Not long ago, if you wrote good content on a regular basis, you had a decent chance of trouncing your competition in search engine results pages (SERPs), attaining a higher search ranking and therefore getting a higher share of organic traffic. These days, good content is still a major boon for your website — but it’s not enough to compete on the national level.
What do I mean by this? And how can you adjust your strategy accordingly?
SEO Basics: The Importance Of Content
I’ll start with some basic search engine optimization (SEO) background information. SEO is all about increasing your website’s rankings in relevant search results, most commonly targeting Google. For Google to rank your site highly, you need to establish both relevance (i.e., addressing the subject of a user’s query) and authority (i.e., proving that your site is trustworthy).
Written content is valuable because it accomplishes both — sort of. Good content lets you establish relevance for different keywords and phrases, while also building the trustworthiness of your site. If your content is good enough to attract inbound backlinks, which serve as major indicators of authority, it can assist your site even more.
So why isn’t good content enough to compete in SEO in 2021?
The Changing Landscape Of Consumer Content
First, the very nature of “content” is starting to change. Back in 2011, in the wake of the Panda update, written content was not only the norm — it was the only practical way to optimize a site for search engines. For today’s consumers, written content is often an afterthought — they want images, videos, podcasts, audio content and other mediums to consume.
If you want to stand out to both search engine algorithms and human content consumers, you need to diversify the types of content you’re creating and appeal to a broader audience.
User Experience And Technical Factors
Lately, Google has been making more of an effort to prioritize user experience and technical factors in its ranking algorithm. The company’s philosophy has always been to make the web a better place for search users, so websites that provide fast, reliable and technically polished platforms have always had an edge over their counterparts.
In 2021, Google is rolling out page experience, a new set of ranking signals for websites, based on “Core Web Vitals” that measure website performance. Good content can still anchor your site and provide you with opportunities with keyword optimization, but if that content is unreliable, slow to load or otherwise bothersome to users, it’s not going to have the same impact.
It’s also worth noting that the sheer competition faced by SEO experts has increased, especially in recent years. Almost every company website in the world has its own blog, and even in lesser-known industries, it’s common to face hundreds, or even thousands, of competitors fighting for dominance in the SERPs.
If you want any hope of getting an advantage in such a hotly contested environment, “good” content isn’t enough. You need truly exceptional content — some of the best in the industry — or some alternative strategy to avoid or surpass the competition, such as building better, more authoritative links, or targeting a niche audience segment that’s neglected by your top competitors.
Key Tips For Success
So what does this mean for your brand? What should you do to improve your chances of succeeding?
Differentiate your brand. One of the biggest issues SEO experts face is competition — and one of the easiest ways to avoid competition is through brand differentiation. If you’re targeting different people or are writing about different topics, you might be able to make the competition a non-issue.
Focus on quality, not quantity. A few years ago, it was common for brands to churn out as much content as possible as fast as possible. But in the modern era, this tactic doesn’t hold up. You’ll need to focus on quality over quantity if you want any chance of succeeding.
Redouble your technical and user experience efforts. Spend more time and energy on the structure of your website, the user experience quality it offers and its technical performance. If your site doesn’t work, or isn’t favorable to users, not even the best content can save you.
Build links deliberately. Earning links naturally is always ideal in terms of preserving a “natural” backlink profile, but it’s unreliable for building your authority long term. Make sure you have a clearly defined strategy to build links deliberately.
Good content is still critical for your SEO success — but by itself, it’s simply not enough to set the stage for your competitive dominance in the SERPs. Take this opportunity to reevaluate your SEO goals and priorities, and put together a strategic approach better suited to the state of the industry in 2021.
Originally appeared in Forbes