I was at a conference recently and heard a story from a seasoned-SEO pro about how he ranked a website using only Lorem Ipsum text.

That’s right. He ranked a website using fake words.

The entire room chuckled in disbelief and immediately began to ask him how.

I sat quietly in the back listening and taking it all in. I do a bit of SEO and get the importance of it, but ranking a site using only keywords seemed…pointless.

The site is still out there, ranking on Google. People actually click on it. It’s almost like a hilarious inside joke that only digital marketers understand.

After talking about the “how” for a good hour, someone finally asked him, “why?”

The answer: To prove that you don’t need good content to rank on Google. You just need good SEO.

Now…feel free to tell me to get down off of my high horse, but something about creating things with the sole purpose of ranking it on Google, without considering the people who will see it, feels icky to me.

Because real marketing is not defined by keywords and rankings. It’s defined by your audience. And there are no shortcuts when it comes to building trust and adding value to the people who support your brand.

A lot of internet marketing has become about beating an algorithm. It’s feeling less about connecting with an audience and adding value to people. There is always value to give, no matter the industry. Someone resonates with you about something and would benefit from things you have to say, when you’re making an effort to solve a problem.

When you create good content, that’s thoughtful and valuable, even if it’s SEO-driven, it ranks itself. People will like it, share it, and take action on it. Your audience will recognize the effort you’ve put forth to create something specifically for them, to make their lives easier.

But I understand that you can’t ignore the algorithm. You just can’t pledge your allegiance to it and ignore your audience.

A study by SEMRush looked closely at 600,000 keyword phrases and how they rank on Google. The results revealed that 18% of sites that ranked in position 20 or higher on Google, had no keywords in the text at all.

However they did have high site traffic, quality backlinks, and good user activity like social shares. This told Google that people actually seem to like this content because they’re engaging with it.

When you think about it a bit deeper, Google’s main goal is to give people good search results (i.e. add value), not make your company more money or get you more traffic.

Which brings up another important point; why are you trying to “beat” the algorithm in the first place. Creating valuable content will rank you higher on Google as well as in the minds of your audience, exponentially more than an arbitrary ranking based on keywords. In fact, audience engagement outranks keywords every single time.

Here are a few signs that you’re prioritizing your rankings over the actual quality of your content:

  • Stuffing irrelevant, yet highly searched keywords
  • Adding links to irrelevant sources
  • Spinning content that isn’t yours
  • Hiding keywords somewhere on your pages
  • Not properly formatting your content so that it’s easy to read
  • Writing content because you think you “have” to

Tips for creating better content

Craft pages for your users, not search engines

It’s glaringly obvious when you go on a website that is built for Google and not for people. If you see the word “refrigerator repair” 12 times on the same page followed by the name of a different Australian town, that’s probably a good sign that the content is for Google and not for you.

There are so many other factors besides keywords that will allow your content to rank higher. Things like traffic, engagement rates and social shares all make a huge impact on your visibility in Google and all can be achieved by creating things that are made for people to consume and usually that aim to solve a pain point.

Aim to solve a problem or add value

If you have a solid audience or community, they probably all have things in common and it shouldn’t be hard for you to identify things that would add value to them. If you are having a hard time identifying a pain point or commonality, you need to do more research .

Dig deeper and be more specific

A lot of times, brands will think that they can add value just by doing the bare minimum. It might not even be about keywords or ranking, but because they think they need content just because everyone is talking about it.

Yes, it’s true. You do need content. There’s a reason everyone is talking about it.

But creating content just for the sake of creating content is a waste of time, money and resources. You might as well not do anything if you’re going to create things that aren’t intentionally useful.

Read more high-quality content that ranks well

You can’t create if you don’t consume. Some might disagree. But when it comes to content, you need to understand the standard that has been set.

The internet is more saturated than ever. And there are more free resources and valuable tools than ever. Whatever you are trying to create, the odds are that someone has already created that thing and it becomes your job to take a step further and make it your own.

Forget about the keywords and focus on the writing

If you’re informed and knowledgeable on a topic, the keywords will be there. If you know what you’re talking about and write to appeal to an audience, there is absolutely no need to stuff keywords and force rankings.

Take a comprehensive look at your content strategy

To help, I’ve created a free 4-day email course on how to create content your audience actually wants to read. You’ll learn how to audit your existing content to make it better, how to consistently come up with ideas your audience is interested in, and how to properly promote your content so people see it. Sign up and get the first module delivered in 30 seconds or less or else it’s free. Just kidding, it’s always free 🙂

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +385,662 people.

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