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In January 1996, Bill Gates wrote an essay titled “Content is King” (, which over time has become a mantra for the web. Like many sacred utterances some believe it and others challenge it. And I suspect most people haven’t read Gates’ essay at all. His basic premise was

“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

In other words, if you want to make money on the Internet, it is the content that will drive the profits. Anyone can publish anything on the Internet. Unless that content is of value to a customer, it will not generate profit. That idea seems self-evident. Any product has to have value to customers. But it may also be self-evident that a product that has value, but  customers can’t find or see the value of, will not be successful.

Here is where the relationship between SEO, advertising, design, and content comes into play. You can have the best content/product, but if users can’t find the product due to a lack of advertising and poor SEO, then the product will fail. Likewise even if customers can find your web page, but it is not well designed then the product will also fail. By well designed, I mean that the site is visually appealing and is usable. Sites that don’t load quickly, or have poor visual design, can cause users to go to other sites.

An analogy would be a product that is sold at a modern shopping mall in an upscale neighborhood while the same product is sold out of a dingy store-front. Same content, different design.

On the web, there is a close relationship between content and design. Content drives much of the design. Content can also define the tone and feeling of the site. Is the content whimsical? Is it scientific? Is it dense or sparse?

Seeing examples of actual content is very important to successful design. Often designers, lacking actual content, will use lorem ipsum text. There are two issues with that. First is that the word length of lorem ipsum doesn’t match English and second, designers tend to then make all of the paragraphs the same lengths. Likewise, I often see design mock-ups where the secondary navigation is shown as

  • menu item 1
  • menu item 2
  • menu item 3

But, when the site is launched the length of each menu item is vastly different from the others. Knowing that during the design pahase would have affected the choices the designer made.

In my view, content is king, but with strong ties to design and SEO. On most sites, the content is what you are “selling.” It should drive and influence all of the decisions you will be making concerning your site. Having a good grasp of your content first will make it much more likely that your site will be successful.

Below are some links you might find useful