I’ve been following the story about Google’s coming crackdown on content farms and sites with lots of poor quality content, but I hadn’t realized how serious the problem was. I do lots of searches, of course, but I search for very specific information, and I rarely search for general knowledge kinds of information. Last week, though, I was working on an assignment for Today’s Man magazine which required searches for general topics: dry cleaning tips, correct black tie for the modern guy, stuff like that.
Most of the first page of search results consisted of articles from E-zine, Associated Content, Love to Know, and similar spots. This isn’t news to you if you do broad, general searches, but I was surprised. How can a regurgitated article repeating common style advice for men come up before GQ? This isn’t good for searchers and it isn’t good for authoritative sites.
Google has announced upcoming changes in its algorithm which will help solve the problem. What does this mean for your website?
Is there any real original content?
I’ve seen the argument that there’s no such thing as original content, so it doesn’t matter what you write. I can’t agree; Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet wasn’t based on an entirely new idea when he wrote it, and it’s been redone many times since, yet the freshness of Romeo and Juliet and of West Side Story can’t be denied.
You may not be offering your readers great literature, but you can certainly offer useful and entertaining content to your particular audience. I blog for several health professionals. When I explain astigmatism at an optician’s blog, I’m not offering breaking news. I’m offering a clear and easy to understand explanation specifically for his patients, in a place where they can readily find it. This is useful for his customers and adds value to his website, as well as providing fresh content for the search engines.
That article on black tie? It’s written with the magazine’s particular audience in mind and it’ll be published with a look and feel that they’ll enjoy. As long as your blog posts or articles offer a new slant, a relevant outlook, or greater convenience for your readers, there’s no rule that you have to be reporting on your own groundbreaking research every time you write.
The new algorithm will also mean that your content needs to be good. For Haden Interactive, this is good news, because we specialize in good content. But people who have been relying on $1 articles (what Google calls “webspam”) or computer-generated articles or spinning old articles into new stuff, this can be a problem.
In fact, for people who use pre-packaged content, as many franchisees and others quite legitimately do, this can be a big problem. Duplicate content has certainly been an issue in the past, but getting in and messing around a little with your pre-packaged content could sometimes provide you something original enough to work. This may no longer be true.
It’s worth reexamining your ideas about content. Some writers hate the use of the term “content,” since it suggest that you can shovel any old thing into the basket — or rather page — and it doesn’t really matter whether it’s worth reading or not.
We don’t feel that way about web content. We think the contents of a package have always been the most important thing, however much you enjoy beautiful packaging. We suggest that you consider developing this attitude yourself.
Budget for a writer, hone your own writing skills, and take Google’s longstanding advice: concentrate on the quality of your visitor’s experience. Your search results will improve, and your visitors will appreciate your giving them something worth their while to read.