What Makes “Effective” Content?

May 23, 2017

By Chris Franks

I’m going to go about this post in a very roundabout way, so bear with me.

For whatever reason, the dealership that I get my car maintenance done always has HGTV on. I guess it’s the most inoffensive content they could possibly come up with. So recently, I go in to get some basic work done on my car, and after being offered a coffee, a water, and a bag of popcorn, I took my seat to see what sort of house projects were on tap. This time, it was an episode of House Hunters. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, the premise is as follows: a hip millennial couple needs to buy a house. They have their needs. They have their wants. Their Realtor then shows them three options, and by the end of the show, the trendy couple turns the hipster house into a hipster home. On this episode, one of the woman’s needs was “space to work on her blog.”

I think to most people, this would mean, “I need a desk for my laptop,” but not for this woman. Computer space, photography studio, scanning hardware, arts and crafts station, microphones galore. This woman wasn’t just writing in her blog: this woman was creating a content powerhouse.

In today’s web, with CMS systems such as WordPress, Squarespace, and WIX, creating personal content for public consumption has never been easier. This can very readily be seen by the number of people who have set up their own personal corners of the internet, covering every fathomable topic (I think the woman on House Hunters had a recipe and lifestyle blog, or something like that). But what separates writing for fun, and “effective” writing? As in, how do you make sure the writing you’re doing for your company is actually worth your time?

1. Make it Quality

Web content used to suck, largely because of how Google used to rank websites. Denizens of earlier versions of the web will remember the days of the practice of “keyword stuffing” where a blog post about “content marketing” would repeat the words “content marketing” 2,000 times. Some content producers were subtle about this: put a bunch of keywords written in white over a white background. Some, not so much. It wasn’t uncommon to see at the end of every paragraph something along the lines of, “content marketing marketing tools marketing tips marketing marketing marketing…” In short, content sucked, and now content sucks less. 

SEO Keyword Stuffing

An example of Keyword Stuffing. The ideal keyword density is between 1-2.5%

When ranking web pages, Google rewards quality content beyond anything else. That means, in any given blog post, you should have properly written in the language of your choice, and at a minimum of 300 words. The thing is, Google has gotten pretty good at figuring out when you’re trying to game the system. Filling your website with a ton of low-quality posts that are spammy, or don’t talk about what you say they’re going to talk about will decimate your SEO in Google’s eyes. If you say the blog post is going to be about the “Three Best Chocolate Cake Recipes,” your post damn well better not be about the latest celebrity scandals. Chocolate cake is chocolate cake.

2. Make it Original

One mistake that a lot of content creators make is copying content from other sources to their own page. I see this a lot in amateur news sites, who love to take press releases, and put the old CTRL+C, CTRL+V treatment into their own websites. On some websites, I see the same paragraph copied and pasted on five different pages. I’ve even seen websites that compile content from various sources, and just paste the entire article, citations and everything, onto their pages. Unfortunately, not only is this practice unethical (in some cases illegal), but you’ll often be worse off in Google’s eyes than if you didn’t have any content at all.

Google LOVES original content and absolutely HATES content that is ripped off of somewhere else. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut to original, high-quality content. Sorry.

3. Make it Relevant

As I was saying before, there’s content about everything you could possibly ever want online. What you’re able to create online is virtually limitless. However, when it comes to producing content that you want people to find, well, that’s a whole different story. You want to write about some obscure topic, like the history of log cutting in western Nebraska, go for it! Just don’t expect your search volume to be incredibly high. On the other hand, if what you’re trying to write has been written the same exact way 1000 times before (see point #2), you shouldn’t expect a massive click through rate.

When deciding what to write for your company’s blog, think about the kind of content your potential customers would search for and want to read. This might seem obvious, but you have no idea how many times clients come to me with an idea they think would make an awesome blog, and it has absolutely nothing to do with their company. Like, yeah, sure, we can write 1000 words on the best restaurants around Denver this spring, but what does that have to do with your Denver-based SaaS company? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

typewriter content marketing

“Time to dust this baby off!”

Why Does it Matter?

At CleverFunnel, when we are looking into a potential client’s existing marketing strategy, one of the major things we’re looking for is the quality of content. But why?

The most important answer to this is SEO. If people find your website without clicking on an ad, then this is a free click. And if that click turns into a lead? Well, you just spent a whopping $0 on that lead. That’s a good deal.

But hold on a second – is it really free? While you won’t have to pay per click, or pay per lead for people coming in from organic search traffic, you pay in hours spent creating content. Unfortunately, like I’ve said, there are no shortcuts to effective content. In order for a piece to be original and high quality, you’re going to have to spend some time – time that many single-person marketing operations just don’t have with all of their other responsibilities (We’ll talk about creating a content calendar when you have no time for content in a later post).

Secondly, having robust content on your site dramatically improves the user experience. Want to educate about your product? Blog! Want to show how your product worked for someone else? Case study! Want to get technical? White paper! If your content can answer a question that someone might have while investigating your company, that’s a win.

As I said, writing quality content is an investment, and unfortunately, you’re incredibly unlikely to see a return on your time investment right away. It can take Google weeks – sometimes even months, to get your site listed for keywords, and it really only works if you’re staying up on it. Don’t lose hope! While it may take a bit of time, your content is your way to connect with your users; for them to see past all your glitzy marketing pizzaz and to see you. Sometimes, knowing that real people are involved is all it takes. Anyone can write effectively, because everyone has a story to tell – and you might not even need a dedicated content studio in your home to do it.