July 9, 2014
The rules for Web content are clear; search engines demand unique, quality writing that engages the reader and contains valuable information. Furthermore, portable devices are challenging marketers to get creative.
So what is the future for Web content?
First of all, let’s define what makes a piece valuable. This can be achieved in various ways; informative (advice), educational (how to), original, newsworthy, amusing or actionable. And your content should always, always be readable and understandable.
More than half a decade has passed since the immortal phrase “Content is King,” was crowned. While this still holds true, the regal expression has evolved. Adding plain content to your Web pages is no longer good enough. To capture the reader’s attention, you have to give them something different.
So what is creative content? You could argue that all content is creative, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but then the majority of content you read on the Web is the same recycled trash you have read before.
Creative content should come up with new themes, ideas and evolving media. Obviously creating totally new ideas for an entire string of blog posts is beyond the reach of even the most inventive of ad agencies, but if you come up with just one new little nugget in each piece, you give readers something to take away with them.
This may be something as simple as looking at the same story from a different angle or structuring a sentence in a unique and creative way.
Think of your angle as your unique selling point. Most businesses have rivals and the same industries have been around for eons. Yet many business owners still manage to dream up a USP which divides them from their competitors. Hey, here’s an idea, write about your USP. Now that’s branding at its best.
However, be careful not to slip into the trap of writing entirely about you, your brand and your services – not unless you have an inspirational or entertaining story to tell. And many business owners do. Just remember to keep your story relevant to your industry and don’t steer off track.
You should also mix your content up, not just subjects, but length as well. Analytical research has shown that Google gives more kudos to websites with articles of 2,000 words or more. Rewarded for the effort, you could say. The challenge for many however is that writing 2,000 words every time is not productive, possible and potentially boring.
But there is no reason why you should not throw in an extra lengthy article every now and again rather than sticking to the standard 500-600 word blogs. You can also throw in shorter articles of 250-400 words, generally good for industry news or a funny incident in the office – again, providing it is relevant to your industry.
And let’s not forget that industry specific content is an all-important factor. An entire story about John dropping a donut in his coffee will not sit well with search engines if you are selling wallpaper.
Drop the jargon
The other day, somebody posted an article on their blog and posted it to Google+. The title read, “To use jargon, or not to use jargon, that is the question!” Yes, a stupid question! It is obvious you should not use jargon – why?
Writing a blog post is about communicating with your audience. If you are a B2C, it is unlikely your readers will understand jargon, or want to read it. Even if you are a B2B, using jargon — or if you like using unnecessary words — it makes you sound like a buffoon.
Let’s look at an example. How often have you read something that goes like this: “Maximise your online business and leverage your potential by optimising your real estate with user-friendly sales tools.” What is wrong with this sentence? Correct, it doesn’t say anything. Be specific and speak to your audience in clear, plain English.
There is no need to use unnecessary words when everyday language will do. Pretentious talk is mostly used in boardrooms by executives hoping to sound business-like and intelligent. And let’s face it, when you hear upscale business language in the office you want to vomit.
On the contrary, if your audience does not understand what you are telling them, it gives them the impression you do not know what you are talking about.
If you can’t convince, confuse, is not a good sales strategy.
If you do not engage your audience, you will never connect with them. Web users switch off quickly and log on to another site. Hey, and here’s another novel idea, drop jargon in the boardroom as well, because all you are doing is creating a bored room.
It is far less cringe worthy to use simple words that are commonplace rather than trying to sound clever and making yourself look like a buffoon.
For the last couple of years, SEO marketers have been banging on about making your Wweb design responsive for mobile marketing. What this means is your website has to look as good on a four-inch mobile screen as it does on a wide-screen desktop PC.
Web evolution has now progressed to the next stage. Rather than responsive Web design, SEO companies are banging on about responsive content. What this means is that when your content is squeezed on to a smaller screen, it can look cumbersome.
Ideally your sentences should be two or three lines long when writing in full-screen in a Word document; and certainly no more than four.
If you are writing content to promote your business, don’t limit your words of wisdom to your own site. You need to be writing guest posts for third-party sites. Not only does this cast your net out to a wider audience, but writing for an industry magazine identifies you as an expert in your field.
Although Google is deliberating on guest posts, contributing to professional websites within your industry will swing in your favour in the future, particularly if you develop a strong profile and can write for a well-respected and high ranking industry magazine. You get kudos from readers and search engines.
By now you should know, and should be using visuals to accompany your articles. If not you should be slapped round the face with a wet fish. Even an image sourced from creative commons will do, although again try to be creative.
There are numerous ways of including visuals in your content; videos, infographs, charts, photographs, slideshares and hand sketched drawings. The latest fad is to take a picture of everyday objects like chillies and include the word “redhot” in the title. And why not? It works perfectly well without breaking copyright rules and is creative to boot.
Mobile devices has changed the way users use the internet, and therefore the way you interact with your audience has to change as well. When creating content, bear in mind the type of device your readers are using.
Richard Oldale is a freelance writer and SEO expert. With a vision for the future of online marketing he founded johnaudreyjones_productions to provide SMEs with proven SEO and social marketing strategies that will improve their online reputation in the short-term and retain it in the long-term. To find out more visit his website.