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December 18, 2014

10 Common Content Mistakes That Could Be Hurting Your Website

You finally have that perfect website design, and you’re anticipating what feels like an influx of traffic ahead when your doors open on the new design. Are you waiting and waiting, with dropping expectations, as your anticipatory hopes aren’t met? Unfortunately, you’re not alone. Many times new designs get released and a perfectly designed website fails attracting the huge audience hoped for.

A beautiful design is an excellent start, but what are you doing about content? Even if you’re an online business newbie, you’ve certainly heard the old but true cliché that content is king. Content having such royal attributes, however, has to be well-written and following a couple of important website optimization principles.

The following list contains 10 really common content mistakes that could have serious impact on website positioning and popularity.

  1. Excessively Brief Content. It’s true that the audience of today has a relatively short attention span but you can’t write paragraph-long blog postings and expect to accomplish your website reputation establishment goals with them.

Content length does affect SEO, statistics show. In fact, the best-ranked pages are, on average, 2,416-words long. Yep, if you’re sticking to those 300-word articles, you’re probably missing on a huge opportunity to improve the positioning of your website.

This figure doesn’t suggest you should be aiming for 3,000-word blog posts each time. It really depends on the topic but striving for in-depth reports and presentations that contain a lot of useful information can affect both your website optimization efforts and your online reputation establishment. If you want to be seen as the authority in a particular field, you’ll need to put a bit more work in creating longer and more meaningful articles.

Keep in mind that the latest Google updates have led to penalties for the so-called “thin” content. Anything below 200 words will make it incredibly difficult for you to accomplish the search engine positioning that you’re hoping for.

Longer content does demand harder work, so here’s how you can get started with long copy creation:

  • Stick to what you know: The topics that you’re passionate about and the ones that you have intimate knowledge of can easily be turned into long articles or even reports. In addition, your knowledge can result in the creation of unique pieces that provide a lot of useful information.
  • Brainstorm: See what the competition’s doing and use that information to get inspired. Look at different topics and articles within the industry that you’re interested in. Record your observations and ideas to create an editorial calendar for your website.
  • Look for additional sources of information: Interview industry leaders or read white papers and other serious publications. Having access to this kind of information will simplify the task of making your pieces lengthier.
  • Support your claims with facts and clinical studies: When possible, add information supporting the claims you’re making. This approach will add credibility to your content and it will also contribute to the overall word count.
  1. Lack of SEO Implementation Correctly In Text. When speaking about SEO content, we don’t imply doing keyword stuffing or opting for other ridiculous techniques. Content should be written primarily for your website visitors but it should still incorporate a couple of SEO techniques.

Do keyword research in advance to figure out what the audience is looking for. Though keyword stuffing is definitely a bad idea, using a couple of carefully chosen phrases in the content will help for adequate search engine positioning.

You should also rely on optimization plugins that enable you to enter the keyword in the meta title and description of each page. This information isn’t visible to website visitors but it helps search engine crawlers “understand” what each page is about.

Several other SEO factors have to be taken in consideration when writing content:

  • Content engagement: Is the audience willing to interact with your content? Do people comment on articles and share those via social networks? Both of these factors have started playing optimization role. If your texts aren’t catchy enough, you’re failing in terms of engagement.
  • Content uniqueness: Refrain from repeating what somebody else has already written. Look for a unique angle. If you can’t find a brand new topic, offer your own perspective. Personalize the texts to boost their informative value and make them unique.
  1. Meta What? If you don’t enter meta data for each of your pages/posts, you’re breaking one of the online content creation fundamentals.

Meta data provides a lot of additional information that search engines use. In addition, it has started affecting brand engagement and even your social media marketing efforts.

Apart from the traditional title and description tag, Google has come up with a couple of additional custom tags. Authorship and publisher meta tags provide information about the author and help establish that person’s authority. It’s easy to see how the use of such tags can push content forward, especially if the author has a well-established reputation already.

  1. How Well do You Know Your English? Spelling and grammar errors will immediately diminish your credibility among readers. On top of that, poor grammar is going to impact your website optimization efforts.

Poorly written content affects the audience’s experience. It will easily contribute to a higher bounce rate and it will decrease engagement. These two factors affect search engine rankings, which means that poorly written content will have indirect impact on website performance.

Always go through your posts and articles before uploading those. It’s best to write the content and leave it for a couple of hours. Doing editing after you’ve managed to distance yourself from the piece will make it easier to spot mistakes.

  1. Does Formatting Matter? Imagine searching for content about repairing your car online and coming across a huge paragraph. Not only that, the huge paragraph is actually composed of two sentences that go on and on. As a website visitor, you’ll probably leave immediately after scratching your head for three minutes in an attempt to decipher what the first sentence is trying to say.

Formatting matters as much, as the quality of the content and the data that your articles contain. Reading on a screen is much harder than going through a printed page. Make it easier for your audience to scan the text and get to the most relevant bits of information.

Good Web content formatting makes use of several simple tools:

  • Subheadings: Use subheadings to break the text. These are an excellent option for the introduction of a new idea.
  • Short paragraphs: Each paragraph should present a single idea. Having sentence-long paragraphs will enhance readability, as well.
  • Bulleted and numbered lists: If you need to present a list or a number of steps, you’ll definitely benefit from the use of this formatting option.
  • Bold and underlined text: Use bold fonts to highlight important concepts and direct the attention of readers towards those.
  1. Sporadic Updates. You’ve written detailed, unique and long articles and you still fail seeing the expected results. Are you still committing a mistake? Take a look at your editorial calendar, the problem’s probably hidden there.

If you’re raising your shoulders because you don’t have an editorial calendar, you’ve just gotten the answer to your question. Content creation needs to happen on a schedule. Regular website updates will keep your loyal audience coming back for more and they will also benefit your search engine rankings.

This doesn’t mean you should post low quality updates just because you need to add something new. Both quality and frequency of updates matter, which is why working on a monthly editorial calendar the previous month is a great idea for getting organized.

  1. Overly-Simplistic Content or Excessive Professional Jargon. Content that just scratches the surface without offering actual insight is a really bad idea.

Basic content is not going to appeal to your target audience. These people have some knowledge in the field or they’ve already gone through a couple of basic articles. If you want to establish your reputation in the field, you have to give your readers something valuable. Search engines will appreciate your efforts, as well.

Here’s where it could get somewhat tricky. Very complex content isn’t a good idea either.

Many professionals find it difficult to leave jargon out of Web content. They know topics well, they’re passionate about the field and they want to make pieces highly informative. The general audience, however, will have problems with such complex and highly niche texts.

Explaining complex ideas with simple words is what you should be aiming for. Just think about describing the idea to a close friend or a relative that has nothing to do with the particular industry. The same approach will work well for your online audience and it will broaden the reach of your content. Overly-complex pieces will appeal to a miniature group of people and unless you want to attract this kind of audience, you should stick to informative pieces that are written in an easy to understand manner.

  1. Overly Promotional Content. When it comes to content, you should be working on making it informative. Nobody wants to be hit on the head with marketing messages. It’s ok to include a call to action in the end of your posts but refrain from making it all about your products and services.

The days of outbound marketing are long gone. The audience of today wants to have a relationship with a favorite brand. Sharing useful information means giving out something valuable. Your audience is going to appreciate this kind of effort and come back for more.

  1. Writing for Search Engines. Get in the habit of writing for human beings, even if search engine optimization is still in the back of your head.

Though it may seem illogical, you need to forget about SEO when writing. The audience is coming to you for information. If the audience is happy, your search engine positioning is going to improve, as well.

To make content useful, you’ll need to follow these basic steps:

  • Catchy headline, catchy opening paragraph: Get the audience curious about the topic. A humorous or unexpected headline and a strong first paragraph will help you accomplish the goal.
  • Keep the tone natural: It’s important to write in the way that you speak. Stick to a conversational style, make the text light and easy to go through. People don’t include a three percent keyword density in their everyday conversations. Think about this when incorporating keywords in the text.
  • Speak the language of your audience: People are looking for information about a particular issue. Offer help right from the start, keep it relevant and understandable. You’ll boost engagement this way and see positive SEO results.
  • Strong call to action: Wrap it up with a strong call to action. Tell your audience you can provide additional information, introduce your products or urge them to download a brochure. This is your opportunity make readers do what you want.
  1. Plagiarism: The Deadliest Sin. Every writer knows that plagiarism is the deadliest sin and the same rule applies to world of optimization and Web content creation. We can’t stress enough on the importance of keeping all your texts fresh and unique.

Google began penalizing duplicate content a couple of years ago through the Panda algorithm change. This modification shook up the SEO world and boosted the importance of unique, well-written content.

In addition, plagiarism will diminish your website’s reputation as a credible source of information. It will ruin your online reputation establishment efforts and destroy everything that you’ve worked so hard on.

What’s the lesson you need to learn? Stick to topics you’re passionate about, give the reader something new and fun, check your spelling and don’t worry too much about SEO. Great content is the first step towards online reputation establishment. Though it requires hard work, you’ll see the results quite soon.


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Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.

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