Blog: Content writing and content strategy insights

Spot-check your own web content

We all hope and trust that our content authors are creating findable, usable, valuable content for both web and mobile. But how can we be sure? Here's a quick way to spot-check your own web content without user-testing. 

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Google boosts ranking of mobile-friendly pages for smartphone searchers

Search results on mobile phoneSince April 21, Google has expanded its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. They say, "This change ... will have a significant impact in our search results." Wow. Huge implications for web designers, content managers, content strategists and web writers. 

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Why did you change the web content I wrote?

Recently Contented graduate Caitlin asked us for a short article about why web content had to be written a specific way. Her client truly couldn't understand why Caitlin wanted to rewrite what he had written. He couldn't see that his prose was long-winded, unfocused and difficult to read. His prose was a car going nowhere... except into a tree, perhaps. Or perhaps he thought that was OK on the Web, since he always wrote that way, and nobody had openly criticized his style until now.*

Well, I guess I've written books on that topic but possibly not a short article—not lately anyway. So what should you say to such a client?

Keep it simple or stun them with science. But whatever else you say, your trump card is the S-word: Search.

  1. Web readers decide within seconds whether to read or run away, so your main message has to jump right off the page and hit them in the eyeballs. Subtlety? Elaboration? Forget it, at least in the first 100 words.
  2. Search engines won't display your page unless it has enough of the right keywords in the right places. If it's not written by someone who understands how search engines work, nobody will read your web content because nobody will find it.

*This reminds me of certain terrifying drivers who claim smugly that they've never had an accident in 70 years... and take this as proof that their driving is safe.
Web writing skills: essential for career advancement

Are SEO article writers like battery hens?

We've heard about factories pumping out SEO articles, and now they're in my face. Inescapable: truckloads of garbage web content churned out by slave web content writers. I picture them caged like battery hens, pecking randomly on keywords in a database, assembling sentences in their gut and laying 100 'articles' per day.

I feel sorry for these writers and I'm sure no amount of training from would make the slightest difference to their lives or the quality of their writing.

But perhaps these queasy-making quasi-articles are produced by machines or software, not writers, in which case compassion is misplaced.

Last week I had idly set up a Google alert for the very vague term 'web content', and now every daily email includes alerts like this:

Looking At Unskilled Web Content Writers Versus Professional ...
Search by Author, Title or Content. Article Content, Author Name, Article
Title ... Unskilled web content writers, on the other hand, may indeed be
good ...

Click the link and you get meaningless words tumbled together like this:

Today, writers play an of import part in the online selling world. They are rendering best quality info to their clients about different types of goods and services that are offered by different companies. The authors use a certain shape of writing style, which looks different from the other website subject.

The intention is for such pages to be recognized by Google as genuine, original, serious web content, giving weight to a link to another web site:

The proud claim of Content Designer is:

We are doing 100% unique content writing, 0% grammar mistake and use high priority keywords

And here we go: Yuwanda Black has written an SEO article for SEO article writers about writing SEO articles. (See how cunningly I loaded that enchanting sentence with keywords?)
Get $100 Per SEO Article: How to Become a Highly Paid SEO Writer

Jeff Atwood and other web commentators fear Google is broken. If so, SEO article factories helped to break it.

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Search engines are only as good as the content

Beagles are the search engines of the airport. Unlike Google, they sniff out the bad stuff, like drugs and explosives.

"Google is good but it's not God" says Gerry McGovern. He reminds us of the old cultists who cried in the wilderness for an intranet portal, guaranteed to solve all problems. He sees a new cult today that believes in a magic search engine that will eliminate all need for navigation and classification -- even write quality content and remove out-of-date content.

Nice thought. One click and you're done. But nope: hard work is required to make content and metadata search friendly. Moreover, a search engine is never enough: humans use both search and navigation to find the content they want.

Search engine cultists believe you should write for the search engine, and hey, if you're lucky the audience will like what they find. Wrong! All search engine optimisation gurus emphasise the primacy of valuable, carefully constructed content as a search engine magnet.

Jill Whalen, veteran SEO guru, said in her [tagWebstock08[/tag] workshop :

Search engines give weight to important content. Speak to your audience: solve their problem, answer their questions. Write for users first, and keep search engines in mind.

This is not new. It has always been thus. But the idea of a magic SEO trick is so seductive, the truth needs to be repeated year after year. From Gerry:

It's down to that old computing adage: garbage in, garbage out. If your website is full of badly structured, poorly written, out-of-date garbage, then the first result, the second result, and the third result from your fancy new search engine will always be garbage.

There's no one-shot magic spell for search engine optimisation of intranet content. But CONTENTED courses come close, training you to write content with a structure, focus and language that search engines love.

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