For the last 15 years , I’ve waged a war against shitty content. And I’ll be honest, I’ve been losing. Badly.
Shitty content is absolutely dominating the internet. For every great and insightful article, there are 100,000 hot messes of shit that represent digital landfill.
You’ve seen shitty content. And you probably opened it and closed it faster than you can say “Newp, next.”
Google is now rewarding good content and punishing bad content. How are they sorting the strong from the shit? By looking at how many users interact with your content, versus how many leave it. Good content leads to engagement. Shitty content leads to abandonment.
We, as publishers, need to offer un-shitty content. Here’s why.
Your Content is Not Jon Snow
For years, marketers have said “Content is King,” but treated it like the king’s bastard.
Content isn’t taken seriously. It’s an afterthought. An annoyance even. A Bah-stahd.
You can’t treat your blog like a bastard and expect it to rise to become the King in the North. Ok, I’m putting this analogy down before I kill it. But, we need to take content seriously and that takes more work than many companies are used to.
Some agencies use in-house/ semi-regular freelance writers and produce quality work. But, others outsource their writing to content factories and produce pure shit.
The problem with these content factories is you get what you pay for. You can’t pay $10.00 for a 1000 word blog and expect it to be any damn good. You just can’t.
You can’t expect these writers to do more than 90 seconds of research. They won’t. They’re factory workers, not artists. Your blog is just another task in their queue. It’s simply what they work on before they write their next piece on 10 places to eat in a city they don’t actually live in.
If you want content that Google respects, get a regular freelancer. Give them a chance to learn your brand and your audience. Every time you use a different writer, you have to re-teach that information.
Google Now Rewards Good Writing
Google used to reward tactics that destroyed perfectly good writing. And it was fucking awful.
There was mass keyword stuffing. Bloggers would use their keyword about 75 times and ‘stuff’ it in as often as possible.
Google now cares more about the quality of keyword usage, not the quantity. Thank god. Of course, you still need to be mindful of your keywords and use them in your:
- Opening paragraph, or opening sentence if possible
- H2 Copy
- Meta descriptions
- Image titles and descriptions
Another content-ruiner was exact match keywording. A dentist in Ottawa would awkwardly wedge “best dentist Ottawa” into grammatically atrocious sentences.
“These are the things you should look for when looking for the best dentist Ottawa.” Yikes.
Fortunately, in Google’s quest to enslave us all, it’s learned how human beings actually speak. There’s no need to ruin sentences with an exact match keyword.
Google Also Punishes Shitty Writing
This is good news for people who give a damn, and bad news for people looking for shortcuts.
Google can tell when readers are unfulfilled or frustrated. They notice when visitors bounce right away without clicking anything on the page.
This is usually because the blog or page contained one of these very common shitty content habits:
Straight-up terrible writing:
A mess of spelling and grammar mistakes will instantly tell readers that this blog is not worth their time. If they find a mistake, they cease to take you seriously.
Your reader will also leave if there is a basic lack of flow to the writing. They can tell when you’re trying to stretch a 200-word idea into a 1000-word blog. Readers hate filler.
‘Blah’ Headlines or Leads:
You earn the audience’ attention with the headline and you keep it with the lead sentence. It’s that simple. If you can’t do that, your content gets ignored.
Why are there so many shitty leads and headlines? Because writing them is hard. It takes time. I’ve re-written the title and lead for this blog at least 5 times. And I still don’t love it.
Factory writers don’t have time to write a great lead. They need this blog done in an hour. So, they start off like it’s a high school book report. A blog about child support opens with, “Divorce can be a very stressful time for anyone?” Boring, and uninspired.
They should start the blog with, “Has your ex threatened to keep you away from your kids forever?” It’s not a mind-blowing lead, but it hits the reader’s probable pain-point.
A Bait and Switch
Your reader expects to be educated, enlightened or entertained. Failing to deliver that is a broken promise.
The most common broken promise is the bait and switch. That’s when your headline or ad promises one thing, but doesn’t deliver it.
If you promised to explain how to snake a bathtub drain, you had better god damn do it. Do not give them a blog talking about why drains are best left to the professionals. As soon as the reader scans and doesn’t see a step-by-step guide, they’re gone.
We see this a lot when we Google, “How much does ____ cost?” We click on a blog or service page that promises to answer that question. But, we arrive and scan to see no numbers or dollar signs on the page, so we bounce.
A lot of companies like to keep their pricing a secret. But, they still publish “How Much Does it Cost” landing pages and blogs. These pages have long-winded explanations about why they can’t give you an answer. These pages also perform terribly.
Does your company have a complicated price structure? That’s fair. But, if you’re going to write about your pricing, offer something. Give ballpark numbers for a few possible packages or scenarios. And, do it early on the page.
Burying the Lead
This dovetails from the last point. You need to meet your readers’ expectations in a few seconds, or they’re gone.
Don’t hide the crucial information at the bottom of your page. That’s called burying the lead.
If your blog is about whether or not cucumbers are keto-friendly, answer that question early. Don’t ramble on like an asshole for 500 words about the keto diet and hide the simple answer at the bottom. People hate that.
Some writers bury the lead because they don’t know any better. Others do it to get you to scroll down and read the whole blog. That ain’t gonna work. Consider your readers gone.
Giant Blocks of Text & Bad Content Structure
Think back to school and reading textbooks. Remember when you’d turn the page and see a gigantic block of text with no breaks or pictures? You probably thought “Shit, here we go.”
We never really grow out of that. Most of your readers will see a big block of text on your page and click away like, “Nope.”
Keep your content easily digestible with shorter paragraphs. Break up complex ideas with images, bullet point lists, or new headings.
… Google also likes it when you put your keywords in those headings, by the way.
Give Your Content the Attention and Love it Deserves
Let’s all make a pact together to publish zero shitty content in 2019. Who’s with me?
I hope you found this article helpful and non-shitty. I hope I’ve conveyed why good content is more important than ever, and how to avoid content killers.
If you have any questions about your content, please click here to reach me directly. Or if you want to read more articles like this, click here to subscribe or click the “Gimme some mo” button above.