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Ever since I started working in the SEO/SEM industry, the mantra I would say I have heard the most is that of “content is king”. As a search marketer with a liking for literature, I kind of liked it to begin with. An industry, I thought, which fuses the technical wonders of the internet with creative writing and marketing nous. Great! Whilst this remains the case, along with the million and one other disciplines required to be an SEM or SEO, I have become a little sick and tired with the endless reams of mediocre content that has emerged, mainly as a result of “SEO efforts”.
When Google decided to launch the much coveted Panda algorithm back in 2011, the idea was obviously to separate the wheat from the chaff and rid the SERPs of thin websites that offer limited or no value to the user. This was a fantastic move and again, as a purveyor of compelling copy, I was among the first to applaud the move. Unfortunately a large number of webmasters and SEOs have taken the principles of Panda and Google’s advice to make content a significant part of their online marketing efforts, a little too literally. The result has been a vast array of blogs, guides, news articles and pointless web pages.
Endless Reams of Content
The temptation has been for SEO agencies or perhaps marketing departments to simply overload their sites with daily blogs or ways to expand their site, without necessarily thinking about how useful each piece of content is for the user. Unfortunately, the majority of these will not even be seen by the target user and if they are, I’m willing to bet you twenty quid that it won’t be compelling enough to deserve a like, tweet or pin; let alone encourage a purchase. This was not really the point of Panda.
Even huge brands would struggle to create a piece of content every day, good enough to drum up shares and ultimately interest. In order to combat this over growing surplus of pointless content, webmasters and SEOs should surely wake up to the fact that web content should not be created for web content’s sake. If you are sat there scratching your head about what to write about next, then don’t write anything. Instead, why not look to create some promotions, offers or concepts for your business which merit writing about, indeed Google is looking to promote brands who are an absolute authority in their niche – not those who just like writing about the fact that they are.
The problem is that many SEOs have fallen into the trap of thinking that every blog or article is going to give them brownie points with Google, I believe this to be less and less the case. Just ask yourself, how many times you have posted a blog only to see my rankings shoot up? Fresh content is great, and long may it continue, but not as your core tactic to improve rankings. Of course, we should all be obsessing less over keywords anyway, shouldn’t we?
There are advantages to adding fresh content such as internal linking and giving new areas of your site some extra crawl time, but if you have your sitemaps properly optimised and submitted to the search engines, then this should not be an issue and there is always the good old “Fetch as Google/Bing” in your desired Webmaster Tools, which will ensure your new pages are indexed as quickly as possible.
Again, as a passionate search marketer with a real penchant for great copy, this is not an attack on blogs, guides and other forms as they are great and the best examples are fantastic for the user and therefore your SEO efforts. I just fear that this over saturation of the web with badly researched, self-promotional and ultimately useless content is only going to get worse unless SEOs wake up to the fact that it needs to compelling, or there is simply no point. There are all sorts of tools out there for investigating user intent and what your demographic wants and needs and remember, you can always talk to your customers. Do that, and make sure your copy is superbly written and of course, interesting; and you may well see your results improve significantly.
SEO-Proof Your Content: Quick List
- Does this piece of content actually offer the user some value, what will they take away from the article?
- Am I being over salesy? If the user thinks that you have written your article purely to gain a lead, they are likely to bounce pretty quickly?
- Have you researched your user? Ensure you know what they want and how they want it, as every industry and sub-sector is different.
- If you can’t think of anything to write about, then don’t do it! Instead, focus on enhancing your product or service which will act as a breeding ground for natural copy.
- Don’t obsess about publishing content daily. Quantity is important, but quality will always prevail.
- This goes without saying but ensure your technical aspects are sound. From simple things like title tags and meta descriptions, to potential for Schema mark-up and microdata.
- Finally, ask yourself, “Would I read this article to the end?” If you wouldn’t, then why should your readers?