Google Panda has insured that content creation and SEO have become inseparable, but this post is not going to encourage you to create simply more content. Instead it is designed to help you do more with content you are already creating.
Who this article is for
SEO professionals, marketers, content writers, and business people who hire them
- Content creation is unavoidable
- Merely creating content won’t necessarily help you in the long run
- Think more in terms of engaging the interest of the visitor than just spinning content
The Problem with Content
Yes, if you’re an SEO professional you will have to do that. Google’s Panda initiative (or really initiatives, since the Panda filter has gone through repeated updates, refinements, revisions, and corrections) is specifically designed to insure that pages that are heavy on “quality” content rise to the top of search results. In principle this is terrific. After all, none of us enjoys arriving at a “made for Adsense website” when we’re looking for an important fact or opinion.
Excerpt: I feel like I spend the majority of my work day wading through this ocean of digital debris. I don’t need more content. I need a better way to understand the content that’s already out there.
But there is an unintended consequence to rewarding the creation of content. As any parent, dog trainer, or public policy official can attest, whatever you reward you will get more of. The problem with rewarding the creation of content is personal to me: I am awash in content. I am overwhelmed, inundated, choking for air. I feel like I spend the majority of my work day wading through this ocean of digital debris. I don’t need more content. I need a better way to understand the content that’s already out there. I need a way to find the content that really matters to me. As alpha-numeric characters are disgorged from the mouths of websites the world over I feel a sense of panic. Every billion new words that are blogged, tweeted, posted, shared, articled, archived, optimized, or otherwise placed into my universe are another billion that will obscure the several hundred I may need today. Or even this week.
Excerpt: I’m going to urge you to create your content in such a way that people will take the time to actually read it.
Don’t Think Content, Think “Engagement”
And as an SEO trainer, I have no choice but to promote the creation of further content, because after all…what Google rewards is what we teach you to provide. At the same time, I don’t want to be complicit in this flood of information. Instead I’m going to urge you to create your content in such a way that people will take the time to actually read it. There’s an unseen benefit to this beyond merely having more words on your site for Google to paw through and ponder. Panda is designed not merely to reward more content, not merely to reward quality content, but to reward engagement. Google doesn’t just look at the number of words in your post and say “may the wordiest page win.” They also look at things like the time your visitor spends on your page and your site, whether there’s a high adjusted bounce rate, social shares for the page and other measurements to answer the basic question: “did people like your page once they saw it?”
Google doesn’t just reward “content,” they reward “engagement. Key elements of engagement are:
- Time spent on page
- Time spent on site
- Adjusted bounce rate
Take for example the blog post reproduced on the right. Yes, it’s too small to read. I’ve left it small because reading it is not the point. What’s your visceral reaction once you see it? Maybe you’re the crazy type of person who says, “oh goody, lots of small print and words to read without any annoying fluff like illustrations and bullet points.” However, be aware that such a reaction distinguishes you from the vast majority of humans in this ADHD age who see it and say, simply, “yuk!” before hitting the back button.
Take for example the blog post reproduced on the right. What’s your visceral reaction once you see it?
Instead, make sure you format your content so that the typical reader is able to approach it without the intimidation of vast fields of densely populated text. For example, note how at the top of this post I’ve included some quick takeaways and an overview. Even if someone doesn’t have time for the whole article, they know whether they need to come back. I don’t know why I don’t see this more often (in fact I could count on the fingers of one hand the times I do see it). I for one don’t have the time to read an article unless I know up front whether it will be of use to me. And when I get to the end – if I get to the end – if I feel like I’ve wasted my time I often go away with a bad taste in my mouth for that author or site.
The information in the post on the right might be terrific, but it also needs to draw the reader in. Here are some of the things that work:
Ideas for Breaking Up Your Content
A pleasing image, especially of a human face (yes, happy, smiling people are a bit trite, but our brains are hardwired to be attracted to them)
- Bullet points
- A big enough font
- A captivating headline