Why Content is No Longer King

Carol Tice

Why Content is No Longer King. Makealivingwriting.comYou’ve all heard the expression that when it comes to websites and blogging, “content is king.” For a while, it was true.

Sites stuffed their pages with junk content — much of it almost unreadable, robot-generated SEO garbage — and were rewarded with better rankings in Google searches, and more traffic and sales.

Lots of bloggers went nuts, throwing up any old error-filled, half-baked, two-paragraph post, just to have a post every day of the week. Having boatloads of content was important!

This ushered in the era about 2-3 years back when it seemed like every job ad you saw was to write three posts a day for $5 each, accompanied by threats of employing Copyscape for plagiarism checking. A lot of content was really about content-stuffing, not creating anything useful for readers.

Or as I liked to say, “You want someone to write posts for robots to read. I only write pieces for people to read.”

People warned me that this was the new reality, and in the future it would be all cheap junk and low rates. But I never believed it. I knew the pendulum would swing back.

It’s already happening. Many sites I know have raised their rates and changed their standards because they’ve tried the low-rent approach and it didn’t work.

Eventually, so many sites did the junk-content thing, website readers got hip to it and stopped visiting these sites. The sites quickly lost their credibility. Rankings for junk-post sites went down.

The days when blogs could be sloppy, half-thought-out pieces written in 10 minutes and still succeed are over.

Which brings us to the new era. Know what the watchword is now?

Great content is king.

That’s right — it’s not about quantity any more. It’s all about quality.

Over time, readers ignored the junk-stuffed sites and became enthusiastic, loyal fans of sites with terrific content. I know some of the ones I read may only post once a week. Those sites still became the real money-makers.

That’s because what they post is amazing, enlightening, terrifically useful information.

As my Webinar partner Judy Dunn said earlier this week, bloggers who want to succeed today should write like they already have 1,000 subscribers. Or take the attitude I always did — that each blog post I wrote was as important to me as a $1-a-word article I would write for a national magazine or major corporation.

I always thought of the time spent on posts as an investment in my future earnings.That turned out to be a good approach.

There’s two ways to play it in freelance writing today — you can pitch companies and publications and get assignments like always. Or you can create your own blog, which in essence is like your own rolling magazine, and use it as a tool for earning. If you build a successful blog, you can use it to get gigs, sell ebooks, get consulting work, or sell products for others. This is the unique, new opportunity of the 21st Century for writers.

But it’s not easy, or we’d all already be millionaires.

It’s about really thinking about what readers want to know, and delivering it every single time.  Sharing generously from your own experiences, while offering concrete tips on what others can learn from them. It’s about writing irresistible headlines that draw readers to come visit.

The days when just great content alone could make the blog-success magic happen are also gone.

The new era of blogging is also about great design and usability — making your site look inviting and uncluttered, and easy for readers to navigate and find what they want. It’s about committing to constantly learning more about this emerging, evolving art of blogging, and making your blog better and better. If you have no natural aptitude for design (which I certainly don’t!), you still can’t ignore this critical element.

In other words, your great blog posts are like pretty pictures. Put them in a hideous frame, and people won’t want to look. You have to bring it all together — the great content and smart design — to have all the ingredients for blogging success. That’s why, on March 15, Judy and I will be talking about both design and content strategies to help your blog find its audience.


  1. Dominique

    Thanks for this one. I’ve taken some flack for my inability to just endlessly churn out 200-word, “SEO-friendly”, pieces of crap, and taking maybe 10 minutes to do each piece. I like to take the time to do something right, and after a couple of years, I’ve got a nice batch of mostly evergreen pieces that continue to draw traffic for me month after month. I continue to search for ways to turn my blog into a platform I can use to help earn some decent income from my writing, but meanwhile, I have a body of work on which I’m proud to see my byline.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Dominique —

      I’m with you. Fortunately, because human beings don’t actually take an interest in most junk content, I see it mostly fading away.

  2. Brett

    I’m relatively new to following blogs diligently (and to blogging consistently). I love the point about writing as if you’re producing a $1 a word article for a national magazine. I don’t really have much of an audience at all, and, frankly, I’m feeling out the subject (or 2) I’d like to focus on. Despite that, I’m trying hard to write simple, readable, concise posts that might be useful to someone out there. I’m doing this in a niche that is mostly made of personal reflection/journaling blogs. Who knows….

  3. R Matt Lashley

    Hear, hear!

    Key word stuffing didn’t last forever. “Key word stuffing once removed” via backlinks to flogs, splogs and spomments won’t last forever either.

    The days of write and spin are numbered!

  4. Ahlam Yassin

    You’re right Carol having a successful blog is about being patient enough to churn out meaningful posts that are useful. However, it’s so much harder to actually take the time and effort to create these pieces, that’s why some bloggers succeed and others fade in the background. In addition to writing these pieces its getting incredibly harder to be “original” with everyone who wants a platform having it and conversing on similar topics.

    I feel like I should say something like ‘God grant me the patience and determination to succeed on this journey’, because it is very much a journey. Thanks for reminding everyone that quality is always better than quantity. 🙂

  5. John

    Great post, Carol. It seems to be working well for you and we’re happy to have you on our new project. That’s exactly what we’re looking for – GREAT content that will keep people coming back.

    I like this: “I always thought of the time spent on posts as an investment in my future earnings.” Exactly my approach since starting my own blog.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi John —

      Thanks for visiting my blog! Like you have nothing else to do right now…

  6. Kristin

    I couldn’t agree more with this entire post. I’ve only been blogging for about six months and haven’t used my blog (yet) as a tool to get paid writing work, but I hope to one day. As a result, I’m very conscientious about what I publish. I take my time writing, edit myself ruthlessly, and read each post several times through both before and after I hit ‘Publish.’ I often go back and make small tweaks to posts even after I publish. Each post is personal to me and has to be just right. I usually only publish 2-3 posts each week. I feel pressured to keep up with others, particularly in my niche (lifestyle and parenting), but I can’t bring myself to throw just anything up on my blog. It has to have a point, even if I’m just telling random antecdotes from my life.

    And what you said about the design element is exactly why I’m getting ready to embark on a professional redesign. I consider it an investment.

    • Carol Tice

      Before you spend thousands or even hundreds on developers, Kristin, you might consider coming to the Webinar…for $47 we’ll give you a lot of design tweaks that you can probably do yourself and make huge improvements. I’m always worried when people doing personal blogs that aren’t yet earning tell me they’re investing in redesign. I just don’t think it has to be such a big undertaking or big cost. I just talked one of my mentoring program students out of doing just that, and to take a WordPress class instead and start making her own changes. I’m strongly in favor of keeping the ramp-up affordable.

      Investing your sweat equity in building your blog is one thing, but I’m a big believer that it shouldn’t be a big dollar outlay. I totally bootstrapped mine. At one point I paid a high schooler $12 an hour and spent maybe $150…and then I worked with that for about 18 months.

      On the issue of spending time on posts…the eye-opener for me was hearing from Jon Morrow that he routinely spends 8-10 hours on a single post. You read that right, folks! Everyone should know this is what the top pros are doing. This is where the bar is set if you want to break out.

      The good news is, even if you don’t have that much time to invest, there are some really simple, teachable things you can do to improve your content that Judy and I will be going over in the Webinar.

      • Kristin

        I appreciate the advice, Carol, but not to worry – I’m not spending hundred and definitely not thousands! I’m planning the move my site to WordPress.org and pay $7/month to have it hosted (by a company referred to me by a fellow blogger who’s been at this far longer than I have). I found my designer through them – she’s one of only two they personally refer. The redesign will cost me $60 – her mid-range price package. I feel like this is a reasonable price to pay to allow me to just log in a blog rather than spend time fooling with gadgets and widgets and code – stuff I really don’t know anything about and, being a mom who also works full-time, don’t really want to spend time figuring out. But I’ll still consider the webinar. 🙂

        I’d say I routinely spend 6-10 hours on posts. I also remember reading the 8-10 hour thing somewhere and not being the least bit surprised by it. But then again, I also write quite a bit in my job so I’m pretty familiar with the process.

        • Carol Tice

          Well that sounds about right! Glad to know you’re keeping the spend reasonable.

  7. Stephen

    I’ve only had one audience for my blog. Myself. It would be selfish, except i only write it. The goal is that every piece i publish is one that i’d want to read.

    I get two kinds of readers. Those that follow my blog, possibly with an RSS reader, and those that get to an article via a Google search. I get comments on blog entries from years ago, and not just spam. They ask me questions. They ask for more detail. And i respond. If they can’t leave a comment, it’s not a blog. If i don’t respond, it’s not a blog.

    There are a few things that i don’t do.
    1. I don’t market the blog. I might post on facebook or tweet that a new entry exists. That’s it.
    2. I don’t monetize the blog. When LiveJournal started putting obnoxious ads on my blog there, i stopped using it.
    3. I don’t check readership stats.

    That’s because it’s my blog, and i’m my audience. My goals differ from yours. Deal with it.

    But if i have an opinion, like ‘Creationism is not science’, i can state it plainly. I’m not a journalist who needs to get a Creationist and a Big Bang supporter and quote them. I can say that there is tons of evidence for the Big Bang, there is none whatsoever for Creationism and be done with it. Science doesn’t care about quotes from authority figures. Science cares about evidence. And a convincing story to explain it. So my opinion doesn’t count in science without regard to anything i’ve done or not done. The bit of authority i do have is that no one pays me for it. I have no incentive to get it wrong. My blog has interesting stories. The really exciting ones are the least believable.

    • Carol Tice

      Hang on there, a minute, Stephen…I have to wait for the smoke to stop coming out of my computer!

      You seem very defensive about the idea that you are basically keeping a personal journal that’s only for you as your blog. If that’s what you want to do with your blog, I think that’s just terrific. Enjoy! Nobody thinks you’re a bad person. Not everybody has dreams of making a business out of their blog and having it read by hundreds of thousands of people. Everyone’s blogging goal is different.

      My focus is primarily on helping people who are trying to reach out and attract readers. If you don’t particularly care if you’re read by anyone but you, then you are a complete blogging success already. So congrats! I think most of my readers would like to find an audience, and many would like to earn, from their blogs. But we’re really OK with you not wanting to, so no worries.

  8. Laurie Boris

    Thank you, Carol, this is great. It’s a relief to know the pendulum is swinging back toward the value of quality writing for PEOPLE.

    • Carol Tice

      I actually had a prospect call me recently and specifically tell me they had done the junk content and were stopping. They wanted to build an editorial team of pros to write their posts!

      I didn’t end up working with them as I thought what they had planned was a little amorphous and over-ambitious, and they didn’t really have the budget for it…but I considered it a huge sign of hope for writers everywhere, hearing a company with 50 Web sites denounce that strategy and talk about committing to creating real, vital content with professionals.

      As I keep telling my mentees…there is SO MUCH OPPORTUNITY out there for paid bloggers in 2011. There’s never been a better time to make your blog look great and use it to get gigs.

  9. Bill Swan

    What’s funny is that even three years ago I can remember people wanting to hire me to take ten articles and spin each around so they had 100 “unique” articles to use. I don’t see it as much today but they are still out there. Go look at eLance or Freelancer to see proof of this. I also remember software like Jet Spinner and the like.

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah, it’s definitely still around, but fading out.

  10. Jocuri

    I’d like to say that you always offer valid information and I have been an fascinated reader of your site for
    quite some time. I wanted to say thankyou really 🙂 for all the good work you do!
    Thank you, your achievement is really a lot an inspiration for me.

  11. Jennifer


    I couldn’t agree with you more, and I am so encouraged when I read posts like this. I’ve been blogging since 2006, and I have always concentrated on just writing good, informative posts. Great content is king! While it might take a bit longer to get those search engines and readers to you, if your blog had great content, they will come. I’ve avoided those junk content sites and am glad that others do as well.

  12. Carol Tice

    I just have to pop back in and leave an interesting related piece of news — just read on Angela Booth’s blog that due to changes in how Google ranks sites, Ezines is considering changing its rules so that all articles posted to the site must be original. They’re anticipating their 57 million-a-month audience may be cut in half if they don’t.

    More evidence…the era of junk is ending!


    • Greg Lam

      Yeah, Google just changed their algorithms, so it’ll be interesting to see how this effects the content marketing industry.

      Since I write original content, I can only see this as a positive change.

      On the time spent on posts, I’ve always believed in quality over quantity, so I’m comforted to read your article. I produce videos, and they seem to take me close to 20 hours. I’m trying to cut the time down. However, I’ve been producing videos professionally for years, so 20 hours is reasonable to produce quality 10 minute video. It’s sometimes disheartening though to see others produce lower quality stuff and get much more response.

      • Carol Tice

        I think our time is coming…I saw that Ezines was saying it expects its traffic to be cut in half by the change, and may require writers switch to — you guessed it — posting only original stuff!

  13. novicenoveliser

    Hi Carol
    I really enjoyed reading this. How reassuring for a novice. Thank you.
    PS What is the ettiquette about posting a link to my brand new blog?

    • novicenoveliser

      oh, i see it happens automatically. so sorry. blush.

      • Carol Tice

        No worries! We all have to post a first comment on a blog one day. You’re not the first person to ask me, either!

        I’m actually glad you bring it up, because I do wish everyone who comments WOULD include their URL to enliven their name, as I sometimes like to check out everyone’s blogs. It helps me learn what people are doing and what might help them do it better…especially preparing for the upcoming blogging Webinar as I am right now!

  14. LindaYarbrough

    I couldn’t agree more that Great Content Is King. Loved your post. I’ve had a post “in the can” for several months pleading with authors to stop with the gibberish. Maybe I won’t even need to post it? The practice of using Article Spinners (and then not proof-reading before submitting) is at the top of my pet peeve list. I always felt Google would help to do away with this bad practice given time. Let’s hope that the Google Panda Algorithm Update nicknamed “Farmer” is the beginning to the return of “best practice” in writing, blogging and SEO.

  15. TJ

    You said it! Could not have written it better myself. I’m glad that now it’s quality not quantity. Thanks for the post.

  16. Paul L.

    Great post!

    The only thing I can say about writing is always make your post, piece or comment your best work.

    I too watched the online world fall into SEO chaos. Hacks came out the woodwork, content became meaningless and rates dropped out from underneath. Companies are figuring it out and are starting to pay for writing.

    Write well, write often, and above all else, use your own voice. Don’t worry about pleasing every reader – it’s just not feasible.


  17. elizabeth williams

    Carol I have written several post and have over 9,000 comments that I don’t have the time to respond to how can I turn this blog into making money. I am writing and people are responding to my post but I am not making any money for it. Do I search sites In my niche?

    • Carol Tice

      Elizabeth, for monetizing your blog, I recommend A-List Blogger Club’s Kickstart Your Blog course. A-List is where I learned to build this blog. You can read all about my experience with A-List and see a link to their course on my Products I Love tab up top.


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