I have reflected recently on the frequency with which words like ‘content’ and ‘value’ are being used. I googled, one by one, content, value, and “valuable content” (the last one was in double quotes, as an exact match). The results as per Google.com may be surprising or not, but here goes:
Content – 1,480,000,000 results.
Value – 741,000,000 results.
“Valuable Content” – 315,000 results.
What this serves to illuminate is the conflict between the overall necessity to have (SEO-friendly) content on the website and the ultimate objective to make this content valuable to people. Strangely or not, though, the attention is evidently being misplaced, and we therefore have billions and millions of SERPs for generic terms, and then mere 300 thousand results for what should evidently be everyone’s priority.
Having said that, what does valuable content mean, and when does content become valuable? The answer to the last question should apparently be “links”: if your post or article generates links (especially if you don’t request those, and they come in automatically), then you evidently have produced something very worthwhile. (Of course, we’re speaking of positive conversation about your article, not the blazing critical comments on other blogs and sites). The answer can also be “bookmarks”: if someone adds you to Digg, Delicious, ReddIt, StumbleUpon, or Sphinn, then once again you have successfully managed to awe your readers.
The ‘awe effect’ is apparently one of the factors that make people bookmark and otherwise distribute the content you created. Call it also the ‘Digg effect’: you have to substantially stupefy people with your submission. Of course, it also depends on the network you managed to forge: if you’re a lonely bookmarker, your submissions are likely to be ignored or re-submitted by more influential users.
Ryan Caldwell of Search Engine Journal goes on to enlist the psychology factors of link baiting that contribute to converting a user who is scanning various submissions to someone who bookmarks your stuff. Same goes for reviews and/or answers to the articles you crafted. While the tactics of approaching an influential blogger is widely recognised, ideally the blogger links to your review without you asking. So, in addition to ‘awe effect’, you can also seek to produce:
- the Overwhelm effect (those typical “1000 Movies to Watch Before You Die”);
- the Flatter effect (make ‘em feel so good that they link back to the piece);
- the Sensation effect (great if you’re running a news site, or if you’re really good at copywriting);
- the Humour effect (you can say it with words, pictures, comic strips, or videos).
These are the most achievable effects, but the list doesn’t end here. For more, click the link to read the full article.
There are loads of posts across the web on how to style the content, assuming that it is already valuable and SE optimised. One of the latest articles comes from Redd Horrocks at UXbooth blog, 11 Quick Tips For More Usable Content. In truth, there are so many articles of this kind nowadays that I, as someone with over 2 years of experience in regular blogging, recently admitted to myself: I’d probably find it much harder to start blogging today than in August 2006. Having said that, there are some really cool resources and articles that can set you on the right track.
What not many people are speaking about, however, is the value of the content that you’re creating. It is assumed that content has to be valuable, and there’s no reason to dispute this. Just today we were discussing what sort of articles on the topic of fashion would make people link to them. How would you need to construct the text, what would you need to write, to make it a killer blog post or press release?
So, I went through my bookmarks to find Social Media Blogster‘s post that, very refreshingly, tells all us, online people, that “content is NOT king”. Doug Firebaugh makes a point about ‘content in Social Media‘, but the entire Web 2.0 is social. Your objective is to have as many people as possible read you, link to you, and talk about you (with you, let us add). You therefore have to write for the result and for people.
What this suggests therefore is that the path towards writing valuable content (and we’re not talking about value or content separately any longer) is to know whom you’re writing this for. It may sound like a weird thing to mention, so self-explanatory it is. Think of this in terms of writing about football: the name “Manchester United” rings differently to different generations. The tone, the style, the information you use are determined, in one way or another, by the readership you’re addressing. How to achieve this? It’s simple, actually. You need:
- to study your readership (or potential consumers/customers);
- to analyse the statistics of your website or blog;
- to research keywords;
- to watch web trends;
- … and once again, to know your audience, their language, interests, and the ways in which they engage with one another on the Web.
We already know how to do all this, don’t we? I said, it was simple!