If you’re a good web writer, then February 24, 2011 was your day. Bad web writer? Not so much.
February 24, 2011 marks the day Google took low-quality content sites to the woodshed. It’s the day they rolled out their search algorithm update known as Panda.
The Panda update is designed to do one thing: reduce rankings for low-quality content sites. That is “sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.”
On the first rollout eHow.com managed to escape damage, which had a lot of people scratching their heads.
But in the expansion of Panda during the week of April 16, Google caught up with eHow.
It’s not good news for eHow. But it can be for you. However, there is a hitch.
The Good News for GOOD Web Writers
If you are a blogger, web copywriter, or online copy contributor in some capacity — and you are good or great* — then here’s the upside: Panda will provide better rankings for your pages …
As long as it’s high-quality content.
What makes content high-quality? Original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, and thoughtful analysis. That means if you write quality content more than likely you can rank high where your competition once did.
Your competition, my friend, is hosed.
Who’s your competition? Offshore writers. Machine-generated content. And really, really bad hack writers. In other words, people — or things — who write online content next for nothing.
In fact, what this means is you are actually worth something. How much remains to be seen.
What Makes You a Great Web Copywriter?*
Great question. A great web copywriter is someone who:
- Understands SEO — but doesn’t crawl in bed with her. (Actually, the writer’s affair is with the reader.)
- Understands how to write attractive micro-content.
- Gets usability.
- Is a slave to results.
- Is a slave to user needs. (See first bullet.)
- Nods in approval when someone says the word “keywords.”
- Gets links, link building, linkbait, and anchor text.
- Makes no bones about front-loading headlines with information-rich words so readers grasp what they need in micro-seconds.
- Delivers scannable posts and articles tricked out with seductive sub-headlines and meaningful links that woo readers.
- Understands the law of the web — and obeys it.
- Employs bulleted lists abundantly.
- Madly in love with the inverted pyramid metaphor.
- Edits web copy so that the message is carved down to the bare essentials.
- And detests fluff.
This is not an exhaustive list, but if five or fewer of the bullets describe you, you’ve got work to do as a web writer.
If 6-10 describe you, you’re a good copywriter. But you can do better.
All 13, and I’m kissing your feet. And in the end you are the ideal web writer Google has in mind when they talk about writing high-quality content.
What Counts as High-Quality Content? 21 Questions
The trick to writing high-quality web content is to think like an engineer. A Google engineer working on search algorithms to be exact.
What does this look like? Google Fellow Amhit Singhal gives us a hint. Here’s my interpretation:
- Is the subject coverage shallow or deep? Can you go deeper with original research or a never-before-seen interview?
- Is what you wrote original? That means the information isn’t redundant, duplicated or stolen.
- If you were asking people for a credit card number, would they feel good about that transaction?
- Did you correct any spelling, grammar, or factual errors?
- Is the topic of interest to a reader, researcher, or a machine? [Hint, don’t say “machine.”]
- Can you provide something nobody else has as it appears to other pages in search results … and not just a humdinger of a headline?
- How many times did you edit the article? Can you have someone else edit it?
- Are you balanced or biased in your approach to the topic?
- Is the content mass produced or shared?
- You did edit, right? (Just seeing if you are paying attention.)
- Would you trust your article if it was giving medical advice? Would people trust what you wrote? Did you employ the curious secret to getting people to believe you?
- Does the site you are posting on have authority?
- Were you comprehensive in your coverage of the topic?
- Are you providing insightful or interesting information beyond the obvious?
- Would you bookmark your article? Share with a friend? Recommend?
- Does the article distract with call-to-actions, ads or promotions?
- Is your article short, weak and useless?
- How much time and attention did you give to detail? (Your answer should be “a lot.”)
- Would someone complain if they saw this article?
So, if you want to create content that ranks high, keep the above questions in mind as you write. And feel free to print this list out and tape next to your laptop.
It’s helped me. It will help you.
Keep in mind: shallow content on one part of your site or blog can infect the whole site’s ranking. Best to rewrite those pages or delete them.
And before you go off and share this on Twitter, what did I miss? Any questions you’d add to creating high-quality content? And what traits did I miss that make a great web writer?
Let me know in the comments. Here’s to ranking well for the long-term.