When creating web pages for clients, I ask them one simple question, and it often stops discussion in its tracks, at least for a moment:
“Why do you do what you do?”
The answer is almost always a halting stammer at first. Then I rephrase it to something more common, like: “What is your mission statement?”
Then I ask another simple question: “What sets you apart and makes you different from your competition?”
If I don’t get a pretty robust answer to this one, I usually come to one of a couple of conclusions: either I am talking to the wrong person, or the company is not going to make it.
Because if a company is hiring a freelancer like me to communicate to their customers through web content, whether that is a landing page or a blog post, what sets them apart from other companies who are doing the same thing? How can their content create the organic traffic they are looking for?
Not a single CMO who is in touch at all would argue over the value of content marketing, but there is a surprising number of them who will turn to sources like Fiverr or content mills to get content for their site, and then complain when it is substandard or they do not get the organic traffic or conversion results they want.
So here are some things that I often repeat when talking about content and how not all content is created equal:
Creating Content for Content’s SakePoor, or even fair, content cannot produce spectacular results. This should be obvious. Click To Tweet
Not only is this obvious, but it is also proven: Long-form, well-written content gets more likes, shares and traffic than short-form, SEO, keyword-stuffed content does.
This is not to say that you should have content without keywords and SEO optimization. The demand for content that also has good SEO has skyrocketed and will continue to do so as Google gets smarter with AI and machine learning. This is why SEO companies who do it right do so well: content is king, now more than ever.
However, that phrase is misleading. Content is only important because the user wants good content, and Google and other search engines are becoming more sophisticated in order to better serve these users.
Keyword-heavy pieces that don’t address customer searches well and as a result have high bounce rates no longer rank well. Paginated articles or sites with huge pop ups that must be closed to view content rank poorly. Tricks that worked five or even three years ago now result in penalties, loss of rank and even de-indexing if issues are severe enough.
Most of those on the inside or even the fringes of the industry know this for a fact, and yet the deluge of poor content continues. The reason may lie in the too-general phrase “content is king.”We should change the phrase Content Is King to: Truly Useful, Well-Written Content Is King. Click To Tweet
Start at the Beginning
Where does content start? It starts way earlier than some companies think, and this becomes obvious once you see certain domain names and website taglines.
Even the best content on a poor, or worse yet embarrassing, URL will never rank as well as it could have. In fact, it might attract the wrong type of links, if any at all.
Here are some examples of poorly written URLs:
- Choose Spain: choosespain.com
- Who Represents: whorepresents.com
- Teachers Talking: teacherstalking.com
- Winter’s Express: wintersexpress.com
- American Scrap Metal: americanscrapmetal.com
These, of course, are just the ones that are “safe for work.” You can see more at Huffington Post, but be warned!
Parts of this post sound basic and obvious, but if this advice were commonplace, the above website names would not exist. How do you avoid this possibly costly mistake?
Choose a good website domain name. Whether you choose your own name, your company name, or a description of your business, make sure that if it runs together or is abbreviated, no embarrassing combinations result. Unsure? Show it to your teenager or a coworker’s junior high student. If they start to laugh, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Your domain name can contain keywords. It’s not essential, but if you can pull it off, it’s a bonus. There are several online tools that will help you search for domain names and determine if they are available or not. If you are in a popular niche, you might have to try several combinations before you settle on one that works for you.
For example, my first site was troylambertwrites.com. It contains both who I am and what I do. The domain name is the first indicator to the user about what the site will be about and what the onsite content will be like.
What if you already have a bad name? Your child finally got old enough to understand potty jokes and giggled when you told them your website name. What do you do?
- Buy another one and redirect traffic. You can buy a new domain, and 301 redirect all traffic from the old name to the new one. That way, you don’t lose any authority or traffic that you've already built, but you do lose the embarrassing name on your business cards.
- Roll with the joke. If your brand does not take itself too seriously and you can roll with the joke, you could even create some great traffic (assuming the name is safe for work and not way off topic). For example, choosespain.com could easily run a campaign like “If you don’t choose Spain, you may be someone who chooses pain.” Corny, but it could redeem the website name.
- Bite the bullet and change it entirely. If your website name spells something crude or that you do not want to be associated with, even under a redirect situation, bite the bullet and start over with a brand new name. It is better than sticking with one that does not work.
A large part of building good content is its address, and it can play heavily into a content marketing strategy. Not all domain names are created equally, and they can affect your Google rankings.
Onsite content, specifically blogs, video and other information, is not only a vital part of your content marketing strategy, it is what drives organic traffic to your site in the first place.
While one study shows that an average of 47 percent of traffic comes from organic search, a new study released by Groupon shows that number may actually be more like 64 percent:
Regardless, the point is that most traffic comes from organic search, even traffic we would normally consider to be direct traffic. These searches are not necessarily for you or your product, but are searches for answers to questions, information and details they cannot get from a product page.
At the same time, product pages do provide answers and should therefore have high-quality, well-written descriptions. Every piece of your site's content should be scrutinized to ensure that it is user friendly and detailed enough to answer any questions the reader might have.
Take a look at nearly any Amazon product page and you will see good examples of this. The pages include a headline that describes the product, an engaging but brief description, photos, reviews and other related products.
Everything related to your site, from the top of the sales funnel to the conversion page itself, is part of your onsite content and should all reflect a commitment to excellence and a good user experience. Poor content in any of these areas can end the sale and send the customer scurrying to your competition.
In this digital space, this is just a click away. Opening a new tab in Google Chrome and initiating a search that leads a user away from you takes only a few moments, and if a customer feels that you have wasted their time in any way, you may never see them again.
Relevant, Quality Blog Posts
While blog posts were mentioned in the section on onsite content above, the most neglected area for many sites is the top of the funnel, and it merits its own section. The most common issue is that brands have no idea what to write about. It is rare to find a niche where there is an abundance of content, and prioritization becomes the issue instead.
The truth is, your customer works in your niche, and no matter how small or boring you might think the subject is, they have relevant questions that you can, and should, answer for them that brand you as an expert.
Even if you are not a writer, it does not matter. You can hire one who can share your message, whether you do that internally, through freelancers, or by encouraging guest posts on your website. Every time a potential customer reads your blog, they are associating that expertise you share with your name, and that association leads to a trust in your products as well.
The most important aspect of this content is that it is done well, the grammar and structure are correct, and it is engaging to your user. Your message needs to be consistent and reach your customers where they are.
Landing pages are not like other pages on your website. Landing pages are separate from other web pages, don’t include a menu, and contain a specific call to action. In other words, your content here is more specific and direct.
While landing pages are not part of your website, they should be of equal quality and provide the same or an even better user experience for your customer. After all, they have clicked on this landing page for a reason, whether to download a free e-book, subscribe to your newsletter, or contact you in some way. The last thing you want them to do is leave without completing the action they clicked to do.
You’d think a communications company would have a better landing page:
Landing pages should work just as well in the mobile environment. Not only is mobile search increasing (more than 50% of searches are initiated on mobile devices), but so are other mobile applications, like mobile invoicing (a landing page of sorts), time and project management, and other business applications. This move toward doing more work on phones or tablets has a number of advantages for business, primarily making things more convenient for the user.
But the need for convenience cannot eclipse good content. If a landing page is inferior in quality or feels like it was created in a rush, the user may avoid your call to action, not make it to your main site, and never purchase from you.
Related Content: How to Use Scarcity on Your Landing Page to Skyrocket Conversions
The Real Cost of Inferior Content
Whether you have an internal content marketing department or outsource in some way, quality content is a must.Creating good content is hard. Creating great content is rare. Creating inferior content is common. Click To Tweet
Writing is not a commodity like office paper or toner for your printer. You cannot go out and search for the best price, apply your coupons at checkout, and get the kind of content you need. If you are searching Fiverr or some kind of job board to find the best writers, you may be out of luck. As with many other positions, hiring is the key.
Why? You can measure the value of content marketing and even determine your ROI. If your ROI is low, it may not be your content strategy that is off. Instead it may be the content itself. You can tell this by bounce rates and other analytics. Any page that has these kinds of results should be carefully audited.
Simply put, the cost of inferior content is lost sales, lost conversions, lost users, and lower Google rankings. This can affect every aspect of your digital footprint and can be difficult to overcome.
All content is not created equal, and simply having a blog or a website without quality content can actually hurt your brand and what you are trying to accomplish. Good content attracts web visitors, and poor content will drive them away.
Paying for Great Content
You can hire writers internally as part of your marketing department. You can hire freelancers to write for your company and your blog. You can allow guest posts on your blog. But even if people are writing for you for free, you still have to vet and edit posts, add photos and SEO, and post the articles themselves.
The point is, you are going to pay for content, good or bad. Paying a little more for good content only makes sense: you get out of something what you invest in it. Good writing is not an accident, nor is it easy. Most people are not writers by nature, and you probably don't have the time to edit-slash-rewrite poor writing.
How do you find good writers? Here are some tips.
- LinkedIn: You are probably already on LinkedIn, and if not there are several reasons why you should be. Professional writers are there and you can even post jobs to find ones in your region using LinkedIn ProFinder, the LinkedIn version of a freelance job board.
- Ask Around: Word of mouth is not only the best advertising, it is often the best way to find good writers. Even if you contact a writer who is busy working with another company, the freelance community is small and tight-knit, so that writer may know someone who can help you.
- High-End Job Boards: Some job boards like Fiverr and Craigslist may get you writers that are less than ideal. However, some boards like Skyword and Contently will get you writers of higher quality.
Be prepared. Many writers like to work on contract rather than as employees, prefer to work remotely, and may be fairly busy. If you are lucky enough to have one on your staff, make an effort to hang on to them, and be aware that the skills they possess are in demand. Your competition would be happy to have them, so don’t give them reason to leave.
The best content is going to cost you, and you should start investing in it from the beginning. From choosing your domain name to creating web content, blogs and landing pages, good content comes at a cost. However, by calculating the cost of inferior content and understanding the value that great content brings to your brand, you can and will stand out from the competition.
All content is not created equal. Content created for the sake of having content will not work out in the long run. Being willing to pay for the best means more traffic, conversions, and sales over the long run.