If your business has a website, it has some content. If you have a blog or news section as well, you have even more website content. But is it effective? And if so, who for?
You want content which serves visitors. Which answers their questions; keeps them interested; encourages them to enquire and even buy.
But you also need to get those visitors to your site in the first place. In Australia, that means Google. (Google has nearly 95% of the Australian search market.) Hence we have a whole SEO industry built around getting your content onto page one of Google.
In theory, this means taking your original, helpful content and making it look good to Google. It’s the same principle as making sure you look your best for a job interview. In practice, it’s not always that simple.
The measure of success for SEO companies tends to be ‘getting onto page one‘. On the plus side, this is measurable. On the downside, it doesn’t align completely with your goal of more enquiries, clients and business. SEO companies sometimes focus more on the Google ranking process – the algorithm – rather than on the site visitors themselves. But your content needs to work for both.
And then there’s Google. Google’s goal is to send people to the best web pages for their needs. It does this well – that’s why people keep using Google and why it has that amazing market share!
So you end up with three parties with three different goals:
- You want quality website traffic which converts. Your focus is your ideal customer.
- The SEO company wants high rankings for your site. Its focus is the algorithm.
- Google wants a quality website which searchers like. Its focus is the person searching online – who may be your ideal customer.
Prioritise the person over the algorithm
Notice that you and Google are both focused on a person. It’s the SEO company which tends to get hung up on the algorithm. Don’t let them!
Google has some great advice for businesses and people creating website content, including a whole list of questions you can test content against. You can use these to assess what you write in-house or via a copywriting service. (Hint – if you’re looking to hire, ask for some samples and see how they stack up.)
Here are some of those questions, with our comments about how we view them:
Content and quality
- Does the content provide original information, reporting, research, or analysis?
The key word here is ‘original’. A case study is original by its very nature. So is a blog post telling the story of something you have done in your business. These stories from your business make great website content. Not only does Google love them, so do potential clients. They show you helping a customer solve their problems or achieve goals.
All too often, when a business outsources its blogging, that originality gets lost. Instead of stories from the business itself, you get general articles about issues in the industry, without specific detail. They may be well-written, accurate and helpful, but they lack that originality and real life experience.
- If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources, and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
Have you ever seen a Facebook or LinkedIn post with lots of comments which just say ‘Wow‘ or ‘That’s good‘? And then there’s one comment where someone says, ‘I agree mostly, but have you ever considered xxx situation?‘ That final commenter is adding value to the conversation. The others are just nodding. Who stands out?
- Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
There’s a statistic about Google’s Australian market share above. It’s not just a random statement, it’s linked to the source. When we put together our blogging statistics infographic, we linked to all the sources. Unsubstantiated claims are all too common on the internet – at NoBull we don’t like them any more than Google does.
- Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
There are a few ways you can achieve this. First, you’re an expert in your profession. You could write this yourself, if you have time. Second, you could outsource to an industry specialist copywriting organisation. Third, you could invest a little of your time to get website content ‘ghostwritten’. That’s the way we do it. We interview you, extract your knowledge, and write it up so you don’t have to spend the time doing that. (Plus we know how to optimise for SEO, which you probably don’t.)
- Does the content have any spelling or stylistic issues?
One of the main arguments for using external copywriters is that they can write! Just try to work with them in a way which doesn’t lose your original content. That goal is at the heart of our blogging service.
Avoiding search-engine-first content
For earlier questions, the ideal answer was ‘yes’. For these next ones, the ideal answer is ‘no’.
- Is the content primarily made to attract visits from search engines?
As discussed above, it’s easy for an SEO company to focus too much on this area. They may suggest an article on a specific keyword, but if you don’t have something useful, helpful or interesting to share, you’re not writing for a human being.
- Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
There’s so much chatter right now about AI tools like Jarvis and ChatGPT. You can use them. They can create content. But remember, they are recycling existing content on the internet. They’re not pulling out your original stories.
- Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).
Once again, this is something SEO businesses – and some copywriters – can obsess about. There are all sorts of statistics flying around about the ‘best’ number of words for an article or post. But remember, they’re all based on averages. The last thing you want is for your content to be average. Start instead from what you have to say. Then say it, clearly and without too much fluff. The shortest blog post we’ve written was 329 words. The longest was 2,107 words. Different topics, different needs.
Does your website content pass the test?
Take a moment to review your content against these questions, or against the complete list from Google.
Then decide on the best next step for you. You might need to start again and create better website content, or you might just need to dress up your existing content so it presents well to Google. Remember, SEO in itself is not a bad thing. Here’s the advice direct from Google:
There are some things you could do that are specifically meant to help search engines better discover and understand your content. Collectively, this is called “search engine optimization” or SEO, for short. Google’s own SEO guide covers best practices to consider. SEO can be a helpful activity when it is applied to people-first content, rather than search engine-first content.
If you’re not sure, let’s spend 15 minutes reviewing your content together and we’ll give you an informed opinion!