It’s a SEO mantra, “Content is king”. You can’t rank without it. So when Neil Patel claimed in February 2019 that content wasn’t king anymore was he onto something?
If you haven’t come across Neil Patel before he holds a celebrity status with some do it yourself search engine optimizers. You can’t help but enjoy his upbeat persona as he bounces around the screen on YouTube videos or throws out his tips on podcasts.
I mentioned some above because his approach and his business model are not the only way to SEO although from the way he sometimes comes across you would think that it is. It worked for him so maybe it can work for you.
Others grind their teeth a little because Neil is not all he appears to be. The content he spews out is mostly produced by ghost writers. He has a team that manage his social media profiles – yes, when you think Neil has replied to your comment on YouTube its probably not Neil at all and hence why the responses are usually fairly vague. His team delete comments which criticize and he has a fairly long list of times he gave out bad advice and had to move quickly to remove the evidence.
You can take the moral high ground on contracting out if you like but I know even some of the smallest companies out there contract out plenty. Sure its misleading but its all about managing a brand in today’s world. You don’t have time to do everything but people expect you to be everywhere.
Content isn’t king?
Love him or hate him, he has influence so when he declared content was no longer king had he lost his marbles or hit on something interesting?
A bit of both
Neil had noticed that his brand wasn’t growing at the same rate that it used to. He could be piling out videos and podcasts and articles and blog posts but the number of people following him was beginning to plateau.
Neil had also noticed (and this is my opinion, he hasn’t come out and said it) that his content didn’t need to be the best anymore. If Neil threw out a video called “3 things you can do before breakfast to improve your SEO” it would get shared and it would get backlinks and it would rank just because it was Neil. It didn’t need any depth.
Neil has a vast following on Social Media and a mighty database of emails so he can make hundreds of thousands of people aware of any new content within seconds. Its a second gateway to more shares and more backlinks and better rankings without needing to rely so much on the absolute quality of the content.
Meanwhile on a website not so far away that had nothing to do with SEO one of Neil’s colleagues had noticed a similar plateau effect. He could be creating ever more great content but visitor numbers weren’t going up.
What they had both found, but hadn’t seemed to realize it, is that they had reached market saturation. There are only so many people who are going to become Neil Patel fans. There are only so many people looking for a particular product or service. After that you are at the mercy of the markets – more people will eat out if people in general get richer because the economy is growing. Nothing to do with SEO.
The law of diminishing returns
What they were both experiencing was the Law of diminishing returns – well known by economists. Neil spends thousands of dollars a day advertising on Facebook and early on that bought lots of new followers. But there are only so many potential followers out there for Neil’s type of internet marketing.
You can double your spend but you won’t double your followers. You might get 50% more. You can quadruple your spend but only get 10% more followers. That’s what the law of diminishing returns is all about.
Neil’s colleague on the other hand had increased his own year on year revenue 100% without increasing visitor numbers. He had been focusing on improving his conversion rate – getting more out of his current visitors and Neil was impressed.
Are you Neil Patel?
Neil’s conclusion was that content wasn’t where he needed to focus his attention and he suggested the same to his followers. In his position it might be good advice. I’ll explain the might bit in a moment. But first check:
- Have you built up a substantial following both via email and social media?
- Are you spending thousands of dollars a day advertising and finding that if you spend even more it doesn’t make a huge difference?
- Do you have a mega comprehensive website in your subject area that is receiving substantial visitor numbers via the search engines?
If the answer to all of this is Yes, OK – pulling back on content and focusing on conversion is one option.
What Neil thought was wrong
Neil concluded that one of the problems was that the Internet is ‘full’. Whatever the subject there is content on it and lots of content. That’s a good reason to pursue a non-content strategy. But its slightly flawed thinking on two fronts:
- It assumes the content out there is good quality and that no better quality can be achieved. Its pretty obvious that isn’t tue.
- It assumes the world stands still and nothing changes. It doesn’t and with every technological advance (say, driverless cars) or shift in society (say the rise in ecological thinking) brings vast fields that need content.
What to do if you hit market saturation
Neil is absolutely right in one sense. If you are in his position you can focus on conversion improvements and you can dial back on the quality of your content a bit. You’ll be giving the search engines plenty of other reasons to rank your content anyway – backlinks, brand mentions, etc.
But there is another way as the guys over at High Income School pointed out in their video response. Just move on.
If your website about camping equipment is as busy and as popular as its realistically ever going to get then start a website about electric scooters. When you can’t take that one any further start one about kitchen cookers. Hell if you have the resources don’t even wait for the one about electric scooters to top out before you get started on the next one.
All these income streams add together one on top of the other so its quite possible to be bringing in total revenues that outstrip one huge mega site like Neil Patels.
What High Income School find, and what I find, is that the Internet is not full at all and Google is quite happy to budge out other content if you produce something better.
For example. Entity Salience is not a new area in SEO and there are lots of content about it. But when I updated the entry in my How to SEO website glossary it took 4 days for Google to move it into its top 10 for ‘Entity Salience in SEO’ because it was more relevant and more comprehensive than anything else out there … and its not an article of any great length, I didn’t market it or share it on social media before it was in the top 10.
(Note to self: Remember to make a video called ” How to get into Google’s top 10 in 4 days” 😉 )
Will lower quality be Neil’s undoing?
The other aspect to be wary of is the direction search engines are moving in. Neil can virtually guarantee rankings for his content because of the backlinks he is sure to get and the brand mentions that will happen, no matter what he says. He doesn’t need to provide the ‘best’ content.
This is a headache search engines have recognized for some time. Not Neil, he’s not a headache … unless you watch too many of his hyper videos back to back 🙂
The headache is content sending ranking signals, like lots of great backlinks, because it is content from a celebrity. Not because it is the best content. At its worst it is what helps fake news stories go viral.
To counter this they are investing heavily in Natural Language Processing (NLP). Can they tell, just by looking at the content of a page, how good it is? It’s a huge field and I won’t be going into the detail here – have a look at my Natural Language Processing explainer on my How to SEO website if you want to know more.
If they succeed with NLP, and I think they will, then a great deal of medium quality content is going to disappear from the SERPs regardless of backlinks.
I don’t think this will affect Neil’s business model. While that content flies right now it will generate him an income that will easily cover its costs so once again if you are in Neil’s situation right now its not a bad approach.
If you aren’t you are going to waste a lot of time and the potential for great future rankings the day you stop believing content is king.
Bad advice from Neil Patel?
Not really, just badly qualified advice and a conclusion that is poorly argued. The internet isn’t full of quality content even if there is really one blog for every 7 people on the planet. And yes, pulling back on quality and spending more time marketing is a valid business approach if you are in the same position as Neil right now.
It’s great advice from Neil …. for Neil!