Of Cooking Ingredients and Content Marketing: A Lesson in Pseudoscience

“… and a dash of pepper…”

While out with a group at a Vietnamese noodle restaurant, two friends ordered the same Pho dish. I don’t know if you’ve ever had pho before, but most restaurants have a plate of multiple types of “add ons” that you add to the pho to make it better, like soy sauce, fish sauce, Sriracha, etc. One of them insisted that they knew exactly the right ingredients to add into the pho to make it taste delicious. They:

  • Squeezed out a lime.
  • Put a teaspoon of soy sauce.
  • Put half a teaspoon of jalapeno fluid.
  • Put one drop of fish sauce.
  • Put two sprinkles of black pepper.
  • Threw in one raw jalapeno.
  • Took a heaping spoonful of chili sauce.

They then mixed it all in, and the other person tried it. “This is delicious!” they exclaimed, followed by “can you write down what you did?”

Not All Ingredients Make a Dish

When we judge content marketing, SEO, etc., it’s not uncommon to look at the final picture only. You’ll find numerous SEO companies that have you pay for all sorts of strange ideas (like mass comment backlinking), coding tricks, and other tools that they claim are all part of the SEO process. Six months down the line, when your website ranks well in Google, you’re convinced that it was all worth it.

But let’s look at the Pho example above. Pho is a big soup. Do you think two sprinkles of black pepper, one drop of fish sauce, and a single raw jalapeno have any affect on the final taste of the soup? Or is it likely that the only flavors that mattered were the chili sauce and lime, with maybe a touch of a couple other ingredients?

It’s always a smart idea to know what you’re paying for when it comes to your SEO. It’s not that other companies are trying to rip you off – my friend truly thought those ingredients were necessary to enhance the soup – it’s that many companies employ 20 different techniques to boost SEO and believe they all play a role in success, when the reality is that only 2 or 3 of those techniques make any difference.

Real Life Example

I had a client several years back that had a list of 30 different issues I needed to keep in mind when I created his content, based on guidelines set out by one of the leading SEO companies in the world. I had to put keywords in a specific number of times. I had to bold subheadings. I had to keep subheadings a very specific length. I had to use no more than five bullet points. I had to capitalize keywords in Meta tags. I had to keep the content length within a 50 word average of the top 5 results in Google. I also had to write 750 pages of content.

Look at that above list. Now look at that last line. Any website that has 750 pages of content is going to rank extremely well in Google. This company – and subsequently, my client – assumed that all of those things were necessary to improve search engine rank. They were incorrectly attributing their success to each and every idea within their SEO marketing plan, because they never tested the individual techniques – only the sum of its parts.

Keep that in mind as you search for a content marketer or SEO provider. Not all ingredients make the dish, and not all SEO strategies help with SEO.


  • Micah Abraham

    Micah Abraham is the owner and lead content writer at Great Leap Studios (https://GreatLeapStudios.com) and High Volt Digital (https://HighVoltDigital.com).
    Micah has over 15 years of content writing and digital marketing experience, and has owned and operated Great Leap Studios since 2013 and High Volt since 2022.
    He has a degree in Psychology from the University of Washington, and has researched and written content on a wide range of topics in the medical and health fields, home services, tech, and beyond.
    Micah lives with his family in California.

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