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Who said: “Content is King?” And what's more, is it true?

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Who first said "Content is King"?
It was of course William Henry "Bill" Gates III, erstwhile of Microsoft®, in an essay of the same title, back in 1996.

Back then, Microsoft® ruled the software world, Yahoo! ruled the search world, and Google was nothing but a twinkle in the eyes of Messrs Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

So here we are, somewhere near the end of 2009. Over thirteen years have passed since that defining article forecasting the Internet’s future. Microsoft® has failed to capitalize on the online opportunities foreseen by Bill Gates, and Yahoo! has most ingloriously lost its search-crown to a younger, stronger rival it once wanted to buy.

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In view of this, does Bill Gates' comment that Content is King even apply?

Despite the above quote being one of the single most overused and misapplied phrases in commercial Internet history, a surprising number of industry pundits are now beginning to argue that Content is not in fact King, and that the real crown belongs to Inbound Links pointed towards small-scale e-commerce websites… easy on the content, heavy on the sales.

Indeed, extensive research within the search market-sector has shown that while high-quality content may play a vital role in the fight to obtain better search-rankings, it will not by itself make an awful lot of money for its website. What tends to make money for commercial websites are sales-orientated web pages, with plenty of product photos, large bold text, words such as Save $$$ & Extra Free, and a Big Buy Now Button.

Is the Content Flame about to be extinguished by a new, Hard-Selling Web 3.0?

Well… Before you throw away all that text you so painstakingly wrote because someone told you content was king, there are a couple of things you need to consider.

Firstly, where do most visitors to any given website actually come from?
Unless you’re Microsoft, and you have a big enough budget to get your new-old search engine into Fox News’ commercial breaks every five minutes, most of the visitors you’re likely to get will come through search engines themselves, a single search engine in fact. And it’s not Bing; it’s Google.

So what do the billions of people using Google actually want?

They want information. Their ultimate objective might be to buy that solar-powered hairdryer you’re selling, but before they hand over the cash, they need to know what it is, how it works, and why they should buy it from you instead of Amazon. And that’s exactly where content comes in.

Content informs your visitor; it builds a rapport with them; it conveys your website’s reputability. And if you’ve written, and structured your content right, it also gives your visitor a load of ideas how he or she can put whatever it is you’re selling to new, interesting, and essential uses. In short, content is crucial for turning a visitor into a customer.

Secondly, where do most visitors to any given website actually come from?

That’s right… So what does Google actually want?

Unsurprisingly enough, Google Inc. wants to give its users what they’re looking for, because everyone at Google knows that the search-leviathan’s monstrous market-share ultimately depends on keeping users happy, and coming back for more. If it doesn’t keep its visitors satisfied, they might just defect to Bing/Live/MSN, or whatever the thing happens to be called today. Consequently, Google needs to return highly relevant search results for each and every query made. And, once again, that’s exactly where content comes in.

High-quality, informative, unique content equals higher search-rankings. It gives Google what it craves, the information to satisfy its users. It is a simple fact that, out of the two-hundred or so signals Google uses to assess a web page’s relevance to any given query, the quality of its text content happens to be one of the most crucial ones. When the searcher looks for Solar-Powered Hairdryers, Google tries to match this term with the most relevant and informative web pages in its index.

So while some self-proclaimed SEM expert may eloquently tell you in 522 words* that content is utterly inconsequential, the simple fact remains that Content is still King.

It has been since Bill Gates first coined the term back in 1996, and it looks to be for the foreseeable future.


*Does anyone apart from me notice some irony about this?

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