Social media experts have debated for years via their blogs, articles, and white papers the answer to the question, “Which is more important – keywords or content?” Should the keywords come first – commanding a position of supreme importance – and from which all content decisions should flow, OR should content come first, and let keyword selection be a function of extracting the phrases most representative of the content being covered. In an effort to frame out this debate, I have enclosed a brief summary of the arguments on both sides.
“Keywords Are More Important!”
Keywords RULE! Keywords are Priority #1 online. It doesn’t matter what you write, if it doesn’t get found, who cares? Google, search engines, and autobots run the world. It’s a numbers game and you have to play by their rules. If you dominate and own your keywords, you own your market, and if you own your market, you win! Pick your keywords, repeat them millions of times, and eventually the marketplace will relent and beat a path to your doorstep. If a new article is posted in the blogosphere but nobody finds it, does it make a sound? No.
“Content Is More Important!”
“Content is king, communication is queen.” Superior content always wins. What good is having a bullhorn if what you’re saying isn’t worth saying? Why do country music stars – many of whom started by performing at church picnics – often outshine American Idol contestants who’ve had the benefit of worldwide visibility? Because their content was of a superior quality; a lasting quality; a quality so good that it kept people coming back for more, and it was this groundswell of support that pushed them from obscurity to fame. Content, when done correctly, establishes a voice of authority and credibility through the strategic insights which are shared with the market. Sure, keywords will get you found, but content goes viral – getting tweeted and retweeted – because it is powerful, unique, fresh, authentic, and relevant, not because it has six overused keywords in its title.
Great content speaks the truth, and it is this truth that resonates with the marketplace, prompts conversations, and invites feedback. But most importantly, great content – provided on a regular basis – prompts the market to start looking for you, on your terms, and without selling out to keywords. It’s like that convention booth that plays loud music and hires models to give out samples – sure you notice them, sure you FIND them, but you’re afterwards you’re left wondering if their product is any good, because of the lengths they considered necessary to get your attention. If it were truly a quality product, wouldn’t that quality and industry reputation speak for itself?
After carefully considering the compelling arguments from both sides above, I have reached a verdict. Content comes first – but only by a hashtag. Eventually everyone will figure out all of the tricks and keyword optimization tactics to skew search results, at which point the game will be even again, and firms and brands will be left to stand on their merit. Sizzle will give way to steak, and style will give way to substance. By first focusing on content as a strategic differentiator – and THEN enabling this content to be found through careful keyword selection – firms can maximize their social media impact, populate their marketing funnel through an expending online presence and influence, and accelerate their leads to feeds and their prospects into profits – not just for tomorrows’ search results, but for sustained, organic, long-term growth.
Chief Content Officer