“Take a critical look at your site on a regular basis and put yourself in the eyes of your average user. In other words, don’t see your site only in your eyes, the business owner. If you see your site only as a revenue generating vehicle you will miss the point.”
Content includes text, images and graphics – see them as all part of your offering to your user. What’s more, remember the old saying – a picture tells a thousand words. It’s a good point, but if those thousand words are badly laid-out (a poor quality image), or if they are the wrong 1000 words, then you’ve gained nothing.
Have You Defined Your Content Marketing Strategy?
The platform for promoting any website requires content marketing strategy and although we can all glibly say it, most people need to understand a little more about just what a content marketing strategy.
The basis of a strategy is quality content. Once you have that in your armoury, you can then exploit it both onsite and offsite.
But first, what is great content? This covers any material (text, or images) which is placed on your website, or on another’s website for the purposes of marketing.
Let’s look at the basics.
What Makes Great Written Content?
The pen should be mightier than the sword, however, if recent years are anything to judge by, you’d be better off with a sword.
Articles, blogs, features, news stories and case histories have been basket cases for many years now. When websites began to gain traction and become of interest to the man-on-the-street, it’s fair to say that the written word got a considerable boost.
Because search engines spiders are effectively blind – they crawl text on the hunt for relevancy and frequency – text became a useful weapon for the SEO fraternity.
It was a question of nevermind the quality, just feed the width, and text was being bought by the mile, with writers paid a pittance to either write illiterate nonsense, or more usually, cut and paste other people’s work and claim it their own.
The search engines could see where that was heading though, with users eventually turning away from websites which made no sense, or offering nothing to their readers.
This is what is behind the Google algorithm changes (Farmer, Panda and Penguin) as they seek to upgrade the internet into a great user experience. It’s not altruism, but a sense of survival. If people turn away from the world wide web, billions were going to be lost.
So now the search engines continually bang on about quality content and that’s more than ever relevant when it comes to the written word.
1How do you classify text?
Strictly speaking, content differs from webpage copy which tells the user the purpose of the site, explains the services on offer and how the user can benefit from the site and it will also contain the sales messages and calls to action. Webpage copy is only really updated when there’s a reason to do so.
Content however should be continually updated, because it’s the best way to build out the site and adds greatly to the user experience. But content does vary and its best to understand the nuances.
A blog should be chatty and light, somewhere between 250 and 300 words, and be based on opinion. An article varies in length from around 350 to 500, much of that and it becomes a feature article and is used to explore a particular theme, or idea, and is less personal in nature. A news piece focuses on a storyline and can range from 100 words to 350 – it should not include comments, or personal opinions, but should be based purely on facts. These distinctions are important and adherence to the difference in types is crucial if you want to produce high quality material.
The best way is to think of it is how newspapers handle content and divide their publications up between comment pieces, news and features. On that front, little has changed.
2How to recognise bad content
Tell-tale signs are bad spelling and grammatical mistakes. Work which is not properly proofed quickly turns off the reader. It shows a lack of care and attention and will be dismissed.
Another sure sign is waffle. Despite what some might think, not everyone is an expert on everything. As an extreme example, if you want to read about Quantum Physics, you want to know that the author actually knows what they are talking about. You don’t want someone trying to wing it, or trying to decipher other’s people’s work. Readers can spot wafflers straight away and for want of saving a few quid, poor content will irreparably damage your site and reputation.
And beware of sites that will maximise one piece over a number of pages. You can no longer duplicate over one site, or between sites, but those sites which develop one title and then ask for ten re-writes on the same subject, are as bad as the duplicators.
3Research and Authority
Well researched pieces with a sense of authority are a must.
If you’re commissioning content for your site, use a writer that has a good track record in their chosen fields. They don’t have to be experts in everything, but they do have to have a grasp of what they are talking about and have some knowledge of their subject. This is especially true of articles writers, but less so for news writers (who must have the skill of putting the story across). Bloggers can get away with a lot more, because the genre allows a good deal of leniency and fun, although you still want great insight.
They also have to write well – don’t forget the basic skills that a writer needs to employ. Read the copy that they send in and don’t just load it via the CMS.
Poor content will kill your site – don’t forget that.
What Makes Great Images?
Written content is crucial, but often overlooked is the value of images. Now, these are not read by the search engine spiders, but they do have value in SEO terms, because they can, and should be tagged using the text based Alt Tag Description, so they add weight to the search findings.
However, they do have great value in terms of the user experience. They can bring a page to life in a way that text can’t. When you look at text, you have to think like a sub-editor; when you look at images, you have to think like a picture editor. Is the image of a good quality; does it cry out for attention; does it properly illustrate the text and enforce the content (a picture tells a thousand words); and, is it appropriate? In short, be really critical about your images; don’t waste an opportunity to really make your pages grab the attention .
But, as with text, you need to bring some commitment to the type of image you can use on your site. Because they can be easily found on the internet and downloaded, people view images as ‘free’ – in reality, taking someone’s images and putting them on your site is basically the same as cutting and pasting someone else’s text – it’s not the done thing.
You can only use images which are under a common use licence, meaning that no-one has the copyright, or the originators.
Define Your Content Marketing Strategy
Take a critical look at your site on a regular basis and put yourself in the eyes of your average user. In other words, don’t see your site only in your eyes, the business owner. If you see your site only as a revenue generating vehicle you will miss the point.
Right, put yourself in the place of your average user; if you can’t recognise your potential customer, then think again about your marketing strategy, as only when you know your target audience, can you begin.
When you see the Home Page, does it grab your attention; does it fulfil your search criteria; does it want you to read more; and, does it want you to act upon those calls-to-action?
What parts of the Home Page work; what other pages work; when you go to find out more information, does the site provide what you need; can you trust it; would you go back to it; and, most importantly, would you buy from it?
If you can’t answer any of those questions well (and be honest here, otherwise you’re only cheating yourself), then take a look at your strategy. Is it of a high quality: it is authorative; do people trust it; and, are other people using it.
Here’s a simple test. Offer your typical content to other sites without condition (not asking for a link). Say you’d like to contribute to their blog because you’re passionate about your industry/sector. If good site after good site refuses, the you have a problem and will need to upgrade your content.
Another way to test your content is on the social media platforms. If no-one Likes, reads, or shows any interest, you have a problem.
Need Help with your Content Strategy Plan?
We can also conduct a content audit on your behalf, providing you with a guide to how your content scores in the view of others. Contact us today or call 0203 286 5639