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Content is King

Content is King: Brief Summary

“Content is king” is a phrase that is commonly used as an online marketing mantra, especially by many of those involved with content marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts. In simple terms, the expression highlights the central role that content plays in marketing success, as well as the success of websites in general.

The phrase is most commonly attributed to a 1996 essay from Bill Gates but has now become an example of received wisdom within marketing circles. Generally, its function is to remind marketing professionals that the creation of quality content is paramount and that there are no shortcuts to lasting online marketing success.

Content is King: Detailed Description

Many marketing professionals will have heard the phrase “content is king” before, but its precise origins are actually the source of some debate. The quote is most commonly attributed to the co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, who used it as the title of a 1996 essay, in which he argued:

“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet. One of the exciting things about the internet is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create. Those who succeed will propel the internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products – a marketplace of content.”

Several earlier uses of the phrase are also known, however. For instance, the authors J.W. Click and Russell N. Baird published a book entitled ‘Magazine Editing and Production’ in 1974, in which they described the process of selecting the right photographs for a magazine publication by stating: “Content is king. It is the meaning that counts. Form and technical considerations, though important, cannot substitute for content.”

Moreover, the media mogul Sumner Redstone is also known to have used the expression in relation to television programming. Nevertheless, it is Bill Gates’ usage that bears the greatest resemblance to how the phrase tends to be used today. After all, in his essay, Gates specifically highlighted the importance of content to online success.

Since the mid-1990s, the growth of the internet has given rise to the concept of content marketing. Broadly speaking, this refers to a process where marketers create, publish and distribute online content, with a view to attracting an audience and encouraging certain actions, behaviours or user responses.

Successful content marketers are involved in the creation of content that actually serves a purpose for its audience. This means it is engaging, entertaining, meaningful, relevant and/or genuinely useful. Within this context, “content is king” serves as a reminder that the quality and relevance of content is the single most important key to sustainable success.

Through the publication of high-quality online content, marketers are able to attract traffic to a website, persuade users to make purchases, establish credibility and/or expertise, and position either themselves or their business as a thought leader. Creating content that helps people can also help to generate goodwill and lasting loyalty.

Although the “content is king” mantra is mainly associated with written content, it can also apply to other forms of content too, including the creation of video content, or the use of images on a web page.

Association With Search Engine Optimisation

In recent times, the phrase “content is king” has become especially connected to the field of search engine optimisation, or SEO for short. Put simply, SEO involves adopting a variety of strategies, with a view to ensuring that online content places more highly on search engine results pages. This is then intended to boost visibility.

The basic theory here is that the higher a piece of content places on search engine results pages, the easier it is for users to find. This ease means more people will click on it, and each click-through represents a person that could potentially be turned into a loyal reader, a customer, or a subscriber, depending on the goals behind the web page.

During the early years of SEO, search engine results pages could be easily manipulated through certain practices, such as keyword stuffing, which is where you repeat the use of a keyword as often as possible. However, modern Google and Bing search algorithms now penalise these practices. While keywords still have an important role to play, modern algorithms have also been set up to reward unique and fresh content, and keywords must be contextually relevant.

While there are still plenty of best practices to adopt, in order to improve rankings, you cannot achieve sustainable SEO success without prioritising the quality of your content. If you are not making unique, useful content, which an audience benefits from, you will struggle. Hence, it can be said that within SEO, “content is king”.

Common Traits of High-Quality Content

When people say that “content is king”, they are speaking broadly about the importance of high-quality content. However, it is important to understand what this actually means. While different types of content may appeal to different audiences and opinions do play a role, high-quality online content generally has a number of key traits.

Firstly, the best content is unique. On a technical level, duplicate content, regardless of the context of why it has been duplicated, can harm SEO results. Google algorithms find it difficult to distinguish between fair-use quotations and outright plagiarism. With this in mind, as much of your content needs to be completely unique as possible.

However, on a deeper level, unique content may mean ideas that have not previously been expressed, opinions that have not been widely shared, or new solutions to problems. Content that stands out and offers something different will have a higher chance of attracting attention, resonating with an audience and encouraging the desired user response.

Secondly, content needs to be well-crafted. If it is a piece of written content, you need to make sure it is grammatically sound. If you are producing video content, both the picture and audio need to be high-quality and you need to make sure it has been well edited, in order to avoid jarring cuts or sudden changes in volume.

Finally, the best online content is useful and meaningful. It should have a target audience, and that audience needs to be able to benefit from it in some way. It may be that you focus on creating informative, interesting or instructional content. Alternatively, you may be prioritising entertainment. Regardless, quality content should serve a clear purpose, and this purpose needs to extend beyond the underlying marketing objectives of those creating it.


Although there is some debate about who the quote should be attributed to, “content is king” is a widely used mantra in online marketing and SEO circles. For the most part, it is intended to highlight the important role that the creation of high-content quality plays in achieving objectives, regardless of any other strategies that may be adopted.

While there are other factors that can contribute towards the success or failure of SEO or content marketing campaigns, sustainable success is impossible unless the content you are creating is useful, meaningful and carefully crafted.

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