It’s time to move content out of the SEO department

With the announcement of Generative AI in Search people say: there is no more incentive to create content anymore. Well if we create content for SEO reasons only, that is definitely true. But why do we only create content if it brings us visitors from organic search? Creating content for this reason only is a flaw in our marketing strategy and by doing this we are missing the bigger value of content.

Rather want to listen?

Is this good enough to rank in Google?

Let’s be honest: for years the only reason for a lot of companies to create content was to publish it on the website and attract organic traffic. The fact that people are saying there is no incentive anymore to create great content when Google is stealing our clicks actually confirms this. 

A lot of companies never seemed to care about creating great content anyway. For years, the question was not “Is this interesting for our readers?” but rather “Is this enough to rank in Google?”. And so far, Google has always rewarded this low-quality content, especially in non-English speaking countries. So why should we create high-quality, helpful content when low-quality, thin content is also delivering top rankings, visitors, and revenue?

Nowadays, we are at the moment that we truly need to reconsider this approach. There are several reasons for this. 

Reason 1: Google wants helpful content

The first reason is that Google is shifting away from content for search engines to rewarding people first-content. This already implies there should be another motivation to create content. We can read about this in the Helpful Content Update Guidelines. Especially the recent addition of the ‘why’ is remarkable. Google recommends us to consider why we create content. If the answer is to rank in search engines, that is not the kind of content they want to reward. Instead, they ask us to create content that satisfies the users’ needs.

Reason 2: Google wants E-E-A-T

The second reason to approach content differently is that Google is asking us to create content that shows expertise and experience. They request that it’s produced by authoritative sources that make it trustworthy. This means Google set a new standard for content quality and it’s clear that the content we need for SEO is not content that has been written for SEO (read that again!).

Reason 3: Generative AI in Search

A third reason why we cannot keep creating content for SEO is the announcement of Generative AI in Search. This reason is actually two folded: we might expect even less traffic from organic search to websites. So when your business case is based on SEO performance, you will face problems to justify the investment.

We can argue that there at least is exposure in Google and that views also have some value. But in that case we are back where we started: it’s beyond obvious that Google will only show sources that have strong E-E-A-T signals. Google is not going to take the risk to quote information or refer to websites that are not known for their expertise.

So if you want to be mentioned as a source in the answers, you still need to check their E-E-A-T and helpful content boxes which brings us back to reason 1 and 2.

Great content and building E-E-A-T takes more than SEO’s can provide

I believe that creating the content that Google wants from us takes more than an SEO can provide. Why? 

You cannot build up E-E-A-T with website content

First of all, just posting your content on the website is not enough to build up a reputation and get known as an authority. It’s about time we build a bridge between website content and other channels. You need content that gives you the option to proactively build up a reputation. Think of content like podcasting, video’s and social posting but of course you need to integrate this into your website so you can be found in Google ánd to help the visitor.  

Don't create content without the help of Subject Matter Experts

The second. reason is because you need the help of subject matter experts that have a certain status in the industry, preferably an online track record that proves their status. Don’t let a random content marketeer write a blog article for SEO about “How to choose your new running shoes?” 

Find someone who sold running shoes for decades and ran 100 marathons – for example. Organize video’s or podcasts with those people, great athletes or other people in the sports industry and turn those interviews into blog posts and website content around questions your customers have. Now you have both content to build up genuine authority in other channels and you can publish this in depth content on your website to impress Google. 1 + 1 = 3.

Authorities work with other authorities

When you do this, you can proactively reach a new audience with your podcast and ‘archive’ the textual content likes blogs on your website as a portfolio. It will help you build up true Authority, the one that Google wants from you. Do it a few times and you will attract other experts that also might want to cooperate with you in podcasts to share their knowledge, everybody is vain in some way. Those authorities might share there presence or contribution on their website, social channels etc. 

This might lead to earned links for a real reason. It’s not A for domain Authority, but A for genuine Authority.

You need authority to cut through the noise

I can guarantee you will need your Authority. Not only because Google looks for it, but when you are not an authority your content will not get noticed. In times when pretty much anyone can produce tons of content, just having the content will not seal the deal. It will matter who the source is. So we need to gain brand awareness and claim expert status to be recognized as an Authority and eventually cut through the noise. Your client will start to filter content and you want your brand to have an entrance pass to get through that filter. You can’t reach that with SEO content.

Move content out of the SEO department

The question is – looking at all these requirements and expectations – is this something we can expect from the SEO department to live up to or is it time to take content out of the SEO department and move it on to a new department? SEO adopted the activity of creating content when nobody saw the possibilities. But living in 2023 we should see that content is a hygiene factor for marketing and building up authority. Especially in times where everyone can create content, you need the best content to get attention from your audience. 

Helpful content and E-E-A-T should be in the company's DNA

Given what it takes, we have no choice but to conclude: creating content that shows E-E-A-T and is helpful should be in the company’s DNA and be supported from the top down. Companies need to embrace the concept of valuable content and not make any compromises. We shouldn’t meet a certain standard just because Google says so; we should do it because we see the bigger value of great content for the client and the company as a whole.

Helpful content and E-E-A-T are bigger than SEO

This makes it bigger than SEO and this is also the reason why it shouldn’t be the responsibility of the SEO department. Just because Google demands this other approach from us, doesn’t mean it should be on the SEO’s plate. It probably can’t even be on their plate. As mentioned before, if Google keeps on sending less and less traffic to websites, you cannot build a business case anymore for creating content for SEO reasons. We need to join forces with the other channels if we agree on the importance of content.

A central content department that facilitates all channels

Creating quality content should be a day task for another department: one that completely can focus on it. They should find topics based on actual qualitative client research. What are the problems, frustrations, challenges, goals, myths and misunderstandings that our customer has.  

They need to collect the knowledge that is going to be shared by sourcing experts. Next step is to produce the best content for the client and the company in all kinds of forms: podcasts, social posts, webinars, magazines, e-books, articles, blog posts etc. They need to start with creating expertise content first and then need to make sure the content is also available in a form that you can post on your website (blogs for example). One thing I know for sure: this content can definitely perform well in SEO.

A new mindset towards the creation of content

Isn’t it ironic that developments in SEO force us to value content for more than just SEO? This asks for a shift in mindset and more specifically on 5 different aspects:

The new motivation to create content

Don’t create content for SEO reasons, consider it as a hygiene factor for organic marketing. When you record a podcast with authorities and turn those in blogposts with a central focus, you are taking it bigger than SEO. The content can be reused in your newsletter or on social media. In this matter content doesn’t exist for the purpose of SEO, it exists because there is an intrinsic motivation to share knowlegde, information, insights and help your audience better. It’s more towards demand generation, building your brand and proving (online and offline) E-E-A-T. 

Of course companies are profit-driven, but by only creating content that we know beforehand will deliver ROI in organic search, we are being overly efficient and missing out on potential profit and returns. Don’t judge content on its performance in Google alone; instead, consider its value based on what it brings to your brand, your visitor, and all the channels that can reuse it. 

How to select topics we write about

Keyword tools are not a good foundation to decide which topics we are going to cover in a higher level content strategy. There is only 1 good criterion and that is: does this topic matter to our customer?

The content department needs to uncover these topics during qualitative topic research and stick to our findings no matter if there is search volume or not. If we don’t turn a topic into content because tools say there is no search volume, you might end up not covering that topic at all. Are you missing an item revolving around a keyword with search volume, you are of course always free to pitch it to the content department!

Who creates the content

Without the help of subject matter experts, we should not create any content. Content marketers know about great content but most of the time they are not experts on the subject. They need to find experts that can deliver meaningful tips and new insights or a unique vision. That is what sets you apart. 

SEO with an O for optimizing

If we want to optimize content for SEO, let’s look at it like polishing a great foundation. The SEO point of view and keywords should be the icing on the cake, not the main ingredient. If you want to do keyword research and add keywords to your content, do it afterwards.

How we judge performance

We shouldn’t judge content on its performance in Google alone; instead, consider its value based on what it brings to your brand, your visitor, and all the channels that can reuse it. Is search volume on your brandname increasing according to Google Trends? If we agree that it should be a hygiene factor and foundation for the rest of your online marketing activities, judge it that way. 


People first content is the foundation for SEO

It might sound a little bit off, especially coming from an SEO, that companies should move content out of the SEO department. But one thing I know for sure is that user focused content has great potential to rank well in SEO. It ticks all of the Google boxes but will benefit your company as a whole and not only in SEO.

A former client of mine – one of the Netherlands major charities – operates in what we now call YMYL. They never focused on SEO; they just wanted to create the best content to support visitors by providing helpful information about a disease. Thanks to the rather unique nature of the charity, their online authority was huge. Long before the concept of E-E-A-T and helpful content existed they practiced this way of working and saw the results: every page this charity published just happened to rank number 1 for search queries related to the topic. 

Let's talk about SEO

Do you want to get more out of SEO and get started with People First SEO? I am more than happy to help you with this. Together with me, you will work on creating your ideal customer profile and determine where and when you can reach your audience with the right message. Some content items are suitable for SEO, while others can be used for demand generation and building authority. All the content you create must meet the requirements of the Google Helpful Content Update and contribute to E-E-A-T.

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