TJ Kelly

The Catch-22 of Relevance

In the world of Search Engine Optimization, only one thing really matters: relevance. It sounds simple, but how can you achieve relevance? Actually, you can’t. Either your website’s content is relevant, or it’s not. Of course, relevance is entirely subjective. And as the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” So one could argue that a website is always relevant. It’s just a matter of finding out to whom and how many it’s relevant.

Search engines are not human

Search engines run on computers, using algorithms. Computers are not capable of being subjective (just as most people are incapable of being objective). So, their only measure of relevance is popularity. That is, the more popular your site is, the more “relevant” search engines consider your site to be. Again, it sounds simple.. and for the most part, it is.

However, this model is a classic example of a “catch 22.” If relevance builds SEO strength, and SEO strength (theoretically) builds popularity, and popularity builds relevance… that results in a never-ending loop of relevance = popularity = relevance.

Be relevant

How do you break into this loop? Well… be relevant! And be clear, accessible, and popular. So while there are 1001 SEO tips, tricks, and techniques out there, only one thing really matters. And that’s how relevant is your content? If you find a universal answer to that question, please tell me. And then I’ll copyright it and retire in my twenties.

Relevance is a matter of opinion, but there are few ways to help your chances. Mostly, don’t waste people’s time. Write or create something worth sharing. Start there and the rest will eventually follow.

Content is hard

It’s no easy task to provide high-quality, relevant content week in and week out. But that’s what it boils down to: providing great content.

Clearly, a lot more could be said about content. And I will get there. I plan to dive deeper into the “paradox of content” in one of my next posts.

Update: I wrote more about the paradox of content. You should read the post. I think you’ll enjoy it.


What do you think? Am I over-simplifying here? How do you achieve relevance? Let me know in the comments or tweet at me.

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