, $15 and $20 dollars. Winelibrary already has a page that has wines under $20, could you also develop one for $10 and $15? Because the research shows that there are people out there searching for wines at these prices and you have credibility in helping people select wines, you would be HELPING them. Heck, maybe you could do a video on wines under these price points. Given the way the economy is, we don't want to stop drinking great wines, but we may have less money, and I'd listen to your opinions.

If not for growing your business, how about for actually helping people on the Internet find good wines under these price points from a GREAT source, which you are. Remember your 80/20 rule, help me, and many others find great wines, you guys are a credible source, with yes, GREAT CONTENT, even if it needs a little boost to make it findable.

If you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for us, the wine loving public!

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Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President