The SEO community has been in a state of flux for the last year, with Google updating their algorithms every five minutes, taking down blog networks (good riddance) and shaking things up constantly. All the old tricks and rules of thumb about link building, on page SEO, anchor text, directories etc are rapidly going out of the window and nothing is certain.
Many blogs and articles I’ve read on SEO recently can be summed up by this phrase – “write great content”. I find these kind of non specific articles a bit frustrating, it’s very easy to extol the virtues of “great content” but what the hell is it?
Truthfully I’m not sure that anyone really knows, there are still plenty of examples of total and utter crap topping the search results. Granted, it’s getting better and less search spam is appearing for big search terms but it’s still entirely possible to rank rubbish. Lets work on the basis that at some point in the not too distant future Google achieve their aim of returning genuinely good results for every query, how do you make sure that your content qualifies?
Let’s start by laying out a few things that great content isn’t:
- Copied from somewhere else
- Written specifically to target a certain keyword
- Full of poor grammar and spelling (feel free to shoot mine down in the comments)
- Written by someone who doesn’t know or care about the subject.
Great content should first and foremost be written by someone with a knowledge of and passion for the subject. Should I be writing content for an insurance website? No, I know nothing about it and find it immensely boring. Anything I write on insurance is going to be rubbish. If you need content on a subject you don’t know or care about then hire someone who does.
Great content should answer a burning question or fuel debate. When you search for something, you want the answer to a question, you don’t want a load of waffle that just re phrases the question. I searched for tips on tuning a compound bow the other day. One of the top results just waffled on about why you need to tune your bow and briefly mentioned a few techniques, but didn’t tell me how to do it. Did I bookmark the page? Did I share it? Did I link to it? No, all I did was drive their bounce rate up, hopefully my bounce will help Google decide that the site didn’t deserve to be on page one.
Great content is not written for search engines, it’s written for people. We’ve all read articles that repeat the same phrase over and over again, those in SEO recognise these for what they are, but even those who aren’t instinctively know that something doesn’t feel right. If your article wouldn’t sit well in the pages of a magazine then don’t publish it. The internet means that anyone with a computer can publish anything they want and make it available to anyone in the world, but just because you can publish anything you want to at any time it doesn’t mean you should.