SEO Case Study: Content is NOT King

content is not king

The prospect wanted to go after the key phrase “corporate wellness Michigan”.

They had their heart set on this term. Now, this was not really based in any kind of keyword research they had done. They were in the corporate wellness business and, by golly, they wanted to dominate the search results for corporate wellness in Michigan. Their logic was sound.

They said they had been trying to rank for this term for about 6-7 months, and they were stuck at page 3. They had all sorts of content in their website. The term “corporate wellness” was woven throughout. Yet for some reason they just were not able to get pass the top of page 3.

So we conducted a little experiment!

The prospect contacted us on a Thursday and by Friday we had decided we were going to try this experiment, so we bought a domain. The domain we purchased was not even an exact match domain (EMD). We went with “corporate wellness”, then put the little “MI” in front of it so it read “”.

Next, we stood a few things on the page. Not a lot of content, mind you; a page title, a sentence or two, an image and a link.  “Corporate Wellness Michigan” is the title for this particular page. We placed it in the title and meta tags. We were even bold enough here in this case to say, “Dear Prospect, you want to rank for this? Please click here.” After that, we pointed a couple links (literally, two) back at this very fresh domain.

Ranking Corporate Wellness Michigan

Turns out, we were able to rank this site by day six.

corporate wellness michigan day 6

All we did is buy a domain, stand up a barebones site, put a couple backlinks facing it, and by day six we had this brand new website on the first page of Google. Not too shabby.

And two weeks later? We were at the top of the search results!

corporate wellness michigan week 2

Keep in mind, nothing changed at this page since the day we built it. We never added any more links going back to it. Yet there it was, on the top of the rankings for those statewide state results. The same search this prospect could not attain on their own, even after six months of trying.

Want to see the page? (You probably want to see the page.) Here it is.

corporate wellness michigan page

This single page is the whole site. That’s it.

So, you know the whole notion that content is king? And how, in order to build up an authority site, you must produce reams and reams of blog posts, each thousands of words long, and they have to be so captivating that people will link to you naturally and (blah, blah, blah)—all the junk we been hearing ever since the Panda and Penguin updates from back in 2012?

It’s junk.

Content is NOT king, folks.

Content helps, especially on the long game (this experiment was a very short game we played) where it’s important to keep people at your site. You eventually want to show that people are staying on your page. Google likes pages that are sticky. With good content, people tend to stay at a website longer and when they linger longer, your bounce rate decreases and your page views increase. Google uses these metrics as social proof by which to weigh the value of your website, so—at some point—you’ll want high quality content on your website.

Again, if we wanted to keep this domain and really turn it into authority-ranked site, we would want to do something more to the site to build it out, but this was just an experiment. Do we have any desire to keep it and build it into authority-ranked site? No, not really. Not unless something happens along the way; maybe the prospect wants to buy this?  For now, it’s just an experiment to boast about and to use as a lesson.

Note: In this case, in this niche, competition was not terribly strong.  We saw things like showing on the top of this search results. Usually when you see job sites coming up at the top for search results (when you weren’t searching for jobs,) what you’re seeing is Google not knowing what else to put up there, so it begins filling in the blanks.

P.S.- “Corporate wellness Michigan” was not a well-loved search term to begin with, so the notion that the prospect could not rank for this within six months? They simply did not know what to do. This is why they came to us.

So you there you have it, folks. I hope you enjoyed this presentation! Have questions? Leave them in the comments.

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  1. says

    This is great – providing keywords in the URL, in the title tags and in the metatags. Very simple solution – I like it. But what if somebody else did the same thing, or any other firm. So now you have competition with maybe a URL like corporatewellnessmichigan or corporatewellnessmi or something similar,and they did everything else the same as you. Wouldn’t content help one rank over the other?

    • says

      Absolutely, Fernando. I think this site simply offers some of the key metrics Google uses to size up a site for the rankings. If another, equally skeletal site was introduced, adding original, keyword-targeted content would likely show a clear champion.

  2. Karlo Guevarra says

    Kings don’t rule kingdoms for a week or two. They’re supposed to rule for a very long time. And in that sense, content is still King.

  3. Duncan Soar says

    I’d be interested to hear why you think the site that had much more content than the new site only ranked on page 3. I take your point that you don’t necessarily *need* much content to rank highly, but it’s interesting that the site with more content was clearly suffering. Presumably there were various over-optimisation penalties at play? Or were there other factors?

    • says

      Duncan, I think the content-rich site was suffering due to a couple factors.

      1) Their backlink profile was underdeveloped. They only had a couple backlinks and the backlinks they had were PR0 or NA. The two backlinks we used on this site were PR2 and PR3. Since publishing this case study, we’ve removed the two backlinks we had in place, so now the site is standing completely on its own. As of this morning (a week or two after removing the backlinks,) the site is still showing in position #2 on page 1. We’ve seen it as low as position #5 since dropping those links, though.

      2) They weren’t actually using the keyword in their titles, links or images. They had the keyphrase sprinkled throughout their site; just not in enough of the right spots. Over-optimization was definitely NOT a problem for them. If anything, it they had mis-optimized.

      Great question!

  4. says

    It just goes to show that domains and page titles are still just as important as the actual content. Like most things, it is good to cover as many aspects of SEO as you can, not just the content. Great post!

  5. ThirdFingerPhil says

    In my view it’s common to rank well in the first few days (or weeks), to later decline after a period of time (4-8 weeks) and to disappear into obscurity several months later. IMO content IS king and legit back links contribute to ranking. I’d be interested to see where the site is 3 months out. My bet is it doesn’t appear in the top 10 SERP pgs.

    • says

      Phil, I’m thinking the same thing. Of course, if the rest of the niche around the site is weakly optimized, the site may take up permanent residence until a neighbor grows more competitive. If we truly wanted to keep the site at the top of the rankings, we would drip original, keyword-targeted content and add some quality backlinks. The whole point to this post is to rattle people out of the trap where many have fallen into believing if they only produce great content, their sites will rank. This case study aims to show there’s more to it than that. I believe the quote is: “Truth is singular. Its versions are mistruths.”

      • ThirdFingerPhil says

        Amen, Brotha-

        Feed Batman and starve The Penguin 🙂

        Content is king insofar as great “sticky” content will garner back links, which appears to be the variable that influences rank. IMO a site with good content and five ‘authoritative’ back links will rank better than a site with good to great content and ten middling back links. The problem is that average or good content isn’t likely to attract the more authoritative back links. The trick is to be worthy of authoritative back links.

        Metaphorically speaking, “great” content puts fishing lines with bigger hooks in the water (bait to attract back links) and will certainly catch bigger fish and may well catch more fish. Great content lowers the baited hooks to all depths as opposed to average content that drops fishing lines in all at one depth.

  6. bob s says

    OK, so here is the BIG secret that Google does not want you to know, told by a person who’s had more than 30 million visitors to his website and retired at 30 after a very successful run in search engine marketing: the Google algorithm ranks your site based on it’s liabilities not its assets. And it has a history of your site that goes back to the beginning when you first put it up. All the design changes, meta tag changes, URL redirects, outbound links, inbound links, ALT tag changes, and all the SEO tricks (black hat or just attempts to do what you think they want), and all the changes/edits in content. Your site is the measure of all it has been. Any and all things that you did that Google deemed undesirable will always be held against your site, forever. Perhaps not completely, but to varying degrees. That’s why new sites with no content oftern rank higher than sites that have huge amounts of quality content.

    • says

      Bob, while I’m not refuting Google may be doing this, are there any resources you can direct us toward that may talk about this more? Certainly, I can see the value to Google in tracking this information. Over time, certain trends would make themselves known and Google would be able to see patterns they could leverage toward even smarter search engine results. The amount of data they would have to house to accomplish this logging across millions or billions of websites is staggering, however. Of course, they’re already tracking a lot of web statistics between operating at least two indexes (are they running more now?) and Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, etc. What are a few more stats?

  7. Kevin Mata says

    Wow, it’s been almost 4 month and the site it’s still ranking #1!! I just checked, this is awesome.

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