Imagine you’re the Googlebot. Picture yourself being made of riveted, shiny metal and having a panel of pushbuttons on your chest and whirly things in your head. No, wait a minute! You’re not that kind of bot. You’re the highly intelligent little gizmo employed by Google who spends your life crawling the web, in order to build up a searchable index for the Google search engine. You know that millions of people are counting on you, and you alone, to walk your beat through good web neighborhoods and bad ones, trying to index all the content you can find so that anyone typing a query into Google will be delivered with a truly relevant result in a matter of seconds. Yes, it’s a lonely life for the Googlebot and he really wins our sympathy when we pause to consider the monotonous, repetitive and just plain awful web content he is forced to sift through, week after week, year after year!
This article is going to assume that we are talking about genuine attempts to create content for your web site – not for a spam site that simply lists a keyword 50 times in a row. We are speaking to the small business owner here who knows their site needs content, but just can’t seem to get the hang of it.
Is the content on your web site hurting the Googlebot’s feelings?
We’re totally serious about this. The problem here is, in recent times, the word got out that Google loves content. Now, that’s a home truth, for sure. But, unfortunately, statements like this have been just broad enough to send people eagerly off to their PC’s to create articles entitled, The History of Weedwackers and 100 Things You Can Do With Water Filters. Seriously, now, would you want to read either of these articles? Okay…maybe the weedwacker one sounds a little intriguing, but the answer is really no. You wouldn’t want to waste your time reading web page content like this, and neither does the Googlebot. Nevertheless, he doesn’t have much choice in the matter and is forced to scan through articles as silly as these.
On a more in-depth level, why are articles like these so silly? Well, in the first example, so far as we know, weedwackers don’t have a very glorious or newsworthy history. Now, if you’re selling antiques, heirloom apple trees or archaeological findings, then of course, the subject of your website is inherently historical and you can write as much about the ancient background of your topic as you like. But when we see historic perspective being applied to modern appliances, insurance policies or the latest diet, we instantly know that the web site owner fell unwittingly into the wide chasm called ‘Googlelovescontent’.
As for the water filter fellow…there just aren’t 100 useful things you can do with this device. You can filter water with it. Maybe use it later as a Christmas tree ornament. But that’s about it. What’s become apparent to us is that web site owners, when faced with the task of finding something to say about their business, are repeatedly drawing a gaping blank on the Internet. This leads to the lackluster state of affairs that makes the Googlebot’s job a bore, and so he passes heavily on, ever searching for a web page that delivers something fresh, new and nifty for him to crawl. Don’t let him pass your site by with a yawn.
If you run the business, you are your company’s web content expert!
We can’t tell you how alarming it is for us, as web designers, to have a brand new client tell us,
“Well, you guys just write some stuff on my products. I don’t know what to say.”
This, from a person who has spent the last 25 years as his town’s best brick-and-mortar supplier of decorative stepping stones. Well if he doesn’t know what to say, who does? Certainly, he can hire us to put in the hours researching the difference between aggregate paving stones and stones made of metamorphic rock, but what a waste when we’ve got a real expert sitting right there, on the other end of the phone line. Over the years, we’ve gotten more creative about how we cull gems of information from hesitant clients.
“What stepping stones would go well in a Zen garden?”
“Do you need to put sand underneath them when you lay them for a level fit?”
“Could decorative stepping stones be incorporated into a cement patio for a neat look?”
“Have you seen new trends that professional landscapers are getting into with stepping stones?”
Yes, we have used this method, combined with our own research, to write some great articles for our clients on just about every subject under the sun, but it is so much better when the client puts his own mind to work here. After all, he knows his market. He has seen trends come and go. He knows what products his customers are excited about and what kinds of questions they typically ask. He knows what kind of web content may be truly useful to the people who will come to his web site.While it is true that we offer the Internet expertise and have the tools to research exactly how people are searching the web for a given product or service, the business owner is the one who can paint the sweeping big picture of what his company is all about. He is also the one who can fill in the neat, unique little details that set him apart in a way that no content writer would ever be able to duplicate, no matter how well they research their topic.
An excellent way to get into the groove of this, if you are a small business web site owner, is to think about when you first became interested in the topic which eventually became the focus of your web business. For example, if you run an e-commerce site that sells quilting manuals. You’ve been quilting now for 30 years, but remember when you didn’t know a stitch from a swatch? What kinds of skills did you need to acquire to get good at this hobby? What tips or tools made it easier for a beginner to get working on their first quilt? Did you develop a secret, time-saving trick over the years that you’d like to pass on to your web site visitors? How about offering your own free quilting design patterns that no one else on the web can provide? How about asking other quilters to share their quilting stories on your web site, so that you’ll boost feelings of community while increasing the unique content of your web site? How about keeping a weekly quilting journal of your latest project?
You get the picture, right? Apply this kind of brainstorming and creativity in order to get to the heart of what is interesting about your business, whatever type of business you’re in. Hopefully, you are running your company because you like the field you’re in. Ask yourself what type of article related to your industry YOU would spend your time reading?
But I’m a terrible writer! I have no idea how to write good web content. Honest!
Well, now, it’s true that spell check and a thesaurus will only take a person so far. With tools like these available to anyone who owns a computer, there is no excuse for spelling errors or paragraphs of text that use the same adjective nine times in a row to describe a pair of socks. Yet, at the same time, it would be false to assert that everyone is a great writer and will be capable of creating fantastic text content for their web site. If you feel your writing skills simply aren’t polished enough to place your company in the professional light it deserves, then, by all means, hire a skilled content writer. But do the smart thing here and give them as much possible information about the subject as you can. You can give them a written outline of topics that are most important to your customers, or let them interview you and take their own detailed notes, highlighting key points about your company. If you leave the writer completely to their own devices, their only resource is going to be to look at other people’s articles on the same subject. By doing this, you run the risk of ending up with the generic, bland, worthless type of text that saturates the search engines – and let us not forget, leaves the Googlebot feeling utterly unimpressed. So, dig deep into your knowledge of your business and take part in helping your professional content writer find the angle that will set your web site apart from the meaningless multitudes.
We have to say, one of our main beefs with modern writing is that it is, in general, robotic. The media is mostly to blame for this, trying to cram as much advertisement or information into the shortest, cheapest width of newsprint or TV time. It’s unfriendly, un-detailed and reads like a list of ingredients. We will confess, when we want true pleasure out of reading, we tend to reach back a century or two into the bookshelf to bask in English that is music to our ears. In addition to this, we also like the west Midlands dialect of Middle English, but how many of our readers are going to understand us if we write like that! The sad fact of the matter is, the Internet does fall into the media category, and it’s important to be clear and to the point. On the other hand, we really dislike the robot-speak we find on the majority of web sites, and we suspect that Google isn’t all that crazy about it either. We vote for striking a happy medium, that is both conversational but which uses the given space to good effect. Internet attention spans are notoriously limited, so pack a punch where you need to, but do take more ease with the longer, more in-depth content you plan to write.
The truth of the matter is that the race to the top of the search engine rankings has resulted in so many people creating prose without a purpose beyond the hope of getting rankings. While we’re not going to argue that this is an important tool one must learn how to use, it does absolutely nada to promote the scholarly atmosphere we would personally much prefer to create on the Internet. Unfortunately, because the web is a profit-oriented medium, we expect that this will remain the case. But, we’d still like to see people aiming to create content that truly has a function for the human readers of it…not just for the Googlebot.
So what does Google consider good web content, exactly?
There is no one answer to this question. Google’s algorithms are only guessed at, intelligently, by the world’s leading Search Engine Optimization experts (including us). There are so many factors that go into top-notch content, including anchor text, title tags, and even, yes, Meta descriptions. This article won’t cover all of this but what we do know for a fact is that the Googlebot looks with great favor on fresh content. As we tell our clients, a website is never finished. It has no end. You must always be attempting to increase the worth of the content of your web site by writing new articles, offering new advice, featuring new products. Believe us, having Christmas items on your website in July is a surefire way to be categorized as stagnant (unless, of course, you are a year-round Christmas products store). We consistently see that Google favors whatever is fresh and new on people’s websites, and writing a great new article can mean the difference between having 10 visitors a month, or 10,000. Blogging has become one of the prized methods for adding new content daily to a site. Other site owners offer something new weekly. At the very least, try to put up something spanking new on your web site at least once a month. It’s good for the search engines and good for your visitors, too.
In addition to this, Google thinks well of unique content. Unique means that you wrote it from scratch. You didn’t just go cut and paste it from the web site next door. As a matter of fact, duplicating content doesn’t just hurt the Gogglebot’s feelings. It makes him MAD! And you don’t want to do that. Unique content also implies that you’ve written something really unusual, even enigmatic. Something nobody else ever thought of writing before on the subject at hand. Granted, this can be incredibly challenging. Even searches for the most seemingly obscure topics generally generate some kind of search engine results. But are the other documents you find well-written? Could you think of a better, fresher, more helpful way to write about the same subject? Unique content can also mean becoming a trend-setter. You’ve heard of newspaper writers wanting to get their big scoop. If a web site owner can anticipate a trend and write about it before anyone else does, he will have something truly valuable on his site when the buzzwords start flying around and people are looking to read up on whatever the subject is.
You mean I really want people to read my web content?
Oh, yes, my friends. Not only do you want people to read your content, you want them to be so excited by it that they link their own web site to it, and tell all their friends to go check out your super page. You see, the beauty of having truly stellar content is that it works out well for you in two terrific ways. On the one hand, Google likes it so they rank your page well. On the other hand, visitors like it, so they link to it, thus causing your page to rank even higher! Now, that’s a win-win situation and certainly ample incentive to have everyone sit down, and write something, right now, that will make that brave Googlebot weep for joy!