SEO: Are You Relevant, or Are You Vital?

Filed in MY BEST POSTS, SEO, Web Site Content by Matt McGee on February 2, 2012 6 Comments

seo-vitalRelevant web pages. Relevant title tags. Relevant meta descriptions. Relevant copywriting. You’ve heard it a million times, right? I’m guilty of talking about relevance to pretty much every SEO client I’ve ever had.

No more. Relevancy is overrated. Anybody can be relevant; just throw a keyword on the web page a few times and BAM! You’re relevant.

You want to do better than that. And what’s better than being relevant?

Being vital.

SEO Quality Scale

If you think about an SEO quality scale, there’s nothing better than being vital.

I’d never suggest that a small business owner take everything Google says about SEO as the gospel truth, but I think it’s wise to look at and think about how Google classifies web pages.


That’s from a document that Google uses to train the people — regular folks like your neighbor — that are paid to rate Google’s search quality. They’re called Google Search Quality Raters and there are thousands of them around the world. They’ve been rating Google’s search results for at least the past 6-7 years. (I recently interviewed one of them on Search Engine Land.)

Web pages are rated on a five-point scale, with “off-topic/useless” at the bottom of the scale, moving all the way up to “vital” at the top. And as for “relevant,” well — that’s right in the middle. Just kind of normal or average.

The SMB’s Task

Keep this in mind next time you’re creating new content for your website, building a new website altogether, or blogging: Once you’ve done your keyword research and it’s time to turn those keywords into content, don’t just aim for being relevant. Your goal is to be vital for every keyword that you’re targeting.

After all, if you were a search engine, what kind of pages would you want to show to searchers? Pages that are just relevant to their search terms? Or pages that are vital to their search terms?

Don’t stop at being relevant. Go all the way to vital.

(Stock image via Shutterstock. Used under license.)

Comments (6)

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  1. aura says:

    Did you actually read the document?

    It is actually not possible to be Vital for target keywords. It is possible to be Vital for brand. Vital is a characteristic of brands per the document, not for a keyword.

    The only web site that can be Vital for Nike is Other sites can only aspire to Useful.

    Re-read the document and its examples.

    • Matt McGee says:

      Yes, Aura, if you choose to read it literally then Nike can only be vital. But if you choose to think about the rating levels with a more open mind, you might come to the conclusion that it’s better to try to be vital for keywords than just to be relevant. I’m not thinking/writing on a black & white, literal case basis here. I’m doing some thinking beyond that. Thanks.

      (For example, my dermatologist client has created some amazing content that’s now seen as vital on a great many keywords, ahead of some of the biggest health brands on the web. Being vital is awesome.)

  2. Judy Caroll says:

    Hi Matt,

    Going all the way to vital! I checked the meaning of the word vital and got these following definitions: vital-urgently needed; absolutely necessary. I’ll take it for what it says. Thanks.



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