The importance of online relevancy

Last week, the online department at the magazine where I work brought in the SEO consultants the company is working with to talk to the writers and editors about how our content fits in with the company’s overall success. It was fairly insightful to hear how important good, deep content — the type my co-workers and I produce each month — is to that success.

However, one line that one of the consultants said during the presentation has been rattling around my head for a week now because it so perfectly sums up how important your online work is to any company or news organization’s bottom line:

“If you’re not relevant online, you’re not relevant.”

It’s as simple as that. Period. In today’s culture, this pretty much is the bottom line. Either people can find you online and find your information relevant, or you don’t exist and don’t count.

Think about your habits: I can’t think of a single thing I don’t go online to look up. Whether it’s the weather, the news in my community or my social circle, the directions, how-to articles, trends in homes, realtors and real estate, reviews on companies or DIY instructions, etc. I have a copy of the Yellow Pages at home, and I even subscribe to the local newspaper. But I’d never think to look something up in the Yellow Pages before going online and checking reviews. In fact, for every one of those topics there are multiple sources of information. But some are more relevant than others. I filter the rest out.

Sadly, if I start to search for a topic/place, and your site isn’t near the top — rated relevant by other users with their clicks and their links — then I’m probably never going to see that story or that site. Users will never find you unless your content is both good quality and easy to access. That means not only do you need strongly researched, written and edited stories, but you also need to make it readable — which pay walls and 20 jump pages to inflate page view counts do not achieve, as they make it hard for both the human users and the spiders crawling to index it. To achieve relevancy, you should be connecting with people both metaphorically (they connect with your stories) and physically (you have people reaching out under your brand to talk to people and answer questions that add value to your organizations). The best news people I follow on Twitter, for example, are constantly answering questions or adding asides or extra information I couldn’t read in that morning’s paper (or whatever your news venue of choice is). That’s what makes them interesting to follow! I also know when I have a question about that topic, I can start with them. They — and by extension their news organizations — are relevant sources for information on that topic.

So where this whole spiel is leading is simply to suggest that anyone who produces content for the web (or as the quote points out, content for anywhere these days) ask themselves every time they post a story, share a link, produce a video, or do whatever it is they do: “Is this relevant? How? To whom?” If the answer is no or you can’t answer the second few, find a way to make it so. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.

(BTW, to give credit where it’s due, that quote came from Paul Davison of Slingshot SEO.)