The value of content: why exactly am I writing this post?
As both a writer and reader of all kinds of blogs, I’ve been thinking a lot of late about the quantity and quality of posts that are out there, particularly within the search marketing realm. I’ve spoken a lot about the feeling of drowning in content with friends and collegues, who are experiencing the same sense of growing disinterest.
As connoisseurs of the SEO/digital industry, I think we all recognise that there is a ridiculous, possibly simply excessive amount of content being pushed out on a daily basis. And alas, all too ironically, a fair amount of it is written not because the subject matter is interesting but because people are just out hunting for links using tried and tested content methods.
I admit, I find this hard to swallow at times as there I am: on the one hand, SEO and link builder but on the other: user and growing cynic of the digital industry content machine. There is no simple solution. Blogs and businesses need to be producing content regularly for a host of important reasons: to maintain freshness, to promote their brand’s profile, to link build, etc. etc. It’s pretty darn hard to continually be producing content that is all 100% useful, actionable and of consistent high quality under that kind of constant pressure. So what’s the solution? (Ignoring the irony of asking that within a blog post that is… I’m caught in an endless cycle of irony).
To be completely honest, I’m not sure there is a solution that will satisfy all my personal concerns, but there are some clear small points that can make the difference between content that has at least SOME value and yet another slightly irritating post about the same old thing.
1. Old rules do not always apply
We’ve been producing the same Top Ten lists/Flame-bait/How-to posts for years. The internet has not stood still in that time, people have become very used to (and very bored) of the same techniques. Yes they will still work to some extent but we all need to get a whole lot more creative with our topics! There’s only so many “Get millions of links!” posts an industry can handle! Just like there’s only so many times a certain controversial airline company can garner links by suggesting yet another ridiculous ‘new policy’ they won’t ever actually enforce. And on that note…
2. Please please don’t make unecessary lists comparing SEO (or equivalent) to the music star/actor/sportsperson of the moment.
This is honestly not a rant. I know top 10 lists do work, I mean 6 years in the industry and even I still find myself sucked in by a ’30 ways to boost your analytics knowhow’ type post every now and again. To be fair, if the tips you’re sharing genuinely are new and useful – be my guest! But if you’re writing for the sake of content, for the love of god please stop telling me why SEO is somehow like Michael Phelps or analytics is really just like a Justin Bieber song. It’s not new, it’s not clever and it lost it appeal sometime back in 2005. Make your content engaging, sure, but don’t treat us like fools! If it’s educational, we’ll read your tips exactly for that, we don’t need cheap tricks anymore. And FYI – this is true for all blogging, I merely use SEO as an example.
3. Understand your own value
How-to posts provide a different kind of value to opinion posts but this doesn’t mean one is necessarily more helpful than the other. Opinion pieces can be interesting but don’t necessarily provide the same actionable insight a How to list can. Accept this. Consider your audience, your own strengths and what you feel you have best to offer. I’ll openly admit that I am 100% guilty of all not offering up ‘actionable’ how-to advice often enough. I have hundreds of ideas about the ways and methods that I work, that I would love to share, but I also know it’s nothing compared to others in the industry. I’m no excel guru and although my knowledge of excel or Google Analytics isn’t too bad at all by any stretch, I’m also simply not as well versed or as efficient as some others out there – take a look at Mr Baxter for example. So I write about what I’m interested in first and foremost, leaving others with more time and more ability to share their knowledge in those other areas. And on that note…
4. Recognise your weaknesses and use them
True story: I have a host of drafts sitting in various blog folders relating to topics I want to write about but realised as I started that I didn’t know as much about them as I thought. I’ve got no problem with this, it provides me with the perfect to-do list of things to learn and master. My problem at the moment is, like so many of us, TIME. I’ve been so busy over the past year or two, I’ve barely found time to get my day-job done while all my pet projects have languished in a sub-folder. But they will see the light of day and I will be sharing that experience with you. Don’t dismiss what you haven’t mastered yet, use it as a topic to share. If you are working to learn, it makes sense that others are too. Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know.
5. Put the spark back in your writing relationship: write about what you care about
I’ve really been bemoaning my lack of time to actually write and be involved in either the SEO community or my own personal projects recently. Work has been so busy and combined with the desire to only produce good content, this has left me feeling constantly under pressure to producesomething. I’m taking a step back, giving myself a breather. I’m focusing on writing some silly stories/recipes/gig reviews that have nothing to do with either money-making or SEO. But giving myself that breathing space and clearing my head a little has revived my interest in both SEO and writing. There’s so much to learn and share, it’s just about taking it slowly and recognising what you do enjoy. Sharing that experience will be valuable for writer and reader as long as the enthusiasm and interest in the topic is demonstrable. And on that note…
6. Learn from your juniors
As well as looking back to my own personal interests to help me regain my enthusiasm, I’ve also been learning a lot from my juniors. Providing a new SEO with their own blog to work on, based on their own topics of interest, not only provides a new potential source of links; it also allows them to hone their SEO skills first-hand. Discussing this, hearing about the new problems they’ve found and the areas they’re tweaking is guaranteed to provide both inspiration and renewed enthusiasm. This in turn leads to new ideas, new content and genuine sharing rather than the decidedly tired ‘top ten’ lists again.
I know that content is a difficult topic, it’s been ‘king’ for so many years and now after the advent of Panda and Penguin, I think it’s more like a dicatator – but that just makes it all the more important for us to pull ourselves out of the bored, repetitive cycle that we’ve all dropped into. Whether we’re blogging to our industry peers or producing content for our own sites and businesses, creativity and a genuine interest will only become more vital. I for one am truly over reading the same rants and “50 Shades of SEO” style blog posts. There’s more to content than that! Using current topics and headlines is great, being so lazy that we continuously re-create similar lists by find & replacing the headlines with the latest popular topic? Is life that dull?!
Image thanks to internetmarketinginc