There seem to be two poles of opinion in the SEO world around content. At one pole, you optimize everything you do within an inch of its life: writing headlines and structuring copy to engage search engine algorithms rather than human imaginations. You frame your content and choose your topics with a view to linkbait instead of what really charges your passions, and you track metrics and prune away less productive activity ruthlessly.
On the other pole, you may be no less attuned to metrics than your counterparts at the other end of the spectrum, but you direct your focus to creating great, engaging content and building a community around it. Here, you're counting less on talking directly to search engines and more on creating the kind of traffic and organic linking activity that will drive up your rankings.
And then, of course, there are points in between where you do some of each. But there's no question that there's a tension between writing for search engines and creating a distinctive, authentic voice of your own.
Now, I can find advice anywhere along that spectrum with no difficulty. (It's no surprise that people who do SEO for a living don't find it hard to make their content visible.) And I can find vocal, often heated arguments and very strong opinions.
What I can't find is hard data on which approach works better, and where the sweet spot lies. I imagine apples-to-apples comparisons would be hard to do, but that information would be pretty valuable. I have my preferences - I like a Web of communities and genuine voices, and I'd find pushing the ruthless-linkbait-and-keyword approach soul-destroying - and my instincts about what I'd like to believe works better, but that's just me.
Anyone out there find anything tangible?