I compete in many different markets on the web, and many of those are less-than serious. Much of the Internet is like real estate - you take a domain name and either develop it or hold it. I liken the non-serious web sites that I have on valuable domain names to what are called “tax payers” in the real estate market. A “tax payer” is a business or building that is put up to cover the property taxes associated with the property while you hold on to it for investment value. You don’t care to make it a big successful enterprise, but you need it to at least cover proerty taxes which tend to rise as a property’s value increases. Common “tax payers” are inexpensive strip malls, Self-Storage facilities, and pay parking lots. (For the record, I am not in the “parked domain” business).
I use my “tax payers” as tests of various SEO methods as well. Often that involves writing, because let’s face it Google has been quite the consumer of pop literature / pulpless fiction these past few years. Oddly, I find myself competiting is some Asian-oriented markets, where not surprisingly English is a second language. That means I find myself competitng for the top spots in markets where my primary competitors are non-English speaking, Asian webmasters.
I get to see the worst of the SEO world on these sites. I check them every few days for the entertainment value. SPAM taken to new heights. Image spam, then keyword spam, then both, combined. Link spam, more link spam, and then 20 or 30 pages of 302 redirects to my site (WTF?). One day I found 5 web pages full of live links to my site’s pages, all direct and with good anchor text. What was that, exactly? Thanks for the link love.
Often the methods are good ones, and they work for a day or two before the competing page disappears. I saw an image last week sliced into 40 pieces, each with prime alt and title attributes. Shot right to #1. For a day. I see plenty of pictures of pretty women on industrial products pages, just like those calendars Dad brought home from the construction sites back in the seventies. I see my own images hotlinked, which of course I play with to further the entertainment. At one point it got so funny I created an “about dot com” page to talk about it, and took the second spot away with that. It has to hurt, no?
Today I placed a large half-page banner ad on one of my site’s home page, saying “Thanks for playing. Try again sometime. And if you need a real SEO, call me” with a URL for my contact page. Why not? If they are working so hard to be #1 and I am the only thing in the way, I can make it easier. I really can.
The reality is not that content is king, per se, but that the knobs are tuned way high for semantics right now. If you don’t have a strong *American* English content tweaker involved in your site, you will not rank in a competitive SERP or in almost any local SERP, except perhaps by chance.