“Content is king.” This is a phrase that has been thrown around for nearly two decades now, especially when talking about websites. Google has long said that content is the most important part of SEO and website quality, but they had a difficult job actually backing that up with rankings. However, Google has advanced to the point where website content absolutely matters more than any other single factor and that means as important as good design and functionality is, you’d better have a truly great writer in your corner.
While “great content” is a nebulous terms in a lot of ways, there are several factors that Google clearly views as part of this equation. Being prolific as a writer and having a strong editorial eye for detail matters, because those go a long way in combination to creating what Google consistently sees as great content.
If you’ve been keeping up with our articles for a while, you’re likely to recognize the statement “Google reads websites like people do.” We can’t stress the importance of this simple statement enough, so we’re going to take some time to give you the head start you need to impress the algorithms that are judging & ranking your website.
Good website content has a few main points in common:
• 100% original content
• Correct, up to date information about the topic at hand
• Reasonable length that covers the discussion thoroughly (often times longer content is better – as long as it remains high quality and useful information)
• Baked-in authority to back up your words
• Perfect grammar and spelling that only comes from knowing English as a first language
Not everyone is going to do well in all of these areas. Some of you will find certain tasks easier to excel at in than others, as even among writers there is a huge difference between “technical writers,” “creative writers,” or even informal writing vs formal writing. While this can seem a bit overwhelming, the truth is you don’t need to be Chaucer or William Faulkner to create website content that Google sees as quality.
Think about Ernest Hemingway. Never use 15 words where 10 will do, speak plainly so individuals understand you, and know what you’re talking about. This seemingly simple formula is a good starting point to write good website content. Combine that with the five points above and you’ll soon be creating content that both Google and your readers will love.
Any professional you consider hiring for web design and/or SEO should be able to excel at content writing. Too many think about website content as an afterthought, and that is going to hurt your SEO and online marketing efforts no matter how good the design. Google will see this and rank your site up or down accordingly based on your content.
Let’s take an in-depth look at what each of these good website content “points” looks like in more detail.
Original website content is created from scratch, and engages the reader
High schools and colleges, particularly in the last 25 years or so, have created very strict policies regarding plagiarism, a practice where someone utilizes another person’s work in a publication for their own use, passing it off as their own.
While the reasons for these guidelines can boil down to academic integrity, lessons about how to cite sources, a code of ethics, exercises to force students to examine and improve their theories, or some combination of the above, most recognize the idea they draw from. In short, stealing the work of others is wrong.
Google’s algorithms have adopted this and applied it to how they rank website content. With a near-perfect memory of everything they have previously read (no mean feat considering the billions of pages that are live today), this levels the playing field so each content creator has the opportunity to succeed.
Naturally, there are those who think they’ll be able to pull a copy and paste job and achieve instant success for their online presence. Anytime you are tempted to try this, ask yourself when the last time you saw identical results come up in a Google search was. Outside of 20 lazy news sites using the same AP release, I know I haven’t personally seen it in many, many years, and even in that example the news sites that bother to type up something different or new will make the front page.
Of course, original website content is nothing without an active reader who is interested in the material being presented on their screen. Engaging your readers in a manner that will hold their interest is usually more difficult than getting the content written itself.
For most businesses, a conversational tone is best. You might have noticed we like referring to our readers in our posts, or telling the occasional relatable story. These help build an emotional investment in reading your message, and establish a bit of rapport before they ever reach out to you to solve their issue or fulfill their need.
Be the subject matter expert for your readers
The first way to prove your expertise in Google is through practical experience. You provide products or services based on a set of skills that have been honed as you’ve served each of your customers. This will allow you the ability to not only speak knowledgeably on a given subject, but demonstrate an experience that helped lead you to that conclusion. If there’s a blog on camping, Google loves seeing phrases like “When I camped all summer” or “While earning the rank of Eagle Scout” or anything like that. That indicates authority from experience.
The second way comes from research. Nobody knows everything, but there are usually a number of authorities that will cover the spectrum if you know how and where to look for them. You can also cite sources in your copy, quote an expert (“Alex, a 20 year union plumber, states…”) which will reinforce your points and build more authority.
Professional writers use this technique a lot, and some have even taken the time to speak with business owners in a variety of fields to deepen their understanding of different industries. I know I’ve personally spoken with thousands of business owners around the world throughout my time with larger firms, which has helped me understand what to ask current clients.
Using these two easy strategies indicates to Google that this information is not only reliable but top notch.
When it comes to website content, size does matter
To clarify, you shouldn’t be looking at your font buttons in your word processor of choice – in this case we’re referencing the overall word count of a page or post. Many studies have shown that Google loves long form content. In many niches the average word count any top 10 website for a major keyword will be 2,000 to 4,000 words in length. However, this can be a bit of a tricky area so we’re going to cover a few dos and don’ts.
Do cover your subject thoroughly: You want to present your points in detail, covering the basics of who this advice applies to, what it can do for them, where they’ll be able to apply it, how they can build on it, and why they should trust you to give it.
Don’t add filler for the sake of word count: This makes your readers have to dig for the useful nuggets of information in your piece. When you’re dealing with the average attention span of a toddler in the case of your average internet user, maintaining the reader’s attention is paramount, and Google will take note of how effectively you do this when ranking your page. Google loves long form content as long as all that content is good and useful – not fluff.
Do gauge the audience you’re writing for: Take our blog as an example. Each post runs between 1,500 – 2,500 words on average. This isn’t because we can’t write more – it’s because tech is a dense subject for many people. We manufacture our articles so they can be read both at a glance and in-depth, so each person can take the knowledge we offer and review it at their own pace.
Don’t make your knowledge inaccessible to readers: Technical terms, jargon, or assumptions about how much a reader will know are all dangerous things to employ haphazardly. If you need to utilize one of these for a post or article, take the time to explain the assumption or term before proceeding. It makes a world of difference and is an extra opportunity to demonstrate approachability and expertise.
A good rule of thumb is to try to write in the same way you would talk to a bar buddy with a 7th grade education. Simple, to the point, at least as much as possible.
A pinch of authority makes a good recipe for success a great one
We touched on this a bit earlier when discussing how to be a subject matter expert for your readers. One method of doing this is researching information and linking to it in your posts. Not just any information will do here, however.
The more authority your source has, the better it reflects on your website content when you publish it. Almost anyone can publish anything they like on the internet, but only those who have their facts straight and take the time to establish themselves are going to truly rank well. These are the sources you want for your content.
Don’t be afraid to refer to your own body of work when writing as well. Newer posts can always reference older ones, and you can always go back and update your older work to reference a newer post as well. Just don’t have two posts link back to each other – you start to toe the line of grey hat SEO if you make a habit of this.
English class was more important than any of us realized
When I was in college, I had envisioned myself finding work in the financial sector. Money was a fascinating subject for me, not for its intrinsic value, but because it works in a lot of interesting ways through stocks, measuring the state of the economy, and a system to tie together and appraise pretty much any good or service you could think of.
I paired my economics and business degree with an English degree so that I’d have a leg up on my peers by being among the best in communicating with others. Having spent nearly a decade in a customer service capacity, trust me when I say this is a valuable and underappreciated skill.
This degree ultimately helped get me into the field of information technology, as I got my content writing position with hibu by having it, which opened the door to other opportunities later on. Without it, I wouldn’t have discovered my passion for helping businesses achieve online success, leaving that role to larger firms (many of which have lost their way in today’s market).
While I did not wind up where I’d originally planned to be, I ended up in a considerably better position because I polished a skill many take for granted, and it has become essential for anyone who wants their online presence to thrive.
What does this have to do with your business you ask? Quite frankly, everything.
One reason I say that many larger firms have lost their way is because they outsource to foreign countries. India and The Philippines are the most common sources for inexpensive labor, and both the major tech firms I’ve worked for utilize this shamelessly. Having worked alongside colleagues in these locations, a LOT gets lost in translation.
I’d often have to explain simple concepts 3-5 times because English is almost never a first language for people hired in these locations. While this is likely quite obvious to you, I invite you to look at this issue a couple steps further with me.
Let’s say you decide to save on your website design by making like the big companies and reaching out to an Indian company based overseas. The conversation you have goes reasonably well, but when you get your website copy, it comes back a little strange. Analyzing it more closely, you notice it looks an awful lot like British English.
That’s probably because it is.
This is a favored dialect in India and reads nothing like American English, which is going to confuse customers, as well as Google, when they come to read your content. Most Americans can distinguish between the two, and that’s going to cause a lot of questions that aren’t focused on your business.
The other issue is going to come down to spelling and grammar. Many overseas firms simply lack the advanced grasp of these two concepts when it comes to American English, which makes them a poor match if you are trying to cover these deficiencies in your website’s writing. That’s part of why we do not, and will never outsource writing – it’s too important and you deserve the best for your business and that’s why we use our in house team of professional writers (13+ years of average experience).
Ready to outfit your site with exceptional content that will wow your customers?
You can count on us! Drop us a line on our contact page, or give us a call at 319-229-5225 to schedule a consultation with our writers! We’ll work with where you are and discuss options to help you get where you want to be.
Braden is one of the founders of Midwest Websites, and has been professionally writing and developing websites for over 7 years. His blog posts often take an experience from his life and showcase lessons from it to help you maximize online presence for your business.